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Elizabeth Tipper

Elizabeth Tipper

December 23, 2014

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The Dirty Roommate

We’ve all had inconsiderate housemates, and some of us (myself definitely included) have even been one. But late-night noise and annoying habits aside, one thing that’s sure to rattle even the most compatible cohabitants is the cleaning issue. This is especially true when you’re feeling tired, stressed, and overworked. And when you come home after a long day, the last thing you want to do is see your roommate’s dishes piled up in the sink. (Yours, however, can stay there until you feel like doing them.) Sound familiar? The truth is, you can avoid living in a hovel—and arguing about it every time you see a crumb-laden countertop—if you get the cleaning conversation out of the way as soon as you sign the lease. Here are some points to keep in mind.

Be honest about your expectations. Everyone says they’re clean and tidy, but if they were, I wouldn’t be writing this article about messy roommates, right? Be up front about the level of cleanliness that you need in your home. If you have a different sponge for every type of dish, admit that you’re a neat freak. Hopefully you’ll find someone who loves to vacuum the curtains as much as you do. If you tend to leave your dishes in the sink until they grow their own food, admit that, too. Ultimately, being realistic about who you really are and what you really need saves an awful lot of roommate drama.

Keep a cleaning schedule. From the outset, discuss who is going to handle what. While chore charts are kind of dorky, it’s harder to shirk responsibilities when they’re spelled out on the fridge. If making sure the recycling is taken out every night is important to you, assign yourself that chore. That way, you’ll know the most important things to you always get done.

Think of your roommate as a business partner. Unless they’re your boyfriend or your best friend, they’re basically a business partner. More than likely, if either of you could afford to live alone, you would. So don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. If something is bothering you, talk about it openly. Bottling things up will only allow tension and resentment to build. And the inevitable explosion will probably do more damage than mentioning that she left a wet towel on the floor this morning.

When all else fails, outsource. Sometimes the best solution is to hire someone else to do the dirty work. Even if you think you can’t afford it, getting a cleaning service to come in twice a month to do a deep scouring can make the interim wipe-downs much quicker and easier. Plus, the cost can be relatively low when divided among roommates. After all, if everything else about your living arrangement is working well, why ruin it over spilled milk that you can pay someone else to mop up?