This article about who scoops the litter box comes to us from Louise Machinist, a longtime advocate of shared housing. Check out My House Our House, her book and ongoing advocacy for shared housing.
It’s a typical Sunday night at home– me on the porch, feet up, drink at hand, deep into a novel; Karen cooking dinner; Jean scooping out the litter box in the basement. What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s right. I’ll clean up the kitchen—again. And put out the trash for collection.
Chore sharing is the fourth most frequent subject that people ask about at workshops, right after three other biggies—household conflict, romantic relationships, and money–someone usually throws in, “But who scoops the litter box?” We used to share the scooping, taking turns on a whoever-thinks-of-it-first basis. Imagine our relief when Jean decided to take it over. Every week! So Jean “owns” a specialty job category in our shared home. She has a system, a schedule, and the task always get done.
We each adopted certain job specialties based on interest, skill or availability. Karen is tech geek and skilled repairperson. Louise does grunt work (screens/storms, window well cleaning, scullery maid) but also has Martha Stewart home decorating moments.
We share most tasks without assigning them. Interestingly, we’ve found that we don’t need “rules,” because everyone carries a fair share of the load, balanced out over time. Among us, we have the skills, determination or stupidity to tackle just about anything. Somehow, it seems less tiresome to do chores when it’s part of community. We’re all proactive. Nobody nags, and the litter box is always clean.
Two keys to success with chores are 1. Own responsibility, 2. Always do what you say you are going to do. We had a little healthy competition going on: I will do my fair share better than anyone else can do my fair share.
Before sharing a living situation with anyone, be sure that you have similar expectations about household lifestyle. How neat? How clean? Who will do what? It’s the little things that count, day-to-day. Consider: could an always-overflowing litter box sink your shared household?