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How to Deal with a Messy Roommate

Dishes pile up in the sink, clothes are strewn over every piece of furniture, toothpaste sticks to the bathroom mirror, and you’ve had enough. The messy roommate has pinched your last nerve, and you’re not sure how to solve the problem. Believe it or not, you don’t have to become ex-friends. Here’s a step-by-step guide to dealing with a messy roommate without starting a fight.

1. Explain Your Distress

Messy roommate
Image via Shutterstock

First things first: communication. Instead of pointing fingers and lobbing accusations, start the conversation with you. Explain that you’d like to propose some changes, and make it your problem instead of your roommate’s. For example, you might say, “Listen, I know that I’m a bit of a neat freak, so do you think you could help me out?”

This frames the problem as your issue and invites your roommate to help you out. It’s a much better strategy than telling your roommate what he or she does wrong and demanding better habits. In the latter situation, you’ll put your roomie on the defensive, which rarely leads to productive conversation.

2. Pick Your Battles

When it comes to communication, the second step is to choose what exactly you need to voice your opinion on. While you don’t want to live in a pigpen, you don’t have to quibble over every dish left in the sink or every crumb that appears on the sofa.

Save your confrontations for bigger issues that affect your ability to use your living space. Maybe your roommate forgot to put away their clothes after doing a load of laundry. A gentle reminder might result in a sincere mea culpa and immediate removal of the offending pants and shirts from the living room couch.

3. Ask to Keep Spaces Separate

Speaking of that laundry left on the couch, here’s another tip: determine which spaces are yours, theirs, and communal. If your roommate’s clutter is sneaking into your space, such as your bedroom or the shared community areas, you have every right to remind them to move their stuff. You can also move it to their bedroom yourself, and reiterate your expectations.

You can’t control what a roommate does with his or her bedroom. The only exception involves health issues, such as food that attracts pests or clutter that blocks a fire escape. Don’t try to dictate how often your roommate cleans his or her bedroom or the condition in which that bedroom is kept.

4. Suggest a Chore List

Here’s a battle you’ll probably need to pick at some point: how to tell your roommate to clean the bathroom. It’s not exactly a popular chore – and getting your roommates to help clean the bathroom can feel like a chore in itself.

Ask your roommate to help you come up with a list of daily and weekly chores, which could include cleaning individual rooms, vacuuming the apartment or house, and dusting. Create a chore list and assign each task to one person. To make sure one roommate doesn’t have to face the bathroom every week, alternate every week or two to keep it fair.

This messy roommate solution ensures that neither person suffers from resentment. Every person knows what he or she must do each week, so you’ll feel more confident that your space will remain clean and clutter-free.

5. Clean & Organize Together

Still wondering how to motivate your messy roommate to clean up? Maybe your roomie just prefers group activities! Some people hate cleaning as a solitary activity. If your roommate falls into this category, offer to clean together. Put on some music, grab the cleaning supplies, and have a party while you scrub and dust the grime away.

Manage the clutter in your home by organizing your space together. You can split the cost of organization bins and declutter the public spaces you and your roommate share, like the kitchen and living room. Got a crafty roomie? Put those skills to work with some DIY storage ideas that put the “fun” in “functional.”

6. Rent a Storage Unit

If all else fails and your roommate has ventured into hoarder territory, offer to split the rent on a storage unit. Put everything you don’t use regularly into the unit for six months. At the end of that time, decide whether to throw out or give away the items inside or to move some of them back into your home.

These messy roommate solutions can save your friendship and make your home more livable. As long as you take a diplomatic approach, you can cure bad habits – and keep your own expectations in check.

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The Storage Queens

We know a thing or two about moving. Together, we share the best tips in organizing, storage, navigating your city, and more!

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