Living with a roommate isn’t always easy. Whether you’ve been raised with siblings or you grew up as an only child, you will still run into roommate problems. Unfortunately, the common complaint is that one of your roommates (which might be you) is messy and living with neat freaks. Here’s how to survive such a situation.
Step 1: Stop worrying about it.
This may not be the first thing you want to hear but trust me, worrying about it will actually make the problem worse and probably drive a wedge between you. If you get along with your roommate, focus on what it is about her that makes them a good friend. I’m not saying that you have to be best friends but since you’re living together, a friendship wouldn’t hurt. If you not close to begin with, get to know each other.
Step 2: Find out your roommate’s previous cleaning habits.
It’s not as creepy as it seems. If you’re in college, then you will eventually find out when signing the Roommate Agreement Contract. If your roommate has better cleaning habits at home, then consider what other issues are contributing to this sudden turn. If she wasn’t exactly a Holly Homemaker at home, then don’t let it alarm you that they’re the same way in the dorm or apartment because, well, this is home now.
Step 3: Look at it from your roommate’s perspective.
If she was clean at home, then life has simply caught up with her. Her schedule is a little busier; she has a heavier workload than she did back home. She is probably uncomfortable with the mess too and is doing her best to keep her head above water. If she wasn’t clean at home, then realize that she doesn’t see a mess. Yes, she can see the clothes inches away from the hamper and the pile of papers on her desk, but it doesn’t bother her. Unlike you, she can actually function with the mess around her. If you want to take it even deeper, find out how she thinks. Is she a logical thinker or is she visual.
I’m not saying that all visual thinkers are inherently messy, but it does contribute. Hear me out: whenever a logical thinker is searching for something, she looks for it where it would makes sense for it to be. A visual thinker, on the other hand, searches for objects based on where she last saw it and/or what it was next to. If she knows where it is, it doesn’t matter if it’s not where it should be. Knowing how your roommate thinks may help you be more empathetic to her.
Step 4: Be aware of her surroundings.
I know – you’re already aware of it, hence your concern; but consider these questions:
- Is there food from 2 nights ago still sitting on her desk?
- Has she been wearing the same shirt for the past 3 days (jeans don’t count because we all have our favorite pair)?
- Does her stuff wander over to your side of the room?
- Is she a hoarder?
- Do you have OCD that’s been confirmed by a doctor and not by WebMD?
If you answered “yes” to at least 2 of these questions, then you a have legitimate reason to be concerned. Coming from the messy roommate, I understand that this is disgusting and intrusive. Talk to her; politely and calmly discuss why these things bother you. The longer you wait, the bigger the issue will become. Help her see that old food will attract bugs and get moldy and that not doing your laundry on a regular basis is poor hygiene.
If your roommate leaves the occasional food wrapper on her desk but throws it out by day two or if she does her laundry regularly, then you have nothing to worry about (see Steps 1 and 3). She understands that while she isn’t the cleanest person, there’s a border between untidy and just plain nasty.
Step 5: Be open to compromise.
The likelihood of her suddenly getting tidy and you becoming more lax overnight is silly, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed. Have a discussion with her and see where you can cut each other a break. Maybe she can commit to a schedule in which she tidies her room a little bit, at least so that there’s walking space. If her untidiness extends beyond the bedroom, come up with a plan of who straightens up the living room, bathroom, and kitchen, either altogether in one day, or one room per roommate every other day. No roommate should be doing all of the housework.
Don’t hound her about every little detail. Although you like to fold and put away your laundry right after drying, just dumping her clean laundry onto the bed or into the closet is her version of clean; even though you like the dishes to be dried and put away right after they’ve been washed, the fact that they’ve only been washed may be the height of cleanliness for her. Nitpicking will only make her feel unappreciated and stressed. The fact that she is trying to make it easier for the both of you to live together should be enough.
While it would be nice for everyone to be spick and span, this won’t always be the case. Instead of losing your mind over trying to fix a long-term issue, try to relax. There are far worse issues than different definitions of “clean.”