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The Chores Game is a way that you and your honey can simply and fairly divide the household chores between yourselves.

I originally designed and played the Chores Game as a two-player game, but you can play it with as many players as you like with only slight modifications.

You will need:

  • A common standard of cleanliness. Until both players agree on what "clean" means, no method of dividing the chores will help you.
  • Many blank cards. The backs of old business cards work well for this game. 3"x5" index cards also work, though they are more cumbersome to handle.
  • Ten or twenty minutes each week when you can play the Chores Game together.
  • Though not a strict requirement of the game itself, I find it is easier to do chores if both of you do the chores together at the same time. So perhaps right after playing the Chores Game, you should both schedule a couple of hours in which to get all the chores done.

How to play:

  1. Together, both of you think of every possible chore you could do over the next week. You should consider every chore valid, no matter how easy, hard, or ridiculous it seems at the moment. Don't worry: you do not have to do a chore just because you thought of it in this step.

    As you think of possible chores, write each chore on a card. If a chore seems too big, break it into smaller pieces and write each piece on its own card. Don't worry about combining the chores that seem too small. Put the too-small chores on their own cards for now.

    You should only write down chores that both players can do. For example, "breastfeed the baby" is not a chore that the man of the house can do, so don't write that down. "Feed the baby" is fine, of course.

    Plan to spend a while on this step the first time you play the game. When you play it again, this step will not take as long because you can reuse many of the cards you made before.

  2. Now that you have a stack of possible chores, go through the stack and make another stack of the chores you both agree someone should do this week. If only one of you wants a chore done, it doesn't go in this week's stack. If you cannot agree about which chore should go in which stack, this game is not for you yet. You both need to examine the roots of your disagreement before trying this game again.

    Put aside the stack of chores that you don't plan to do this week. These chores will come in handy for next week's game, but they are out of the picture for now.

  3. One of you—it doesn't matter which one—divides this week's stack into two equal stacks. "Equal" here does not mean that each stack has an equal number of chores in it, although that could happen. Rather, "equal" means that the divider would be willing to take either "equal" stack as his or her chores for the week.

    If you happen to serve as the divider, you will likely find this step difficult to do. I learned some surprising things about my likes and dislikes in this step.

  4. Once the divider has finished dividing this week's chores into two equal stacks, the second person now examines both stacks. He or she then chooses which stack to take as his or her own and which stack to leave for the divider.
  5. At this point, the game can end. You have successfully divided the chores. The divider must consider the result fair, since he or she designed both stacks of chores to be equal. The chooser, of course, had the option of picking either stack, so he or she can hardly feel ill-used by the result.

    If you want to refine things even further, you may now offer deals to your partner to swap some chores with him or her. You might do this to try to get rid of a chore you hate or to pick up a chore that you like to do. You need not make any deals if you do not want to, however. If either of you decides to walk away after the previous step, that's his or her right. The division is fair as it stands.

Now go do your chores, the both of you.

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