Cleaning Schedule that Works?
May 31, 2012 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I live with two roommates and need to provide a new cleaning schedule. The once a week, one person does everything, seemed ok until someone started missing weeks.

Is there a way to get our place on an effective cleaning schedule when the end of the week wasn't so great? Also, should I break up duties that it makes it easier to take care of the apartment weekly? Not sure how to go about it, since I'm responsible for making the schedule.
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I break my own cleaning schedule into chores-by-day. So on Mondays, I wash the floors, Tuesdays, I dust, Wednesdays are for the bathroom, etc. If you broke things down that way, the whole place wouldn't fall to ruin if someone forgot to do their chore in a week, and it might not feel as much of a great big obligation to get your chores done each day.
posted by xingcat at 8:24 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, should I break up duties that it makes it easier to take care of the apartment weekly?

Definitely. Just sit down with your roommates, break the house down into individual tasks (e.g.: "Scrub bathroom," "take out trash," "vacuum floors") and have a staggered rotation so that everyone does a different thing every time. Then, people can trade duties ("Can you do the bathroom this week? I'll vacuum"), or if they're particularly averse to one thing, they can be permanently assigned to something else, assuming the difficulty is equally fair ("I don't want to ever clean the bathrooms, but I'll take out the trash and vacuum every week.")
posted by griphus at 8:25 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had this exact issue in a place with three of us living together. We tried a lot of solutions, but the one that wound up pleasing all of us (or displeasing us all equally, which is just about as good) was to all pitch in ten bucks a week and have a cleaning service come in for a couple hours every Tuesday morning. It solved all our problems and made our lives together much, much more pleasant.

The other thing we tried was to split the duties into an A-, B- and C-list, and each of us took a letter. Each letter had a big chore or a couple small chores per day. Each week we incremented our letter by one, with C going to A. Problem was that when we rotated like that it always wound up with someone complaining that someone else wasn't cleaning to their standard, and there was much P/A snippery. Plenty of coming downstairs and shouting WHO IS B THIS WEEK WHY SHOWER NOT CLEANED and the A person saying they did it already and that it was clean enough so if someone wanted it cleaner then by cracky they could clean it their own damn self.

So basically, yeah, as a testament to the juvenile and immature person I was when I had roommates, it was much easier to stretch our limited budget and hire someone to do these simple household chores rather than suffer through the relationship straining problems of varying standards and expectations.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:30 AM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

We have a cleaning day - or really a cleaning hour - at a time when we are all home. For us it's late Sunday morning. And at that time, I assign the chores based on what I feel needs to be done. It works pretty well as long as I am dedicated to enforcing it - if I don't issue a reminder and make sure everyone is awake, it doesn't happen. But my housemates are on board with being reminded/woken, so that's all right.

Also, we have a "do all your dishes before you go to sleep" rule for the daily mess.
posted by Frowner at 8:53 AM on May 31, 2012

Best answer: Chore Buster works really well for us.
posted by jillithd at 8:58 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I had trouble with this sort of thing, and, like Sternmeyer, also had 2 roommates, we divvied things up in much the same way. Except we had three sets of tasks: daily things, weekly things, and monthly things. Every month we would revisit who was doing what, to keep it fair and mix it up a little.

So for example in any given month I'd have a daily task (sweep the kitchen floor), a weekly task (clean the bathroom), and a monthly task (muck out the fridge).

In my very long experience living with roommates -- for LOTS of different values of "roommates" -- something like "it's Steve's turn to clean the entire house from top to bottom and do all cleaning that needs to be done all week" is just absolutely absurd and unsustainable. For one thing, what happens when it turns out this is also Steve's craziest week at work, or he has a family emergency, or gets the flu? For another thing, I can't think of any arrangement that would create more resentment and make people feel more like servants.
posted by Sara C. at 9:00 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always recommend gambling: define the tasks (including the details that determine, for example, whether the toilet has been cleaned sufficiently and on time) and then use a spinning wheel or dice or cards or drawing numbers from a hat (choose your poison) to see who does what when. Make sure you work out the odds so that each task is done frequently enough on average, not necessarily every week like clockwork. If task A needs to be done twice as often as task B, then work it out so that you are twice as likely to get A as you are to get B. Put in a couple of positive results so you might get lucky and have to do nothing (get out of task free card?) or you might get to give your task to someone else or the other two might have to buy you a beer. Also, let people trade or buy and sell tasks. If two roommates declare that the third has not done the defined task properly and on time, that third person gets a penalty (go back and do it properly plus have to draw another mystery task?).

Gambling means you get lucky some weeks and you get nailed other weeks, but it's all of you playing a game together, gambling together, betting together, and you can't cheat or you are the biggest fucking cheating stinking untrustworthy loser asshole in the universe. (Like catching someone cheating at cards or pool or a sport.)

If someone can't be there for the game, that person has to provide a proxy to play at the usual time or accept the word of the other two people taking turns for the missing person.
posted by pracowity at 9:03 AM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and regarding standards of cleaning? If people aren't mature enough to either not half-ass the tasks or be graceful about the fact that this isn't a goddamn hotel, the best answer is to just split up and find new roommates who all agree on things like what it means to clean a shower.

I would much rather live with strangers who wash their own dishes than a group of my besties who leave passive aggressive notes about the standard of cleanliness of said dishes. That said, I live in a city where people tend to have roommates until well into adulthood, so this is probably less of an issue than it is for college students.
posted by Sara C. at 9:11 AM on May 31, 2012

I'm also going to rec the possible cleaning person. When I had roommates the last time that was the only thing that saved us.
posted by manicure12 at 9:41 AM on May 31, 2012

When I had a roommate we determined the things each of us hate to do (floors for me, dusting for her), the things each of us didn't mind doing (cleaning the shower for both of us), the things we rather liked doing (vaccuming for her, kitchen counters and sink for me) and basically divided all tasks so that each of us mostly had things we liked doing or were neutral on and had little or no things we hate to do. We agreed to do our tasks every two weeks during the same weekend, though not neccessarily at the same time. This, of course, will only work if all parties involved are mature and not passive-aggressive, etc. It worked great for us.
posted by Pineapplicious at 11:36 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Once a week one person does everything does sound pretty rough!

I'd say try to be a bit looser - make a list of things that need to be done on a white board (or you can type it an laminate it) and let people put their names next to what they've done.

At the end of each week address any issues - did roommate X say she cleaned the bathroom but it was still disgusting? Did roommate Y not do anything that week?

Also have an open discussion about the equality of tasks. If vacuuming the living room consists solely of pressing the rhoomba button to on, it shouldn't be given the same weight as scrubbing toilets. Perhaps cleaning the toilet is one task, while cleaning the living room - both vacuuming AND dusting, is another.

Likewise, if someone's slacking on their chores, think/discuss *why*. If roommate Y never does the chores, why is that? It may be they have more important things - perhaps they have to work 60 hours a week while roommates X and Z only work 40 (or *something* - maybe she's taking 19 credits and X and Z are taking 15 credits, whatever) - in which case roommate Y may be willing to go up $10/month in rent for you to just absorb her chores during her week. Or maybe there's something else, maybe she resents having to clean up after people who are messier than her - if she uses half as many dishes as either X or Z, her having to clean the dishes a third of the time may not seem fair to her - she may skip weeks as a form of internally rectifying the unfairness.

Of course I'm just speculating on the above, but if someone's skipping cleaning duty, there's probably a reason.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 12:49 PM on May 31, 2012

Best answer: I'm one of five people in my house - three of us (myself included) are pretty messy. Here's how we avoided killing each other:

We broke up the chore duties into Areas of Responsibilities - kind of like beats for a cop or a reporter. Five roommates, five beats, rotated week to week. Personal bedrooms were of course not included in this - bedroom squalor is fine so long as it doesn't spill out into the hallway. For us, the main areas of concern were as follows:

Floor Maintenance: sweep the hardwood vacuum the carpet.
Counter Maintenance: Keep the kitchen counters sparkly
Waste Management: Take out the garbage, recycling and compost
Bathroom: A job unto itself, obviously.
Living Room Clutter: Keep the common area tidy, leave items left behind by other roommates by their bedroom doors.

Each week, whatever category we're assigned is something we keep an eye on and maintain - it's less about doing big weekly cleans than preventing messes in the first place. You'll notice dishes aren't on the list - for that, we have a different system. The counter by the sink is masking-taped off into five labeled sections, one for each housemate. This is designated area into which one may which stack dishes without anyone tripping. When you run out of room, it's time to do a load! It also kind of becomes a point of pride for us to have one's dish section empty, since it's such a strong visual indicator of who the current King Slob of the house is.

We arrived at this after trying many other systems. It breaks down a little occasionally, but the accountability built into this structure tends to correct that before it gets out of control. If our house is destroyed by a party that no one feels personally responsible for, we dragoon anyone who slept over into helping us tidy up.
posted by EatTheWeek at 2:09 PM on May 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

When I've had roommates, the only successful thing -- by which I mean, has resulted in the house not being a total pit of filth, or swing precariously from filth to cleanliness with weeks of intervening decline, or cause lots of interpersonal friction and argument -- was to get a cleaning service and divide the cost up like any other utility.

At the very least I would figure out what that would cost, and if there is a particular roommate who isn't pulling their weight or just doesn't have time to do chores, they should be responsible for paying (or bartering some other task) the other roommates that amount, since that's essentially the cost of their share.

Cleaning services vary greatly in price from city to city; YMMV of course.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:41 PM on May 31, 2012

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