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Ask Anna #4: Dirty Roommate

Ask Anna

Anonymous asked: How should I deal with a dirty roommate?

I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, but unfortunately, a lot of us do. We all know how it starts: You sign the roommate agreement, both promising to take turns cleaning the room and putting your dirty dishes away, but as the semester wears on, you find you’re the only person doing any cleaning. It sucks to have to clean up after people, especially people who promised to keep tidy. Maybe you get so angry mopping the floor that you snap your Swiffer in half, which is understandable, but before you make any moves, take some time to cool off. It’s important not to approach this situation with a hot head, no matter how upset you are.

Think about what would make the situation better. Which chores need to be done? Does your roommate sometimes pick up after themselves or never? Is the problem located in your room or the suite? Consider what you want to ask your roommate to do. When learning about conflict resolution, we are always told to use “I” statements, which holds merit. Saying, “I feel our space isn’t clean enough,” is a lot nicer than saying, “You’re a slob.” If you’re friends with your roommate, handling this could be a lot harder because you’re worried about hurting their feelings or damaging your friendship. The truth is that some friends just can’t live together, and if you’re really friends, you can understand that truth without letting your relationship be marred by it. It might be rough for a little while, but it’s not the end. If you’re not friends with your roommate, remember not to get carried away and say anything mean. You still have to live with them. Your roommate has more chances than anyone else to kill you, which is not to say that they will, but that you should treat the relationship with respect.

Once you’ve figured out what to say, you have to actually talk to them—yes, talk to them, not leave a note (guilty) or send a text (also guilty). I know confrontation is scary, but the truth is that it’s a lot harder to be mean to someone’s face, so even if your roommate is pissed that you ask them to clean up after themselves, they probably won’t say it to your face and rather do what you ask. If the conversation goes south and gets aggressive, try to keep your emotional distance. If you two really cannot have this conversation without it getting ugly, your RA should be available to act as a mediator.

You may have to have this conversation multiple times, which I know is annoying, but you must weigh the importance of cleanliness against the imposition of asking them to clean. All of this is a lot easier said than done, so I wish you all the luck in the world dealing with your dirty roommate. Remember, the semester always ends and you will have the chance to live somewhere else.

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Image by Whitney K. Davis

written by
Anna Bronson
March 21, 2019