A dear friend asked how we do our chores, recently. I wanted to share our process!
The house I’m at now, which I’m likely to be moving in to, does not have an established system of chores, and it’s been causing folks some stress. Having noticed that the Academy manages it’s absurd number of residents with a quiet grace, I was wondering if you had a document or template you use that I could learn from. If there is such a resource, could you send it my way? I’d really appreciate it.
Yeah, buddy. We’ve learned a lot about chores.
First, some tips:
- I was reminded recently that the process is often more important than the result (everywhere, and particularly in communal living situations). So going through a process with the group to get everyone’s interests into the space and then building a solution out of those interests/preferences is an empowering path to take. Whereas dropping in a pre-made solution doesn’t often sit as well.
- A big lesson we learned: individual responsibility will never get you 100% to the cleanliness level you want. You need communal responsibility. We tried for a long time to find a way to make sure everyone was accountable to the mess/dishes they created and put a ton of energy into adjusting that system. And when it didn’t happen, people were frustrated because “someone else didn’t do what they said they would!!!!!” But then we shifted to a “kitchen night pair” system where 2 people clean the whole kitchen each night. This means that you clean messes you didn’t make, but that’s okay because everyone has 1 or 2 nights where they do that. The fact of the matter is that we all forget to clean up after ourselves sometimes and communal responsibility of cleaning is the only process that will account for forgetfulness. Individual responsibility will never cover it all.
- Pairs are better than singles. The reason we did “kitchen night pairs” is because it’s more fun to work with someone else than to do it yourself. And two brains are more likely to remember to do the task than one would be. And it’s done twice as fast, so it isn’t as daunting.
- Physical lists of chores in visible places help a lot
What we do:
- We have all the chore assignments printed on a list. (see our chore PDF) … It has a column to “remind people to do their chore by putting an X here” but we never successfully used that part.
- We have “chore signs” on everyone’s doors to their room that lists the chores they currently have
- We have “dish party nights” … mentioned above. these pairs of folks clean the whole kitchen, empty all the dishes, re-load any dishes, wash any stray dishes or pots and pans, take out the compost, and clean the counters. Leaving a fresh kitchen each morning to wake up to!
- We have posted a list of ways that we like to be reminded about chores. Some people prefer in person, some prefer email, others prefer a note on their door.
When you’re living in a communal house where there are any shared finances that need to be tracked, I think it’s absolutely essential that you use Splitwise.
Benefits of Splitwise:
- It’s free!
- Your group of housemates is represented in the system and each person has their own account
- Anyone can add an IOU or bill
- Debts are consolidated. If Jessilyn owes Zach and Zach owes me, Splitwise makes it simple by showing that Jessilyn owes me.
- It’s easy to settle up at the end of the month by showing how much each person needs to pay each other.
- It gives great summaries of your spending by category. We can see how much we spend on shared groceries each month.
- You can select who you include on each split transaction, so if I just want to buy a pizza for a couple people, but not charge the whole house, I just uncheck other people’s names who didn’t eat any of the pizza.
- It has an iPhone and android app, so you can add transactions while you’re paying in line at the store.
It doesn’t actually deal with the exchange of money (although they just added a PayPal feature), it just tracks the debt. Our house uses our local credit union to transfer money, and for the people who don’t have an account at that credit union, we settle through PayPal.
I love it. I couldn’t live without it. And as far as I know, there’s nothing else out there at all like it.
When trying to develop norms and chores to keep a space clean, individual responsibility is important but not sufficient. You also need communal responsibility for the cleaning because some people will always completely forget that they caused a mess.
For example, if dishes aren’t being cleaned and are taking up space, and you keep finding new ways to get individuals to do their dishes (do them before you leave, have someone remind the whole house to do dishes that are theres, put your dishes in a space with your name so you can claim them, etc) the dishes will never all be done because someone will forget a dish was their dish in the first place. So you have to add communal cleaning efforts such as: clean one extra dish each time you wash your own, someone has a “dish night” where they clean all orphaned dishes, etc. this communal responsibility allows you to get closer to 100% cleanliness.
It’s easier to be motivated and accountable and energized to do a chore when you have a buddy to do it with. This is especially true is the chore is supposed to happen on a certain day each week.
Community doesn’t just happen. Community is the very act of actively engaging with others, and that engagement requires conscious effort.
Well I never thought I would rise up from this cushy couch long enough to see this day. The Villard House has finally graduated from a upstart street trying to find a name for itself throughout this middling earthen town of Eugene, and is now occupying its totally righteous place as The (Communability) Academy! Quite truly epically and stupendously excited stuff if I do darest to sustainably say. The Academy currently already has its first 10 full time members and one alumnus member.
Well I bet now you are wishing you had enrolled at our little shindig of former streethouse named Villire, however there is still a chance! Anytime the sun, stars, or moon are out or the sky is covered by clouds then the Academy has a spot for you! We accept many of forms of payment and credit including, but not limited to, hugs, potluck dinners, games, stories, occasional laughs, movement builders, and anyone who has ever been called by that most celebrated of names of “you!”
So come on down and make a splash in our rain barrel! You may even have as good a time as when my friend Jed and I had to force ourselves not to roll over laughing as the esteemed Dr. made a horrible pun about freeze ray reactors and literal peace. Hilarious…Right, well now back to the business of Communability which means you better get over to the Academy quick because we’ve got this incredible community to build! The Communability Academy Exmobilius togethilius
Do you know the meaning of Academians? Its root word translates to “A member in the house of my friends.” Many Academians lived in the hills similar to the one pictured below.
These dwellers believed that by living in communal dwellings with 8-10 people would allow them to absorb their collective knowledge and that of the natural world around them. The Academianic Initiation Ceremony often centers on their celebrated Academian Nuts, which symbolize the greatness of the world and all of its living and non-living inhabitants.
Now you know the history of Academians! Occasionally you can hear whispers that in some special corners of the globe, some communities still perform that most mysterious of ceremonies.