Living with strangers can be hard; living with a friend can be even harder. At age 30, I can speak from experience. I have a roommate now, and I have lived with several roommates in the past, once as long as five years.
Being the clean roommate makes people like you, but it’s a struggle if you’re the only clean person. Whether
you’re living with someone of the same gender or not, there are some important yet simple
things you can be doing to proactively keep peace within the household.
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Take out the trash: When my roommate passive aggressively doesn’t take out the trash, it creates major tension in
our household. The trash can in a common area is communal. This does not mean you should
fill up the trash can – all on your own – and leave it full in a communal space, unattended. The
easiest way to anger your roommate is by not cleaning up after yourself. If living with you means
you come with a lot of trash, it also means that you are responsible for your own trash disposal.
It’s no one else’s job to clean up after you.
If you and your roommate produce an equal amount of trash, it is expected that you will rotate
taking the trash out, equally. “Cleaning” out the fridge by taking trash from the refrigerator
and moving it to the trash can next to the refrigerator means you just moved trash from one
place to another. You have cleaned nothing until that old, gross food has been moved to the
One time I tried to take out the trash to find my roommate literally put a sack
of potatoes in it. It caused a fight when I called her on it, and she was proud of what a good job
of cleaning she had done.
Also, taking the full bag out of the trash and leaving it next to the can
is not disposal. All you’re doing is upsetting your roommate, who now gets to see that you were unwilling to throw it out.
Do the dishes: When my roommate makes an elaborate dinner for herself, it’s not the most fun thing in the
world coming home to the mess a day later. Dishes become disgusting quickly. The best way
to avoid tension in the house is to always maintain a clean kitchen. Destroy the kitchen all you
want while you cook, as long as you clean it up afterward. Whether you have a dishwasher or
not, the sink and counters cannot be filled with used dishes. Either take turns doing the dishes
or clean up after yourself. If you don’t clean your own dishes regularly, you have no right to get
mad at your roommate for not doing it. Set the example.
Call an audible. If you are big on using the kitchen to make food and your roommate is big
on ordering out, the easy solution is that you always do the dishes, and your roommate always
takes out the trash. You can assume both of you are contributing more to different types of
messes – you should each be assigned the chore you are more likely to have caused.
Keep the common areas clutter-free: My roommate’s stack of empty pizza boxes, although charming, gets very annoying knowing
she can never be bothered to clean up after herself. No matter who owns the furniture, keeping
a living room clean is vital to maintaining harmony in the household. Feel free to kick off your
shoes when you get home from school or work, but don’t leave them in the living room for
It doesn’t matter if you own the end table, if you are leaving dirty plates or
empty McDonald’s bags on the end table, you should be ashamed of yourself. You should go
and own things outside and leave your trash on them. Don’t leave garbage in places where
roommates should be allowed to bring in company.
Your trash should embarrass you and the person you live with. No matter whose friends are
coming to visit, trash and dirty dishes should be cleaned up beforehand.
Eliminate unpleasant odors: It’s one thing that my roommate decided to put her dog’s pee pad in the living room, it’s quite
another thing that she doesn’t remove the mess on a daily basis. Everyone loves dogs. If you
have a dog that is pad-trained, the pad should never be in a common area. If you want your dog
to be peeing and pooping indoors, it should only be permitted in your own bedroom.
No one should be expected to put up with heinous smells in common areas. Let your own room be the
center of bad odors, maybe it will motivate you to clean it up more regularly. The same goes
with cats and litter boxes. There is no excuse for your animal making your home smell when you
live with someone else. Accidents happen, but a litter box or pee pad should never offend the
senses of anyone except the pet owner.
If your room emanates an odor beyond the door frame
The same goes for non-pet odors. If trash smells, it shouldn’t wait for the can to get full; it should
be taken outside immediately. No one wants to come home to stinky trash in the kitchen. If you
cause your roommates to experience a smelly trash can you made when they have company
over, you should be ashamed of yourself.
The bathroom: We’ve all shared a bathroom with people who didn’t clean it as often as they should, or ever.
It’s pretty ridiculous that some people choose to leave a mess on the bathroom counter or seem
perfectly fine letting the toilet get gross. All bathrooms should be equipped with toilet scrubbers
and plungers. The bath mats should be relatively dry, and if your towels are in need of washing,
they should be in your hamper.
Do not complain to your roommate about hairs in the bathtub if
you leave your hair in and around the sink. If anything, the sink is a common area, and guests should not see hair.
Bathrooms are full of germs; they should be cleaned frequently. Several bleach-based products
should adorn your cupboards, including toilet cleaners, sprays and wipes. The bathroom should
be cleaned no less than once per week. If nothing else, your toilet and counter should be
cleaned weekly. Sweeping and mopping the bathroom should occur at least twice per month.
Also, don’t use the bathroom counter as a space where you permanently keep your hygiene
products. That’s what cabinets and drawers are for. If your entire makeup or hair-care set is
stationed on your counter, it sounds like your bedroom is the place you should be doing this
type of work. Put a mirror on your dresser and do it there. Your roommate will thank you for it.
No one wants a messy roommate. Messes are the No. 1 cause of friction in a household. If your
room is a mess, please be courteous and keep your door closed. If you are a messy person,
please work on that flaw. Messes should only exist in the moment – they should never be long
term – and they should never affect the person with whom you live.