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Advice / Tips

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Roommate Problem: Living With a Messy Roommate

You have problems with your roommate. He just leaves his dishes in the sink for you to wash. Or her clothes hang on the couch. Or he never takes out the trash. You've already had several spats over her messy habits, but the roommate problems haven't disappeared and you can't move out.

You're not alone. It is very difficult to find a roommate with whom you get along and who has the same cleaning habits. If you can't or don't want to find a new roommate, there are ways to calm the tension.

The most important rule to remember is to resist the urge to clean up after your messy roommate. This may encourage your roommate to clean even less; they may think, consciously or subconsciously, if he will do it, why should I? Also, it is unfair to you, because you may find yourself constantly tidying up.

Instead of cleaning all the time, set some suggested rules with your roommate.

Remind yourself that your bedroom is the only place in the apartment you truly have control over. Decorate or furnish your room, so that you have one haven in the apartment. You must compromise over the common areas.

It is hard for many tidy roommates to understand why their messy roommates wait so long to clean the dishes or take the trash out. Remind yourself that not everyone works on the same cleaning schedule. While some prefer to clean and pick up after themselves every day or every other day, others clean once a week or every other week. If your roommate cleans a little less often than you do, resist the urge to force your roommate into your schedule. Instead, try compromising on the number of days dishes are allowed to sit in the sink or when trash must be taken out.

Also, try dividing the chores. You can take out the trash and your roommate cleans the dishes. This may help your messy roommate focus on only a few chores and develop a habit of keeping certain areas clean. If you do this, make sure to assign yourself chores that you care most about, so that you can be certain these will get done.

Consider hiring a cleaning service. Talk to your roommate about splitting the cost of a cleaning person. This may take some of the burden off of you and get your roommate financially involved in the neatness of your apartment.