How to share house chores

Why do we need rules? Rules are formal and usually written, they define the minimum standards all housing companions agree to follow. This provides assurance that everyone’s deal breakers are satisfied to prevent conflict. Rules should be agreed upon at the beginning of every living arrangement and should be revisited whenever they are breached. 

Expectations relate to method or quality of which someone will do something. These are generally not written and may be considered as ‘common sense’. Problems arise when people have different life experiences and different expectations of what is reasonable and how something should be done. Housing companions should show and teach one another their best practices and communicate to establish their own mutual expectations.

1. Cleaning and tidying

Hosts should specify how often each area should be cleaned and what their acceptable level of cleanliness is. Take some time to show proper cleaning methods and what cleaning products work best for the job. If you are moving into a new home with someone, discuss and use clear examples of what you consider to be clean, and what you would like to see happen in each shared space. Communication is a huge part of avoiding conflicts in regards to cleaning. Simply be honest about what may bother you. We will expand on this later in this module.

2. Bathrooms

Keeping your bathrooms clean can help prevent the spread of germs in addition to preventing conflicts. If you are sharing a bathroom with your housing companion, create a schedule to share cleaning responsibilities. A little cleaning after each use of the bathroom can go a long way.


Tip: Keep a rag and a spray bottle of vinegar solution in the bathroom, give the mirror and faucet a quick clean once a day to keep it looking great! It only takes a few seconds.

Vinegar solution: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, optional: 12-24 drops of essential oil

Make sure there is adequate space in the bathroom for toiletries, cleaning products, and extra toilet paper. Discuss who will provide the cleaning supplies and toilet paper, or if you’d like to share the cost.

3. Smoking and drinking

It is important to discuss these habits prior to living together, as everybody is different. If there is something that will make you very uncomfortable, make sure to let them know.

4. Kitchen and eating

The kitchen is the busiest area of the home, most conflicts occur here! Setting clear expectations for kitchen use will prevent conflicts from occurring.

Food storage: Where will each person store their food; fridge, freezer, pantry.

Cooking Times: Do you need to schedule times to use the kitchen, or will you cook together? If you like to do large meal preparations, how can you schedule this so each person has fair use of the kitchen?

Eating: Do you permit eating food in bedrooms or other areas of the house?

Food sharing: Will you share some food, such as flour or condiments? How will you share the cost? It is common for Hosts to share spices and other items that are not used very often with their guests. Simply discuss what you will do if the item needs to be replaced.

Sharing meals: Sharing meals is fun! How often would you like to do so? Are there any dietary concerns? Will you take turns cooking for each other? Who will clean the dishes?


5. Use of space

Is there a part of your home that you’d like to keep to yourself? In the common spaces, will you permit people to leave items such as laptops, books, guitars in there? What areas of the home are available for storing their belongings? We will expand on this in the next topic: How to share space fairly.


6. Visitors

What are your rules for visitors? This is an important point to discuss prior to move-in as well, as people may feel uncomfortable with visitors in the home.  Consider establishing a rule that you must notify your housing companion of any visitors ahead of time, to ensure it works for everybody in the home.

You can discuss what times are reasonable for visitors, if at all, without disrupting the other members of the household. What are expectations around overnight visitors? Lastly, if one member of the household wants to have a social gathering at the house, what are the expectations and limitations?

Type of visitors

Types of visitors to consider: 

  • Friend over for coffee or dinner, doesn’t stay past quiet hours
  • Family coming to stay a few nights
    • Is there enough room in the home? Discuss this prior to moving in.
  • Significant other staying over most nights
    • Create rule – if they stay more than 1-2 nights/week, they need to contribute financially to the household 

7. Noise

What is a reasonable level of noise in the house? What hours of the morning and night are considered quiet time? Is there an allocated area of the home to play music or games?

8. Laundry

Lastly, do you want to establish a laundry schedule to avoid overlap? Perhaps you can pick certain days of the week for each member of the household to have access to the laundry room. Also, discuss whether each person will provide their own laundry detergent, or if it will be shared.

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Keeping a house clean can be a challenge in itself, but add more people in the house with different schedules and it can feel like a daunting task.

Here are some tips to make cleaning not feel like a chore and have your house cleaner than ever before:

Pick a time that works for everybody

Gather everybody in the home and figure out a common time and day of the week where you will all be home.  If you have dinner together then before or after dinner is usually a good time to get cleaning. Try to be consistent with the day of the week to clean, or you may find it’s too easy to let it slip by.


Create a to-do list

These can be evenly divided and rotated each week. It works best for each person to clean their personal spaces (bedroom, in-suite bathrooms), while the communal spaces can be divided evenly for cleaning duties.


  • Vacuuming and mopping
  • Cleaning communal bathrooms
  • Cleaning the kitchen (fridge, oven, floor, wiping cupboards, organizing clutter)
  • Taking out the garbage and recycling
  • Cleaning/organizing communal spaces (put away books, shoes, stray objects)
  • Dusting and cleaning railings, tables and furniture.

Work together as a team

It is a lot more motivating to clean when everyone is also cleaning. You will be surprised how fast it goes by when everybody works together. If you finish your tasks early, help the others finish their task. This is also a good time to move furniture and freshen the look and feel of your home.

You will likely find cleaning your home becomes a quick and easy task when you work as a team!


Sit back and enjoy 

You worked hard! It’s important to feel pride and accomplishment for your home. Reward yourself and your housing companion(s) with some fun activities such as a movie night, a games night, or sharing a meal together.  For more ideas, check out the topic Build a Culture Within the Home in Module 6.