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Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Deal with a Sloppy Roommate

Girl with a Pile of Books on her Head Yelling.

No matter where you are in life—college, the business world, divorced, just getting out on your own, etc.—you may have reason to share your living space with a roommate or two.

A roommate offers many benefits. Aside from the financial freedom you can gain, having a roommate means that you don’t have to come home to an empty house, someone will be there if you go out of town on business or for a vacation, and there is someone to share the household chores.
But what happens if you’ve got a roommate that’s sloppy? You didn’t see that coming: she said she was a doer, liked it neat, and was willing to pitch in.

When the relationship was new, the place was clean, dishes and food were put away, and her room and bathroom were tidy!

Then one day, you start to notice you’re doing more than your fair share of the chores.

It started with a dish or two and a few towels in the hallway. Then it progressed to food not put away, fruit flies, and—What is that smell? Ewww.

Well, maybe it’s not that bad. But what do you do when your roommate stops cleaning up after themselves? It’s time to have a heart-to-heart, roommate-to-roommate conversation.

Effective Communications

A good conversation will have no accusations and no rudeness. By effectively communicating with one another, you will better understand each other:

  1. Did something happen between the two of you to cause a rift? Maybe it’s something you did that you’re not even aware of.
  2. Is your idea of “clean” different from their idea, and you’ve automatically started picking things up before your roommate has had a chance to do so?
  3. Is your roommate depressed or having a hard time dealing with a situation you’re not aware of?
  4. Did you bring a roommate in without effectively setting boundaries and discussing rules and expectations?

Whatever it is, I’m sure your roomy is not intentionally trying to annoy you.

Talk about it before you get a chip on your shoulder (which will only cause small issues to become big issues), listen when it’s your turn, no eyebrow rising, and work on solutions together.

Possible Solutions for Common Issues

Here are a few common issues roommates have and ideas for resolving them.

Leaving Dirty Dishes Out

Do you feel uncomfortable with dirty dishes left in the sink and on the counters? I can’t say I blame you. I just don’t like looking at this kind of mess – period.

Maybe you have allergies or there are getting to be too many fruit flies flying around. Don’t bang your head and give up on the roomy just yet.

Easy tips to stop the war on dirty dishes:

  • Keep one side of the sink filled with a little water, so dirty dishes can easily be slipped in and any food stuck on has a chance to pre-soak.
  • If you don’t have a sink that is divided, you can fill a Tupperware container with a little soapy water and leave it next to the sink for pre-soaking the dishes.
  • Of course, the easiest solution would be to rinse and put dishes away right after using them.
  • Now when either of you go to put dishes in the dishwasher, you will only have to give them a quick rinse and clean the sink out when you’re done.

Where Has My Food Gone?


Another problem many roommates face is the unintentional sharing of food. One of the main reasons this tends to happen is that no boundaries are set, or no space was set aside for each person’s food.

For refrigerator and freezer, you can divvy up the shelf space. For instance, the top two shelves in the freezer, fridge, and refrigerator door go to you, while those underneath go to your roomy.

Another convenient and easy way to see what food belongs to which person is to label clear containers with the person’s name and what is in the container, such as lunch meat, cheese, vegetables, etc.

This wouldn’t need to be done with all food items, but it can sure help with the little things.

There are many stackable Tupperware containers that come in a variety of sizes that are perfect for these types of situations.

The same thing applies to dry foods and cupboard space. Divide and conquer.


Use of Personal Items

You’re running late for work one day, brushing your hair on the way to the front door, and you set your hair brush down on the counter as you leave. You would expect to find it there when you get home, but your roomy picked it up and used it, and now it’s in her bathroom. Maybe she even used your tube of lipstick!

I’m a firm believer that these types of things just shouldn’t be shared. My girls each have their own hair care items, makeup, etc., and I have mine.

Sharing make-up, make-up brushes, hair brushes, or other personal products can lead to the possibility of spreading infection. If your roommate did use your hair brush, clean it well. If it’s something like lipstick, wipe off a layer. If it’s an eyeliner pencil, I’d just get a new one.


Having a roommate shouldn’t mean that you have to leave all your personal stuff locked up behind closed doors.

So what can you do to stop the sharing?

  • Discuss the risk of sharing. Either one of you could unknowingly have a viral infection which can be passed on to another person.
  • Carrying items around and setting them down randomly is something we all do. To make it easier in a roommate situation, you could use decorative baskets for each person, maybe in two pretty colors. You can have one in the living area and maybe one in the front hall or near the kitchen.

These are just a few of the common issues people with roommates may face. I hope we have given you some helpful options that you can build on and use in your own situation.

Learning to communicate your boundaries and needs more effectively will make it easier to overcome challenging situations, allowing you to build better relationships with the people you share your home with.

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