Every Friday night, we would put a tray of tater tots in the oven. We had a vintage alarm clock that was a little funky, in that the alarm dial was more of a vague suggestion, like “swing by later,” rather than an appointment, like “I need to get up for work.” We had a deck of playing cards and a rack of poker chips. We also had the sort of competitive drive that meant we could never play a game like Diplomacy or Risk or Hi Ho! Cherry-O together. But Chore Poker was different.
First we made a list of every possible chore that could be done in our 500 square foot apartment. If we’d had a chandelier, dusting it would have been on there, as well as sweeping the chimney, cleaning the sump pump, or oiling the Jefferies tubes. It wasn’t so much that either of us wanted to do these things – we wanted the other to do these things.
Next, a point value had to be ascribed to each chore, weighted against the others. Taking out the recycling was 1 point, because it merely involved walking a few feet down the hall of our apartment building. The top chore was 20 points for vacuuming the coils behind the refrigerator. Yeah, we were hard core.
How often did everything need to be done? Obviously we weren’t going to pull out the fridge every week. Okay, that wasn’t obvious. But we did decide on what should be done once a week, once a month, once a quarter, or once a year.
Whatever was getting done that week was written out, and the total number of points was tallied. Then we counted out the amount in poker chips and divided them equally.
The moment had come. We set the alarm, knowing it was impossible to tell within 20 minutes when it would go off, and started to play. At the point that the alarm sounded, we finished the current hand and swapped our stacks of chips. Then the winner got to buy his or her least undesired chores off the list, leaving the remainder to the loser. Yeah, we said loser.
Usually it worked out about even. We wound up gravitating to the same chores week after week, with slight variation, and that’s why we eventually quit playing. There was one weekend, though, when he had to do everything except take out the 1-point recycling bin. I wasn’t so smug after our positions were reversed a few months later, and I got everything the same weekend I had invited my parents over for dinner for the first time.
We never did figure out a way to score Chore Poker for more than two players. There were a lot of things we never figured out – we divorced after three years – but it was fun while it lasted. Plus: tater tots.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.