House Cleaning Dilemma: Dealing with Messy Roommates

wiping a counterYour roommates are slobs and it’s driving you crazy because you like to keep a neat and tidy home. Besides finding new living quarters, is there a solution to this dilemma? Dealing with messy roommates can be tough.

People have many different attitudes toward house cleaning. Some can’t function in anything less than a perfectly ordered environment and therefore clean continually as a normal part of daily life. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the folks who are oblivious to piles of dirty dishes and masses of cobwebs. Most people fall somewhere in between these two extremes on the cleaning continuum.

If you’re faced with having to tell your roommate that their slovenly ways are driving you nuts, there are strategies that you can use to attempt to resolve the issue. Whatever you do, don’t resort to yelling. Coercion is never the answer.

Step one is to assume that your roommate is simply unaware of their shortcomings in the housekeeping arena. Communication may quickly resolve the problem. Gently open a conversation in a non-accusatory manner and approach the situation as the mutual problem that it is. You might say something like: “I’m the type of person who functions optimally in an uncluttered environment, so I wonder if we could work out a system to keep our place a little more picked up than it has been.”

Hopefully this will start you talking about your different attitudes toward clutter, or dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, or dirty dishes in the sink. There are lots of people who never learned how to clean, and your unfortunate roommate may be one of them.

Starting this discussion should lead you directly to step two, which involves you and your roommate setting up a cleaning plan. Getting your roommate involved in the solution both empowers them and holds them accountable.

This is the time to talk about cleaning goals. Is your beef chronic clutter or a dirty bathroom or a perpetual mess in the kitchen? Be as specific as possible about what needs to be done to bring your home up to code. It may be the case that a little bit of education will go a long way toward solving the problem. After all, most people don’t want to live in slovenly homes. So give your roommate the benefit of the doubt.

You might simply write up a list of the specific tasks that need to be done and then ask your roommate which ones they want to do. For example:

  • Wipe down kitchen counters, appliances, and clean sinks.
  • Throw out food that’s no longer any good.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Wash the kitchen floor.
  • Dust and vacuum the living area.
  • Clean the bathroom sinks, countertops, mirrors, tub, and toilet.
  • Do laundry.

Specifically spelling out what needs to be done to maintain order serves several purposes. It gives your roommate ideas in case they don’t actually know what to do. It also sets very clear goals about what needs to happen to make your living area clean. It gives you both a reference point in case tasks get lost in the shuffle of daily life. And it gives you both the ability to negotiate who does what as well as establishing accountability if things don’t get done.

This takes you to step three: implementation of your plan. Once you’ve ironed out a solid contract, you and your roommate have to each carry out your parts. If you’ve both agreed to keep your individual clutter confined to particular areas and take care of certain chores, you must each follow through. Failure to do so violates your contract.

Consistently failing to respect your agreement (on either end) might signify a more serious problem with your relationship. At the end of the day, the place where you live is your respite from the world. It should be a place where you can relax and unwind, not a constant source of irritation. If you’ve made an earnest attempt to resolve your issues and are unable to do so, then it might be time to consider rethinking your choice of roommates.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

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