Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Cohabitation Update

So, the cohabitation has begun. On Sunday, we moved about half of Will's stuff into the apartment, and it still looks a little bit like a tornado hit the place. I'm trying very hard to remember that it will all get put away eventually, and I'm trying not to freak out about the current state of disorganization. It's not easy, but I'm trying. Baby steps.

So far, we have moved his dresser into the bedroom and hung his clothes in the closet. The closet is not at all finished, clothes are just sort of hung haphazardly, and there are far too many things hanging in there anyway (time to get rid of things!), but at least it's usable. There are two exploding duffel bags of clothes on the floor, and a big box of shoes and hats (yes, his) on top of the dresser. It's kind of a mess. But, like I said, I'm trying to stay calm about it. I know things will get put away eventually.

The living room is an explosion of camping gear, but at least it's a bit more contained than it was when we brought it in (in several grocery bags) on Sunday. Soon, it will all go downstairs to the garage for storage. And speaking of the currently contains: 5 plastic storage bins full of everything from winter coats to spare electronics, boxes of books and photo albums, luggage, backpacks, two storage/book shelves, sleeping bags, skis, spare full-size bedding (our bed is a queen), and a few miscellaneous things I can't recall at the moment. It's not very well organized - we just kind of piled it all in there - but it will be! Free storage!

This Sunday, we are tackling the rest of the stuff...his desk and many boxes of books and things are still in storage, as well as the kitchen table and bookshelves that are going to the garage. And more, I'm sure.

I think my new goal is to have everything put away and settled by the end of the month. That gives us 3 weeks (and Will is out of town for one weekend) - maybe that's not enough time? Eh, it's good to have goals, anyway.

I did have a few questions for those of you out there who are also cohabitatating...How do you divide your household chores and finances?

Some ideas I've heard so far:
  • Make a chore chart/rotating chore wheel (which feels a little like college roommates to me)
  • Each person picks a few chores and sticks with them (this sounds like the best option so far, right now - mostly - he does dishes and I do laundry...haven't talked about the other chores yet)
  • Just do things when you notice they need to be done (which may end up with one person doing most of the work)
  • Joint credit card for household expenses: food, cleaning supplies, etc (not quite ready for a joint credit card)
  • Every month, tally up how much each person spent and whoever paid less pays the other person the difference (maybe the best option? What about groceries that are not shared? Split 'em anyway?)
  • Split things as you go, go over receipts every time you go shopping (sounds annoying)

We are not married, and a joint bank account is really not really an option. Neither is hiring a maid. In the past, I did most of the housework, because it was my house. We sort of split the food costs (I bought my own groceries, he paid for most meals out), and I think it usually evened out. However, now that everything is communal, we want to figure out an easy and fair way to divide it all. do you divide things up with your live-in significant other? I'd love to hear your stories about how you make it work, and if/how things have changed over the months/years. Did things go as expected?


  1. As to chores, Ryan and I never really *assigned* anything. We both do dishes and take out the trash. I tend to do laundry and clean the kitchen and the bathrooms. Ryan usually mows the lawn and vacuums. It kinda just came down to what we both preferred to do. Since I am home more, I tend to do more of the cleaning, but I don't really mind so it’s not a big deal.

    As to $$, we did open a joint bank account but keep our personal accounts separate. Each time we get paid, we put a pre-determined amount of money in the joint account. Mortgage/Electric/Cable – everything is paid through this account. We keep track of the deposits so we know if one of us put in more money than the other.

    An idea that may work for you if you don't want to do the joint account is for one person to pay all the bills for the month and keep track of it. At the end of the month, the other person will just write the first a check for half of the expenses.

    Also, Ryan and I don't include going out to dinner as part of the household expenses. We keep it separate so dinner dates are just that – a date - and one of us will treat the other.

  2. These are great questions Kim. Also, I'm so excited for you that you're co-habitating! Will is a lucky guy, you are a total snatch. Er, catch? That was supposed to come out a compliment...

    In both instances, I think your instincts are good. In both cases, you do what the wife (!) and I do.

    Chores: in our house, there are no presidents, only vice-presidents. Laurel is vice-president of laundry. I am vice-president of dishes, and the kitchen tidiness in general. That doesn't mean that we can't ask for help-- if she gets up before I do (well that's actually never happened) and the dishes are dry, she might put them away. If she's out of the house and I need some laundry done, I'll do hers as well, and maybe put away just my things and she can put away hers. Stuff like that.

    Those are the things you really can't let pile up. Other stuff is probably best done together. I have a suggestion for making that happen as well, which I will get to in a minute.

    Finances: joint bank account. It's as simple as that. It doesn't mean you don't keep your own, separate finances: you do. You should. But create an account that you can both put into and draw from and pay all bills and restaurant tabs from that. Always. You'll be glad you did. "Our joint account is running low, let's each put in $X". Problem solved.

    My last recommendation is in response to a question you didn't ask: time. Laurel and I get together on average once a week and look at our calendars (we both have hardcover New Yorker desk day planners). That way I know when she has a deadline at work and will be working late, she knows what nights I'm doing shows, we can decide what is a good night to have a friend over for dinner, when we might take a trip together, etc. We call them our calendar mash-ups and I don't know how any couple can get along without them. It's also a good way to figure out when we will next do a vacuum and mopping, for instance.

    Good luck with the unpacking and lots of success in this new world! Also, be sure to break in all the rooms.

  3. I was all set to be like, "Colette and Ryan do something like this...", but now you've heard it from Colette, so thats much much better than hearing it from me. Timmy and I will probably end up doing something similar.

  4. Apropos of the getting rid of things, I'm having a Swap Don't Shop/housewarming party at my place soon so don't get rid of it juuuust yet...

  5. On finances, I think an end-of-month reconciliation is the only way to go if you don't have joint accounts. That's what we did before we got married and it worked out pretty well. It also forced me to keep better track of what I spent. If each of you keeps receipts of stuff that should be jointly shared in one pile/file/whatever, it's easy to do a tally at the end of the month. This is dorky beyond words, but we actually entered that stuff in an excel file and that made it really simple to see what was adding up.

    On the chores thing - honestly, we have a housekeeper. She comes once a week to do the real cleaning and wash the sheets and towels. We're both really busy, so money spent paying her is doubly beneficial in that it buys us extra time at home and takes the major chore arguments completely out of the equation. I would seriously look into seeing how much it would cost to get someone every other week - you might be surprised.

    Good luck and have fun!

  6. Finances: Since we've been married we have a joint account, but before that I would pay all the bills and Dante would give me a big chunk of his paycheck at the beginning of the month that was rougly half of everything (he knew he couldn't be trusted with it anyway ;) ). We would switch off for things like dinners out.

    Chores: Split. I do vacuuming, cat litter, bill paying, and grocery shopping; Dante does dishes, laundry, and dusting--we split the bigger, grosser chores like cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors. I think the key is to try to be generous about it--if the sink is full and Dante's been busy, I do the dishes; if Dante's on a cleaning binge anyway, he'll go ahead and vacuum. Not that we haven't fought about it a lot anyway. ;P

  7. Thanks for all the good advice so far, everyone!

    Colette - Yeah, I think we each have chores we like (or don't mind as much). Will = trash and spiders. I = laundry and grocery shopping. Now what about cleaning the bathroom... ;-)

    Myles - I like your idea of the calendar mashup. Both of our schedules are pretty predictable, but it would certainly be helpful for things like having people over for dinner, going out, etc.

    Alyssa - Great minds think alike? :-)

    Susie - Will do! I'll save our stuff from the Goodwill pile until your party.

    Bria - Our place is only 650 sq. ft, so I feel like we should be able to keep it clean on our own. That said, I know I don't ever do good, deep cleanings, and I sure don't wash sheets and towels every week - hiring someone would certainly ensure the place stayed clean! I'll definitely look into it...

  8. From Kristen (she's having trouble posting comments, but I thought it would contribute to the conversation).

    Kristen: just sayin' that very official financial and household maintenance scheduling--with chore wheels and receipts taped to the refrigerator and the like--can be overkill. it might be worth your while to see how you mesh organically, based on your own willingness, memory, and personal cash flow, before resorting to those sorts of excel files.

    Kristen - I agree, it may be annoying and tedious...and it's not like that ever worked in the intern house! :-) I like the idea of letting it happen organically and seeing how it works out (that was Susie's advice as well, in our lunchtime phone conversation).

  9. Hermine - I think that's how it'll end up working (I pay the bills and he pays me a chunk of money), since the bills are all in my name anyway.

    I've been enjoying hearing your stories of cohabitation! ;)

  10. The most important thing to remember is open-friendly-communication where you both feel that things are fair and comfortable. I like the idea of Organic and who likes to do what the best. I also consider things like: will it hurt my back!!! I agree: chart = overkill...this is a different kind of 'roommates'!!! Far more important! Loving & honest communication...start good habits now! I like the mash-up for the purpose of setting up a time to talk business - so it doesn't get a way from you, one person does tons more and gets resentful and so on. It's true! It can happen!! At 650 feet...clean together...put on some loud music and have fun!!!! I'm a big believer of living BELOW your means (ask Tal)!! And do 10 minute blitzes for all the day to day pick up stuff. And do for each other, it comes back to you in the end!
    Now, for fair, but not too picky...remember your relationship is based on LOVE!!! Bottom line, worst case scenario...does it matter who's money it is. An idea to think about: without a joint account - would you be able to access enough money if an emergency came up? I like the idea of joint account for joint bills. REMEMBER- both of you should know what is going on with the money. Discuss and compromise as needed. Again, you are just starting off, set good habits up now as money has a bad reputation for causing trouble!!! Each of you should keep some of your own money separate too! So there ya asked! Happy to share. Happy for you guys!! Yippee & Congrats!

  11. A link to Kristen's post/comment:

  12. It's possible to get by without a joint bank account. Ryan and I still don't have a joint account after 3 years of marriage, We're not against it-- we just find it easier to manage our money separately-- to not have to check in constantly to avoid overdrawing an account at the end of the month or coordinate all our little purchases. But we did switch to the same bank, so we can easily transfer each other money back and forth online.

    We pretty much split up the bills, so we each have fewer to worry about. He takes care of the cell phone, I do utilities, he transfers me $ for half the mortgage & I pay the bill, etc. etc. We set it so it evens out pretty well but we'll pick up the slack if one ends up with larger bills or bigger shopping trips.

    Excel spreadsheets and receipt reconciliation are great, but we've generally gotten by with just making sure things even out as we go. You got last dinner out, I'll get this one, etc. Of course we were engaged when we moved in, so we only really cared that thinks felt fair... Since we're married now, we have the attitude that it's "our" money as a team, and make big decisions together, even though we handle finances independently. What's most important is to find something that feels comfortable, fair and easy to manage that's a good fit for your relationship. I tooootaaaallly agree with the comment on open friendly communication-- that's key to whatever system you come up with.

    Chores: Split based on your skills & interests! Do big stuff together when you can. With good music. :)


  13. Thanks Shonelle. Yeah, right now everything is in my name - maybe it would make sense to have some stuff in his name so that I'm not paying for everything up front :) And I agree that as long as it all seems even/fair, there's no problem!