Chore Days and Project Days

Stacey Kite

Since my husband retired a few months ago, we’ve come up with a new way to share the household tasks. It’s working really well and given both of us blocks of time to work on our individual projects. For me, that means more quality writing time, so I thought I’d share.

Here’s how it works. When it’s my chore day, I get up early—before the rest of the house—and write. Usually, I can get in an hour or two before Fred and the dog get up. After that, I’m usually done writing for the bulk of the day because it’s my chore day. At a minimum that means I empty the dishwasher, take the dog for her potty breaks and long walk, cook dinner and clean the kitchen up afterwards. I also pick one or more extra household tasks on the list, whether that’s laundry, coming up with a menu and putting in the pickup order, sweeping and vacuuming floors or cleaning the bathrooms. If I manage to get everything done with time to spare, I can go back to writing for a while, collapse or even read.

While I’m taking care of all the household stuff, Fred is free to spend the day working on his stuff. (Right now, his big project is building the closet organizer of my dreams, so that one’s a total win for me!)

Then the next day, Fred does all the chores while I have a project day. I still do my writing first thing in the morning, but then, if the words are flowing, I can keep writing because Fred’s the one who takes the dog out, empties the dishwasher and does all the chores. The dog’s long walk is especially great for writing because it gives me an extra one to two hours of distraction free time every other day, which is awesome!

Whether the writing is going well or not, I still have the rest of the day to work on my other projects. Since we just moved into a new house, I have a lot of other projects, especially in the yard.

Last month, for example, I built a raised garden bed—all by myself.

Though my brother, Larry—the king of retention walls—showed me how to build a rock wall and gave advice, I did all the work, from digging the trench for the foundation and packing in the gravel to cutting and gluing the cap blocks. It just about killed Fred not to take over or at least jump in and help, but I wouldn’t let him. It was my project, though I did ask his opinion, and let him show me how to make and use a water-level.

And I have to say, Fred has been fabulous about the chores. He even cleans windows and toilets and sterilizes bath mats! He doesn’t do everything the way I would, but then I don’t do everything the way he would, either, so that’s OK.

I know our situation is ideal, and far from most people’s norm—especially now during this *$&%! Pandemic—but even a mini version of chore day vs. project day on the weekends might buy you some extra, quality writing time.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to give it a try.

Under no circumstances should you split kitchen duty. The person who cooks must be the same person who cleans up after that meal. The clean-as-he/she/they-cooks person will resent the crap out of cleaning up after the just-boils-water-and-gets-flour-on-the-ceiling person. And there is always a just-boils-water-and-gets-flour-on-the-ceiling person.

Avoid giving unsolicited advice on your partner’s projects. If your partner asks for your opinion and/or help, great, but otherwise button it. It’s his/her/their project. Of course, this doesn’t apply if there is significant risk of loss of life, serious injury or ruinous financial structural damage to the house.

Be patient when your partner gives you unsolicited advice/criticism. It’s going to happen, so be prepared. And you’ll give them advice too, even though you know you shouldn’t. So acknowledge their point, consider it, then do what you feel is correct. This applies to everything from folding towels to building retaining walls.

Do not critique your partner’s domestic skills or go behind your partner’s back re-doing everything. There is no one right way to fold a towel. Your partner will develop his/her/their own method, thank you very much, and as long as clean towels and underwear are making it into the linen closet and the drawers instead of mounding up in heaps on the floors, keep your mouth shut.

When it’s your chore day, don’t shirk. This only works if both partners are willing. If you see something that needs cleaning, step up and do it.

Above all else, be patient and considerate. Everything has a learning curve, even ordering groceries online, so cut your partner slack, here. It’s not the end of the world if you get shredded cheese instead of block cheese, especially if having someone else do the shopping bought you some quality writing time.

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