The Chart – Keeping the Peace in Group Households

(Relatively) Easy Group Living: The Chart vs Keeping Count

I’ve lived with groups of people my entire life. Currently (at age 65) my wife and I live in a house with another couple and the last of the three ‘kids’, our son, Griffin, in his early 20s. We bought the house together some 25 years ago. This is not two flats. It’s one house with one kitchen, 2 master bed rooms and 3 other bedrooms plus living room, dining room, family room, and library.

Living with groups of people can create some conflict…most often around household chores. Thirty five years ago we figured out The Chart. It was a break-through!

You see, the enemy of group harmony is Keeping Count. It works like this. I don’t like dirty dishes in the sink so I do the dishes. I Keep Count. I’ve done the dishes a dozen times and Mary has only done them twice. I’m pissed.

Mary sweeps the floor every morning after everyone else goes to work. She tidies up the kitchen and cleans the counters. No one else seems to care and if it wasn’t for her the house would be a pig sty. She’s pissed.

And Joe always takes out the garbage. And Susy always does X and Bill does Y. And everyone Keeps Count on how very much they do.

The solution is to get this out of everyone’s head and onto The Chart.

Everyone’s name goes across the top. Any task that anyone considers significant goes down the side. Whenever you do a task you put a hash mark in your box for that task. Every 2-3 months you audit the chart and start a new one.

Generally things adjust automatically. If necessary you can set time equivalences between tasks since not all task are equally time consuming. But that’s usually obvious and we’ve found that folks note who does what relative to each other and adjust their behavior.

Best case, synergies emerge as folks spend their time doing tasks that they might even kinda enjoy but which others find odious although the time hit is equivalent. I might actually find doing dishes meditative but shopping or cooking leaves me stressed and scattered.

Worst case, you’ll find folks just don’t care if they do less. There is no cure for this (unless someone want to become a cop and put policing on the chart:-)) In truth, some people should live alone or, if finances force them, find  some sort of Group Hermitage with fellow  shameless folks and their individual padlocked cupboards.

A last caveat. The above assumes compatible standards for cleanliness and tidiness in both kitchen and bathrooms. That may need to be explicitly negotiated.

I’ve found living in a small tribe engaging, supportive, and cost-effective. I wouldn’t do it any other way. Good luck.!

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