life in a tiny apartment.

April 24, 2013

Tip #61: It doesn’t matter how tiny your apartment is, if you share it with someone, divvy up the housework.

Without going into all the mushy details about how we met on a tiny island off the coast of Georgia, and how James has seriously the bluest eyes of anyone I’ll ever know, and how three months after we met I moved to France and he moved to Utah and somehow the stars aligned and here we are 6 years later and 8 months married and on our way to happily-ever-after, let me just say that I feel pretty darn good about my choice in life partner.

James and I moved into an apartment together when I was just four days past my 23rd birthday. It took us three days after that to have our first fight about cleaning.

I could write an entire book on this subject, but recognizing that this is a blog and not a book and that maybe you are reading this surreptitiously while at work and would really just like me to get to the point already, I’ll try to be brief:

Just because you live in a tiny apartment, it doesn’t mean the housework that needs doing is also tiny.
There’s still (likely) a toilet and a tub that need scrubbing, two sinks that need scouring, a kitchen trash can that needs emptying and a bed that needs changing, not to mention everything else. Even though the square footage that needs to vacuumed is small, the sum total of things that need cleaning isn’t.

And just because you live in a tiny apartment, it doesn’t mean that the cleaning should be the responsibility of one person. Maybe there are folks who have a happy arrangement wherein housework is solidly one person’s domain and all other drudgery is someone else’s, but in my humble opinion the single most important thing you can do in the name of keeping the peace, love, feminism, and all that is holy, is to embark on housework as a joint effort.

It’s taken us six years to get it right, but James and I are pretty good about keeping things evenly divided. I might still get annoyed that James “doesn’t notice” when the tub is dirty, and he might still get annoyed when I can’t take out the trash because “I already took off my shoes,” but we’re not going for perfection here, just peace.

ps. I have a little tutorial on making an all-natural glass cleaner over on Gardenista. I think you’ll like it!
pps. There are still two days to enter yesterday’s giveaway!

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  • Reply Olivia James April 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    so sweet. and pertinent as always. thanks for sharing erin. 🙂

  • Reply lisaathome April 24, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    We're just now getting the hang of it, 4 years of living together later. Even still, as you say, there are definitely those "might get annoyed that…"moments 🙂

  • Reply brooke lyn April 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    once the shoes are off the trash is not going anywhere!

  • Reply Joan April 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I had a job cleaning a few houses when I was 17. Many years ago. One of the homeowners specifically wanted me to clean the windows with newspapers. I had never heard of that before. I don't remember what the liquid cleaner she had me use though. Anyhoo, newspaper really does work!

  • Reply christi April 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    ha! i absolutely was reading this surreptitiously at work… great post, as always. our version of getting the hang of it had mostly to do with my learning not to be a control freak who wanted to do it all herself.

  • Reply TL April 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    erin: what do you use to clean your tub? looking for natural cleaning supplies…since i'll be sitting in it and all..any info/tips would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

    • Reply Erin April 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      I've tried everything! I even, admittedly, went through a stage where I was addicted to Mr. Clean sponge thingies…sigh. The best non-toxic solution that I've found is BonAmi or Borax, scrubbed in and left to soak! Good luck!

  • Reply netanya April 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    "Reading this surreptitiously at work"…haha exactly! And yes, I agree about divvying housework…only been married/living with my husband for a little over a year, and it's amazing how important it is for both people to be doing the tedious work of cleaning up after ourselves…When I feel like a mom picking up after everybody, nobody's happy!

  • Reply Ashely Schneider April 24, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    sounds familiar…

  • Reply Jay April 24, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    My husband and I used to be pretty good at dividing up the housework – in fact, he probably did more than I did. Now, because we've moved overseas and I'm not working, it falls on me. I always keep a few tasks for him but the week to week stuff is mine and I think that's the way it'll be while I'm home during the day.

  • Reply Charlotte F April 24, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I've lived in tiny appartments until I moved in a house 3 years ago, and I love your tips! 🙂

  • Reply Tidy-Up Gal April 24, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    I already know the household chores won't be evenly distributed when we start living together. I already know I'll do the dishes and cleaning (because no one does it better than me). But I'm making his list too. Trash. Ironing. Lawn. Repairs. He does know how to give a tub a good scrub, but hey…

  • Reply Julia April 24, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    amen! have you ever heard this: ? (ignore the video part) it's from free to be you and me, which i was pretty much raised on 🙂

    • Reply Erin April 24, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      YES!!! ME TOO!!!

    • Reply Julia May 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      ha! love it. you seemed likely to be a free to be you and me child, but didn't know if that one would be totally out of left field to you 🙂

  • Reply Kristin April 24, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I have the "I already took off my shoes" conversation with my fiancee on a weekly basis!

  • Reply Roxanne April 24, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Yes! I could not agree with this more. In the interest of keeping the peace, I think a 'thank you' also goes a long way to acknowledge the tasks my husband does to keep a happy home. He does the same for me! It nice to be reminded that the little efforts don't go unnoticed. xo

    • Reply Erin April 24, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      So true! It's so much easier to comment on things that *don't* get done than things that do!

  • Reply holtkamp April 24, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    So true, thank you! Sounds like you guys have quite a story- have you ever written it on the blog?!

  • Reply Janelle @ Two Cups Of Happy April 25, 2013 at 12:47 am

    Yes!! And I agree with Roxanne & Erin above, I try to always acknowledge housework. Thanks for doing the dishes shows appreciation!

  • Reply the hedgehog chronicle April 25, 2013 at 3:50 am

    so true… may i just say that i follow alot of blogs of people that have kids and i love them, but have no kids. your blog is my favorite because i feel a sense of comradarie in that i relate to loving married life, even despite a small apartment x

  • Reply Diana April 25, 2013 at 4:38 am

    is the stars aligning story told elsewhere on your blog? that little bit was such a tease for a newcomer.

  • Reply Beth April 25, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    It's funny that you're writing about this because my sweetheart and I are one of the few couples I know who have the housework split up. A lot of my lady friends are actually shocked that he helps (I think he does more than me most of the time) around the house. It's saddening that this is the reaction I receive, but can only hope more and more couples do the same!

  • Reply Biddut Debnath April 26, 2013 at 5:34 am

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  • Reply S April 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Agreed! Life's so much better when you share the chores. Why spend most of your time feeling aggrieved because the balance isn't there?
    I'm glad I'm with a great fiance who never needs to be asked…

  • Reply akane May 3, 2013 at 8:12 am

    I love these posts of yours because it makes me feel like I'm not alone, even though we never met. It's just great to know that someone out there feels the same way I do about the place I live in.

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