How Our Readers Split Up Household Chores
We asked, you answered.
Household chores are a daily necessity and inescapable routine in any adult’s life. And yet, they can often sow the seed of strife between partners, cause petty bickering, and build a slow-simmering feeling of resentment. Dividing up tasks equitably between partners could be the key for smoother sailing—but it’s easier said than done.
There is no one “right way” to divide household responsibilities, making this a tricky (and often emotional) territory to navigate. Some may even argue that the mental load women bear within a [hetero] relationship makes “dividing” up household tasks even more fraught.
A few weeks ago we asked you, our readers, a simple question: “How do you split up household tasks?” The response was overwhelming and came from a variety of backgrounds, couples, and life situations.
Below are the main themes we saw in how you divvy up the daily grind. Before you dive in though, we loved this general takeaway from reader Lauren L. on how to approach splitting up duties in a loving and empathetic way:
“...we are not a couple that keeps score. This was a hard habit for me to break when we first began living together - I was constantly worried about doing ‘my part’ and feeling guilty when I slacked on a day or two. My husband had to remind me that ‘life happens’ and part of having a good marriage is helping the other out from time to time. So I think having responsibilities is important but being flexible when necessary is key.”
…and a similar sentiment from reader Rachel S.: “The critical piece in making our set-up work is having two partners equally invested in making life easier for the other person. It's not about the chores getting done; it's about sustaining comfort for each other.”
And now, onto your best tips for sustaining comfort for each other.
(Note: Readers self-described their households. Any comment/opinion shared below is the opinion of the reader, not of GNI.)
50/50 Doesn’t Work for Everyone
My #1 revelation has been that equity does not always mean that both people are doing the exact same number of chores, or taking the exact same number of turns at a task. People bring different strengths to a relationship and household; I actually ENJOY cleaning and organizing, but struggle with executive function, while my partner struggles to remember or find it important to keep things clean and organized, but is extremely competent at administrative-type tasks. Moreover, even though it IS a lot of work in our limited spare time, we both find cooking very fun—it's creative and fulfilling—so even though it'd be easier to take turns, we prioritize cooking together nearly every day as a ritual to connect.
Lesbian couple in their 20’s who both work full-time and are full-time students.
Work toward equity and not just equality! Splitting chores and errands 50/50 is not always sustainable, especially as our needs and capacities change. Weekly relationship check-ins are super helpful for us to celebrate our bright spots. We also start a list of things we'd like to get done in the next week and start to roughly divvy it up. We keep it flexible so if capacities change, we communicate accordingly!
We are both work-from-home 20-somethings with lots of meetings and a rambunctious Frenchie to keep up with.
We have an "everyone gives 100%" policy instead of 50/50 since we have two young kids and demanding jobs. In general, this means that if we see something, we take care of it—instead of leaving it to the other person. For example: putting away dishes, folding laundry, taking out the trash, etc.
We both work full-time and have a 2-year-old and an 8-month-old.
I don't believe in 50/50-- we both have high-stress jobs (I'm a physician and he is a first responder) with variable schedules. Some days I can give more, some days he can give more. One of the best descriptions of this was from Brene Brown's podcast, where she describes the "50/50 myth" and how to split tasks when both parties are burned out and exhausted.
Our thought is, some days I'll be wiped out, exhausted, and unable to function. If he is feeling great and has some time that day, he will be the one to step up and do the daily chores around the house. Vice versa if he is coming off a long stretch of work and I am off. If we are both busy and burnt out, this is when we look at our outsourcing options. We are privileged and lucky to have someone who can come clean our home and cut our grass—time-consuming tasks that allow us to reset our burnout if we outsource at times.
We both work full-time and have no children. My twin sister is a single mom, so we do often have her children over when she is working and provide childcare several times a week.
Be flexible and empathetic with chores. There is nothing that makes me feel more seen than coming home to all the chores taken care of when I'm sick or having a shitty day. It doesn't always have to be 50/50... show up for your partner when they need you.
We both work full-time, I work from home and he's back in the offce full-time. We have a dog and we're about to move into a house where our chores are sure to triple.
Split the Beginning and End of a Task
Often times we break up a task into two parts and we each contribute (i.e. I cook, my husband cleans. I pack lunches, my husband unpacks lunchboxes and washed containers, I keep the laundry going, and then he (and sometimes me too) folds in the evening. Since we have small kids, we also outsource the more time-consuming tasks so that we can enjoy more time as a family (lawn service and house cleaner).
We both work full-time and have a 5- and 2-year-old.
My partner and I split tasks into parts. I have a hard time starting things like washing the laundry. My partner will start it, move it to the dryer, and then bring me the clean clothes to fold. I hate putting clothes on hangers so while folding I will make a pile to be hung up, he puts them on hangers, and then I put them in the closet. This concept applies to most of our chores.
We both work full-time, my position requires frequent travel, and have three animals.
…or Don’t! “Own” Tasks and Don’t Micromanage Them
Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu was hugely influential to me in setting up our system. We separate chores with an understanding that the person in charge takes care of everything from beginning to end (and the other person can’t micromanage). For example, the person who goes to the grocery store is in charge of: tracking when things are out, planning meals, making a list, and going to the store. The ownership over the entire task is really helpful!
We both work full-time away from the house and have a 9-year-old.
My husband and I each have assigned chores. The owner has free reign to get it done and the other person is not allowed to insert themselves (okay, sometimes I do but I try not to). For example, my husband “owns” the laundry and vacuuming. He does the chore when he thinks it’s time so there’s no nagging, etc. Once he was very busy and the laundry had really piled up, so he made the choice to send it out and pay for it. Fine by me as long as it gets done!
We both work full-time from home in tech. We have a 1-year-old puppy. My job is more hours per week but is also more flexible.
We each have our own chores that are completely up to us. For example, I always do laundry from start to finish. My husband always does the dishes from start to finish. This simple change has dramatically transformed our relationship and happiness in our home. We don’t have to waste time or energy calculating whose “turn” it is to do something. We each have autonomy to complete our chores when and how it works best for us. I never think or worry about the chores that aren’t mine. We don’t have to argue, drop hints, or complain about things not getting done.
We both work full time, two pets, new homeowners.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Honestly, choosing a partner that is aware of what's happening in the household. Is the garbage full? Empty it. Dishes in the sink? Wash them. We both want a clean house that runs smoothly, so we have discussed just "taking initiative". If you see something that needs doing, do it. He also does more of the handyman-like tasks, and I'm more likely to zero in on details like dusting. In the end, it all feels pretty equal. And if I need more help, I just ask. Like, "Hey, I'm tired, can you run the kid a bath?"
I work part-time, he works full time, and I have a 4-year-old (I'm divorced, primary parent, kid is mine, not my partner's).
Talk about it. Truly, the factor that has the biggest impact on whether chores feel stressful, or not - and on whether we're getting them done, or not - is whether we've set aside time to actually talk through our tasks. It's so much easier and ends up being more equitable if we spend 6 minutes at the top of a week making a shared to-do list and divvying up the tasks than if we just take care of them as they come up or come to mind.
We both work full-time and take care of our puppy. I work from home whereas my partner’s work is almost exclusively at an office or on the road.
Communication, equity, and education. Communication can look like talking about how we feel the chores are split up or writing down everything each of us is doing to see it on paper. Equity is understanding that the cooking responsibilities take a different amount of energy for each of us for example, and dividing things up with that in mind. Education is important because as a heterosexual couple, along with my husband's upbringing in a stay-at-home-mom home, there are a lot of patriarchal habits we don't want creeping into our home.
Both work full-time and have a 2.5-year-old.
The biggest thing that saved our fights was one of those stupid “dirty/clean” magnets for the dishwasher. Not only did the other partner then know that the dishes needed doing, but it was a catalyst to discuss how often someone else felt their work was unappreciated.
We’ve done a little bit of all types of work, we were both students, then full-time, and one of us has been unemployed at one point or another.
We do monthly “relationship checkups” where we have a set of questions that addresses how we are living together, including chores. Also when we moved into together, we talked about the type of tasks that we hate vs the ones we don’t mind doing. If we both really don’t want to do something, we try to either deprioritize it or trade-off.
Full-time, but just the two of us.
It sounds silly, but it's communication. We have a standing date night one night each week. During that time, we hash the next week/month, and divide and conquer. I'm the planner—I organize a color-coded calendar for all of us, where each person has a color, our family has a color, etc. I tend to plan all of the things in order. My husband is a much better doer. He can walk in, grab a toy for a party, snacks for soccer, or whatever, and not fret for half an hour about his choice like me. So, if it's quick trips, he's on it!
I also highly recommend reminders. Find an app or calendar that works best for you (we like Todoist & Do, but I'm always looking for something better). I will sit down and schedule reminders for all the things to take the burden off of remembering it all. It really is a game changer for me!
Both work full-time, 6-year-old & 3 month old, one in activities, and one getting close!
Divide by Most-Hated or Most-Enjoyed Tasks
My partner and I talked about which chores we hate the most—I hate cleaning the floors and she has gotten dressed out of the dryer her whole life. I love folding laundry (I'm one of those people who finds it soothing) and she gets particular about the floors, so it works out well!
I work 50/50 in the office and at home and my partner works mostly at home. We have two dogs.
We play to our strengths. My partner is a better and more enthusiastic cook than I am, so he cooks and I do the dishes (I clean up the kitchen more thoroughly than he does so that works well). He enjoys outdoor chores like mowing; I don't mind folding laundry. We divide the kids' stuff based on who has more brain/emotional space at the moment.
We both work full-time and we have a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old.
Gretchen Rubin said that the person that cares more about the chore should do it. We’ve adopted that philosophy. At times, my partner took care of the laundry and weekly cleaning of the bathroom. I shopped and cooked. Now it’s become less rigid and he takes care of a lot of home improvement and sourcing tradespersons. I still shop and plan the meals and also take care of our newborn.
Currently, he works full time (but from home so we have a bit of flexibility) and I’m on a year-long maternity leave.
Try the “Fair Play” System
A few years ago, my husband and I both read Fair Play by Eve Rodsky. She offers a method for dividing up all chores, under a framework where you combine not just the execution of the task, but also all the emotional labor and planning that surrounds it. I love that she also includes each partner taking a “card” for their own personal hobbies and activities. You can actually buy a physical deck of cards to deal and re-deal over time! The framework it has provided us has been invaluable.
I work full-time and my husband is a full-time student.
We use the Fair Play cards by Eve Rodsky. They give cards for every task, including free time, hobbies, childcare, and elderly care. We split up the tasks. Then, we meet periodically to assess if the cards are working. It is a great way to tangibly see how much of a mental and physical load you carry.
We both work and have three small children.
I read Fair Play a few years ago and felt an immediate kinship with the idea: lay out all tasks and chores, and they get assigned. I think that they have cards you can use now, but when my wife and I first divvied up our life admin, we made color-coded cards for each section. You can physically SEE who has more cards, and in what section, and try to balance what's working or not.
My wife is a full-time scientist and I work from home as a graphic/web designer. We have a needy dog, 3 chickens, and an enormous garden - plus parents who live several states away.
Keep a Chore Chart, Spreadsheet, or Checklist
We have a checklist of daily and weekly chores that we keep in the kitchen. There are four total daily tasks and there is one weekly task per person. Either person can complete any task. Each day we just aim to do two of the daily tasks and one weekly task at whatever time works for us. If one person does tasks 1 & 2 in the morning, the other person knows they are in charge of tasks 3 & 4 that day. If one of us has a particularly busy work day, we either give the other person a heads up, or the other person just knows and pitches in to cover the extra tasks if possible. So far it's worked out pretty evenly.
We both work full-time and have a baby on the way.
We have a chore chart that divides things up and shows how often to do things. We worked together to make it, vocalizing what tasks we really dislike vs. what we don't mind doing. We also divide the "admin" work into categories, when we can. My husband is in charge of all outdoor/large home maintenance stuff. I am in charge of birthday gifts, cards, home decor, etc. We have a toddler now, which has complicated things a bit, but for the most part, this system works.
My husband works 50-ish hrs/wk, I work 20-30 hours a week, and we have a 2-year-old.
My husband and I keep a lined notebook in a designated spot in the kitchen. We have a weekly page with a general to-do list, as well as a separate list for errands. We both add things to it (“Target order,” “Drop off at USPS,” “Wash shower curtain,” etc.) and both check it regularly. Sometimes we label things with who’s going to do it, or how high of a priority the item is. But mostly we just add and cross things off as time allows throughout the week. It keeps the to-do list out of our brains (a big source of stress for me) and means we don’t have to bother each other (“Did you place the Target order yet?”). We put it on the list, check the list, and cross it off the list. By the end of the week….usually.
We both work full-time (I work outside the house and he works from home) and have a 6-month-old.
I am the mom of a 16-month-old toddler, work 60-70 hours a week, and my husband also works full-time outside of the home. To say our life is insane is an understatement. Being the busier professional—but also the "mom" at a really needy time in my toddler's life—I really struggle with the "emotional labor" requirements of being a mom. My husband is great and always wants to help. But coming up with ways to list out and delegate is exhausting. So, we use a whiteboard, divided into 6 columns (M-F, plus a "weekend" column). I put every little to-do item on that list. All of the little things that run through a mom's mind—daycare forms, replacing clothes she's starting to grow out of, doctors appointments she'll need in a few months, things that need fixing—ALL of it gets listed. So, whenever he sees that I'm busy and wants to help, I refer him to my list. I still bear the burden of thinking of these forward-planning items, but I don't have to do them all myself. It's not perfect, but it's helped a lot. You could also do this electronically via a task app or something.
We both work full-time (MORE than full-time!) with a 16-month old.
My partner and I recently started a chore chart that we have posted on the fridge. We have daily, weekly, biweekly, and monthly chores that we have split up. We tried to split them up evenly based on how time-consuming the task is. For example, my daily chores include: sweeping the kitchen floor and making the bed; my partners’ are emptying the cat's litter box, checking the mail, and wiping down counters. My partner usually meal plans, we both grocery shop, and I cook and she will clean - this might vary depending on what our weeks look like. Weekly chores include, for me, cleaning both bathrooms and laundry; hers include cleaning the kitchen, dishwasher/washing machine filters, etc. Monthly chores include, for her, scrubbing out the fridge and mine include getting the car washed, ordering cat supplies, washing windows, etc.
We've been using this system for a couple of months now and it's working out really well! We both like to have tasks to check off so the visual checklist has been helpful for both of us and our apartment has stayed really clean. We continue to re-evaluate the chore list every once in a while to make sure we both feel like the workload is split evenly.
We both work and commute full-time. Including some weekends. We also have a geriatric cat.
I made a list (of 98 “things”) that I spent on invisible labor throughout the year. My partner and I went through it, one by one, and chose which task we wanted to be in charge of. It’s not foolproof and we’re still reminding each other but every year it gets easier.
I made an excel with all the main chores around the house including laundry, making the bed, taking the dog out, etc. First I wrote who was doing it at the time, showed it to my partner, and said: "We need to divide this." We then decided who would take care of what.
We both work full-time with flexible schedules.
Earlier this year we created a chore chart in a Google Sheet to show ideally what physical chores we'd like to get done each week. It's broken out by day, but don't beat ourselves up if something doesn't get done. My husband likes structure and he's happy to follow the chart when he has time. I chip in when I can (I'm pregnant, tired, and it's becoming more difficult to do certain chores!).
Outside of the chart, we split up "computer" chores 70/30. I handle most of those chores and assign a task if I need to. So, I usually handle setting up our produce delivery box, setting up doctors' appointments, buying gifts for friends, and booking travel. We play to our strengths. We also split up daily tasks around our son's schedule. The parent who drives our son to daycare in the morning preps dinner in the afternoon. The parent who picks up our son from daycare unloads the dishwasher and cleans up from breakfast in the morning. We also switch off who gives our son a bath and who puts him to sleep. It's not a perfect solution, but it works pretty well for us!
We both work full-time, have an almost 2-year-old, and have a baby on the way. We don't have family nearby which means we have very little time off from parenting.
Split Tasks by Morning and Evening
He’s a morning person and I’m a night person. He handles “morning” chores: making coffee, packing the kids’ daycare/school things, getting breakfast together, unloading the dishwasher, and generally getting things ready. At night, I make sure the dishwasher is loaded (the rule is things need to be put in throughout the day), counters are clean, kid bedtimes, trash/recycling collection once a week, and cat litter boxes (as needed). I work from home, so I typically do the laundry and he puts away all but my clothes. Everything else is based on who gets bothered by it first. For example, dust drives me crazy so I do it when I think it’s necessary and dirty windows/mirrors make him batty. If we ever feel like we are individually doing something (or things) too much and the other is not, that person uses their words and the other does 4 chores of the first request within the next week or another reasonable timeframe.
We both work full-time, me WFH and him out of the home, and have an 11-month-old and an 8-year-old (50%).
We both worked (and met) working in a retail store. For general daily household tasks, he is the “opening manager” and I’m the “closing manager.” Basically, he wakes up with the sun and I’m a bit of a night owl. We divide and conquer other household tasks: he does house laundry as needed (sheets, napkins, towels, etc) and many of the smaller daily tasks. I take on the more involved weekend chores, like bathroom cleaning. For dinner, I cook. He makes us a drink and clears the plates.
No kids. I work FT from home. Partner is on a sabbatical, but I am working on renovating our new (but very old) home.
Make Use of Apps and Notes
We use an app called Sweepy for cleaning. It can assign tasks to each person and keeps up with our cleaning schedule, sends reminders, etc. For other emotional labor tasks, we have a running list on Google Keep that we review during family meetings every 1-2 weeks… things like upcoming birthdays, trip planning, etc. fall into that meeting as well as a finances review!
We both work full-time and have a dog. My partner is also in school part-time.
I use an app called The TeamTOMM App. TOMM, somewhat embarrassingly, stands for The Organized Mum Method. It's basically a cleaning system with a checklist app. I share the login with my partner and we can check tasks off as we go. After a bit of playing around, we found a rhythm and task split that works pretty well and is flexible to change on weird days.
Parents of two toddlers. I am a full-time parent transitioning back to some work (in progress) and my partner works full-time.
My partner and I share a chore to-do list in the app TickTick. We add all our weekly and biweekly tasks like vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, and giving our dog a bath, in the app. We've picked which chores we'd each like to take care of and assigned ourselves as owners. It's nice to have a digital to-do list because you can set the events as recurring and it's one less thing to keep track of in our heads.
We both work full-time and have a dog.
For house cleaning, we use an app called Tody. It's a bit tedious to set up, but you can assign household tasks to one person or the other for every room in the house. You can also set up how often something needs to be cleaned! Then when you open your app, you only see the tasks that you need to complete. It works well with the idea of doing a little cleaning every day (e.g. I have 5 mins, I'm going to clean the sink in the bathroom). Added bonus that it gives you something to check off on a to-do list! For all those list makers out there like me.
We both work full time and have a three-year-old and a 4-month-old.
We use the Trello app for our grocery list so that whoever is going to the store can access it and shop accordingly, vs. a paper list that we'd have to remember to bring with us. We're also going to start keeping a dry erase board on the wall outside the kitchen for meal planning to help us avoid eating takeout so much :) Generally, my husband does the grocery shopping, I do the laundry, and we hire a cleaning service to come every 2-3 weeks to really clean the house. We try to do a "weekly meeting" to look at the week ahead, our calendars, and meal plan, and typically if say, I cook, he'll do the dishes after, or vice versa. We also alternate who gets up with our son in the mornings, and my husband typically does daycare drop-off in the morning, I do pick up in the evening.
We both work full-time and have an almost 10-month-old.
Competitive? Turn Chores Into a Game
We are both SUPER competitive so we made chores into a game. We have a whiteboard in the kitchen with all of our weekly tasks. We each have our own color marker and can cross each thing off when we do it. At the end of the week, whoever has more crossed off gets a foot rub.
We both work full-time. No kids. 2 cats.
We use the Tody app to gamify doing chores, and we have a similar level of tidiness. The one place that is impossible is the kitchen which is somehow always messy, but we can just talk about who cleans it / makes dinner whichever day, and it's not a huge deal. In social situations, I am the planner but she is the packer/checklist maker.
Lesbian married couple, no kids, mid-30s, work full-time.
Thanks to everyone who shared your ideas! Have more questions related or unrelated to this topic? Write us at email@example.com.
Special thanks to Caroline Mullen for editorial assistance.