Published on April 21, 2020

For the better half of the past year, my boyfriend and I have been trying to level the playing field in the house chores department. Correction: I have been trying to level the playing field. Here’s the thing: I like our home to be tidy at all times. Like, really tidy. I catch myself straightening out books and magazines at a 90-degree angle far too often. I fluff the duvet every time I walk past our bed. I spray and wipe the countertops if I see even just the shadow of a fingerprint. It’s a bit of an obsession. And now that we’re home 24-7, it takes double the effort.

My S.O.’s approach, on the other hand, feels closer to: “Leave it until it’s a mounting pile of doom.” This applies to everything including dishes, laundry, and garbage. He would call it the “I’ll do it in a minute” strategy. But from where I’m sitting, that minute seldom comes. Not unless I shove a load of laundry in his arms and gently nudge him toward the washing machine. Frankly, I don’t want to be that person. 

It’s not like we haven’t attempted to solve the problem either. We’ve tried charts, rosters, and methods like “last one out of the bed makes it” and “whoever doesn’t cook, cleans.” It all resulted into having far too many arguments about when plates should be put in the dishwasher (in my opinion: after a meal, not while cooking the next one) and how often trash should be taken out (before you need to double-bag it because it’s gotten so heavy that it will tear halfway through the living room and spill all over the rug).

It all came to a breaking point about two weeks into quarantine. Who knew how quickly dishes can pile up when you’re actually cooking three times a day? Back in our regular lives, we were in and out of the house and barely whisked past the kitchen most mornings and nights. But now that we’re home all the time, we’re trying out new recipes, snacking nonstop, and setting the table with extra linens and candles to stay sane. For the first weeks, our kitchen looked like a tornado tore through it daily.

I was at my wit’s end a few days ago when I cooked up a method that actually works: time slots. It’s absurdly easy, too. Here’s how it goes: We both have two “shifts” a day, where we go around the house, tidy up anything that seems out of place, and tackle simple tasks. I get the after-breakfast rush and before-dinner slot. He gets the after-lunch and after-dinner shifts. If, at first glance, it seems a little unfairly distributed, I promise you it’s not.

This works for us specifically because he has the heavier lift in the dish-washing department. Meanwhile, I instinctively tackle other chores like laundry, making the bed, and cleaning the bathrooms (and yes, emptying the dishwasher before there’s a fresh mountain of pots and pans waiting) without feeling like I’m doing most of the work. This lets him off the hook for most things not kitchen sink–related and keeps me from nagging. Best of all: We don’t talk about chores anymore.

These days, our kitchen has never sparkled more. That’s despite us frying meatballs, whipping up spaghetti sauce, and chopping lettuce at an alarming rate. We’ve also never discussed cleaning less. The true test will be if the method withstands our routine when we shift back to our normal lives. I, for one, am crossing my fingers that it does. How are you divvying up chores during quarantine?

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