Living With Roommates: How to Get the Chores Done




I'm a guy, and I live with three male roommates. Two months ago, we realized that our "someone will pick it up eventually" philosophy simply wasn't working, so we decided to try something new. Not only is our place a lot cleaner, but it's eased tensions around the the house!

No, it's not some magical household cleaner -- it's an experiment in social engineering! Floors you can eat off of, here we come!

Step 1: It's Simple: Chores for Cash

All it took to resolve the chore disputes around the apartment was to mix in a little good-ol-fashioned capitalism. It really does work, and I'll tell you how.

The concept is simple: for every chore, decide on a dollar value incentive. The person who does the chore gets the cash prize! The intention here is that at the end of every month, no money changes hands (because, ideally, everyone does the same amount of chores). But if one roomie has been extra busy (with WOW), he can make it up next month if he wants.

When we first set the dollar values, we were using an hourly rate as the rubric, but we soon realized that this wasn't optimal.

Now all our chore values are incentive-based. As you can see, something that just naturally gets done (putting the dishes away) is less valuable than something that no one wants to do (cleaning the bathroom):

- Putting the dishes away $5
- Cleaning random dishes in apt $5
- Taking out the garbage $5 each 4-bag run - Sunday and Wednesday
- Collecting all full trash receptacles $5
- Cleaning kitchen (full) * $15
- Tidying up kitchen**** $5
- Doing your own dishes FREE!
- Cleaning bathroom** $25
- Vacuum office+living room $15 - minus $5 if roomba
- Tidying up the living room*** $5

How do we keep track of all this?
Simple, we use a system like (there are many), which is a site where you can keep track of what people owe you. We were using it for keeping track of rent and utilities anyway, so we figured it would work for this purpose as well. Whenever you do a chore, you just mark the value online and share it with your roommates. Billmonk figures out what everyone owes each other and you can settle up at the end of the month.

Why do this?
As long as you adjust the values right, you'll find that chores just magically get done. It actually feels pretty good doing the dishes when you know you're picking up a five spot. It also decreases resentment -- it used to be that one of us did most of the chores, and was resentful about it. And the others always felt guilty. But with this incentive-based system, there's no need to feel guilty or resentful -- the person doing the chores is always getting his due.

I imagine that some people won't really latch onto this idea right away like we did. It admittedly seems a little cold/capitalistic on first glance. In fact, when I first brought it up to my roommates, they were against the idea. But they let me trial it for a week and it worked so well we were hooked! It's made our apartment cleaner and led to a happier overall house.

It might take a bit to convince your roomies to try it too, but give it a week's go and see if it works for you!

Happy cleaning!



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    6 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Roommates, heck! I'm going to try this with my kids! But, I think I'll count it up as points good for privileges. I don't want to give out too much green stuff!

    Oily Seldon

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, we're doing this at the moment in my flat with my flatmate. It seems to working because the Dishes are always done and the floor is clean as! Cheers Ollie


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Hahaha, I should do something like this with my boyfriend. This is a good idea. I think I'm going to show this to friends I have that live with messy and cheap roommates.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    A simple trick is to reduce your inventory: get rid of excess cutlery and plates etc, so people have to wash up.
    The prospect of bringing girls back often has a magical effect on the place too...



    11 years ago on Introduction

    "Vacuum office+living room $15 - minus $5 if roomba"- thats hilarious