Thankfully, we’ve escaped the days when women were confined to housekeeping duties while men got to endure boring meetings in cold rooms. Let’s face it, no one really wins there. Still, everyone deserves the chance for a fulfilling career, which means that the household often becomes a neglected home, waiting patiently while everyone else works to pay for its costs.
If houses were sentient, they’d likely feel a little forgotten, longing for the days when someone was there to enjoy and take care of them. Instead, the residents hustle all day. Even the kids are busy with school and extracurriculars. At best, the house might enjoy the presence a sleeping cat who coats it in shed hair, or a plucky betta who fights with his reflection.
Homemaking seems to be a lost art, and that’s not feminism’s fault. Most of us, all genders, are simply too busy to spend time decorating, cooking, cleaning, and so on. When we need to relax, we simply shove the laundry to the side of the couch and ponder the impending apocalypse.
I’m sure I sound like an angry boomer right now, but last year, I gained a new perspective on what homemaking entails and why it matters.
That’s because I started working from home.
I quickly became frustrated with the perpetual chaos, born of my hectic schedule and my husband’s backbreaking job. Neither of us had the time or energy to devote to homemaking.
Still, the house and its many needs were a point of contention. My husband didn’t quite see the need to wipe down the backsplash or dust the blinds, and I couldn’t seem to understand that cleaning doesn’t need to happen at midnight. I wanted a clean, comfortable home, even though I never made time to relax in it anyway.
For sure, my priorities were out of alignment.
When my husband and I moved to Orlando, we had to leave our spacious home for a tiny apartment that cost twice as much in rent. We downsized a lot but quickly discovered that even the basic living essentials had to fight for space. With little space, the mess compounded. At times, our floor resembled an obstacle course.
I had to make a change. And so we spent a couple of days cleaning and rearranging. It looked so nice when we were done that I pledged to never let it became chaotic again. Along the way, we made some decisions that ultimately worked out for the better.
Here’s what we did.
We used a chore wheel.
Okay, so it’s not a literal wheel, but the concept of rotating tasks still applies. Previously, we attempted to alternate between chores, but that simply didn’t work. Because of his erratic schedule, he couldn’t wash the dishes every other day. I, on the other hand, worked from home and could take a quick break to load and unload the dishwasher every day.
What my husband could do every day were the small, low-energy chores. And so we agreed that every day, I would mop the kitchen and do dishes, and my husband would scoop the litterbox and take out the trash. Then, we’d alternate the chores that could be done weekly, such as cleaning the bathtub and vacuuming the carpets.
Rather than a chore wheel, we use Wunderlist (soon to be replaced by Microsoft To Do). What’s great about this app (and Microsoft To Do has all these features as well):
- You can set it to notify everyone on the list about what’s been done. This is great when you have multiple household members all doing different chores.
- Anyone can add and assign tasks.
- You can set reminders for specific times. Let the app do the nagging!
- Best of all, you can set tasks to repeat on whatever basis you choose: daily, weekly, every 3 days, every 2 weeks, etc.
Once we started using Wunderlist, we both felt much more on top of the chores. I didn’t have to worry about reminding or nagging, and we both had convenient lists of our chores. Plus, it’s highly more satisfying to check off tasks!
We set dedicated cleaning times.
There’s always a need for a deep clean, but it’s way too much for one person to do. That’s why my husband and I will occasionally devote an evening to this monster of a task. We’ll roll our usual weekly chores, e.g. vacuuming and mopping, into a work session that might include purging old clothes, organizing the DVD rack, installing shelves, and so on.
These work sessions often turn into cleaning parties, where we break out a beer and put on some music, funny YouTube videos, or standup comedy while we work. Best of all, it’s a bonding experience. Homemaking can be fun if you do it right!
We love YouTube for these parties because it will auto-play videos. It does a good job of predicting what we’ll want to listen to next.(Usually, Weird Al Yankovic or Blue Oyster Cult.) It can be run on our phones with a Bluetooth speaker or on our smart TV.
We started co-budgeting.
While we usually go shopping together, we were still spending way too much on such luxuries as food and toilet paper. We also had to constantly swap money via Venmo to ensure that we were each paying each other for our shared bills. It became exhausting to deal with, especially because I had two checking accounts. (But that’s another story.) A new wrinkle appeared when I started freelancing. Because he is paid biweekly and I am paid on a rolling basis, we needed to take extra steps to track our income and ensure that bills got paid on time.
It took some hard conversations, but eventually, we found our money groove.
We have a shared account through Aspiration (this is an affiliate link), and whenever we get paid, we each put enough money into it every payday to cover our portion of our upcoming shared expenses. We list all our scheduled bills in Trello so that we can plan accordingly. We also recently started using Goodbudget, a cute little app (Android and iOS) that lets you implement the famous envelope method in digital form. Your budget can be synced and shared among devices. It’s not perfect, but it helps track our spending so that we know whether or not we can splurge on that new Trader Joe’s goody.
Best of all, our joint homemaking endeavors let us feel more connected to our home — and each other. Disproportionate chore assignments and messy piles of stuff breed resentment that places a lot of strain on the relationship. A household that’s co-managed and co-decorated is more harmonious.
That’s not to say that we’re totally equal. Because I work from home and am the organized type, I do the lion’s share of homemaking, but it’s not stressful for me to do so.
The key is to strike a balance with what all members of the household can contribute. Our work situations are not the same, so why would our chore loads be?
By implementing the systems and apps described above, we were able to reach agreement and understand expectations for each other. And that’s what makes a household really tick — and a home happy.
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