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Division of Labor: The Rules of Engagement for Dividing Chores as a Couple

If you're attempting to divide household labor between yourself and another adult, there are some initial communication tips that will set you up for success. 

What these three words mean

But whether you're doing this by yourself or with a partner or family, there are a few definitions we need to agree on before we get started.
Cleaning is about dirt - using spray bottles and cleaners to actually remove bacteria, dirt, and other gross stuff. Many people are tidy but not clean.

Tidying is picking up and putting away, decluttering, and organizing your belongings. It’s how we manage our stuff, and it can take a lot of mental effort, which is why it helps to do it daily by doing a ...

A Room Reset is where, at the end of the day, you give a gift to tomorrow's You by tidying up the room and leaving it decluttered for the next day. In the kitchen, this can mean dishes away, dishwasher running, and counters clean. 

The Rules of Engagement

As we discussed a couple of days ago, chores can be fraught with emotion — and before we start implementing a new system, we need to agree on some ground rules so we're as clear with each other as possible.

We'll go over the Rules of Engagement below, and you can also print them out to share with your partner.


People have different ways of doing things. It might irritate you that your partner doesn't do things exactly the way you do. If you need to leave the room, do it. Resist the urge to criticize — remember, the goal is to share in the labor, and that might mean letting some things go. If something really bothers you, bring it up in couple's counseling (seriously).


If you have a task on your list, remember that you can't be half-baked about it. For example, if your job is cleaning the bathroom, you need to remember to check supply levels for cleaners and add them to do the grocery list if they’re getting low. If you replaced the toilet paper, you need to throw away the empty roll. It is also not your partner’s job to remind you to do any part of your task. Commit to doing this as if it were part of your day job. *Showing up in your relationship is as important as staying employed.* You're 100% capable.


Some tasks include the mental load (more on this later) associated with them. For example, if your job is to take the kid to the dentist and the dentist schedules another appointment, it’s your job to check the calendar and make sure you’ve added the new appointment. Get into the habit of thinking ahead — if it’s your job to manage phone calls, does your partner need to know this information? Take notes in a place where they can easily find it. Send them an email, write it on a note and stick it on the fridge — you get the picture. In addition, don't ask your partner how to do the job. You have the whole internet at your disposal (including tools like and therefore no excuse.


Make a commitment to do this — exactly as this is prescribed — for a month. We know that every household is different and lots of people have lots of ideas. But if you try to perfect every little aspect right off the bat, you're likely to get derailed before you've even started. Refer to Rule #1, friend: It's about making progress. You have to start somewhere. This is your somewhere.