Paying Your Spouse to Do the Dishes, and Other Ideas

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Photo: NBC

In Portland, Oregon — which Portlandia has convinced us may be entirely a work of parody — a real-life married couple has made their marital bargaining very literal. Daniel Reeves and Bethany Soule, couple of math-tech-"quantified-self" types, pay each other to do chores, thereby turning the drudgery of cohabitation into a simple economic exchange. It runs a bit like Task Rabbit does. They bid on each chore, and the person willing to fork over the most money gets to skip it. NBC News reports they have paid each other: $4 to get tacos (outside in the rain), $40 to do dishes, and $400 to plan a vacation.

Perhaps there's a whiff of immaturity about this arrangement (must you receive a cash prize to care for your domestic well-being?). But it's also an inventive solution to the recent public debates regarding what to do about housework in a modern relationship. Like a 10-year-old's allowance, it transforms the attitude around doing chores. Rather than resentment sweeping into every broom-stroke, your work earns a tangible benefit — and, perhaps more important, it's acknowledged.

Besides, it clarifies a system of credits and debits that most couples already use — I did the floors, so you hang the picture. And there's something great about being able to quantify how much you don't want to do a certain task. For example, I would give away blank checks for items like: checking if that's a mouse, setting up blinds, and trash-can cleaning (grime-on-grime, no thanks).