#1007: “Holiday Chore Free Riders”

Dear Captain,

Every year I go on holiday in a cottage somewhere with the same group of 10 people. It’s lovely and a really important chance to catch up with old friends I don’t see enough. But every year I end up resenting the half of them who don’t pull their weight with the chores.

Not all of us are decent cooks, and it seems perfectly reasonable that only the people who are good at it cook dinners. And we have a “you cooked, so you don’t have to clear away after dinner” rule. But that’s only a tiny fraction of the cleaning that goes on during the week. We also need to load the dishwasher at several other points in the day, do the shopping, plan what we’re going to do, keep tidying things away, organise the holiday itself… All of this emotional and logistical labour and the majority of the cleaning/ cooking is done by the same small group of people.

As you might have guessed, there’s a strong correlation between gender and whether or not people do their share, although it’s not clear cut. My (male) other half is one of the cleaners, and one of the worst shirkers recently came out as non binary, so I don’t want to make a thing of the gender issue as it isn’t as simple as just the women doing the work and the men avoiding it.

I have in the past said something like “it feels like the same people do the majority of the chores, partly because a lot of it isn’t noticeable unless it doesn’t get done, so please be aware of whether you’re doing enough”. This has increased the amount of chores the shirkers do slightly, but not to their fair share, and it hasn’t changed the balance of emotional/ logistical labour. It also resulted in one of the shirkers hiding in a corner not talking to anyone for a couple of hours. (They’re in bad mental health and will do this occasionally throughout the week).

Policing other people’s chore is a) annoying and b) yet more emotional labour I don’t want to do. I’ve tried just not doing the chores, but this results in them not getting done until one of the people who already does too much work does them.

Lots of my thinks this is just one week a year and I should just deal with it and not make a scene or sit there stewing when half the group aren’t contributing. But I’m really pissed off by the injustice of it, especially given the gender divide. And as a friend, I also think my heterosexual male friends are much more likely to have happy romantic relationships if they learn how to divide labour more equitably.

Any advice?

I Am Not Your Mother
(She/ her pronouns)

Dear I Am Not Your Mother:

You can’t fix the balance of labor inside your friend’s relationships or make your vacation a way to model a different balance. I get where you’re coming from, but please let that go for now.

You probably can more evenly distribute holiday chores among your friends if you plan and spell it all out in advance. This is somewhat counter-intuitive advice because it means that you will do more emotional labor up front but it might be worth it so you can enjoy your vacation at the time. General messages like “We all need to be aware of x…” never work, they are the equivalent of post-it notes on the office fridge. The people who need to be told never actually think it applies to them, and the people who don’t need to be told resent being told.

I go away with a group of friends at least once a year. They are planners and it is great. (SO GREAT ❤ ❤ <3) We are very explicit about money (two of us are accountants and at least one is an office manager, I am like, the least organized/planner person in the group), which meals will be eaten at the house, who is making them, who is bringing what, which stuff will be grocery shopped for, and what’s involved in getting the rental in shape before we check out, etc. Being so clear and specific about everything means the actual trip is fun because we can relax knowing that we’re doing our part and everyone else is too and there doesn’t have to be a lot of negotiation at the time.

My suggestion for you is to divide up the days of the vacation and make a list of the days and the stuff that needs to be done each day, like:

  • activities – planning, transportation, logistics
  • meals – planning & shopping
  • meals – preparation & cooking
  • meals – cleanup and what that means (dishwasher run, counters & cooktop wiped down, table cleaned, etc)
  • daily tasks – garbage out, dishwasher run nightly & unloaded each morning

You could try dividing up the tasks day by day or you could try dividing up the days between teams of people. Maybe three people take on activity planning, meals, and cleanup for each day, so you can get a team of a good cook, a sous-chef/cleaner, an activity planner doing what they are best suited to. When it’s not your day, make sure your personal dishes go in the dishwasher and your stuff gets back in your room from the common areas and relax the rest of the time – you’re just along for the ride, no need to stew. When it is your day, you & your teammates take the lead on care & feeding of the friend group. However each team of three divides the work up between them is up to them as long as it gets done (even if that means some gender binaries creep in). Depending on how long the holiday is everybody might get two days they are “on duty,” mixed & matched into different teams.

What system you institute isn’t as important as clearly communicating the system to everybody and giving everybody some agency within it. The people who aren’t getting it won’t magically get it without being told. Also, some days the work might not be awesome or done exactly the way you would do it or divided fairly between the three people. It might take a few go-rounds for this to work like clockwork, so, be gentle.

I will also give you my super-secret guide to making groups in film production classes now if it helps. Most of the time I let people make their own groups, but sometimes for specific projects it’s best if I design them.

I used to try to balance the groups regarding abilities, like, spreading the really ambitious students out and also spreading the less ambitious/focused students out. Then I stopped. The ambitious students were used to carrying the load group projects. The less ambitious students were used to hiding behind other people. Now, while this is not a perfect science, I try to split them this way:

Ambitious students = all together! Let them experience the novelty of having fellow organized & assertive people working with them, and people who will challenge their ideas.

Least ambitious students = all together! They can’t hide. The project might falter, but more often, at least one of them will rise and get yon shit together.

Most introverted students = all together! They get to experience not being talked over and also break the cycle of “whatever you want to do is fine.”

I would never, on pain of death, tell you which group is which. (My colleague SK has a little survey where she asks students to self-identify re: “I am here to have fun and learn a little bit” vs. “I am here to make the greatest possible film”)

I leave this here for you if it’s useful, and if you end up creating the chore groups. Maybe it’s worth having a day where nothing much gets done and y’all order in vs. “balancing” the skills.

232 thoughts on “#1007: “Holiday Chore Free Riders”

  1. Making lists can also be really helpful because people “see” different levels of mess and what needs to be done (I’ve learned this from observing myself and my family). For example, for one of my relatives, “cleaning up” is putting the dishes in the sink or dishwasher. For me, it’s washing those dishes and putting them on the drying rack and maybe wiping down the counter if it’s obviously messy. For my mom, it’s wash and dry pots and pans, put them away, everything in the dishwasher, and wipe down all surfaces with a cleanser. So clarifying what, exactly, “cleaning up” involves with a list that everyone follows can be super helpful. Although ymmv.

    1. Truth. Growing up, my parents would often get frustrated because I didn’t instinctively “know” what goes into each general chore. To me, cleaning my room meant getting things off the floor and put away (and “away” was a loose term, my drawers and shelves were always cluttered), but I had to be told that it also meant making my bed and vacuuming the carpet. With the dishwasher, it didn’t occur to me that unloading the dishwasher also meant clearing the drying rack and putting the dirty dishes into the emptied dishwasher, and again, my dad was annoyed that he had to spell that out for me.

      Nowadays, I’ve figured out how to “bundle” tasks in a way that makes sense to me.

      I have learned, through experience, that you should get on the same page about what needs to be done. Especially if someone doesn’t have a lot of experience living away from their parents, or in the case of the OP, perhaps going on vacation without their moms, it might not occur to them that certain things need to be done. They’re used to those things being done, often without realizing it if they never actually saw it happen.

      1. Also, perhaps other people’s parents didn’t demonstrate exactly what goes into a chore, mine certainly didn’t. Ditto cooking, mainly due to the fear of my injuring myself.
        So I heartily endorse the getting on the same page 😀

        1. For sure, my parents pretty much went directly from “get out of the way while adults do things” to “Why can’t you clean up after yourself??”

          I had to learn most of it on my own when I moved out.

          1. My partner’s mom did something like that with him – she actively refused to let him do anything housework-wise as a kid because she’s a terrifying control freak (like, would literally pour out and throw away an unopened can of Pepsi he brought home and put in the fridge for later, because she didn’t buy it and put it there herself) – and when we moved in together was his first time living away from his mom. My mom, on the other hand, had taught me how to do most chores as a kid, and I’d lived alone before several times. So for awhile we had a really rough time since I was frustrated at feeling like I had to take care of everything myself or leave it undone, and he was frustrated because I expected him to have what were, to me, normal adult skills that he’d never been given a chance to learn.

            Parents and future parents please take note: teach your children those skills while you can, don’t offload that burden onto either the child themselves as an adult when they have to figure it out on their own, or their future roommates or partners who wind up having to pick up your slack and teach your child how to be an adult.

          2. Preach, Jadelyn! I’m not a parent, so I feel like I have no standing to tell parents how to raise their kids, but parents, I am BEGGING you, as a woman who’s ended up playing mommy for too many adults, teach your kids how to do stuff. Put them in charge of unloading the dishwasher, expect them to clean up when they cook, take them to the grocery store with you so they’re not intimidated by the idea of buying their own food. Show them how, have them help, have them do it, then help them form good habits so they’re not always relying on someone else to delegate.

            If I’m living with someone I love, I’d probably have some interest in taking care of them (but that will have its limits), but for the most part I have no interest in taking care of grown ass adults, or teaching them how to be grown ass adults.

      2. I am an anxious person who tends to get overwhelmed easily if tasks seem too big, so I tend to chop them up. If I have to clear off the table, it stresses me out of the act of clearing necessarily includes “put dishes in the dishwasher” but, for some illogical reason, moving the dishes from the table to the counter and then as a separate task loading the dishwasher is fine?

        When I clean up step one always has to be “move all these items to the appropriate room/area of the house” or I just cannot deal.

        1. I am not a “small chunks” person by nature. I look at the dishwasher and sink and think “OH GOD IT’S TOO MUCH” and my brain/the nurturing side of my brain doesn’t know how to say: whoa, slow down there panicking lizard brain. Let’s do this in pieces: unload the bottom rack. Unload the top rack. Load the bottom rack. Load the top rack. Wash anything that’s left.

          Needless to say, a lot of things remain undone around my house. :/

          I’m working on it.

          1. me too (guess what I’m avoiding right now!) and being angry that there’s a mess makes it worse, too. and my brain makes up silly (ocd?) rules like “no, you can’t run the dishwasher because you haven’t cleaned the filters, but you can’t clean the filters because … because… look, a three-headed monkey!” and so I spend two hours feeling horrible about all the Things Not Done, then spend my remaining spoons on just picking up one dish at a time and running the damn dishwasher while pretty much dissociating to avoid feeling icky that once again, the filters did not get cleaned so the dishwasher is WRONG.

            fuck it, let’s change things up today and just clean the damn filters while pretending the dirty dishes don’t exist. maybe I’ll run the dishwasher twice tomorrow.

          2. @Halpful and add in the fact that in the back of my brain the little lizard made of panic and fear is saying “No but if you take care of the dishes then you’ll have to take care of the WHOLE KITCHEN and then ZOMG WHERE WOULD WE START” and…yeah.

          3. yeah, it’s hard to give myself permission to do a subset of the things, especially knowing the productivity-uber-alles part of my mind is bad at internal boundaries and tends to move the goalposts mid-way.

            so… in the last couple of hours, intending to clean the dishwasher filter, I:
            * cleared, swept, and cleaned the worst half of the counters (including stove)
            * took a break, without ending up in avoidance mode or no-forks-to-give mode
            * threw out the scary old dish sponge and got a new one out
            * wiped down the dishwasher seals and put the filters in the basin of non-dishwasher dishes
            * washed everything in that basin
            * reassembled the dishwasher innards
            and I did it without burning every spoon, I think, and without pressuring myself.

            part of me is sad that I don’t have the energy left to go shopping, but I don’t strictly *need* to go shopping this time, and having clean counters is so, so nice 🙂 and somewhere in there the unwashed recyclables all ended up either washed-and-in-recycling-bin or in the garbage (because sometimes my sanity is worth a bit of waste) 🙂

        2. Yeah, I do better with this sort of arrangement, but my mom (who was generally a great mom) had this weird bugbear about not doing tasks halfway/being inefficient about it. (Granted, sometimes I would…intentionally only do half, because I was a teenager who didn’t want to do chores, so she might have had a point.)

          So now sometimes I have a stress freakout over not being able to put something away because I should “only touch it once” and “put it where it goes” but the task at hand is to organize a pile of shit that DOESN’T have a set place because it’s new or the drawer it used to live in got repurposed or whatever and what I really need to do is take all of it to the part of the house it belongs in and then one-by-one fix the rooms. Like if I read through all my bills, pay the ones I need to, and put them all in the to-be-filed stack on my desk it’s a LOT better than leaving them in the incoming-mail spot because the filing cabinet is too full that it papercuts my cuticles every time I file something. Which I ALSO need to deal with, but I need to pay the bills on a shorter timeline than I need to buy another file box and move old stuff to the attic.

          (And honestly my mom’s slightly obsessive adamancy about this stuff might be her own coping mechanism for being overwhelmed, which I literally just now realized, and makes me feel both a lot better about her pestering me with it and more able to tell the little mom-voice in the back of my mind NO.)

          1. Can I just say, I am feeling everybody in this “I can’t do it, it’s too much, I suck because my house is messy and I haven’t done the stuff I have to do” thread A LOT right now. Massive solidarity to you all.

      3. One of my aunts printed out little chore lists and posted them in the relevant room for her kids. So she could say “go clean the bathroom” and her kids would know to go to the bathroom, look at the list posted there, and go down the list (which included things like “clean the mirror with glass cleaner and a washcloth”, “wipe down the sink with a lysol wipe”, for example). I don’t remember how well it worked in practice but I think it’s a great idea!

    2. also–my mom decided to define “washing the dishes” to include “washing the surface of the stove.” Because it wasn’t getting done–it wasn’t obviously a dish, and nobody else was washing anything, so -they- didn’t wipe down the stove.

      We had a little chant for setting the table that kept us from forgetting important stuff (“bread and butter, salt and pepper, napkins”).

      So it can be important sometimes to get really granular about what needs to be done, and to link it with other chores in a sensible way (whoever’s washing dishes washes all kitchen surfaces, maybe).

      (Of course, sometimes people think something has to get done now when it really doesn’t–and that’s what a comprehensive and detailed list can help with.)

      1. Is your mom my mom? And all her female relatives?

        (One of my great aunts used to change the shelving paper – on shelves and in drawers – weekly.)

        1. I literally had to google what “shelving paper” is. I don’t get the purpose o.O
          Decorative liners, sure, but just paper? That needs frequent replacing?
          As baffling as those completely unusable “guest towels”.

          1. People used to use just regular newspaper for this and it got shabby quick, so they’d swap it out. But with modern contact papers I really don’t see the need.

          2. Really? I think it’s important to have guest towels. I don’t want guests wiping their hands on the towels I use for my face, and if someone staying or crashing with me needs a shower, I want to have a soft, clean towel in good condition ready for them to use.

          3. I’m going to fix this for both of you: “I think it’s important *FOR ME* to have guest towels.” “It is not important *FOR ME* to have guest towels.”

            There’s no debate here. If you want them, get them. They are nice. If you don’t, no one will die without them.

          4. Allison, That’s not what I’m talking about – it sounds like you’re just putting towels in a place where guests can use them.
            What I’m talking about is a thing called “guest towels” that is actually stiff and non-absorbent, but towel shaped and placed only for the look (or something…like I said it’s baffling).

          5. in the old days, you needed paper in your drawer because the wood wasn’t that smooth and would damage your clothes. That’s why it exists, as far as I know.

          6. Oh, you mean those unpractical decorative towels? Yeah, I feel you, those are silly. I mean, they look nice when you put them up, but the second someone uses one they get all mussed up so no one uses them at all, or they look like a hot mess very quickly.

            I thought “unusable guest towels” meant “nice towels we have, but aren’t allowed to use because some control freak says only guests can use them.”

            To be fair, no one uses the towel in my bathroom meant to be a guest towel, because it’s similar to the one under it (mine) but it’s cleaner and has a fancy pattern on the bottom, people either think it’s just for decoration or they feel bad using the nice one, so they use mine, and I usually just remove it when I know people are coming over so there’s no confusion. I’m getting off-topic, I know, but I hate using the bathroom at someone’s place and not knowing which towel I’m supposed to use so I try not to cause that confusion at my place.

            Also, I don’t use shelving paper. Never really occurred to me.

          7. I have used shelving paper (actually plastic, but same idea) when I moved into an awful, terrible, no-good apartment, met cockroaches, and couldn’t clean the unvarnished particleboard cabinet interiors to a level I felt comfortable with. I didn’t change it ever, since a) durable, wipe-down-able plastic and b) the varmint situation was under control by the time I got the liners, but it gave me an appreciation for what had before seemed like a frivolous thing my granny did.

      2. My mother used to do this to us, too. She would purposely make a mess of the stove just to yell at us later about not cleaning up after her, though, and chide us for our attention to detail. I was 8? Apparently “doing the dishes” means also cleaning the sink, the stove, the counters, and the chairs.

        1. My mother wrote entire lists and hung them with her expectations for everything that was involved in “doing the dishes”, “setting the table”, etc. These were not helpful loving “this is how you do these things” lists. These were “Do it this way OR ELSE” lists.

          So, yeah. I feel you.

          1. It reminds me of that chore list in A Series of Unfortunate Events. The list says “make dinner” but what Count Olaf actually means is “make roast beef”.

        2. “My mother used to do this to us, too”

          I don’t know what that “TOO” referred to, but since I started this whole section, I want to stress:
          MY mother didn’t set us up for failure or yell at us unfairly.

          She just organized the chores in a sensible way to catch up some task that was being overlooked. And that’s my suggestion for our OP.

      3. Oh my mum (and grandma) are both “wash the dishes” includes wiping down the kitchen counters and the stove top people. I have absorbed this because it makes sense to me (I’m standing there with a dish cloth and a sink full of hot soapy water anyway, may as well make use of it) but I can absolutely understand that there are other ways of slicing and dicing that work.

        Both my mum and grandma also iron their pillow slips and tea towels. When I asked why, they both said it’s because it makes them fit in the cupboard better (neat stack I guess). I do not bother to iron my tea towels now days but I still do my pillow slips and pretty much for the same reason.

        I agree that being really explicit about what “wash the dishes” or what ever other chore actually means is really important. It’s also important to not make assumptions that the way you are accustomed to doing things is the only way or even the ‘best’ way.

    3. Yep, I was going to say something along the same lines. People really do have different levels of how much mess they are okay with and how messy things have to get before they will notice. My roommate is pretty good at keeping up with dishes. I don’t think it’s every occurred to her to clean the bathroom, though, at least not before it occurs to me. So I can either take the bathroom on as my chore or I can explicitly ask her to do it at defined intervals. I choose to just do it myself and it works. But if I really wanted to split that particular chore more equitably, I would have to actually spell out how often I want it done and what all needs to be cleaned when it is. If people aren’t thinking to clean something on their own, it’s not always a sign of laziness or unwillingness. Sometimes they just honestly are operating on a different cleanliness level than you.

      1. “Sometimes they just honestly are operating on a different cleanliness level than you.” Yup! And having a conversation about it (in a non-tense time) is the only way to figure out what “clean” is for different people. Now that I’ve talked with my housemate about what we each think “clean” is for the kitchen and common areas, life is smoother. (I am not as clean as her, so it’s been an effort to find a middle ground of “tidy but not sterilized”

    4. I love CA’s advice. I live alone and have a very different idea of what “needs” to be done in a group setting. My friend’s know this about me and know it’s not from a place of malice, just different expectations. Sharing your expectations explicitly is the best way to get them met.

      I’m also a great list person. I’ll help in making the lists and to get on the same page. It’s not that I don’t want to do it (or at least I know we all don’t want to do it), I just don’t know what specifically other’s expect me to do. At home, living alone, I get to pick what matters to me and live with it

    5. I love CA’s advice. I live alone and have a very different idea of what “needs” to be done in a group setting. My friend’s know this about me and know it’s not from a place of malice, just different expectations. Sharing your expectations explicitly is the best way to get them met.

      I’m also a great list person. I’ll help in making the lists and to get on the same page. It’s not that I don’t want to do it (or at least I know we all don’t want to do it), I just don’t know what specifically other’s expect me to do. At home, living alone, I get to pick what matters to me and live with it

    6. This for sure! I am a messy person by nature, and I often don’t “see” mess until it’s specifically pointed out to me. Having someone spell out my chore duties specifically for a group vacation would be awesome, because I wouldn’t stress that I was not doing some vague thing that people wanted me to do but I couldn’t actually identify. (I do stress about this–when people come over I worry that my house is dirty in some way that I have failed to identify)

  2. I have been like LW and planned a yearly 4 day trip with friends. We had several similar situations. People who cook, people who can’t cook, people who clean, people who loathe cleaning, people with dietary restrictions concerned about not being able to eat, etc. Captain is right, if you do all the prepping in advance written out then it is likely you will be able to relax and let go of the wheel when it isn’t your turn to prep, cook, or clean. Overall I think there were 2-3 of us who did the prep work in advance. We did this for several years, in fact one year after all the planning, chore charts, money collecting and so on was done the day before the trip I had a family emergency. Everyone went on without me and it all worked just like clockwork. So if you put the system in place now for next time, I promise that down the road everyone will know what they are doing and life will balance out. Yes, it is emotional and mental labor now, but if you have one or two friends who will divide the prep work up front, the rest of it will fall in place.

    1. definitely, I think it’s important to be sure the prep work is on the list of what everyone does for the trip–because it’s work too.

      And Farther and Happier is right that getting all this work out in the open and codified will mean that anyone can pick up the tasks if someone can’t.

    2. Yeah LW, feel free to tap out of actual at the cabin chores if you are taking over organizing the chores. You have done your share!

  3. What I have found that works when I am with my joyful (though chaotic) family on our family reunions at a small small cabin is similar to what the Captain suggestion of Chore Groups, but that we rotate out through them each day. So Day 1 me and 3 relatives are on clean up duty and there are clearly defined labels on what that means – sweep camp after each meal, wipe down counters, tidy spaces after the children whirlwind out, etc. The next day me and that squad are rotated to dishes duty – we gather all the plates, wash them, rack them, dry them, put them away, and wipe the counters and stove (because no mater what happens those are always dirty there are 8 children around). There are always cooking teams – and even those with no “skills” at cooking cook because they can chop veggies/meat, shred cheese, mix, or be a sous chef.

    It’s a system that did take years to form and is not seamless (it’s family) – but it is an idea for an adapted style “chore wheel.”

    1. I’m a person that often doesn’t “see” a mess before my roommates do (I’m messy, it’s true), and the most successful roommate relationship I had was the one where we DIDN’T have a chore wheel. She had a cat, so she always swept and vacuumed. I always took out the trash. Despite my best intentions, I can never stay engaged with a chore wheel, but if my job is *always* to take out the trash or *always* to load and empty the dishwasher, it gets done, because I know it’s my job. (Also, if it doesn’t get done, everyone knows that I’m not doing my job, and embarrassment happens to be a great motivator for me.) Just throwing that out there as another option.

      1. I am *so* not a person who responds well to structure and to-do lists and anything like that, but I find that routines can help to reduce choice paralysis (OMG, I need to do everything, where do I start): we always do dishes before going to bed, I always wipe down the bathroom sink in the morning and the counters after dishwashing, the food waste bin gets taken down on day 2 of use… and then I only need to check ‘day 1? No. Day 2: Yes’ instead of ‘what’s the weather like, how do I feel about going down the stairs now, can I fit one more day’s vegetable scrapings into the bin, is there anything disgusting in there that needs to go out TODAY’ <wibble>: I have a simple, dispassionate, adult flow chart that uses up next to no spoons and triggers no anxiety because I always know what to do.

        Reducing the amount of decisions I make in any one day has done wonders for my mental health.

  4. Yes, planning up front is a chore in itself, but it makes everything so much easier.
    Just wanted to offer that even people who identify as non-binary still had gendered expectations applied to them growing up, (and probably still do). They may well carry inner expectations about their role in relationships and social groups that feel like just part of their personality but actually mirror -or are a rebellion against -those gendered expectations. It’s not like this ingrained stuff just disappears.

  5. I recently went on an office retreat where we spent several nights staying at a cabin in a remote area. We went out for dinners but cooked (really “cooked”) our own breakfasts and lunches. My boss assigned everyone to meals ahead of time and it worked out great. Did everyone do exactly the same amount of work? No, certain people (women, lower-ranking team members) still did more work than others (the higher-level team members, who are also mostly men). But everyone did at least something, and it allowed those of us inclined/socialized to be helpers to relax and kick back guilt-free when it wasn’t our turn. I highly recommend it!

    1. @peregrinations, that work trip sounds like the 2nd level of HELL to me…I would like office retreats to be held at all-inclusive resorts only, paid for by The Company, TYVM, if they are even necessary at all. I have no desire to eat, sleep, do chores, or otherwise spend several nights with my co-workers (who are lovely people and I enjoy our team lunches/dinners).

      1. Yeah, cabin in a remote area for a requured work retreat sounds like yell to me. Like “dust off the resume” level of hellishness.

    2. re: meals, and prep, and cleanup

      My daughter’s college apartment had 5 people. And each person had ALL the duties for their assigned night. They picked the menu, they did the prep, and they did the cleanup.

      That way you didn’t have the clean-up person pissed off that the cook had chosen complicated meals with lots of prep dishes, or was sloppy and splattered the countertop. If you wanted to cook complicated, you were doing all those bowls and pans. (and you had incentive to clean as you went, too)

      It also meant that you only had one night a week that you had to do anything–but you have to do everything. And since you were cooking, already your evening was occupied.

      I don’t know how well that would work w/ the vacation, but I thought I’d throw that out there.

      1. Very smart.

        When I hear about these vacations or even living arrangements, I keep flashing back to Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house. As soon as the men and boys were finished eating they went to the living room because they KNEW that the wimmen folk would handle everything because wimmen folk.

        Some people will slide if you let them — and if they get away with it, they’ll not only keep sliding but show others (mostly: men) that they, too, can just sidle off from any chore they simply don’t want to do.

        I hope you get great tips from this post and the next vacation doesn’t stress you out.

        1. When I was 13 we were in California. As a thank you to my father’s cousin L (and her husband, and their kids) who put us up for weeks until we had a house, we did Thanksgiving.

          My parents had many flaws, and they fought bitterly over housework (as I’ve probably gone on about ad nauseam), but dividing chores on gender lines had never occurred to either of them. Until that year. L’s husband and son retired to the living room, while the L and the daughters followed my mother into the kitchen.

          Daddy and my brother high tailed it to the living room.

          I followed them in one of my few rages. I demanded that MorleyBro and MorleyDad clean up, and I demanded that PrinceCousin join his sisters. I didn’t care where as long as all of them were doing the same thing.

          I kicked L out of the kitchen, on the grounds that she was an adult guest.

          I had the full support of MorleyMom in this.

          As an aside, all five of the cousins are wonderful people.

  6. Yes to chore assignments/organizing! I’m the sort of person who really wants to chip in, but is timid and a bit oblivious, so I tend not to notice until someone more organized has already started doing something, and I don’t want to step on toes for the planning-type chores if other people have historically done them. If I know that I’m in charge of X and Y, I will definitely do them and then not have to worry about whether I’m doing to little or too much.

    1. And someone might be willing to chip in, but timid and oblivious, and then ALSO think, “oh, I don’t really want to -work-, soI’ll just let them do it.” And then feel mildly guilty. Then defensive. And then dig in a little bit.

      It doesn’t benefit any of us to have an arrangement that’s evolved to be what the OP has.

      SaraTheEntwife is right: organize it and assign it!

  7. LW, it sounds like when you guys go on this holiday you are frequently a person who has to deal with a lot (most? all?) of the chores. At the very least, this problem is really bugging you. Getting really organized and setting clear responsibilities is a great strategy, but what would happen if this year you just didn’t take that job on? What if you decided (or communicated to the other small group of ‘doers’ in the house) that you were going to do x and y chores and you didn’t worry about the other stuff? What might happen?

    That might seem unfair, but it sounds like you could use an actual holiday on your holiday, and sometimes people need to see what it’s like when someone else isn’t magically picking up their slack all the time (also I bet if you roll out this chore calendar ahead of time you are going to get some pushback from all the slackers who are like ‘but things are working really well the way we always do them! Don’t put boundaries on me, man’). Maybe other people will step up, and they would be okay with it and you’d be like ‘societal gender roles suck’ and your partner could grumble together but then relax for the rest of the evening. Maybe your friends who are slacking will get a surprise as the delightful meals and activities they are used to don’t materialize, and one evening everyone gets pizza. Maybe you’ll decide that you and husband will start taking a day trip or staying in a hotel for a few nights to get a little more peace. But whatever happens, I hope you have a relaxing and wonderful holiday!

    The Cleanest Person In Every House I Have Ever Lived In

    1. the day trip/hotel room sounds great, but the other stuff wouldn’t work for me. Because it means no food and no dishes to make food. And that would destroy my holiday even more.

      Honestly, reading this letter, I thought that maybe they should just go on vacation with the cleaner half of the group.

      1. We did that one year. The cleaner half of our friend group vacationed together and it was marvelous! The other half got very angry but we had told them the previous year that we were actually going to get a vacation on our vacation instead of cleaning up after them for a week.

        1. I love this! Good on you! Although I get wanting to vacation with everyone, too, of course.

          My awful, awful brain is wondering whether you couldn’t really set up a cabal with the cleaner members of the group and not do *any* chores at all this year. It *is* icky, but just for the reactions of the less clean members!

          “Whoops, guess you guys have to clear up, we’re late for our hike! Bye!”
          “Karma’s a bitch, ain’t she?”
          “Hey [Dirty person #1] thanks for not clearing the table even once while [Dirty Person #2] never takes out the trash!!! That was so thoughtful of you!”

          Oh well. One can dream.

          1. Ha. I did this once on a vacation with friends – in fact, we had several cabins.

            Not only did my/my boyfriend’s cabin end up being the gathering spot for D&D, it was where everyone came to for meals. Because no one else had planned them. At all. They didn’t even bring money for groceries. I ended up doing all the cooking and all the dishes, and at the end of the week, not only did I have to clean our cabin (he helpfully packed his, and only his stuff), I then had to go help other people clean.

            I’m still pissed, and it was about ten years ago.

    2. Ok but the letter specifically says they’ve tried that, and if they don’t do the things, they won’t get done until another cleaner-upper gets frustrated and does them. So for this to work, they’d have to get all the cleaners on board. And then…. no meals and a messy place to stay makes for an unpleasant trip for everyone, but especially the cleaners. Or, if it’s just a week, the non-cleaners won’t really see the repercussions. They’ll just order pizza and eat off napkins and think that’s just fine.

      I’ve tried this solution at home, and my partner just… doesn’t notice, and I keep getting more and more annoyed until I finally either do the things, or explode at him (at which point he also points out things that I am blind to that he wishes I would do). Avoiding the mess+explosion by having open and calm communication and setting expectations ahead of time is what works. I think addressing the entire group ahead of time with a “Hey, in the past, certain people have done most of the work and don’t really get a chance to relax. This year, let’s try something different.” and having a plan will help more than secretly going on strike with the other cleaners and hoping the non-cleaners notice and figure it out.

      1. And I think the advantage of getting this out in the open is that it allows the non-cleaners to say “Hey, spending a lot of time doing chores does not feel like a vacation to us. Let’s … [stay somewhere with housekeeping service included/budget to eat most of our meals out rather than cooking/split up this group vacation if our vacationing styles aren’t compatible/etc.]”

        There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating pizza off napkins for a week, or with wanting a vacation that does not include loading the dishwasher, even once. But people who are happy being messy slobs on vacation (or people who would rather be staying in a hotel where someone else cleans the bathroom) may not be vacation-compatible with people who enjoy staying in a cabin and using a chore chart to keep it tidy.

      2. Well, I wasn’t suggesting organizing a secret strike and hoping other people figure it out. It’s not clear from the letter if the other cleaners/organized people in the group are feeling as fed up as LW is, or whether this is something that has really fallen to/is stressing out the LW. Open and calm communication is great and I’m glad it’s working for you and your partner! It’s also valid for the LW to decide they aren’t up for more emotional and logistical labor in developing a schedule and circulating it and getting everyone on board for their vacation time. They can be clear about what they’re willing to do, and let other people manage whatever feelings they have about that. Often, like the Captain said, people can be oblivious about the amount of work others are doing to make them comfortable. If another friend is stepping in to pick up the slacker’s slack after the LW stops, is that the LW’s problem to fix?

        I’ve had to be the person who comes up with chore schedules and researches cleaners and had to get my roommates/partners on board, and my input is specifically coming from past arguments about how ‘things are fine’ and ‘they don’t like schedules’ and calling me naggy because I wanted a relatively clean bathroom. It really took my not doing that work and disengaging and letting them figure it out (or in one case, making them write the chore schedule with me and then doing a round of chores before they agreed to chip in for a cleaner because it was all too much work!) The real benefit wasn’t that someone came around to my way of doing things, it was that my blood pressure went down and I’m still good friends with those people.

        I recognize that I’ve probably dealt with a lot of people with a high difficulty setting; my spidey sense is pinging from this email that the LW might be too. It might be kind of a know your people issue.

        1. I guess I was operating under the assumption that these are all reasonable people who maybe don’t have as high standards for cleanliness as the LW, but if they knew that this was interfering with their friends’ enjoyment of their vacation, would be willing to pick up the slack. Especially because mentioning it in a vague way has had positive effect in the past.

          But I see how it could be difficult if the people are blind to how much work is really going on, don’t grasp that it’s a problem that LW&Co are doing all that work, or don’t see that work as a priority (I’ve definitely encountered a lot of “we’ll just do it in the morning!” when I’m half-drunkenly and thus extra stubbornly cleaning up food and drinks and dishes after a party, because I know I’m going to be the one who wants to make breakfast in a clean kitchen in the morning, and I know it’ll be easier to rinse the dishes and glasses now rather than when they’ve sat out all night).

          And yeah, taking on the additional planning and enforcing of the chore-doing is extra work that the LW doesn’t wanna do. But to just step back, only do some, and not feel anxious or guilty or whatever about other people shouldering the extra work? It’s one thing to say it’s not her problem to fix, but it’s another to really accept that and let it go when she’s decided she’s done all the work I can, and I see Person C unloading all the dishes yet again. I think it’d be worthwhile to try doing that work upfront so that she can do less during the actual vacation. Maybe working together to make a plan and doing her part will help her let go of how the parts that belong to others are done.

      3. This brings up a really good point, though. This issue of ‘chores I think are important and worthwhile’ vs. ‘chores Other Person thinks are important and worthwhile’ is causing a clash in your house, and you’re just dealing with two people. LW is dealing with TEN people, all of whom have different comfort levels, and different ideas about what chores need to be done, and how often, and what details those chores entail.

        For example, vacationing with a certain close relative of mine would be hell for both of us. Things like wiping down baseboards, and moving the couch to vacuum underneath it, and dusting, those are all daily chores in her mind. She wants her house to look showroom ready at all times, like a display model where no one actually lives. I’m more particular about shoes not being worn inside, than I am keen on vacuuming daily. I’m far more focused on having my space be functional for me, rather than aesthetically pleasing and decorative. On vacation, I’m fine to live out of my suitcase. She behaves as if she’s moving into a second home. So, what I’m saying is, what constitutes a comfortable living environment for each of us, is significantly different than what the other needs/wants. And I’m just not ever going to do things up to her standards – especially not on vacation – because my standards cater to my needs/wants instead.

        So, it’s important to use our grown-up words instead of just assuming everyone else has the same goals and needs, and are choosing to fail us. Our personal standards aren’t the only ones that matter. And here’s the thing, if someone is doing A Project that I don’t deem to be necessary, then my brain is going to tune out and assume it is because they want to do A Project, and isn’t going to just magically prioritize this as A Project I also need to be doing. I have to prioritize my own spoons, according to my own values. That person just can’t expect me to want to do the same thing, or see it as beneficial, or to even care that it gets done, without asking for my opinion on the matter at all. And in the LW’s situation, there are ten other people involved here who all deserve to be heard.

        I think LW is going to have to take stock of whether the things she’s expecting are needs or just preferences, and get with the group to see if everyone else agrees on which things are necessary. It’s possible that people aren’t ignoring her efforts the way she thinks they are, but that they just don’t agree that those things are needed, and since they seem to be important to LW, they just let her do them. Maybe things like making sure the drying-rack is empty and all dishes are put back in the cabinets before bedtime just isn’t a priority for others. Maybe they’re fine with using forks that are in the drain, rather than getting them out of the drawer instead. To me, that’s an extra step of work I don’t need, especially on vacation. So, before LW starts drawing up lists and assigning chores, everyone needs to agree on what the absolutely essential tasks are.

        1. Fair point! Yeah, what works in a two-person relationship on an ongoing basis is very different from what works for a group for a week. And I can definitely see how some people in the group might be like “why we gotta clean every day? Can’t we just do it all at the end?” So.. yeah, LW shouldn’t just issue an edict from on high. It’d be a work upfront as a group to identify what the group thinks are the Must Do things, and then probably some emotional work at the time to let go of the things that most people don’t find important…

          Frankly, that kind of group conversations sounds exhausting! So hey, LW might not wanna do it, and might be better served to just back off the cooking and cleaning and try harder to not let it bother them when the regular suspects pick up the slack.

        2. Having lived with a person who had a preferred way how the curtains in a shared room should be, and who called rearranging the curtains from other people’s preferred way to her preferred way “always having to clean up after you” – I’d like to agree with you on the point that the higher level of tidyness isn’t the better one.

          But then there was The Vacation From Hell where my girlfriend complained to me that other people would not use the same plates several times to avoid having to do dishes – and she wasn’t talking about the same meal. (not the reason why this was Vacation From Hell, but sheds a light on some of the issues. And we *had* done planning how the household and planning stuff would be handled!)

        3. The thing is, in these kind of circumstances (meaning LW’s situation) I am often asking myself if the messy people really have lower standards or if they’re simply relying on (gendered) unspoken rules that whoever breaks first cleans.

  8. A tactic that I’ve found helpful in situations where enforcing “everybody does their fair share” isn’t going to work, is to make it very visible what the chores are and who’s doing them.

    Examples could be:
    – a racetrack where each person has a token and you move one square for each chore (currently in use in my household)
    – a bunch of popsicle sticks with different “to do” items written on them, that you move into your own labeled jar when you’ve done one (currently in use in Girlfriend’s household)
    – a paper/chalkboard where ppl write down the chores they’ve done under their own name

    The idea is 1) let shirkers see how much other people are doing, 2) let workers feel like their work is at least visible and acknowledged, 3) possibly show that contrary to how I sometimes feel, I’m not the only one who does anything around here.

    1. I love these ideas! I have only ever done the chore list but having the popsicle idea or the game board sounds genius!

    2. I like this idea. If I were the LW and implementing one of these systems, there would a hard limit to the number of chores than anyone is “allowed” to do and a limit within each category: cooking, cleaning, and organizing activities. There would be an understanding that everyone is allowed to swap chores among themselves, but the starting point is that everyone contributes equally to all chores. This is so that all the lighter or “fun” chores (cooking and organizing are fun for some people; I don’t know anyone who loves doing dishes and wiping down cooking surfaces) don’t get monopolized by some people in order to avoid having to contribute to the harder or less fun ones.

      I will also say that getting people who traditionally have shirked their responsibilities to participate may also mean needing to readjust expectations of how well or how quickly those chores will be done. Dishes might not be cleared as quickly as they are when the worker bees are in charge of clean-up, and counters might show some smears that aren’t normally there when it’s all the worker bees all the time. You can compensate for this somewhat by using the Captain’s clean teams idea (and ensure there’s a worker bee on each cleaning team to maintain standards), or make peace with the fact that this is going to happen, and enjoy your time off from doing chores anyway.

      1. Tangent, but, I love doing dishes (and hate cooking). It’s a very well-defined task, progress is clearly visible as you go, and there’s something very relaxing about having your hands in hot water. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. I love cooking, but super hate doing the dishes, so I’ve always said I’d be happy to always cook if my partner always did the dishes XD

          1. As an aside, when I was a student in digs my Mother came to visit once. I cooked so she washed up, and then stood there a while before saying “What do you use to dry?”. My baffled reply was “….entropy?”.

      2. I love doing the dishes. I mean, despite having a dishwasher, I rarely put anything in it, because I would rather wash the dishes by hand–not because they’re cleaner or anything, but because it is the one cleaning task I truly enjoy.

    3. Yeah, “Make The Chores Visible” does sound like a good tactic, here. It means that the non-helpers don’t go through the “ok, I should help, wait, what needs to be done? oh, someone’s already doing that one thing, guess I’ll just sit down” cycle, instead of seeing that there are yet more chores they could be doing.

      1. And planning the chores counts as a chore!

        When women do honey-do lists, there’s emotional labor and time expended.

        1. Perhaps I’m a cynic but it’s awfully easy for me to imagine one guy coming up with some incredibly picayune impossible-to-follow planning system and then declaring that since he’d done that, he was abrogated of chores for the vacation.

    4. totally stealing the lolly sticks idea for 2022-ish when my kids will (hopefully) be seven and five and ready to start doing chores of their own!

    5. This is a great idea! Another implementation option is a list where everyone initials the chores they’ve done.

      We had that sort of thing in a restaurant where I worked when I was young, for the less frequent cleaning tasks that needed to get done during downtime (like wipe the baseboards or disinfect the fridge shelves). The advantage in that context is that gave a list of literally everything that needed to be done for those of use who are chore-blind, and it meant you got credit for your work when you did something.

    6. I did this with old roommates, who were lovely but clueless undergrads, and it worked reasonably well. List hung prominently on the fridge along the lines of “empty dishwasher, 1 point. take out trash, 1 point. vacuum apartment, 3 points. clean bathroom, 5 points”, tally your points next to your name on the honor system, if you are behind then you may buy points by contributing to the Hire A Professional Cleaner Sometime fund (nobody ever did but it was a useful alternative to think of in terms of “why are we doing this”). I’d add one-time items too from time to time as well as the recurring ones — eg somebody needs to clean out the fridge. Helped for balancing out labor, and helped my roommates in situations of “I have some time now and I could clean something but I don’t know what needs to be done.”

  9. I struggled for YEARS to get my roommate to proactively take responsibility for his fair share of household chores. What finally did it was creating a system where there were automatic, fair consequences for not pulling your own weight, without anybody having to nag anybody else about getting shit done. I don’t know how helpful this would be for the LW’s particular situation, but I’ll share it just in case.

    We have a spreadsheet with two tabs: one tracks how much time we’ve each spent doing shit that mutually benefits us around the house, by week; and the other is a list of common tasks, with a note of how frequently they should be done at a minimum, and columns to mark the date of when each was last done and the initials of who did it. Every two weeks, I take a quick glance at how much time we’ve each put in over that period.

    As long as we’ve both put in at least 30 minutes of household work over those two weeks, nothing happens. If at least one person is below that threshold, then I compare the total amounts. If someone under the minimum has ALSO worked for less total time, we true-up the difference at a rate of $24/hr (which works out to $2 per 5 min, which is the increment we record in), which is about how much it would cost to hire a cleaning person.

    Having concrete, fair monetary compensation worked IMMEDIATELY in a way that all the nagging never did. It became my roommate’s own job to come up with ways to motivate himself, and I no longer felt like it was rewarding him for me to keep cleaning even on weeks when he was slacking off.

  10. Chiming in to agree with the Captain, especially about specifically assigning/telling people what they need to do vs. hoping they will magically “get it” when you say “we all need to be more aware of X”. We had the same battle when we went on vacation with a friend group and finally those of us who were planners and cleaners decided to go on vacation together so we could actually have a vacation instead of spending our time planning and cleaning for others. We told them the last year we all went together that they needed to step up and help and if they didn’t, not everyone would be invited. It was tough and there were hurt feeling, but honestly, I’m not going to spend my vacation cleaning up behind adults.

    Another thing that comes up when you vacation with friends: if you have friends who have children and they don’t watch them and expect everyone else to help. But that’s another post entirely.

  11. Would it be feasible or desirable to change tracks altogether and spend your group vacations in settings where drastically fewer chores are needed?
    I’m thinking HOTELS – ski resort? beach? Big city that isn’t anybody’s home so you can all do the cheesy touristy things?

    Even cheap hotels have people to make beds and clean toilets for you.

    You could pitch this to the group as “we’re adults now and have different tastes than when this started” and possibly more freedom/money (or less total holiday time, if people are moving up in their careers).

    Forgive me if I’m wrong but I picture 10 people sharing a holiday cottage as something that probably started when most of you were young and possibly in school? It might be time for a change. Reset everything, with the unsubtle bonus of not having to clean up after each other because: hotels and restaurants.

    I realise throwing money at it might not be possible at all, but this is a *holiday* after all.
    It doesn’t need to be engineered into equitable daily running shape.

    1. I had wondered if they could have two neighboring cabins—one for the cleaner members of the group and the other for everyone else—but this is even better because it’s much harder to compare the experience of staying in a giant cabin together with that of staying in the same hotel during a city break the following year.

      1. Yesss. Plus it sounds like the slovenly members are in at least some cases partners of cleaner members so sorting cabins that way would not be particularly easy. Best to push a harder reset.

      2. This is a perpetual issue with my friend group and our annual ski trip. We tried to book separate accommodations one year (the people who like to book 6 months out and commit to going, and the people who hate making plans that far ahead of time in the other). Guess what happened? Only one condo got booked.

        Every year, I question why I help plan this trip. I think this year, we’re not going with flaky people.

        1. I’m a big fan of deposits. As in, “Pay $X by Y date [with some flexibility for people who need longer periods of time to get deposit money together, but are committed to going], and we’ll book on Y+1 for the number of people whose deposits we have. Anyone who wants to withdraw their deposit before Y will get a full refund, and anyone who wants to withdraw after won’t, unless someone who missed the deadline wants to take their place.” I love it because if someone flakes out at the last minute, the event doesn’t suddenly become more expensive for everyone else (a pet peeve of mine), and forces the people who want to drop out or join at the last minute to organize it for themselves rather than to make the planners do it for them.

          No prizes for guessing where I fall on the planning/spontaneity axis.

      3. If anyone decides to do this, I caution them to get the cabin reservations under the names of the people staying in each specific cabin only – unless you, like the me of the past, want to get stuck cleaning someone else’s cabin so you don’t get a charge on your card.

    2. I am like 99% sure I know the LW and am in fact on this holiday with her right now (is that you, Sphee???) and if I’m right, hotels are less of an option as a number of us are on low incomes. The virtue of the cottage is partly it’s affordability.

      I am (I think/hope!) one of the cleaners. No one is asking for much in the way of cleaning or even tidying, or even doing bathrooms (you shouldn’t need to in a week-long holiday). It’s mostly the kitchen, dishes round the house, and rubbish. I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about the expectations to have access to clean dishes and not have dirty pots and pans or rubbish left on surfaces. And as LW said, it is often the same group doing absolutely necessary things like clearing the table, loading/unloading the dishwasher, and washing dishes too big to go into it. Those might be put-off-able, but they are not optional.

      I’m conflict averse and will choose doing the cleaning over arguing about it 100% of the time, but this does mean I leave the emotional labour of fretting/pushing about it to others like the LW.

      I liked the idea someone on this thread had about requesting people to do specific things, and each sort of ‘taking a person to gently nudge in this way. That’s been successful with my (unfortunately shirker) fiancé just today!

    3. Everyone will feel differently about that but I find that hotels are SO much more expensive than renting a cottage or cabin together (last time I did a group vacation like that it was $200/person for the whole WEEK of lodging and this was in an expensive touristy area) and I hate having to eat at restaurants every day. The meals are huge and I can’t handle wasting food so I end up making it through about 3 days and then feeling horrible and like I want nothing more than real food. So maybe everyone just finds that this is a good way to do vacations together.

  12. OP, the type of planning the cap’n suggests is the only thing that has saved me during Group Trips With Wonderful Friends Who Insist On Bringing Their Slovenly Partners. When the cleaner/planner/shopper core of our group realized that we were almost to the point of telling some of our friends (who did help) that their useless partners were not invited– which would have led to resentments (“why does HER partner get invited and not MINE!”) we simply made a schedule (without asking for input) and enforced it. It took a couple trips where we all ended up eating peanut butter sandwiches off of paper towels for a meal or two before people really got it. Now it works smoothly, but for a bit of whining.

    Also, Cap’n. Love your group making paradigm. Would have loved that through my schooling. After fixing a bunch of people’s papers, carrying projects, and generally giving people high grades with nothing in return, I’d have been ecstatic to work with some similar people.

  13. I am also a professor who sometimes forms student groups, and I agree that this method of pairing strong students with other strong students really does seem to work best. Everyone seems to have a better experience — I’ve found sometimes “weaker” students who get paired with “stronger” students don’t even like the experience, because they feel like the project got “taken over” by the other student and they didn’t really get a chance to contribute. Yes, sometimes the “weaker” student groups falter and don’t produce an amazing project, but I find just as often they step up to the plate in the absence of a natural leader and find that actually they do have the ability to do group work that maybe they weren’t so confident about.

    Also — I wonder if there are other ways to see these friends that don’t involve such an intense trip? It sounds like this creates a lot of stress, and maybe there are other ways to connect with those you actually do want to see without all the stress of trying to stay in one location and be worrying about chores. I’m thinking maybe you go on long weekend trips with smaller groups (perhaps those you actually want to see and that don’t end up making you super resentful?), instead of a longer trip with a larger group? Or meeting at more of an all-inclusive resort sort of thing, or the type of place with individual cabins where each group of 2 or 4 can arrange their own meals rather than big group meals — that way people who love to cook can pair up and do that together, while those who don’t can eat out/order in? Or arranging to all go to a convention or other big event where everyone stays in a hotel? Or, if you want to keep the current set-up, is it possible to ask for an additional financial contribution from those who aren’t pitching in, such as covering a mid-week cleaner to come in? I’m not sure exactly what your interests would be, but it seems like these current trips aren’t that fun and so it’s worth thinking about what other activities would let you connect with those you want to connect with while actually having a fun and relaxing vacation.

    1. Sarah said:
      “Yes, sometimes the “weaker” student groups falter and don’t produce an amazing project, but I find just as often they step up to the plate in the absence of a natural leader and find that actually they do have the ability to do group work that maybe they weren’t so confident about”

      And the point is actually not to produce a great project! This is education. The point is to learn.

      And if you don’t get to participate, you aren’t learning. If you’re making up for other people, you aren’t learning.

      Plus, being the natural leader who unconsciously edges other people out isn’t actually a great feeling. Having to remind myself to rein myself in means I’m not fully focused on learning. Certainly not about the subject matter, which is the main point (learning about group dynamics is a side effect).

    2. I often had the experience of being the only one in the group who wanted to work. Rather than let me take over, however, my classmates would actively try to not have any of us do any of the work. This was a high school problem, not a college problem. We would be sent to the hall to fill out a worksheet and everyone else would instead play on the elevator. One time the group left the school and I got yelled at because I wasn’t with my (rule breaking) group. I would have been happy to just do the work myself.

      I always assumed the making of groups by splitting up abilities was done because my teachers didn’t know what they were doing. Then I read my first book on teaching. I was about 16 and my jaw dropped when I realized my teachers had actually been following directions, not making a giant mistake.

      It was so amazing to get to college and be in a group where even some other people wanted to complete the assignment.

      1. Ugh, this always happened to me to. Either that, or they wouldn’t want to do the work in the way that was objectively correct because it wasn’t “cool”, so I’d be overruled on stuff like using the lab report template the teacher told us to use, or spelling words correctly.

  14. So the reality is, you are never going to have a perfect split of chores/emotional labor among everyone involved. Getting a more even division of chores would mean someone doing the emotional labor of getting the slackers going. Getting a more even division of emotional labor would mean not regulating chores, which means whoever does them does them, which is the status quo that’s causing problems.

    Personally, I think putting in the emotional labor to develop a chore schedule is likely to be the better solution here. Designate a person (one of the conscientious ones) to make a schedule of what chores need to be done when. Spell out what counts as ‘done’ for each kind of chore, so everyone’s on the same page. Schedule a person for each chore (go with an even split, so everyone is assigned to do a little of everything; let people swap among themselves if they want, but you don’t need to manage preferences in the initial scheduling). If you’re concerned that the slackers still won’t do it, then add a role of ‘chore enforcer’ and schedule that the same way you would dishes, counter wiping, cooking, or tidying. It will be a little extra labor for the person making the schedule, but hopefully it can be reused every year. And hopefully the creator will end up doing less work overall than they would without the schedule, since the slackers will do more of the actual chores.

    1. I disagree. You can, and should, count planning and other emotional labor among the chores. Once you count planning in, the chore allocation includes the planner doing a damn sight fewer other tasks.

      1. Oh, it definitely is labor, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I just don’t think it’s going to be realistically possible to get an actually-equal division of labor here, and this was the least-unequal realistically-feasible solution I could think of . Some possible alternatives:

        -Don’t invite the slackers. Then everyone who goes will do chores! Except then you won’t see some of your friends, and since it sounds like this is the annual catch-up-and-keep-friendship-alive trip, that would be really unfortunate. I have an annual get-together like that with friends, and I would never consider uninviting anyone, so I’m betting OP doesn’t see that as a solution either.

        -Talk to the other chore-doers and collectively decide to do fewer chores. Accept that this might mean chores don’t get done (there’s no guarantee the slackers will notice the difference, or care that it’s different). Great in theory, but getting all the chore-doers to accept that point is likely unrealistic–odds are good that either someone would end up doing it in spite of this collective agreement, or someone would resent it not being done/the slackers not noticing and stepping up.

        -Count planning/creating the schedule as one of the tasks, like you say, and assign that person less chores. Great in theory, but in practice, that means that the person doing the scheduling is assigning themselves significantly fewer chores than they’re assigning everyone else. Knowing human nature, it’s reasonably likely that someone in the group will be unhappy with the idea of a schedule, and will be looking for a reason to dismiss it as unfair/not the right way to handle this problem. Since this hypothetical complainer didn’t see the planning and likely doesn’t realize how much work that is (the complainer would probably be one of the slackers, who we know aren’t good at emotional labor or noticing work that’s been done), that’s a really likely target for complaints and denials. I think this could be done a year or two down the line, once the concept of a chore schedule is more normalized, but the first year it would be more a point of contention than a successful strategy.

        1. Ah, I hadn’t realized that you’d thought about including emotional labor, but discarded it.

          Mind you I disagree again. If the slackers can convince themselves to step up at all (something that I am not really sanguine about), I’m sure they can understand emotional labor.

  15. Agree that a chart or list of some sort needs to be set up and that expectations need to be laid out regarding what the job consists of. Assuming good intentions on the part of everyone that they really do want to contribute, they just don’t know how. If there’s people actively avoiding contributing, that’s a different issue and needs to be addressed with that person individually.

    In our family vacation every year, it tends to work out pretty well, but that’s because we’ve all done it for a long time and we know how to work well together. If anything, we have too many people competing for cooking. 🙂 Typically one of the adult females cooks, and two other adult females assist, the kids set the table and clear off, and either the kids or the adults who didn’t cook do the dishes. My young man, who’s on the spectrum, loves doing the dishes because it means he can hide in the kitchen by himself. 🙂 Each family is responsible for its own laundry and picking up its own room, and honestly we don’t worry much about cleaning during the week. (I specify “adult female” but there often is only my partner as an adult male; one of the other adult males did join us this year but he was sick a lot during the week, and the other adult male who was there part of the time grilled meat.)

    The person who used to be in charge of planning activities seems to have abrogated that responsibility, and I don’t blame her; it had to have been frustrating to come up with a bunch of stuff and have people go eh because some of us aren’t up to vigorous hiking, etc. So if people want to do stuff, they plan it themselves and invite others. That worked fine this year.

    When we stayed at the family’s summer house, I would typically wait for Nana to go out of the house for a couple of hours on errands, and then organize everyone into a cleaning frenzy — one person would vacuum, one sweep, one clean the bathroom, and so on. It wasn’t perfect but it was an improvement. (And I expect someone else would have done it if I hadn’t.) So it might be a good idea to plan one mid-holiday cleaning session per week of two hours or so where everyone contributes.

    And post the chore chart so people can see it and know what everyone’s responsibility is — though I do love the popsicle stick idea.

  16. Gosh, all of you are so clean and tidy and organised! I’m afraid I’m Team Slovenly. And yes, I’m female. All of this planning and rota business sounds utterly exhausting and the exact opposite of a holiday. Maybe the likeminded should just go on holiday with each other? In which case, by all means, warn in advance about the Regime of Chores. In that case, Team Slob members such as myself can perhaps weigh up whether they’d rather opt out and head for Rancho Relaxon (fudge cake and tequila all round!). I actually once went on holiday with a fully paid up member of Team Chore. She was whipping away plates before everyone had finished eating and so on. It was misery. And I knew, coutesy of her Faceache, that she hated me for not having the same attitude to endlessly polishing, wiping, vacuumibg etc. And you know, it wasn’t necessary. I cooked nice (or so I thought) dinners which she wouldn’t touch because they were “fancy”. Yes it did the dishes. But nothing was good enough for Faceache. You know, all the chores aren’t as necessary as you might think. Do what you absolutely must to avoid infestation etc. Then, just fucking relax! Thus is the wisdom of Team Shit-tip. Eat the fudge cake. Have another tequila. Brush the frigging crumbs under the carpet. You’re on holiday!

    1. The thing is, that sounds lie a mis-match of personalities. If you had a schedule then on Day One, she might be on clean up duty, and if that mean t she whipped the plates away the second the meal was eaten , that would be her choice.

      If you were on clean up duty on Day 2 then you would be responsible for getting it done, but if you chose to sit and savour an after dinner coffee or watch the sunset before you did the washing up, that would be your choice.

      I think the problem comes when person A doesn’t do anything, so Person B either ends up doing A’s share of the chores, and so not getting to relax, or the place ends up a tip with no clean dishes.

      1. Yeah, but here’s the thing, isn’t Faceache’s plate-whipping just as annoying and awful as my alleged Chore-Shirking? Which wasn’t, of course, really Chore-Shirking. I just don’t go on holiday to Do Endless Fucking Housework and I think that’s ok. There’s a lot of value judgement, normative stuff going on with you Team Sparkle people 😉 I think you secretly all really enjoy moaning about Team Fudgecake Crumbs Under the Sofa. Anyway, I agree with the ideas about not hiring a cabin etc that you have to clean up, and I also second the stuff about disposable plates and so on. All great suggestions.

        1. I think where I fall is this:

          1) Y’all are on VACATION, so make whatever this chore list is the minimum possible list for basic hygiene & getting the rental security deposit back.
          2) There is SOME stuff that needs done, so spread it out/plan it in advance.

        2. Yeah, I think there’s a balance that needs to be struck when in a mixed group. I’m a slob who likes things to be tidy by the end of the day and likes to start with a clean kitchen when I cook. I would also like to relax on vacation and eat cake and drink tequilia. But I won’t be able to relax properly if there’s food and mess all over the house.

          It’s good for Team Sparkle to ease up (no, the baseboards do not need to be wiped, and the dishes can linger a bit while we all go swimming) but Team Fudgecake should try to meet them in the middle too. A list of chores that MUST be done can help find this middle ground.

      2. I am also a female on Team Slob. In theory, it shouldn’t matter if I want to watch the sunset or whatever before doing the washing-up. But yeah, death-glares from Team Clean for not doing it the way they would do it, on the schedule they would choose.

        1. well, I can see that Team Clean might think that your sunset-watching was a passive-aggressive (in the TRUE meaning of the word) to getout of the chore: “If I don’t do it right away, someone else just might, and I won’t have to; if I do it badly, someone else might get annoyed and take it over, and I won’t have to.”

          Be honest–does your Team Clean have a reason to think this might be an M.O. for you? Or that you might forget? My kids get mad when I “nag” them, but honestly–they absolutely DESERVE that reaction based on a factual recording of their past actions.
          Their reputation with me is trash (in terms of follow-through and holding up their end of the bargain), and they earned that.

          And honestly, I would assume that anyone who wandered off to sunset-watch without mentioning their unwashed dishes in the sink is just not going to do it. Or at the very least in danger of forgetting.

          If someone announces, “I’m going to do those dishes before bed, probably about 11,” and they have a reputation of actually following through, THEN they can complain about any dirty looks I give them.

          And that’s part of the negotiation that needs to happen: When do the dishes need to be done?

          And if they are definitely Person A’s dishes to do, then persons B through J might find it easier to wander off to watch sunsets themselves.

          1. “Someone not doing this thing right now is passive-aggressive” sounds like someone actively looking for problems. If it’s not done by morning, or if Jitz wakes people up when she does them, then yeah: they have a right to complain. If they’re done by the next morning, who cares when they were cleaned?

            It’s different with kids, because kids aren’t adults. Jitz is an adult. Quite frankly, having people shoot me dirty looks or make snide comments makes me LESS likely to get things done, because people are jerks and I don’t like to do things for jerks.

            In summary: Jitz is not a child. You are not her mother. Relax.

    2. I have a mother-in-law who is a master at the Long Face of Silent Passive-Aggressive Suffering, and “Faceache” actually describes it in fewer letters and words. So thank you for that Just. . .thank you.

    3. I’m also on team “you’re on vacation” but to me, having a chore rota means there is not just a lower limit on what each person does but an upper limit. If it is my night to clear dishes and I want to sit and savor my dessert after, I can do so without worrying about Sparkle McCleanerson passive aggressively whisking them away out from under me while giving me the stink-eye. It means if someone gives me guff for not shining all the silverware (or whatever) I can point out that I did my job for the night to completion and anything above and beyond that is not something I’m going to concern myself with.

      IDK, I am not a fan of the implicit assumption (in a lot of contexts) that having no plan=more relaxed/less work. I am facing a lot of that at my job right now–I end up fuming while I 1) clean up my male co-workers’ disorganized code and 2) any attempt to implement standards for code is met with “we don’t have time for that! That’s not important!” Which is easy for them to say because they aren’t doing the work. I assume a Clean Person in the housekeeping area might feel similarly about hearing “I don’t want a chore rota–I’m here to relax!” Having explicit assignments takes a lot of the moralism and anxiety out of cleaning and just makes it A Thing That Happens.

      1. Also, this: Clearing off the table, or washing the dishes, or sweeping the sand off the porch, doesn’t have to take that long and dig into the vacation that much.

        1. Thank heavens someone finally said it. For real.
          Unless the place looks like a bomb hit it, it’s not going to take that long to clean up.

        2. It has been a revelation to me that ‘simply doing that thing’ often takes less energy and less time than complaining about it, avoiding it, wondering how urgently it needs doing, trying to get away with a minimum effort…

    4. The behavior you’re describing can be an artifact of stress. Plate-stealer very likely desperately wants to get to the point of being “done” for the day so plate-stealer can relax and have some vacation in their vacation.

      I’ve come out nearly hating close friends a few times when I agreed to help them with something despite a severe lack of time on my part and running constantly short of sleep, only to find that the friend I was helping kept dragging the whole thing out in various ways. When I’d protest that no, we’re not going to sit here and “have tea” in the middle of the task because I’m exhausted and need to go home, I’d get offers to lie on the couch, or to go lie on friend’s bed and have a nap, and I’d keep repeating that I need to be done and go home and get a full night of uninterrupted sleep in my bed rather than a series of interrupted naps, whereupon they’d go into “Urgent! Help the poor exhausted one by offering tea and pillows and warm milk and a bed to lie on! You’ll feel better after a nap! I stay up to 3am routinely, so you can have a short nap on the couch and then get back to work for me for another 6 hours, right?”


      This got better when I figured out that I should just go home if they’re going to fuck around, and be really wary of getting myself into the same situation in the future. As others are saying, a lot can be helped by clear communication ahead of time, such as, “Yes, I will help, but no matter what, at time X and I am leaving and going home.”

      1. My life became so much better when I started saying “no” to things that didn’t fit in my schedule. SO MUCH BETTER.

    5. Your friend sounds like a pill with the plate-swiping (Team Fudge/Mess here!). It doesn’t sound like you’re likely to holiday with her again, but if you do, it might be worth instituting an ‘each person carries their own dishes into the kitchen when done’ policy. Less work for whoever’s doing the dishes, since they’re not also clearing, and nobody feeling like there’s hovering and sighing and ‘Are you done with that *yet*?’.

      I would be a little hesitant, though, to place her eating habits in the same category. I’m a very picky eater, which causes plenty of embarrassment and anxiety; not eating your fancy dinners, in my case, certainly wouldn’t mean they’re not good enough – it means I’ve got weird/bland/boring eating habits. And it 100% wouldn’t mean that I expected you to cook the ‘right’ things for me. (Picky eaters who demand the host bend over backwards to accommodate them give the rest of us a bad rap, imo. I’d *much* rather fill up beforehand or afterwards, then sip water and maybe have a roll and focus on enjoying company at the dinner table, as opposed to having my usual food prepared to my exact specifications by someone I’d frankly rather not cringe by way through describing those specifications to.)

      Or I could be wildly off-base and she could just be a pill in that area too.

    6. “I cooked nice (or so I thought) dinners which she wouldn’t touch because they were “fancy”.”

      Your dinners might have been poison to me. Hot spices? Even not that much black pepper? Sauces on things? Melted cheese on things? All poison.

      It’s gotten near impossible to eat in restaurants these days. The options all seem to have either toxic amounts of butter and cheese on everything, or “healthy” options with even more toxic spices.

      Some people get really offended when I try to scrape poison off the food.

        1. I dunno, I find it as good a catch-all as any for “things which my body reacts violently negatively to.” Like, sure, peanut oil isn’t “poisonous” to most people but it would literally kill some of my friends, so I’m cool with them talking about it like it’s anthrax.

          Also, Helen’s referring to it as poison to HER, here, in a message thread. She’s not talking about being rude, just trying to protect herself–and to get the point across that if you don’t check in before making food for someone, you could do worse than make something they don’t prefer the taste of.

        2. Hmm, I’ve never called someone’s carefully prepared food poison in their hearing, but now that you mention it, I damn well should if they give me attitude for not eating what is toxic to me.

      1. But why assume that she was making things she knew ahead of time her vacation partner couldn’t eat? Assuming she’s making “poison” seems really uncharitable to me, when we have no evidence to suggest this is a matter of ignoring somebody’s stated-upfront allergies.

        I wouldn’t be offended by someone taking something off my food I’d made, but yeah, if I had made someone dinner and I didn’t know ahead of time they couldn’t have something and they were calling it “toxic” and “poison”, that would be pretty disheartening when I had been trying to make something they would like.

    7. I’m a slob at home, where I actually *own the property* and whatever I do or don’t do only affects myself and anyone else who owns it/lives in it (two other slobs).

      Vacationing “in a cottage somewhere” implies the travelers are in a place they do not own and whose fees do not include staff to do daily cleaning/maintenance.

      Therefore, at least some of the chores *are* necessary, especially if the property manager or owner finds the crumbs under the carpet and imposes a severe penalty payment!

      At any rate, chore charts/division should definitely account for whatever is necessary per the agreement to use the cottage, plus whatever daily maintenance means the last morning isn’t full of miserable, stressful cleaning (with the under-participaters gleefully going off to catch their plane, probably).

  17. I recently went on the biggest vacation of my life and had SO MUCH PLANNING to do. i’d never planned a trip like that before and I was completely overwhelmed. What really helped was excel workbooks and, probably most important for keeping things straight: a shared calendar between people coming on the trip and people who were going to be visited during the trip. We used google calendar. Basically, each day had ‘what is going to be done” that day, had info on meals, where we were waking up and where we were going to bed each night. The calendar stored information about restaurants, etc. Would it work for you guys if you had a calendar and specifically put in time for each thing and assigned it to someone/see what people volunteer for and fill in the rest of it for people who are like “eh, put me wherever”? So you could have “Lunch – Aragorn” and “mid-day cleanup – Frodo”. You could also color-code things so at a glance, everyone could see what’s their responsibility.

  18. This suggestion is just as an alternative to the chore list/schedule. I have a regular holidays with a friend – I cook, she cleans, we both do the final clean in tandem without even talking about it (it’s magical). We’ve had other people come and go and found the easiest thing to do is to ask them what their job on the holiday will be. You get to pick the chore you want, but the explicit assumption is you will have a job and it will be your job to do. So we’ve had someone always take the rubbish to the dumpsters, or someone who always empties the dishwasher.

    We might be pretty low maintenance since there’s no kids and not too many of us, and we’re responsible for our own rooms/bathrooms. I do find something nice about picking the chore you like/don’t mind. Like I don’t mind cooking an evening meal every day, but it is a relief to know I’ll never have to unload the dishwasher on my holidays!

    It does assume that everyone is happy to do their part – and if they aren’t they don’t get invited back. It works for us but of course YMMV!

  19. Once, while being one of the people who was pissed they were carrying the load of other shirkers, I had an epiphany. I realized that there were actually two separate things I was angry about at once. I was pissed (1) I was doing work another person should have, by fair distribution, been doing and (2) that these people were not being good people/friends and noticing that things needed to be done and that they should do them.

    I also realized that being pissed about #2 was almost completely pointless, as they weren’t going to get better in that way. It helped that, after years, I finally realized that my wife was not, in fact, deliberately not just picking stuff up and putting it away as she walked by it. She just legitimately, as completely impossible as it was for me to believe, not seeing the things there that needed to be done. As someone who was raised to never make a walk across the house empty-handed if there was something that needed to be toted somewhere this was hard for me to swallow, but I have come to believe that she legit is not just being lazy or deliberately obtuse.

    So my solution to #1 was to just accept a little more of #2 flavored irritation and be a part of the solution. In my case it means saying “hey on your way to the bedroom to change, can you carry up that basket of laundry I washed?” I then grind my teeth for a second that this is something I have to ask and avoid a few hours of teeth grinding while looking at the basket as she walks repeatedly past it without a second glance.

    In your case I think you should conspire with the other folks who are shouldering too much load and commit to each of you asking one of the known slackers for help every time you do something. “Hey Jim, grab some plates and help me clear this table.” Jim grumps about it? Matter-of-factly, in front of every other person, say “well someone’s got to do it and it seems most fair to evenly share the load.”

    Accept with regret that these shirkers are never going to do what you would like in a just and fair universe and just do their shit without a worker being their foreman and do this because it’s the best way to actually get it done. Because people who can walk right by a table full of dirty dishes or wash one bowl out of the six in the sink (because they are getting something for themselves, of course) are just as capable of looking right past that chore list.

    1. Right on. This so describes my daughter and me. Complaining will get you nowhere. Lists and leverage.
      I’m not sure what leverage one could use against “friend” slackers, though. No Tequila or fudge cake until the place is tidy?! Extra tequila and fudge cake for the ants? extra charges for the grasshoppers?

    2. I am both you and your wife well, I am primarily your wife, but I am married to someone who makes me look like you, if that makes any sense. (My husband used to get the chore of completely clearing off the coffee table because I thought that this would provide a clear, achievable goal; after the umpteenth time when we stood side by side with him declaring itbeaa clear and me diabelievingly pointing out 5-10 items, each of which totally shocked him qith its existence, I learned ro accept that his level of Not Seeing is … rather more extreme than mis.) I have learned to do as you with regard to clutter and getting assistance. It does wear on me, though, to do all of the emotional and mental labor (especially in an area where I am pretty handicapped — it uses up so many spoons!).
      I think that is where chore rotations of some sort can be really useful, especially when vacationing with friends or family.

      Speaking as someone who is naturally oblivious but has spent many years working to develop some automaticity around housework, I would so find it helpful to have the specific chores spelled out. Which also gives room for team Vacation = No Housework a chance to push back on a lengthy chore list — if some folks are fine with some sloppiness while others want the space to always feel as though they just walked in after maid service, I think there is room for discussion and compromise and “bare minimum” chore levels.

      As someone who doesn’t come to cleaning and chores naturally, I would find it so helpful to have a breakdown of “these are the chores that need to be handled on a daily basis, and these are the basic steps that must be done to accomplish the chore.” (“After every meal, clean-up crew will clear table, put dishes into dishwasher, clear and wipe counters, and sweep kitchen & dining room floors.)

      I also really love the Captain’s suggestion to make these team responsibilities, not individual, and to do some assigning of those teams such that people with similar inclinations and perceptions get to be on the same team.

    3. My husband can be like this. And he stores it up to yell at me. After thirteen years together, I learned that at dinner, there’s apparently a whole dish-circulating system that I SHOULD HAVE NOTICED BY NOW, GOD! Um, I wasn’t raised with anything like that? The serving dishes just sat there in the middle of the table. On the rare occasion you wanted a food you couldn’t reach, you gave someone else your plate and asked them to serve you a [whatever]. I do the dish-circulating thing, I think, but I remember getting yelled at about it every single night.

    4. I grew up in a house where *obviously* if there is something sitting at the bottom of the stairs, and you are ascending the stairs, it is your Obligation to carry that thing up the stairs and put it where it belongs — and it totally blew my mind this somehow wasn’t ingrained into everyone’s soul at a impressionable age 😉

  20. I am on team I Am Literally On Vacation To Get A Break From Housekeeping, so I sympathize with the non-cleaners. On the other hand, I am also on team I Do Not Want To Be Carried Off By Cockroaches, so I don’t usually stay in vacation rentals that don’t have housekeeping. Is it time to think about moving this annual holiday to a hotel/B&B?

    If not, can the cleaners reach some compromise with the non-cleaners? I agree a chore list is probably necessary in a cabin without housekeeping service, but for the “please don’t make me clean on vacation” crowd, are there some things that could cut down the amount of chores required? Disposable cups and plates? Replacing a couple of nights’ cooked meals with pizza or sandwiches or going out? An agreement that people will get their own cereal or toast or yogurt for breakfast (no elaborate omelet-making), and will clean up any messes made in the process?

    1. or even, everyone gets their *own* breakfast and also cleans up everything they use to make breakfast. That way, if you want fancy omelette you can have it, but you have to wash up the pans, spatula, chopping board, knives, cheesegrater etc.

      If you just want coffee you wash up one cop and empty the used grounds from the machine.

    2. I remember a women’s restreat group that started going to restaurants because they didn’t want to cook while they were “on retreat.”

      Meanwhile, I felt like I hadn’t actually “retreated.” I stopped going. If we’d gone to a “summer camp”–type place where someone else dealt with food, it might have lasted, but the other thing was that many of the women found restaurants restful, and I did NOT.

      To me, it was just proof that this group and its activities wasn’t working for me.

  21. It sounds like the LW needs to experience some other vacation options to get a feel for what would actually make LW feel like LW was getting more of a vacation.

    I really think trying a holiday at least once with only the people who contribute more than their share is the way to go. Until LW tries it, LW won’t know what that feels like. It may be the greatest thing ever. Or LW may really miss something about the current setup.

    Is there an option to try a location where LW can get multiple cabins next to each other? Separate the contributors and the slackers that way? It might make everyone more comfortable. People who are made anxious by chores can live with mess instead. People who need to sulk in corners can have corners to sulk in without sulking AT people. Maybe a location with a nice campfire pit outside or in a shared area for everyone to gather in the evenings?

    The letter comes off like there may be a case of geek/group social fallacies going. One I always thought was missing from those lists is the point that people grow older and what was awesome at one age makes no sense at another. I ran into a pretty stunning example of that once years ago — I’d been part of a gaming group for a dozen years or so. Someone who had been a part of it but hadn’t been seen or heard from for 10 years reappeared and was welcomed back. He quickly began throwing tantrums and causing drama and threw even more tantrums and drama when this wasn’t dealt with in the exact same ways as 20 years before when he had joined the group as a teenager. He thought these people who had mentored his rocky transition into adulthood should drop everything to provide the same care and tolerance and coddling. Nobody else thought so, because 1) no one was going to treat a man in his mid 30s as though he were a confused teenager, 2) the group for years had consisted of people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who barely even remembered adolescent drama and certainly had no wish for it in a mellow group of adults, and 3) the bulk of the group at that point consisted of people who weren’t even around during the times long past when some teenagers were allowed in, so when this guy started trying to invoke “rules” that had only ever applied to children and demand that these rules be applied to a bunch of mature adults who had never heard of those rules and never had a need for them, we naturally thought he was insane, tiresome, and boring.

    It sounds like LW’s group may have some members who are still thinking the group’s purpose is to provide them a level of care that is no longer appropriate.

  22. I think Don has a good point. OP, do you get the impression that the shirkers are deliberately avoiding helping out, or that it is more of a ‘don’t see it’ issue?

    I think that some sort of rota can be helpful, either way, it’s a specific reminder if they are just oblivious, and makes it harder for them to pretend they didn’t notice if not!

    I think if it were me, I might keep it very simple – identify the key task per day (e.g. meal prep, washing, filling/emptying dishwasher / taking out trash.

    Then just allocate tasks to people and rotate every day. So on day one, Amir might be responsible for cooking supper, Bill for washing up, Cathy for filling the dishwasher, Dave for emptying it and putting everything away, Edith for cleaning the kitchen surfaces and putting out the trash, and Felipe gets a day off.

    Then on Day 2, Felipe is responsible for cooking supper, Amir for washing up, Bill for filling the dishwasher, Cathy for emptying it and putting everything away, Dave for cleaning the kitchen surfaces and putting out the trash, and Edith gets a day off. And so on. With a bigger group, you can assign two people to some jobs.

    Depending on the size of the group, you can split the tasks down so they are not overwhelming – washing up might be two people, and they get to decide between them whether one washed and the other dries and puts away, or how they split the task. you can have ‘cook + sous-chef’ too. (if you have any children in the party, they can be added to do age appropriate tasks.

    Then let people know they are free to trade if they both agree. So if Amir hates cooking but enjoys cleaning, and Bill hates cleaning but likes to cook, they can trade.

    it also deals with the fact that some jobs are bigger than others and that some are less pleasant than others, and means that for meals, you know in advance

    We had a system like this when i was a student and sharing a house (although the rota was weekly, and was for things like cleaning the shared rooms, and emptying the bins) and it worked well as it didn’t matter that the jobs were not all equally time consuming, as if you had a ‘big’ task one week you’s have a lighter one the next, so it evened up, and you could swap or bribe housemates to do the stuff you hated.

    OP, maybe it would be worth sending round an e-mail to the group, when you start planning the next trip, and suggest a rotaor pre-set responsibilities.

    1. Whoever’s cooking really should have an assigned sous chef — if not two — especially if the group is large. Cutting vegetables for that many is really tedious. Or one person can offload dessert prep.

      I should add that we did switch to paper plates and disposable cups this year. The ecologist in me winced but it wasn’t my decision and they wanted to reduce the amount of cleanup required because the house didn’t have a dishwasher.

      I should also mention, lest it seemed like the adult males were getting off too easy, that they were typically responsible for taking out the trash and recycling (which is a big job as it requires lots of sorting). Sorry about the gendernormativeness of it all, but the women *like* doing the cooking and don’t love taking out the trash. 🙂

      1. Sorry, but it is too gender normative and sexist to bring the ‘women just like cooking and men can only do things like take rubbish out’ line to this discussion.

        Also, as a non-American, I feel the readiness throughout this thread to just use disposable plates etc rather than have a discussion with another adult is a depressing representation of a cultural – I was going to say ‘lack’ but will say substitute ‘low level’- of respect for the environment.

        1. In the specific group of people which I am referencing, it tends to work out that the women prefer the cooking. I have no statement to make on how the rest of the world does it.

          And, I agree with you on the paper plates, but the alternative would have been to offer to wash all the dishes for three meals a day for more than a dozen people, and I wasn’t up to that. In any event, the paper plates had already been bought without getting my opinion.

          1. also it’s summer, aren’t we supposed to conserve water? 😉 apparently hand-washing dishes is terribly inefficient.

          2. I agree with you, but the turn-of-the-century house we were staying in didn’t have a dishwasher other than us.

        2. I am 100% comfortable with using disposable plates if the alternatives are either fighting about housework while on vacation or washing a ton of dishes while on vacation. (Or, for that matter, being told that I’m not sufficiently respectful of the environment if I don’t eat every meal of my life off reusable plates while on vacation.) If you’re not comfortable with that, then that’s probably not a good option for you, but it may still be a good option for other people.

  23. A lot of comments seem to be about sorting out their roomate situations or getting a long term partner on the same page, which, ok, fine, but seems to be beside the point

    LW is going on ~*VACATION*~

    She doesn’t need to solve Dirty friend’s mess-o-vision, and she doesn’t need to min-max the labour distribution function.

    She just needs to find a way to enjoy the holiday.

    Think smaller. Think simpler.

    1. Seriously. If y’all are scrubbing bathrooms and vacuuming while on vacation, something else entirely is broken.

      1. Or it’s a borrowed/shared cottage, as the one I’m headed to Sunday is, and the next group has a reasonable expectation of coming into a basically clean place.

        1. Or it’s a second home your hostess is living in all summer, and it seems churlish to go away after our week or two weeks and leave her with all our mess.

  24. My husband used to complain that I was taking too long to get ready to go to the beach with the kids. Meanwhile I’m running around like a crazy-person. We fought about it (and we seldom fight).
    So I took a piece of paper and wrote down all the things that needed to get done. (pack diaper bag, find sunscreen, put sunscreen on kids, get towels out from under bed, etc.).

    He was really surprised at how complex the list was. In his mind, the only thing that needed to be done was to get the sand toys out of the basement. And, once I had the list of what needed to happen, he could do one of them. Or more.

    So, first a list of “what chores need to happen” would be a smart idea. It’s a starting point for the conversation about whether they need to happen, and whether they’re even visible to people.

    Then, there’s the idea of making it much more visible how uneven the chores are.

    One suggestion: a bulletin board (or jars, or something) and lots of little pieces of paper. Or a whiteboard w/ columns of people’s names.

    Chore-doers write their name and the task on a piece of paper and stick it up in the section of the bulletin board (or in the jar) reserved for them.

    And pretty soon, people will see how the tasks are piling up on one person. Or, stuff like taking out the trash, or buying all the groceries ahead of time, which can sometimes be invisible, will be more visible as well.

    Then, creating a way to claim tasks might be a way to handle it once people have come to a consensus about the idea that the tasks need to be divided more evenly.

  25. If you get me irritated about stuff like this enough, I’m a big believer in putting people on the spot. I’d think nothing of calling out, “Hey Slacker, since you’ve got your hands free, can you wipe down the counters?” Is Lazybones about to walk out the door? “Hey Lazybones, can you take the trash on your way out?” Is Goof-off heading to town? “Hey Goof-off, as long as your going to town, can you grab the milk and cheese for dinner tonight?”

    Only a total ass is going to say “no” or “I don’t want to” in front of the rest of the group.

    Volunteer, or be volunteered by those of us who get really irritated by the imbalance! Peer pressure is also nice. Are there others complaining about the imbalance? Encourage them to do these call-outs, too, as they come up organically.

    1. Please be careful about dragooning people into things!

      I was once at a three-night event where I got forcefully dragooned/shamed/peer-pressured into washing dishes, even though I have severe dermatitis on my hands, and it made my skin peel off my hands for days.

      (It didn’t help that someone else had filled the sink with scalding hot water, whereas when I have to handwash dishes, I always always use cold water to save my skin, per my dermatologists recommendation. But 99% of the time I use a dishwasher.)

      “Are you ok to wash the dishes?”

      “Is dishwashing something you can do?”

      “Are you up for washing dishes?”

      “I’d like you to do a chore – which chores can you do?”

      “I’d like you to do a chore – which chores are you able to do?”

      is better than coming over and interrupting an intimate conversation between two close friends (who haven’t seen each other for twelve months) with “You ARE washing the dishes right now!!!!!!!”

      1. Well, goodness. I’m not a bully about it. If the person says, “Can’t – I’m allergic” *I’M* not going to be the ass that forces it.

        Any “dragooning” I do is done in a friendly, upbeat tone, not in that of a drill seargent. The point is, I’m verbalizing that, stuff needs to be done, you appear to be in a position to do it, so step up. It’ also gives others in the group the confidence to speak up and reiterate that there’s an imbalance in the division of labor.

        1. “only an asshole would say no” and “I’m sure Dragoon would understand if you REALLY CANT” are incompatible statements. Plus they put the onus on people to disclose why they can’t, when maybe they don’t want to tell you/the whole group about their medical status?

          1. saying “no” is not the same thing as saying (TO FRIENDS YOU ARE VACATIONING WITH!) “I’ve got this rash on my hands, I can’t put my hands in the water. What else can I do?”

            I’m sorry–people have a responsibility to speak up for themselves, and they ought to get smart enough to find something to say that doesn’t reveal their deepest, darkest issues. Especially among friends.

      2. I think there’s a big difference between “can’t” and “won’t”. Whoever put you on the spot like that was being really unkind! I’d never put someone on the spot to do something if I knew it was difficult for them…likewise, if I can’t do something I’m being asked to do (like wash dishes when people were eating food with a certain ingredient, and I’m severely allergic) I’ll say, “I can’t wash those dishes, I’ll get a killer rash from the shrimp oil, but how about if I take out the garbage?”

        Not to speak for Green, but I occasionally find myself vacationing with people who amble into the house when I’m five minutes away from putting a dinner for eight on the table that I cooked completely by myself, who complain about whether the food is ready yet? Because we’re so hungry! And then they start eating before I’ve even sat down, and then they finish, burp, and get up from the table, leaving the dirty plates right where they were sitting for someone else to deal with. And then they get themselves a glass of milk, leave the milk out on the counter, amble out the patio, drink their milk and leave the glass on the patio for someone else to pick up.

        Those are the folks who deserve to be put on the spot once in awhile.

      3. I’m sorry, but that’s really a case of Using Your Words. I’m sure Dragoon will understand “I can’t wash dishes due to my allergies, but I’ll be happy to dry.”

        1. It’s not always that easy, especially for those of us with Anxiety or Social Anxiety.

          In this particular instance, what made it worse, was once I’d been dragged into the kitchen by J, a close friend (B) was already standing in the kitchen, tea towel in hand, and B’s first words to me were “Thank goodness you’re washing up! My skin gets so extremely painful when I have to wash up, because of my eczema!”

          So, maybe I could have said “Well, I can’t wash up either, we’re going to have to go out and find a third person to wash up”, but having been dragged into the kitchen by J, a well-meaning but very forceful force-of-nature type person who doesn’t hear “no” well… it wasn’t possible for me to be assertive.

          And the whole situation could have been avoided if J had said, “Okay, what chores are you able to do today?” or similar.

          1. Well, I mean, the whole situation could have been avoided if you had proactively offered what you could do instead or let people know upfront it wasn’t an option. You’re abdicating a lot of responsibility here and trying to make someone who made a very reasonable request (share in the labor of the household) into a villian. You had a good reason for saying no to but did not speak up nor proactively offer another solution, so it’s really on you here.

          2. I agree. This is on you.

            OK, I get that it “wasn’t possible” for you, but that doesn’t mean other people did something wrong.

  26. An aside: I think it’s interesting that the OP says these two opposing things:

    “I don’t want to make a thing of the gender issue”
    “But I’m really pissed off by the injustice of it, especially given the gender divide.”

    And may I say that I love this, Captain?
    “Ambitious students = all together! Let them experience the novelty of having fellow organized & assertive people working with them, and people who will challenge their ideas.”

    Given that the point of MY education is to ME to learn—in fact, it’s for all of us to learn; it’s not about “being fair” or achieving the end result of the project–the project is only the tool for each student to learn.
    I love that this would give me the education experience that -my own actions- deserve, instead of having me not be able to learn as much because I’m dragging along the un-ambitious.

    And, the medium-ambitious people won’t get shoved aside by my energy (which makes me feel shitty and shuts them out of the learning experience).

    1. It makes sense to not want to bring up gender, though. People like to clap back at that sort of thing with “But [single individual man] does lots of work, so it’s not a gender issue, QED” or “Hello, I’m non-binary, how dare you assign gender roles to this situation?”

      The gap between “there is a gender issue that I can perceive” and “this is a situation where bringing up gender will actually be helpful” can be large.

  27. I do friend vacations like this pretty regularly. Here’s what works for me in large groups that don’t necessarily all live in close proximity and have a very diverse range of skills, cleanliness and budgets:

    – Plan on what meals are going to be eaten out.
    – Count up the rest of the meals. I usually don’t count lunches because breakfast is always late and days are spent adventuring or just grazing on snacks.
    – Each couple picks a meal or two, depending on how the math works. You can also make duos out of the singles or assign them other things like dessert, snacks, or booze.
    – For your meals: you plan it, buy it, cook it, serve it and clean it. This is a nice way to accommodate a range of $$ and ability. Can’t cook? Frozen pizza! Pretty broke? Spaghetti feed it is! Wanna show off? Homemade gnocchi and steak with a farmer’s market salad. It is ALL great. Other people will ask you if you need help. That’s their call and they don’t have to.
    – Everybody grabs their favorite snacks and booze, and unless somebody hides their shit in their room, these things are communal.
    – People on really specialized diets unique to them tend to want to take care of themselves in my experience, but it can be easy to make simple accommodations.
    – Bathrooms get treated like dorm bathrooms–don’t leave any of your stuff there. Same applies for common spaces and personal items that are not in use and not for sharing.
    – When it is check out time, idk how anybody has enough time to police what anybody else is doing, because that shit is frantic. That said, if there is somebody sitting around and you notice a thing that needs to get done, it is easy to use your words and say “Hey, friend, will you sort the recycling and take out the trash?” Specific requests are always better. Whoever made the reservation will probably go down the checkout list and make sure everything got done.

    I have vacationed successfully with people that I’d never even previously met with this system. It works across generations. It’s worked for 10+ years. It’s great!

    P.S. Whoever makes the reservation also gets first pick at rooms. Obviously. 🙂

  28. Person with depression and executive functioning issues here! I have never lived in a cleaner space than when I lived in a 6-person coop house with explicitly assigned chores. We made up a list of weekly chores (things that needed to be done each day got a daily chore — “Monday kitchen clean-cut” and so on) and took turns picking which we wanted to do until all were taken. We also gave each person an “officer” position–there was a treasurer who collected rent and paid bills, a buyer who bought food and common supplies. I was maintenance officer and in charge of DIY projects like changing light bulbs and painting, as well as calling and letting in contractors for bigger stuff.

    This is the only scenario in which I have been able to consistently keep a space clean. I live by myself right now and with a combination of Habitica dailies and paying a friend to come over every couple weeks, am able to maintain a state of “nothing is a bio-hazard, clutter is mostly contained to less-used parts of the apartment.” It’s not what most people would call “clean.” My brain gets overwhelmed by a general statement like “make it cleaner.” I am someone who truly Does Not See Mess, and I will happily do the physical labor of tidying or scrubbing or whatever, but I am a lot more likely to even be aware that needs to be done if the necessary tasks have been identified beforehand, either by my past self who wrote them down somewhere or by someone else.

    The WORST scenario for me is some variation on “try to keep things clean!”–extra bonus if there is guilt or judgement thrown in about how I should “just know” what to do. Yes, it sucks that there is emotional/logistical labor involved in making up a schedule like the Captain suggested. But I think that should be considered part of the work of planning the cottage vacation, and maybe could be given to a different person than whoever is booking the cottage and planning activities. Either that planning work is done at the outset, in a transparent way such that everyone can see and agree on it, or it has to be done separately by each person who takes on some responsibility for cleaning, in an unnegotiated way that leads to disagreements and disappointment and resentment.

  29. A couple of thoughts:
    – Set time limits for clearing up. E.g. all breakfast/lunch/snack stuff needs to be cleared away by 6pm for people cooking dinner. If you are on wash up duty, 9pm is the cut off.
    – If you are cooking and thus not cleaning, get out of the kitchen. Go into the lounge/your room/outside, read a book, have a drink whatever. Leave people to their work.
    – YMMV on this one but … this kind of thing comes better from men in my experience. That is really sexist and unfair but also my experience. Women are the uptight bitchy mum/food tech teacher nagging you verses reasonable chilled men who want to cook some manly steak on a clean surface. I know this is a very gender binary way of looking at it, but IF you think this plays a role, then maybe consider getting one of the clean/organised men to play mean control freak.
    – As others have suggested, I’d also suggest asking what kind of holiday people want to have, especially if this has been a long ongoing thing.

    1. Ugh, yeah. I once had a professor who wanted a chore rota for basic cleaning task in the research lab.

      He kept asking me, the only woman, to make this happen and somehow get the big pile o’ dudes to comply.

      I kept steadfastly not doing it.

      There was *some* logic to the prof asking me — he had asked a couple of different guys to do this in the past, but it had never stuck long-term. He knew I had experience with managing a large crew of volunteer labor, so he figured I could make this happen.

      He was right in that I could do it, but no way in hell was I taking on the mommy role of coaching grown men to clean up after themselves. Or, at least not for less than $500/hour billable in 4 hour increments with a 4 hour monthly retainer.

  30. As a person who only ever holidays by her ownself, all of this discussion is boggling the heck out of my mind. Congratulations to all of you for living through any of it! 🙂

  31. My friend group and I also do the “run away to the mountains for a long weekend” thing – EVERYTHING (e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.) is planned in an excel sheet in google docs and on a private FB group. I cannot recommend this highly enough. The person who owns the cabin (well, her grandma owns it, but) makes a rough outline of what we’re going to eat over the weekend, we compile a grocery list, a separate column for snacks we’ll need when high, a list of what we’re bringing (we’re talking from “chef’s knife” to “leftover cookies” to “floaties for the lake”), a general timeline of activities… everything. It’s almost embarrassing how meticulously this weekend is planned, but it does help reduce stress once we get there.

    We also have two spotify playlists that we can all add stuff to, so we have weekend soundtracks. I recommend this as well.

  32. Our OP wrote: “And as a friend, I also think my heterosexual male friends are much more likely to have happy romantic relationships if they learn how to divide labour more equitably.”

    I don’t think this is her problem.

    I wanted to bring up the idea of dividing up the chores equally BY COUPLES.

    So the OP and her partner get the same division of chores, and if they split them between themselves, then each of them is doing less work.

    If other people want to pick up the slack for their partner, that’s on them.

    1. Agree with this, if most folks are coupled. Singles get assigned half the labor of couples. As a bonus, if these trips someday involve kids, the system will adapt easily. We’ve been doing similar trips with a group of five couples for six years now. Three of the couples now have kids. Anytime that one half of a couple is doing chores, the other half is almost certainly watching that couple’s kids. Much easier to negotiate that division of labor within the couple, which probably already has a preferred system, than to dictate it externally.

      I would also suggest rethinking the cooking/cleaning division. Assign one night to each couple (singles can get grouped in pairs or triples). That unit is responsible for cooking and cleaning for the night. They can choose to do something fancy, and deal with the resulting cleanup. They can choose a one-pot meal with minimal prep to minimize work. Heck, they can order pizza and bring paper plates if they want. The point is that they are responsible for feeding everyone and returning the kitchen/dining room to a usable state. Each couple/pair has one night for the week that they know they have to buckle down and work, and can relax the rest of the night. If it’s a 7-day trip, round out the extra days by having everyone fend for themselves the first night and doing one night of eating out at a restaurant, or of finishing off leftovers.

      Side note: I do almost all of the organizing to set up these vacations. I don’t mind, I enjoy planning, but it’s a significant amount of time to coordinate schedules, research rental options, deal with the bookings, collect the money, etc. In return, our group has an understanding that I don’t do much housework while we are there. My husband and I do the cooking/cleaning for one night, but I don’t load the dishwasher after breakfast, etc. I really, really appreciate my friends’ attitude on this, and it’s a big part of why I’m willing to keep doing the organizational work most years.

        1. Agreed. Instead of having couple/group chores, why not just assign everyone a fairly-divided amount of chores, with wth proviso that they may swap with anyone who agrees to do it. They may pay another person to do their chores. They may trade favors with another person to do their chores. If they are part of a couple, they’d probably do that, anyway. If not, they may have to hustle a bit, but they can find someone to help them do the stuff they don’t want to do, or just suck it up and do it themselves.

          As for the system working the same way, once kids come along, I think you should simply incorporate each child into the list, based on their abilities and age, as individuals.

          Even if everyone on the trip is coupled, they are still individuals, and should be treated as such. Assigned to groups for certain chores that lend themselves to group-work, should not be done based on romantic relationships, but on who can do the job best and/or who likes it most/least. Couples live together all the time. They should have the opportunity to mix it up with other people, when it comes to shared chores.

          1. I mean, obviously each group should do what’s comfortable for them. For the group I vacation with, it’s MUCH easier to assign work by couples, for two reasons. First, those of us with kids have a lot of work that is inherently ours as a couple, so it’s easier to integrate chores into our childcare obligations if those are also done by couple. Second, it means that I don’t have to get into other couples’ divisions of labor. We have friends, a het couple, where the guy does almost all of the housework. I don’t want to spend my vacation insisting that the woman do her fair share – I’m sure they have their reasons – I just want to not have to do more than my fair share. Splitting it by couple means that they can continue in this division of labor while on vacation and I don’t have to think about it. Splitting it by person and pairing the woman with someone else is going to lead to exactly the nagging that I would like to avoid while on vacation.

          2. There are a lot of different options. I think this is another example of the importance of “Know Your Audience.”

            For some groups, individual duties would be better. For others, couples. For others, family groupings, and for others, just pitching into a kitty and hiring someone else to do the lot.

  33. As a member of Team Dirtbag (ie, somebody who doesn’t always recognize all the work responsible for keeping a place clean), I appreciate it when there’s a duty roster for group outings. That way, I don’t unintentionally aggravate people by leaving undone something I didn’t realize needed doing in the first place. (As making this list is work, remember to include “Make a duty roster” on there!)

    I’d suggest writing an email to everybody, saying that I was making a duty roster, and asking what people want to make sure is covered. If it’s phrased as a foregone conclusion (“I’m making this”) instead of a suggestion (“Should we make one?”), there will be less pushback on why it’s necessary.
    – If somebody does ask why, “I want to make sure that I’m doing my fair share of the work” is technically true, as you don’t want to do *more* than your fair share).
    – If somebody asks for chore preferences, don’t heed them, but tell them they can trade duties once the list is complete. Otherwise, people who don’t say what they want tend to get given only the less-fun duties.

    I’d personally lean against the teams-per-task-per-day approach – if nothing else, there’s going to be a lot more cleaning the last day, as everybody’s preparing to leave, and not every chore needs to be done every day. (Again, Team Dirtbag here, so while that’s the case for me, it’s not necessarily the case for everybody).

  34. I can attest the Captain’s advice has worked well for us. I’m in a music group of about 16 people, and once a year, we travel to a cabin for 3 days as a combo work/practice/fun/bonding. We ALWAYS plan in advance which team of people is responsible for which meals. Usually 3 people per meal which includes planning, shopping, cooking, and clean-up. We have a running list of what items need to be brought (sponges, antibacterial wipes, etc) and assign people to bring them. Other chores are outlined and assigned as well, keeping it to a minimum (we are there to make music and have fun).

    I see some comments about not wanting to vacation with the Regime of Chores, which I totally understand. I’m solidly in the “do as little as possible, I don’t care if there’s clutter everywhere I’M ON VACATION” camp. But what actually happens is that when it’s planned out in advance, you know what to expect, and YOU DON’T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT. Like, I know Saturday afternoon and evening won’t be as fun because I have to help cook and then clean up after dinner. But Sunday I’m both task-free and guilt-free because I know I’ve done my fair share and can enjoy relaxing.

  35. I agree with lots of other folks that you should consider how much you can pay more for less hassle – whether that’s a hotel instead of a cabin, or frozen pizzas instead of home-cooked dinners. But those fixes leave you with even more planning and logistical work before the trip starts.

    The benefit for doing the work has to be more control over the outcome.

    The person who finds and books the place to stay definitely gets their pick of bedrooms. But it’s more than that.
    Do you want somewhere dog-friendly, or a pet-free trip? The place with the hot tub or the one with the fireplace? More quiet and privacy at the edge of town, or easier access in a central location? If you’re doing the leg work, you get to make those trade-offs. You need consensus on a budget and general area, but the person doing the work gets to decide the details.
    Same with the meals. Obviously we want to respect your friend’s allergies/kosher/vegan, etc. needs, but if someone just doesn’t like the taste of mushrooms, they can either pick them off the pizza or step up and organize that meal themselves.

    This kind of take-it-or-leave it attitude gets to be a problem in a long-term living situation, but for a holiday, it’s okay to just meet other people’s basic needs and then focus on your wants and preferences.

  36. “The people who need to be told never actually think it applies to them, and the people who don’t need to be told resent being told.”

    So very true!

    My husband and I are actually renting a cabin for a long weekend with several of our college friends and their spouses and kids in a few weeks. It’s going to be 8 adults and 4 kids between the ages of 6 weeks and 7 years. I’ll be really interested to see how all this plays out. What we’re doing for food is that each household is taking charge of a meal or two and then other meals will be easy stuff like sandwiches, cereal, cheese and fruit, etc with everyone fending for themselves. Each household is supposed to bring the stuff they’ll be cooking plus a reasonable share of snacks and easy food.

    Because I like planning, I’ve been the Designated Control Freak for most of the trip: finding and reserving the cabin, getting the head count, suggesting the meal system, listing all the food I plan to bring as an example (sandwich stuff for me for a week = sandwich stuff for the group for a meal!), coming up with activities for adults and kids for good weather and rain, suggesting ways to handle the kid watching that will still let the parents participate in activities that aren’t kid compatible.

    But organizing chores, not my thing! I’ll clean up after myself and volunteer to do dishes once after someone else’s cooking shift. Beyond that, someone who cares more can figure it out! (Though of course I’ll cooperate if someone does come up with a system). This also might be a more workable attitude when it’s only 4 days and 3 nights total.

  37. What we did was when there was like 5 families (couples/groups) is that each group had a day where they were completely responsible for the meals. They had to plan, buy, cook and cleanup everything. What happened is that people would pitch in…so if you did your day first, you could see if people pitched in. If so, you could help them. If not, then you could lounge guilt free.

    For end of vacation cleanup, tell everyone they should chip in for a cleaning person.

    1. I tried this in a roommate situation, once, but the problem of staples (flour, sugar, milk) and bulk items became problematic. If everyone shops only for their assigned meals, then you have lots of tiny (more expensive per ounce) bags of flour stashed away in each person’s cupboard, and then going bad, because they only needed two tablespoons out of the bag.

      What happened there was that I bought a bunch of bulk staples, and just let everyone use it. I paid for it, and it was “mine,” but when my roommates wanted to bake cookies, they used the flour and sugar. We all ate the cookies.

      Looking back, that wasn’t fair to me, either, but at least the staples were organized.

      Perhaps, for a one-week vacation, some pre-planning of the meals could be done, and everyone could contribute to the grocery fund, equally, and the groceries would be bought, according to the list, from that fund. Everyone eats together, and shares the food, as well as the expense, and there’s a lot less waste.

      1. My daughter’s college house had that “you have everything for your supper” plan, but they split all the food evenly, even staples.
        They were able to discuss how much money they were willing to spend; some folks wanted to plan simple & cheap meals, and one guy was the fancy cook, so there was a reasonable per-meal average, and none of them were so broke they couldn’t handle it.

        1. I lived in a house one summer, and the way it worked there was, there was a calendar and you checked off which meals you ate at home, and you contributed all your grocery receipts, and once a month the house leader added them all up, divided the total by the number of total meals eaten by the household to come up with a per-meal charge, you were billed that much for meals, and then subtracted how much you’d spent for groceries. It was a lot of figuring out for him, but he’d come up with it himself and it worked reasonably well and avoided the five one-pound-bags-of-flour problem.

  38. On the question of “does this chore need to be done” marriagebuilders.com has a great method: Step 1: Identify your household responsibilities.

    First, make a list of all of your household responsibilities including child care. The list should (1) name each responsibility, (2) briefly describe what must be done, and when, to accomplish it, (3) name the spouse that wants it accomplished and (4) how important is it to that spouse (use a scale from 1-5, with 1 least important and 5 most important).

    Both spouses should work on this list, and it will take several days to cover the bases. You will add items each day as you find yourself accomplishing various tasks or wanting them accomplished.

    Each time a task is added to the list and the work described, the spouse wanting it done must be named. Of course, many of the tasks will be mutually desired, such as diapering the baby. In that case the names of both spouses should accompany the item with the importance rating by both spouses. But you will probably find that many tasks will be the concern of only one spouse.

    Examples of items on the list are as follows:

    Washing the breakfast dishes; every morning clearing off the breakfast table, washing, drying and putting away all the breakfast dishes and utensils that went into preparing breakfast; Becky (4); John (2).
    Feeding the cat; at 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m put cat food and water in the cat’s dishes; John (5).

    When you have finished your list, both of you should be satisfied that it includes all of the housekeeping and child care responsibilities that you share. You may have as many as 100 items listed. Just this part of the exercise alone will help you understand what you’re up against with regard to the work that you feel must be done.

    Step 2: Assume responsibility for items that you would enjoy doing or prefer doing yourself.

    Make a second copy of your final list, so that both you and your spouse can have your own copy. Then, independently of each other, put your own name in front of each item that you would like to do yourself. These are tasks that you would enjoy doing, don’t mind doing, or want to do yourself so they can be done a certain way.

    When you compare your two lists, if both you and your spouse have named the same items, you can either take turns doing them, or arbitrarily divide them between the two of you. But you must approve each other’s selections before they become your responsibilities. If one of you does not feel that the other will perform the task well enough, you can give each other a trial period to demonstrate competence. Once you have taken responsibility for an item, your spouse should be able to hold you accountable for doing it according to their expectations.

    Begin two new lists of household responsibilities, one representing the husband’s responsibilities, and the other, the wife’s. Items from the original list that have been selected by a spouse and mutually agreed to as a responsibility, should be written on these new lists, and taken off the original list.

    Now you have three lists. (1) the husband’s list of responsibilities, (2) the wife’s list of responsibilities and (3) the list of household responsibilities that are not yet assigned.

    Step 3: Assign the remaining responsibilities to the one wanting each done the most.

    Assuming that all tasks you would not mind doing have been eliminated, we are left with those that would be unpleasant for either of you to perform. These are items that neither of you want to do, but at least one of you thinks should be done.

    These unpleasant responsibilities should be assigned to the person who wants them done. If both of you want something done, the one giving it the highest value should take responsibility for doing it.

    If you think that this is unfair, consider for a moment why you want the other person to do these tasks for you. Even though you are the one who wants them done, you want the other person to relieve you of the pain you suffer when you do them. It other words, you want to gain at your spouse’s expense.

    You may argue that what you want is really not for you, but for the children. In that argument, you imply that your spouse is so uncaring and insensitive that he or she doesn’t even know, or doesn’t care, what’s best for the children. If that’s your argument, you are making a disrespectful judgment. You are assuming that your view of the situation is superior to that of your spouse. Disrespectful judgments is a Love Buster, and whenever you try to impose your way of thinking on your spouse, you will withdraw love units for sure. And you won’t win the argument.

    When you insist that your spouse care for the children’s needs the way you perceive them, you are making a selfish demand. You are not only trying to impose your perspective on your spouse, but you are also trying to force your spouse to do something that he or she will find unpleasant. Selfish demands is another Love Buster that will withdraw love units every time.

    After seeing my solution to the domestic responsibility problem, you may not be entirely happy with my approach. You probably feel that something’s missing. Well, there is something missing, but it can only be added when you reach this stage in your effort to divide household responsibilities fairly.

    Step 4: Learn to help each other with your household responsibilities enthusiastically.

    Up to this point, the assignment of household responsibilities is fair. You are dividing responsibilities according to willingness and according to who benefits most with their accomplishment. But marriage takes you one step further. In marriage, you do things for each other because you care about each other’s feelings, not just because you want them done yourself.

    You may not be willing to take responsibility for a certain task because, quite frankly, you don’t think it needs to be done. But if your spouse thinks it needs to be done, you will sometimes help him or her with it because you care for your spouse.

    Let’s suppose that you have been assigned cooking dinner because you wanted dinner more than your spouse wanted it. You hate cooking dinner, but you want it done, so you have to do it. Then, one day, your spouse comes into the kitchen and tells you to take a day off. Your spouse will do it for you today. Do you know what will happen? Love units will be deposited. Big time! Your spouse takes the burden of cooking off your shoulders for one day.

    Does that mean that your spouse is now in charge of dinner? Not at all. It simply means that he or she is willing to help alleviate your burden once in a while. But if your spouse loved you enough, wouldn’t he or she want to take charge of dinner? Wouldn’t your spouse want to spare you the pain of it all? Well, it might be tempting to do just that. But if your spouse did, it would withdraw love units from the Love Bank, and could cause your spouse to lose his or her love for you.

    The one wanting something done the most will lose the fewest love units doing it themselves. After all, they are doing it for themselves. It’s much more painful to do something unpleasant when you don’t even value what you’re doing.

    But there are many ways to get things done, and you may not have considered the best possibilities. You and your spouse should discuss how burdensome responsibilities can be accomplished in ways that are not so burdensome. Maybe one of you would not mind doing one part of dinner preparation, and the other would not mind doing another part. Or maybe you would agree that going out to dinner is the ultimate solution to the problem.

    Those items left on your list of responsibilities that are unpleasant to perform should be regularly discussed. Brainstorm all kinds of alternatives that might get the job done without either of you suffering.

    There are certain household tasks that are so unpleasant for both spouses that hiring someone to do it is a reasonable alternative, especially when both spouses work full-time. Hiring a housekeeper once a week to do only the most unpleasant cleaning chores is money well spent. The same thing can be true of maintaining the yard. Having someone mow and trim the lawn can turn a burdensome Saturday into an opportunity to enjoy the day with the family.

    On a related subject, be sure that you do not assign your children tasks that both you and your spouse find too unpleasant to shoulder. It doesn’t build character to give your kids jobs that you hate to do, it builds resentment. If you want your children to help around the house, have them choose tasks from your list of household responsibilities that they would enjoy doing. Make lists for them, as well as for you and your spouse. There will be plenty to keep them busy.

    To summarize my solution to the division of household responsibilities, the Policy of Joint Agreement should be your guide. Assume household responsibilities that you enthusiastically accept. And then, when you help each other with those unpleasant tasks that are left, only help if you can do it enthusiastically.

    By following this policy, you may decide to change your attitude about some of the responsibilities on your list. When you know that the only way to do something is to do it yourself, you may decide that it doesn’t need to be done, after all. In fact, you may find that what kept you convinced of it’s importance, was the notion that your spouse was supposed to do it.


    1. I see how this could work well for some people, but I have seen a lot of situations where one partner in the relationships didn’t care at all about cleanliness and the other person did, and “well if you’re the one who wants it done, you should do it.” That makes sense if the chore in question is alphabetizing the cookbooks. It does NOT make sense at all if one person thinks “cleaning the bathroom” and “emptying the littler box” and “taking out the trash once it starts to overfill” are important chores that need doing and the other person is fine if they don’t happen because they don’t mind living in filth. I have had close friends who lived through this exact situation (two of them are no longer married).

      Women are much more often socialized to care about cleanliness and any system that bases chore division on “who cares more” is only going to extend that into an unequal division of chores.

      Also that article needs to be updated to reflect the fact that a discussions between spouses is not always a husband and wife.

      1. Yeah… I can see where the writers made an effort (that whole “maybe you really only care if your spouse does it” bit) but in practice, I suspect this system would just provide massive ammo for those who deliberately want to do no chores. Even someone who, due to gendered socialization around chores, or maybe different circumstances like “I never had a yard I legit don’t know how to yard”, would end up off the hook for chores they don’t know need doing under this system.

        1. Also, they didn’t take TIME into consideration.

          No matter how much each partner wants to do what, if the division of chores is such that Person A has five hours of free time a week, and Person B has 30 minutes, because the rest is spent doing chores because “Person B cares about it more,” then it’s just going to suck all the love out of that relationship. Being over-tired and stressed, while watching your partner sit around not caring will do that.

          This is a good base to build on, but it’s like the foundation of a house. You still need walls and a roof.

          1. That’s the goal. I do like the list of everything that needs to be done, and the idea of seeing who cares about it most, as well as who likes what job (some chores are fun!) and who dislikes what job.

            For example, I’ll happily do all the mending, but please do not ask me to mow a lawn ever, ever again.

            The goal is to get all the necessary work done, in a way that is equitable, and that allows everyone to have the same amount of free time and energy left over. The HOW of sorting that out is really rather complex, and is going to vary by family group. I don’t like the idea of forcing anyone to do something they just absolutely hate, if someone else hates it less, even if they *do* care about it most. That’s like saying to a pregnant woman, “You wanted the cat! YOU clean the litter box!”

            There are a whole lot more variables than this guy is putting forth.

            But the base of making the list in the first place, and doing the rankings is a good start.

            I think I was not clear on that, in my comment.

      2. So much this. I was thinking about people who have been mentioned on this blog and the cat piss on bath mat, once-a-week-litterbox, decapitated mouse, broken glass, and week-old dishes: a discussion of ‘who thinks this needs to be added’ works only when both people have the same cleanliness standards.

        I also could not help but wonder whether the guy who doesn’t think cooking dinner is important eats restaurant lunches with his colleagues, while his wife would like one hot meal every day for herself and the kids…

        I feel that in a relationship one should consider ‘how do I make this pleasant for my partner; what do they need’ and *volunteer* for some of it, even if one doesn’t like it – making a home better for both partners is… just common courtesy, I suppose?

    2. Yeah, this is a big ol’ pile of nope. Marriagebuilders has some good concepts, but falls down on being outdated. It’s been a gendered pattern in American society for 40 years that men who don’t want to do their share of housework just decide not to “care”, and then insist that since they don’t “care”, they’re exempt.

      What they’re really saying is that their wives do not have a right to a comfortable and clean home. Fuck that shit. And then they wonder why women initiate most of the divorces.

      1. I think that’s where the “helping with enthusiasm” thing comes in. They still get to say they don’t care, but “See how much I Love you? I’m helping you do a thing you care about, even though I don’t care about it.”

        So, they get love points or cookies, or whatever you want to call it, just for helping to balance the load. A bit. Sporadically, on specific chores. If they feel like it in the moment and can actually do it “with enthusiasm.”

        Shucks, if you’re already enthused about it, why would you need a cookie?

        1. I still call bullshit. I’m not going to love someone for the basic decency of not fucking up my home and not leaving messes all over shared spaces. They don’t get positive points for that, only negative points for choosing not do.

          And that is a perfect example of why marriagebuilders falls down and is too outdated to work. It seriously sets men up to believe that doing the bare minimum to be a decent human being, like not fucking up someone else’s home, is this great thing worthy of love — and stupid entitled expectations like that are a huge part of why the divorce rate is so high.

    3. This is good, but I was disturbed by the complete lack of addressing any possibility that either spouse might not be physically able to do any particular task. It was all about “unpleasantness,” or “not minding it” or “wanting it to be done a certain way.” Nothing about skill sets or physical limitations, even when it came to children’s chores.

      If you go this route, please take ability into account.

    4. Yeah, no. This would end up with me doing all the cooking, dishes, lawn mowing, loo cleaning and shower cleaning, because I care more about eating veges instead of toast AND I care about having the dishes done daily, whereas he’s prepared to do them every 3 days, AND I care about cleaning the bathroom about 6 times as often as he does AND I care about keeping the lawn mowed. On the other hand, he cares about filing the paperwork and vacuuming far more than I do. This system wouldn’t work because the list of things I care about takes far longer than his list. Plus I’m the only one earning, so he’s got more time than me.

      He’s low on spoons, so my current solution is that I’ve let my standards slip and he does the dishes and laundry as well as the stuff he cares about, even though he does the dishes much less often than I would. Even so, there’s been several times that the imbalance has got to me nearly enough to break our marriage up.

      1. The other problem with some (especially “traditional” or stereotypical) chore divisions is that one party can end up with chores that HAVE to be done at a specific time, and repeat themselves (dishes, laundry, cooking), while the other ends up with chores that can be done at the doer’s discretion in terms of timing, etc.

        And that’s a load!

      1. It sounds like one, doesn’t it?

        Marriagebuilders has a lot to it that is inherently problematic. One of their big sales pitches has been that one person absolutely CAN save a marriage that’s in trouble — this line is how they hook women in. What they don’t tell you is that one person can save a marriage that’s in trouble if that one is the person who has been fucking everything up and they choose to clean up their act. So if you’re thinking of leaving your husband because he’s a crappy partner, marriagebuilders will not help you; it will only delay you getting the help you need.

        Their hook that gets men is that they define “sexual fulfillment” as an “emotional need” that some partners have that must be met for the marriage to survive. That attracts a population of abusive dudes who then constantly insist that their wives are not meeting this, and keep moving the goalposts. They refuse to improve themselves on the ground that they just can’t love their wives until their wives start meeting this “emotional need”, but no matter what their wives do, the dudes just come up with some other sex act to demand. It’s horrifying stuff. These guys focus hard on sexual acts that their wives hate, and use Marriagebuilders as a cudgel to beat them into compliance.

    5. I think I prefer the system some friends of mine used, where they put together a list of household chores and amount of time involved; ranked them from 1-4 on a scale from “if I have to” to “would like to do this,” and then selected/divided things based on some combination of time involved and who would dislike them less. That means if everyone agrees the toilets need cleaning and the rugs need vacuuming, but both people hate it, one would wind up with each, and “but you like meal planning” doesn’t mean it stops counting. Disclaimer: I heard about this after they’d set it up when moving in together, so I don’t know the fine points of the negotiation, or how they allowed for the “X can’t do this task for physical reasons” issues.

      This one doesn’t start with the assumption that if one person rates 12 hours a week of stuff as more important, and the other person rates 4 hours as more important, person A should be doing three times as much. Or that the person who does more should be grateful for a week when they only wind up doing eleven hours to the other person’s five. That “love bank” idea feels a little too much like “you should get a cookie for doing a whole one-third of the household chores, while your spouse’s two-thirds is taken for granted.

      Disclaimer the second: my spouse and I didn’t do anything nearly as organised, just “I’ll do the dishes if you’ll do the laundry” and “you insist on having cats, therefore you clean the litterbox, and I’ll take primary responsibility for other trash.”

  39. Hi LW – my family actually does chore assignments, after years of women-centric work and cooking. It’s helped a LOT. Everything is divided up, from food that’s brought to setting up and taking down meals and cleaning afterwards. People who aren’t good at cooking can sign up to bring wine, cheese, bread, etc. Beware though – the main shirkers can and do find ways to work less or “forget,” so wranglers can be necessary.

  40. Any tips on communicating with people who, all year round, will say “what? that’s clean!” when you hold up something with 90% of the dirt wiped off? (buying a dishwasher helped, but I can’t put the whole house in there)

    1. It’s a vacation. Unless that remaining 10% is going to kill somebody (it won’t) just forget about it.

      1. that’s why I specified “all year round”.

        maybe that’s off-topic for this post though?

      2. I think it’s ultimately a question of compatibility, though. There’s a level of mess that some people can achieve that will 100% ruin my vacation, and when it gets to that point, I can’t let it go – even if it won’t kill someone, it’s disgusting to me – and it ruins my holiday. When I cross that line, it’s time to start actively planning ways to never go on vacation with that specific set of people again.

    2. I can’t help with all year round, but on vacation: paper plates, paper cups, plastic cutlery, disposable cookware. It’s the only way I can handle sharing a space with certain relatives who insist on washing dishes but are too lazy to use soap.

      1. yeah… I actually have a stash of disposable cutlery etc. at home from the pre-dishwasher days. it comes in handy for parties, too!

        1. My family decided years ago to do this for all our parties/holidays. Thanksgiving? Christmas? No, we will not be breaking out the fancy china dishes. We will be using the disposable dishes, and making clean-up as easy as possible, so that nobody feels put-upon to clean up, and everyone can just enjoy the day.

          We also cut out decorating.

          And you know what? Our low-bar expectations make for really fun, enjoyable get-togethers, that can be arranged really quickly and are low-stress. It won’t work for everyone, but it works for us.

          Although there is definitely something to be said about maintaining high expectations, there is also something to be said about lowering them. It all boils down to finding what really matters to you, and making that your priority. If dishes matter to you, then you find a way to use them, and clean them. If free time matters to you, then you skimp on the dishes, and maybe order take-out.

          1. When I was a kid, we always went to a cousin’s house for Christmas with the extended family. (The only house that would fit everyone.) For YEARS, the adult women and older teenaged girls got stuck cleaning up the wrapping paper from a gift exchange for 25-40 people. When I was about 14, one of my cousins started a new tradition. Before a single gift was distributed, we passed around trash bags – about 1 for every 2-3 people. Everyone bagged their wrapping paper as they went – and with so many people doing it and noticing who didn’t, the people who would have left it for others had no cover for slacking. Then it was just a matter of taking out the bags, and the cousins organizing this would call out specific people, “Uncle So-and-So, grab a bag, let’s take these out.” It worked like a charm from the first year and then got rolled into the family traditions after that.

    3. IF you live with these people, and you can’t stand the 10% mess, I would recommend adjusting your budget to free up some money for a cleaning service, even if it’s just hiring a local kid to come in and help clean every now and then.

      If you don’t live with them, but visit often, I’d recommend recommending more outside activities.

  41. I’ve seen a lot of suggestions to divide the group into separate lodging or go with a different venue that includes housekeeping. Another option (if you don’t want to switch to an inclusive venue) would be to hire a local cleaning person to come in during the day while you are out for the day’s activity and divide the cost. The venue owner/manager may even have recommendations.

  42. I second using Google docs – I use this at work for events that we need staff to volunteer for. I do an Excel sheet with every “chore” (task) and when it needs to be done or done by, and email it out to everyone. Names have to be put on there until it’s full, and if it’s not full by my deadline, I get to voluntell people what they’re doing. And because everyone can see who has signed up, it gently shames people who don’t sign up for stuff to put their names on there. This is a pretty low-labor thing to do as the organizer.

    The other thing I will gently suggest is that while this sounds like a fun and awesome vacation, wrangling 10 people is a lot. I wonder if you’d have a better and more relaxing time with the 5 people that kind of jibe with your vacationing style? I am a planner by personality AND by profession, and 99% of the time I don’t mind planning holidays with my friends, BUT I have learned that there are some people I’ve just not Holiday Compatible with (mostly those who expect me to plan an entire holiday, don’t give me any input, and then bellyache about it and/or make me miss events that the holiday was planned around).

    Now, I mostly plan holidays that include things I want to do, and invite friends to come along with me. Some friends are just less stressful to holiday with than others, so those are mostly the ones I holiday with.

    1. I’ve done this style of sign up sheet for things like potluck meals, so you end up with an appropriate mix of mains, sides, desserts, beverages and supplies (ice, picnicware, etc.) It works really well.

  43. Alternative suggestion if LW finds it useful: maybe instead of one large house, the group could stay in a place that has a few little rooms/bungalows close together? That way they could still spend as much time together as they wanted, but would only be responsible for their little bungalow they shared with their partner (or chosen friend).

    Because as great as Captain’s suggested chore schedule is, I’m fairly sure that there will still be days when the assigned people just don’t do what they are asked, and then the next day’s team will have to pick up their slack and end up resentful. But maybe I’m too cynical lol. 😉

  44. The Captain’s advice is great! I have only one piece to add:

    For those who, for whatever reason, just can’t get it together at the time, please add an option for them to pay someone else (on a strictly volunteer basis, of course) to do their chores. Either they can hire a cook/cleaner from the outside to come in, or they can pay one of their holiday-mates to take on extra (which means one of them can get some extra spending money, in exchange for some brief labor).

    Why would you add an option to let someone off scott-free? Well, for one, it’s not scott-free. They have to pay for it. For another, sometimes, people just are not up to chores of any sort. I have good days and bad days. On a good day, I can do chores, but on a bad day, it’s all I can do to get out of bed. Add in the “I’m on holiday” dynamic to a bad day, and yeah, I’d want to pay someone to take care of that, for me.

    The work still gets done, without resentment, and everyone has to contribute, either in effort or in money (which takes effort to get, unless you just inherited it or won the lottery). You could consider the money to be “pre-work,” which was done in advance of the holiday, and the money merely representative of that.

    Now, do not fall into the trap of letting someone pay for all of the groceries or all the meals, or some such, in exchange for no chores. That way lies an “I paid for this, so you have to do what I say” attitude. No, it should be a specific amount for a specific chore, negotiated between the two people involved.

    Also, kudos to you for considering the planning/emotional labor, as well. Make sure that is LISTED, whether this work happens before the holiday or during, because it is a lot of work that non-planners and non-emotional laborers just do not understand, until they do it, themselves.

  45. What would you suggest for my situation, where I’m one of the people not pulling their weight? I’m a serious introvert, and have some sort of sensory processing disorder to boot, so on these sorts of group vacations it’s all I can do to make it through maybe 2/3rds of the socializing before I have to retreat to solitude. It’s so much stimulation that if I don’t get my alone time, I will actually have a breakdown. For my energy level, we’d be making sandwiches on paper towels and that would be it, but the other group members insist on cooking a full meal….and washing the dishes….and I just can’t. I’d prefer not to come along on these sorts of vacations because their approach and my approach* are not compatible and never will be, but my husband drags me along.

    *Going camping with someone else who is a serious introvert and also has sensory processing problems. We had the chores stripped down to the bare minimum. Five minutes to get the tent up, 15 minutes for sandwiches on paper towels, then blissful politely-tuning-out-the-other-person time.

    1. I outlined this in a comment above, but I think the approach where each person/couple “owns” one night of dinner and cleaning would work well for you. If your friends will go along with it, you can bring paper plates and utensils, and make something super simple for your night. What they do on their nights is up to them. There’s probably a minimum bar so that they don’t feel taken advantage of, but deliciousness can be created with very little work. If you can handle boiling some prepackaged tortellini and serving with jarred pesto, that would be plenty for me and my friends!

    2. I feel you, being a serious introvert myself.

      It really just sounds like these types of vacations are Not Your Bag. I have very little opportunity to take vacation throughout the year, and my vacation time is precious, and I don’t consider stuff like visiting family to be a vacation, because it’s stressful and (mostly) not fun.

      Maybe it’s time to have a conversation with your husband about what you can and can’t deal with. Cut down on the number of these vacations per year? Could you maybe find a nearby hotel or town and stay there and meet up during the day, instead of camping the entire time? Or find some other similar compromise?

    3. Think about what you could do in solitude. Maybe you wash dishes by yourself at night. Maybe after group lunch is over, everybody leaves the kitchen to you, and you can tidy, etc., with NO ONE around.

      Then speak to your crew and say, “I need decompression time–how can we combine that with chores so I’m being helpful?”


    4. My suggestion would be to talk to your husband about not bringing you along? Though I’m not a serious introvert, I’m introverted enough that a week, off work, alone with my cats (and my things) is a WONDERFUL vacation. Find your version of a script that says, “I want you to go, have a great time, and tell me all about it when you get back. In the meantime, I’ll be in Introvert Paradise™ here at home!” If there’s some sort of obligation to show up, you can arrange a Skype call (or other video-chatting service) during the week, so you can see and say hi to everybody else (and they can see and say hi to you).

      If you knew your husband wouldn’t be up for your camping plans, and there were other options available that he’d enjoy better, you wouldn’t want him to come along and be miserable, no? It’d also dampen your enjoyment, knowing he wasn’t happy about it. So why not let him have the chance to do the same for you?

      It can be awkward to bow out of expected group trips, but it’s worth it in the long run, for your own well-being, if for nothing else. Voice of experience here – I didn’t realize how much stress and anxiety an unwanted group trip was causing me, until I sent my regrets and was freed from it.

      (And if you can’t back out, and have to go along, talk with your husband first about the chore obligations – that if he wants his Innnnntrovert to come home happy and relaxed, he’s going to have to pick up your slack. It’s his price to pay for your participation, and you’ve given him an alternative if he doesn’t want to do it.)

  46. The last line of LW’s screed really struck me, because I have and have had friends who lived in Goddamn fucking pits of Hell, not to put too fine a point on it. I have a buddy right now who currently lolls in a level of filth that would have a reality show doing an intervention and he’s depressed about not being able to get a serious girl/boyfriend. Granted, this is mostly because he dates High Maintenance Drama People, but IT IS SO HARD not to blurt out “did you bring them here? To this house? With garbage stacked against the walls, week old crusty dishes piled on the sofa, and a ring of God only knows what growing in the toilet?”

    It’s definitely high on the list of Advice That Cannot Be Given But Oh How I Wish I Could.

  47. Now that group-division stuff is true wisdom! Captain Awkward: Life Advice that Is Transferable Everywhere.

  48. I try not to pull this out too often, but this is one of those situations where you don’t have a *problem*, as such, you have a choice of solutions, none of which entirely please you:

    1) Do nothing new, pick up the slack as before.
    2) Stop picking up the slack, deal with the outcome (wallowing in filth, possible deposit issues)
    3) Stop going on the trip every year.
    4) Have the conflict.

    You get to pick. And you kind of have to pick. If you pick 4), other people have offered some great ideas.

    I hope you have a delightful time, at the cottage or at home.

    1. I like the list, though I’d break away from the thought that “Discussion != conflict”.

      Conflict is has heavy connotations that focus on the worse case scenario. Hard to know the personality types involved. Everyone might easily agree on a plan if options were discussed.

      I think in most situations with people we care about and want to spend time with, 1-3 are mostly option after making attempt at a direct discussion.

      Having a more nuanced gray discussion rather than “Clean versus Not Clean” would determine which subtler options would be available.

      And rather than pick up the slack, how about saying out loud “I’d like (task) to happen. Will you help me with this?” First, before the vacation and again in the moment.

      And if they don’t at the time, it’s easy enough ask where they’re coming from or say “Hm we agreed on this before the trip. So what’s happening that’s keeping you from doing it? I enjoy our time together and if something doesn’t change, I feel like we might not be compatible travel companions. Can we work on this together?”

      1. Good point. I was riffing off a phrase I picked up from Nonviolence training: conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.

        I mean obviously there’s “a conflict” in that not everybody is gonna get exactly what they want; if it were not so the first gentle hint would have fixed things. Probably someone is going to exert some detectable level of pushback at some point in this conversation/process.

        But what I mean by conflict and what you mean by discussion are basically identical and I should have gone ahead and just used that word.

  49. Guy Hendricks has an excellent method for spliting chores for couples in one of his books. I’ll describe it in case in could be adapted here.

    Everyone together makes a list of chores they want done. This stage of the process you are just trying to get down all the things at least person wants done, not agree on a list of chores.

    Go through the chores and each person picks
    1) chores they like to do or don’t mind doing
    2) chores they are not happy with how the other person does them. For example, if you feel the dishwasher needs to be loaded in a particular way, it’s your job.

    Look at the tasks that are left.

    Decide together if there are tasks that can be left out

    the remainder of the tasks, you either
    1) schedule a time to do the tasks together
    2) pay someone to do the task

    1. In my house, the person who does the job determines how it should be done. My young man likes clothes folded and beds made a particular way, so he does it. I like grocery shopping done a particular way, so I do it. Whoever loads the dishwasher or does laundry or hangs toilet paper is doing it the “right” way; if the other person doesn’t like how it’s being done, they are welcome to take over the job.

      (Obviously, that doesn’t apply to things like “putting cast iron in the dishwasher” and “washing a silk sweater in the machine with hot water” but with things that are a matter of taste.)

      1. I have found it’s still helpful to do this because it moves the tasks out from the implicit state to concrete specific explicit ones. Sometimes this shifts things. There are things I do in shared situations that my family did not do growing up (spring cleaning is not something packrats do..) because I have learned the value of by observation and conversation. There are tasks I do that I don’t really think need doing because it’s important to someone emotionally. I tend to think of those tasks as emotional support rather necessary life tasks but the requesting person does need to know how I view them internally.

        There are also some tasks I just am not willing to do. Some tasks I think doing, other people don’t agree. This is useful information because then you can work out a plan of how to get those needs met, whether it’s staying in a different place, paying for some help yourself, not going on trip with someone you know will be too problematic for you, etc.

      2. However, ‘do them together or pay someone’ is a completely different kettle of fish from ‘the person who wants them done now has the job’ mentioned above: this method says ‘if a job is important to one of us, it’s important to us as a couple’ whereas the other one just said ‘I don’t care if you’re uncomfortable, I’m not doing one stroke more than *I* think necessary.’

        Come to think of it, ‘this is important to my partner, therefore I will inconvenience myself slightly’ sounds exactly like the sort of compromise that makes a relationship work, whereas ‘it’s not important to me, therefore my partner needs to live with their discomfort or do all of the work’ sounds like a toxic ‘compromise’, because it isn’t, it’s one party getting all they want and the other party doing all of the compromising.

    2. I see how that’s meant to work, but it’s still far too easily gamed by those with gendered entitlement issues. All they have to do is be deliberately incompetent at everything, and *poof*, ALL the chores are now on the partner’s list.

      Hell no.

  50. I haven’t seen all replies so not sure if this has been discussed: what about throwing some money at the problem and getting a cottage with a cook/ cleaner.
    We did that the year after our first group skiing holiday (for same reason: certain people ended up doing a lot more work than others). People moaned about the extra upfront cost but the argument was that 1. It ends up being cheaper if you take into account the later cost of shopping/ cooking / cleaning & 2. If people didn’t like it, they could take on the task of organizing the holiday. (It is usually the case that people who do the prep holiday work are the same people who do most of the chores).

    It was very successful and the same group repeated the holiday for 15 years now. We live it!

Comments are closed.