by Liz on 05.24

This little diddy goes out to a special lady. She knows who she is.


Josh and I didn’t have a rough move-in transition. The truth is, before I moved in, the only time we didn’t spend together was the time spent at work or sleeping. So, I was already pretty used to seeing that guy’s face all day long.

Of course, there are always transitions when living with somebody. And a big piece of that usually has to do with division of labor.

In my house, I’m the neat freak. Josh has certain little particular quirks, but I’m the one who NEEDS things to be clean and clutter free for sanity. I need my home to be a calming, peaceful sanctuary. And part of that calming peace is cleanliness.  When the house is a mess, I can almost physically feel my stress level rise.

It’s sick.

So, we both had some adjusting to do in the beginning. I wanted things *just so*, but he didn’t do them *just so* so I needed to do everything myself, and then I’m irritated that I’m doing everything because, what the hell, can’t he pitch in?

This is one of those times where the solution is just as simple as you’d have guessed.

We talked about it.

1. Because I was doing the majority of the cleaning, when he would leave his shoes in the middle of the floor or stack a pile of dirty dishes on the nightstand, it felt like I was being taken for granted and the work that I was doing wasn’t being respected or valued. We talked about that. This is back to top importance again now that I’m home all day and doing the majority of the cleaning.

2. Because keeping the house clean was so important to me, I asked him to make it important to him. In that, “if it’s important to you, it’s important to me, because you’re important to me,” sort of way.

3. Because being a grown ass man is important to him, I needed to not nag him about every little thing. Okay, so shoes are in the middle of the floor. The rest of the house is immaculate, so I need to choose my battles and trust that he’s going to eventually move the damn shoes (rather than pounce on him as soon as he drops the first shoe to the ground). (Unless I trip on said shoes which makes them FAIR GAME.)

Then, we set guidelines. Of course, this is altered depending on who’s employed and who isn’t (right now, I’m mostly not, so I’m mostly in charge of a lot of the cleaning). We don’t have some overly complicated chore chart on the fridge or anything like that. We just decided, “I like cooking, so I’ll do that. But I have no upper body strength whatsoever, so you take out the trash. …Also it smells bad. So.” By dividing those responsibilities up front, I relinquish control of certain things. Now that garbage is his job, I trust him to notice when it needs to go out and just do it rather than wait for me to say, “Jaaaaahsh, the garbage needs to go out.” He’s a grown up. He can tell when the lid won’t close and the apartment smells like funky old cheese.

The other thing about these chores? Is they’re not set in stone. If there’s a day when the garbage is overflowing and Josh hasn’t carried it out yet, rather than text him about it five times until he remedies the situation or passive aggressively continue stacking things on top with growing impatience and aggravated foot-tapping, I simply carry it out. But that’s unfair! you say. But feminism! you say. The thing is, Josh does the same for me. I’m “the one who cooks,” and yet, sometimes he sees that I’m wrapped up in painting and I turn around to a breakfast of avocado toast and a cup of coffee. We chip in because we, hullo, love each other. Of course, if ignoring the trash becomes a habit, that’s a different problem altogether. But, a problem that’s best handled with (you guessed it) more talking, not nagging or harumphing. And if he chips in and takes care of something I normally do, it’s not intended as a critique of my housekeeping skills (I really easily slip into that trap).

In addition to all the stuff we had to talk about outright, I realized recently we have a sort of unspoken agreement. Rather than turn into my mother and try to clean things as people use them (ugh, Mom), “Are you done with this coffee? You just finished? Can you throw the cup in the sink then? Thaaaanks…” We live and make a bit of a mess, and then right before bed, we do a sweep and clear. It may only be a few things- a book on the coffee table and a jacket by the door. But, pitching in together to grab those last few things before bed makes me feel like I’m starting with a fresh slate in the morning and helps me to keep from nagging during the afternoon (because I know there’s an end to the clutter in sight).

So, that’s how things have panned out for me. Of course, there’s always adjusting and flexing and renegotiating- depending on who’s got a job and who has a busy week and what guidelines we’ve set that just don’t seem to be working out as planned.

How have you negotiated splitting up housework? Was it a hard adjustment?


You also may be interested in reading this post about learning to live with the way your partner does things and this one about martyrdom.


Previous post:

Next post: