couple washing dishes
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If you and your partner are currently living together and staying home more often during this time of social distancing, you may be taking on more household chores than ever before. Between working, preparing meals, and trying to find time for hobbies, exercise, and sleep, it can feel nearly impossible to keep your home spotless. If both of you are neat freaks and super-motivated to clean, good for you! But perhaps more likely, one of you is on the neater side and the other a bit less inclined to clean, or you and your partner are both messy. Whatever the situation, it’s important for you and your partner to evenly share household chores to maintain fairness in the relationship—and so one or both of you don’t get burnt out during this already difficult time.

Here’s how to share those household chores with your partner, fair and square.

Start with a calm discussion.

If your house or apartment is looking like a tornado hit, it can be easy to freak out at your partner. Instead, take a deep breath and find a time to talk when you’re both calm and relaxed. You can start off by saying, “Hey, since we’re both home a lot more these days, I’m noticing the house is getting pretty messy and it’s stressing me out. Can we try to find a way to split up the chores so we can keep the place a bit neater?”

Figure out what needs to be done, and how often.

Having a to-do list is a great way to help you and your partner visualize the household chores that need to be completed. We recommend dividing your list into three or four categories: Daily, Weekly, Every Other Week, and Monthly. You can then list the chores that are appropriate for the given timeframe. Perhaps daily chores might include doing the dishes and sweeping the kitchen floor, while weekly chores would include laundry and cleaning the bathrooms. Once you know what needs to be done when, it will be easier for you to divvy up the tasks.

Create a system that works best for you.

Some couples like routine, while others prefer to switch things up. If you and your partner like to take on the same tasks week to week, that’s great—or you can switch your “assigned” tasks as often as you’d like. Pick a day each week to determine who’s handling which tasks, creating a written checklist if necessary. And yes, if a cute chore chart or chore wheel works for you, that’s totally cool—but it might feel a bit juvenile for some.

Set aside time to clean together.

Under the right conditions, cleaning can actually be fun. Set aside some time every day to pick up around the house. Play some fun music, put on a favorite podcast, or just simply engage in light conversation while you clean together. Working together to reach a common goal (a clean house) is actually a great bonding activity.

Don’t pick up your partner’s tasks.

If you feel your partner isn’t handling his or her household chores in a timely fashion, you might opt to just take care of them yourself. Not a good idea. Yes, you’ll be happy to check the task off the list, but it shows a lack of trust in your partner. Instead, give your partner time to complete the task. If he or she neglects it, then you can confront him or her—don’t nag or be passive aggressive. Simply say, “Hey, I think you forgot to [do X task]—would you mind taking care of it today?”

Praise your partner.

A little praise goes a long way. If your partner does a good job with a particular task, tell him or her. They’ll appreciate that you’re noticing their work, and will likely feel more motivated to take on tasks in the future.

Give each other a free pass.

There may be days when you or your partner just don’t feel like cleaning—and that’s totally understandable. We’re living in pretty stressful times right now, and your house does not have to be the epitome of clean. As long as things don’t get out of control, be kind to each other and allow breaks once in a while. That pile of laundry can wait until tomorrow to be folded—just don’t let it grow until your entire living room is covered in clothes.