Sometimes I find myself grumbling about mess in the house, something along the lines of “Why doesn’t he EVER clean up after himself?” Years of experience have taught me to look again. Oh, I say to myself, “That’s mine and that’s mine and that’s mine..” It is a very natural human tendency to look at what others are doing and assign blame before examining ourselves and our role in contributing to the situation we don’t like. It’s the “pot calling the kettle black” or the interesting question, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to see the beam in your own eye?”
So when you are upset by a messy housemate, the first thing you need to do is consider whether you have contributed to the situation. For instance, are you upset about the dirty dishes left in the sink today but last week you left dishes for two days? Did you neglect to do your chore but now you are irritated that your housemate hasn’t done hers? How have you contributed to your housemates neglect?
Talk it Out
If you can in all honesty say that your slate is clean and the housemate’s behavior really is a problem, you need to have a conversation. It’s possible that housemate has no idea that you are upset. Really. There’s no need to get mad or have a fight. A simple matter-of-fact conversation setting some guidelines for mess should take care of it. Try to be specific about what bothers you. Work together on an agreement that can help you move forward. If your housemate has specific requests of you, you too can adjust your behavior.
All the above assumes that you have a basic agreement about the cleanliness of your home. You made this agreement in the interview process, right? In that interview you talked about your attitudes and expectations for the cleanliness of your home. Your standards were similar enough that you chose to live together. If you didn’t talk about cleanliness then, you may have a harder time talking about it now because no standards were set and no expectations established. If your housemate has standards really different from your own, and you are each unwilling to adapt to the the other a bit, you may not be able to live together. That’s why it’s always important to be clear about your needs and preferences.
Sharing housing is a cooperative arrangement for the mutual benefit of everyone living in the house.
Do you have a story about living with messy housemates? How did you handle it?
Try these other articles about how you can work to have a better home! We Need to Talk, Why Living Alone is a Problem
Last Updated on June 26, 2021 by Bob Sherwood
This is a good general statement about mess and housework, but it doesn’t give many specific suggestions about how to deal with a messy housemate. Conversation is good, yes, and so is self-examination. Any specific techniques you’ve used in the past?
Good point. There are a number of great methods. I wrote a post on three of them.