the lord is testing me.
August 10, 2011 10:02 PM   Subscribe

My new roommate assured me during our initial interview of each other that she was very clean and that, in particular, she was committed to keeping communal spaces very neat and tidy. Fast forward a few months, and somehow I think I missed something.

Basically the issue is this. Roommate told me she was super clean, and for the most part she is, but she has a tendency to...

a) leave drawers, cabinets, and closets wide open without closing them
b) leave large quantities of raw food scraps on the counter after cooking (that, if I don't notice them in time, often become baked on and almost impossible to remove)
c) not remove rotting food from the fridge after it's gone bad
d) take the trash out only when it's overflowing, not when it's starting to smell

I get that clean means different things to different people, but given the size of our small kitchen, it's hard to come home and realize that the sink's inaccessible due to dishes being there for days, or smack my ankle/hip/wrist/face on an open cabinet for the umpteenth time because it's been left open. I can close doors. I can deal with the occasional spill. It's the trash, food, and dishes stuff that is just not flying for me. I mean, for crying out loud, her HAIR somehow manages to make its way into our fridge and stove, and that is all kinds of gnarly gross for me. If I have dishes soaking in my side of the sink, she thinks nothing of rinsing all her food off of her plates onto it all, thereby re-dirtying all my clean, soaking dishes. She does this if she's been sick, too. My brain cannot deal.

How can I ask this gal to revisit our household's definition of clean when I thought "very neat and tidy" was pretty clear to begin with? I just want dishes, trash, and messes to be cleaned up promptly (as in within one day; before it smells; and right away, respectively). Additionally, given that she very rarely responds to emails and texts, how would YOU want to be told, "Yo, your mess is messing with my sanity. The kitchen is sacrosanct -- please kick up the cleanliness level asap!"

Additionally, I am so grateful the bathroom is kept clean, and that our bedrooms are separate, so yes, I am counting my blessings, but no, moving is not an option because everything else is kosher.
posted by iLoveTheRain to Human Relations (32 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Pick your battles. You come out looking reasonable that way. I am an obsessive neat freak and I have had lots of different roommates, so that's where I get my idea of "normal." I hope this helps.

a) leave drawers, cabinets, and closets wide open without closing them

Petty. Don't mention this.

b) leave large quantities of raw food scraps on the counter after cooking (that, if I don't notice them in time, often become baked on and almost impossible to remove)

Also petty. They sound small. "Wiping down counters" in my experience, is more of a once-a-week thing, for most people, that usually gets done by the person who cares more. Yes, it's gross. But this is not something that there exists a normal dialogue for.

c) not remove rotting food from the fridge after it's gone bad

Borderline petty. Some people use food after it expires. Gross? Yes. But if she paid for it, mabye she wants to use it. Can be solved by holding up the meat package when she's there and saying, "Oh hey, this is expired, mind if I throw it out?" or moving it to a drawer where you won't have to look at it.

d) take the trash out only when it's overflowing, not when it's starting to smell

Reasonable. Taking out the trash is a normal thing.

e)the sink's inaccessible due to dishes being there for days

Reasonable. Doing the dishes also a normal chore most people would feel guilty about not doing.

Can you trade doing the dishes duty for taking out the trash duty, week by week? Just making the offer, even if she says no, will bring the issue to her attention.
posted by Nixy at 10:11 PM on August 10, 2011 [11 favorites]

Seriously, just say it. Nicely. "Hey, can we work on making sure the kitchen's clean as soon as we leave it?" If that doesn't work, you can take a step 2, but step 1 is just having the damn conversation.

(As someone with a bad sense of smell, though, I admit that that threshold is completely different for me and some other people. I will literally be unable to smell the trash unless I stick my face full in the bin and sniff, and my sensitive-nosed husband will enter the kitchen and immediately gag. I think everything's clean and the trash is only half full so it's fine but apparently there's this whole sense that other people have. So obviously leaving food merging with the counter is an objective thing, but "trash smelling" is apparently not)
posted by brainmouse at 10:12 PM on August 10, 2011

additionally, it bears mentioning that the person in question is not my roommate with a MeFi account, just in case someone manages to ask. I've been living in two places and have just finally transitioned into the second permanently. old roomie was impossibly clean... sigh.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 10:13 PM on August 10, 2011

why are you soaking clean dishes? This might be an easy problem to fix on your side of things- when you finish with the kitchen, make sure you put everything away, as in out of the way.

The best way to raise these issues is to sit down with the person face to face (email and text aren't good mediums) and say, "hey, I appreciate having you for a room mate, but I was wondering if you wouldn't mind keeping the kitchen a little cleaner."

Then maybe you can talk about a regular trash-out roster or dishes, or wiping benches, as needed.
posted by titanium_geek at 10:21 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just dropping an alternative opinion in here, as someone who's not "an obsessive neat freak"1 like Nixy, but like Nixy has had lots of different roommates.

a) leave drawers, cabinets, and closets wide open without closing them

Agreeing with Nixy, hip-check these bad boys and put it out of your mind.

b) leave large quantities of raw food scraps on the counter after cooking (that, if I don't notice them in time, often become baked on and almost impossible to remove)

Unlike Nixy, I'm going to say that leaving small piles of food scraps is a great way to get bugs. It's very easy to do a quick post-food-prep wipe with a paper towel, but 12 hours later it becomes a chore. The normal dialog I would suggest is: "hey, can you clean up scraps on the counter when you cook? once they dry in place, it's a real chore to scrub the dried stuff off."

c) not remove rotting food from the fridge after it's gone bad

This one's easy: you care about this, so once a week go through the fridge and throw out expired stuff (by date.) For stuff without dates (leftovers in tupperware) wait until she's home, then ask "hey, are you gonna eat [thing]? it's starting to smell, can I throw it out?" and that should be that.

d) take the trash out only when it's overflowing, not when it's starting to smell

Oddly, I'm going the other way here, and saying that just because you notice the smell doesn't mean she has -- after all, she doesn't clean up scraps or close drawers, so she's the type to speed away from things and not linger long -- so just make it a point to drop it outside when it smells.

e)the sink's inaccessible due to dishes being there for days

TOTALLY Reasonable. As Nixy says, "doing the dishes also a normal chore most people would feel guilty about not doing." As with the scraps, washing dishes before the food dries is MUCH easier, and if you don't have a dishwasher, you can reduce a huge amount of effort from your life -- or rather, she can -- by doing them in the moment.

What ultimately seems to be going on here, if my pattern recognition is up to snuff, is that she likes to move on to the next thing instead of tying up loose ends. You can either make an arrangement that you'll tie up loose ends if she opens them (she cooks dinner, you clean up afterwards and keep the fridge contents current, you throw out trash and she puts in the new bags) to solve all but the drawer problem, or you'll have to pick a few battles and leave a few. If you pick battles, pick the ones that can lead to bugs if not addressed.

Which, ultimately, means those drawers aren't gonna get closed. Can you live with that?

1not hating on Nixy's comments, just throwing out an alternative POV
posted by davejay at 10:33 PM on August 10, 2011

I have a similar situation. Well, sort of. Except that it's me who tends to leave food in the fridge forever...but our fridge doesn't have a lightbulb and it's currently really hot in the kitchen being summer and all and electricity costs money and I don't want my milk to get warm and...I really just don't spend enough time with my head in the fridge to see that there's old stuff in there, and out of sight out of mind, you know?

Aaanyway, yeah. I totally feel you on the dishes/trash thing. I moved in with an unknown craigslist roommate about a year ago. We didn't know each other at all, so wrote up a contract (her idea, her wording) about how the apartment should be cleaned and kept clean. I mean, right down to the bi-weekly scrubbing of the stovetop. So I thought: great! She'll be super duper clean! Hooray!

Well, not so much. Don't get me wrong, she's soooo much better than some roommates I've had, but she's also the only one who's ever made me sign a roommate contract.

Probably the most ridiculous one is how dishes are not to be left in the (small, non-divided) sink for more than 48 hours. Reasonable, right? I hold up my end of the bargain, no problem. She...kind of leaves dishes in there till they pile up above sink level. Once, I went away for the weekend and forgot (honest!) that I had left a cup, bowl, and some spoons sitting in the sink. I got a nasty email from her about it. What?! But I had left stuff in there, so I apologized. But she's got stuff in there all the time! Gah!

And the recycling is constantly overflowing. There's no recycling system where we are, so she (supposedly weekly, but not really) takes the recycling to wherever the recycling bin is (I don't know, it's at least a mile away--the recycling is her thing, if she wants to do it, fine). It would be nice, though, to not have to trip over toilet paper rolls and cereal boxes all the time. Also, she has pets and they track around a lot of dirt and hair.

Venting aside, choose your battles. My last roommate was scary stinky hoarder dirty, and my current roommate is a godsend in comparison. When things get ridiculous (like I cannot physically use the sink), I tell her, and it usually gets dealt with. Might take a few hours to get around to, and there might be some eyerolling and annoyed mumbling, but whatever, right? At least she's doing it.

So, wow, didn't mean for that to be so long (I'm tired). Just ask her. Seriously. Be a little more assertive (but polite and friendly!), and things will probably clear up.
posted by phunniemee at 10:34 PM on August 10, 2011

If I have dishes soaking in my side of the sink, she thinks nothing of rinsing all her food off of her plates onto it all, thereby re-dirtying all my clean, soaking dishe

I may be having difficulty parsing this.You wash your dishes and then leave them soaking in the sink? That is not... usual behavior. It is perfectly reasonable for someone to assume that dishes left in the sink, soaking or no, are not clean. I can't imagine assuming otherwise, in fact.

And this "your side of the sink" business is something that I am also not quite understanding. I've lived in a lot of shared apartments and houses with a lot of roommates, and I've never encountered this sides-of-sinks territory thing. Are you 100% certain that it is something your roommate understands? By that I mean: have you had an extremely explicit conversation about it in which you have said "This is my side of the sink and that is your side of the sink" and has your roommate explicitly acknowledged this? Because if you haven't, you may be making assumptions of which your roommate is entirely unaware.

In fact, it sounds overall as though you guys need to have an extremely explicit conversation about what, precisely each of your expectations are vis a vis cleaning, as you clearly have widely differing assumptions about what constitutes clean. Then you get to embark on the unpleasant but important process where each of you compromises your expectations to the point where you can meet in the middle. That compromise process is a pain in the ass, but worth it in the end as it's much less unpleasant than seething with unexpressed rage, which seems to be what you're doing now.
posted by dersins at 10:38 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

to clarify: we have a double sided sink. i have the left, she has the right. this was explicitly claimed when we moved in together, just for logistical purposes. when she no longer has room in her side, she starts piling food all over my stuff if there is any in my side, or she just uses my side rather than taking some time to offload her side. there is no dishwasher. I sometimes cook with sticky substances that take a good hot soaking to remove. my dishes are put away as soon as sticky substance subsides. didn't mean to say "clean, soaking". just meant to say soaking.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 10:42 PM on August 10, 2011

How can I ask...

I have tried (and failed) with roommates in the past to be diplomatic about asking for things, because in the past I have always been roommates with friends.

However, my approach now is more along the lines of: "Hey, [roommate], I can't get in to use the sink. Can you please wash some dishes?" or "Hey, [roommate], can you please clean the kitchen scraps off the counter when you're done in the kitchen?" Followed up with a bright and cheerful, "thanks!" (said mostly to myself if roommate is in the other room) the next time I pass through the affected area and notice that said chore has been done.

This straightforward, no-bullshit tactic has been wildly successful for me. I don't know why I always tried to make it so difficult before.
posted by phunniemee at 10:49 PM on August 10, 2011 [7 favorites]

Okay, how about you get creative and combine your dishes and trash problems by buying disposable dishes for her? Hopefully she's not the save-the-earth type, and even if she is, Whole Foods sells these awesome biodegradable plasticware and bowls these days. :)
posted by Nixy at 10:49 PM on August 10, 2011

Just talk to her and tell the truth in a professional manner. Explain why and how these things are an issue for you in a calm manner. Be open minded and aware that others are different than you, and some things might not change. But the first step is bringing it to her attention.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 10:53 PM on August 10, 2011

I remember sharing an apartment with three roomies, and we had no dishwasher. Those dishes PILED UP every single week, and only two of us were ever bothered by it enough to clean them most of the time. For a lot of people, washing dishes by hand is just too much damn effort. I'd suggest thinking about pooling your money and checking Craigslist for a cheap used portable dishwasher. It's way less effort to rinse off a couple of plates and stick them in the dishwasher, and it's a task just about any roommate is up for.

And it's juvenile and sounds like a Brady Bunch resolution, but I always found that with my roommates, the best thing to do would be to call a house meeting and draw up a chart and assign chores. House meetings, while occasionally prickly, are a good thing to do every once in a while -- for all you know, your roomie's got one or two things she's been meaning to tell you also, so it's a good opportunity to clear the air.
posted by stennieville at 10:58 PM on August 10, 2011

I eventually and painfully found that the more direct I was with my roommates, the better everything went. Phunniemee is right- when you are in the same room and something is bugging you, mention it politely: "Hey, X, tomorrow is trash day- can you give the fridge a once-over and see if anything of yours needs to get tossed?" or "I'd like to cook, could you do me a favor and deal with your dishes so I have some room to get around?" Then it has no time to become a Thing, because it is not good for either of you if it becomes a Thing. So much better than being the roommate who carries her own toilet paper into the bathroom because GODDAMMIT I ALWAYS BUY THE TP AND DOESN'T SHE UNDERSTAND IT'S HER TURN?? not that I ever was a passive-aggressive weirdo like that, nope, no way...

The other thing you can do is set your household up so that being clean is as easy as possible. So, for example, the counter thing is nasty (I strongly disagree that that is a once-a-week deal for most people). Maybe she doesn't want to touch a gross sponge or wait for hot water- but if you guys had a big thing of Clorox or Lysol disposable wipes sitting around, maybe she'd do it. I also find that if the cleaning supplies are all in one easily-taken-out bucket or caddy under the sink, I am inexplicably more likely to use them than if I had to rummage around for them individually.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:57 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hey, are you living with my husband? Please have a nice calm conversation with your roommate. Simply tell her what is bothering you. I do not think you are being picky, the stuff that bothers you would really bother me.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 12:41 AM on August 11, 2011

Whatever you do, do not throw their food away, even if it is rotting. I had an irreversible flare-up with a house full of people when a guest of the house threw away a load of ragu I had made the night before because it "smelled". I nth the suggestion of a direct confrontation recalling the original agreement to be clean in communal spaces. There really is no other way forward than speaking your mind. It's your house, too!
posted by parmanparman at 1:14 AM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

My new roommate assured me during our initial interview of each other that she was very clean...

This may mean that she likes to think of herself as being very clean; she sees cleanliness as a virtue and wants to claim it for herself. It may mean she was disgusted by some habits of her former roommate and was desperate to avoid a replay. It definitely doesn't mean that all of her housekeeping habits are perfect, or that her particular cleanliness-related priorities match yours. So, you have to talk. Tell her, early and often, what your preferences are. Make requests, not demands, and make them nicely. Frame them as what they are -- YOUR PREFERENCES -- not as rules / agreements she is breaking, habits that are objectively gross, etc.

to clarify: we have a double sided sink. i have the left, she has the right. this was explicitly claimed when we moved in together, just for logistical purposes.

I suggest you drop this policy, because it's clearly not working. She has already dropped it anyhow. It was a well-intended bad idea. Look for a better one instead of trying to force this one.
posted by jon1270 at 3:22 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel your pain with this. Living with someone who isn't just a little scatter-brained and leaves the cereal box on the counter is one thing. Someone who leaves gross food in the fridge and the other things you mentioned is downright tough.

It seems this person doesn't have a sense of respect for what you value. Surely she has noted that you prefer a tidier environment, but has opted to be unclean. I know some people just aren't as aware of such things or they have a higher tolerance for disorder, but I'd think she'd know that her housekeeping methods aren't pleasing to you.

I would speak with her, too. Perhaps begin the conversation with telling her you know you two discussed expectations before she moved in and you'd like to revisit those for the purpose of making sure they're working and understood--so that you can negotiate and discuss some specifics now that you see what the reality of living with her is.

I really do know exactly what this feels like. I'm not an obsessively neat person, but pretty darned tidy. It has driven me bonkers to live with someone who isn't just a little disorderly, but actually dirty in the housekeeping department. Good luck!
posted by lucy40 at 3:47 AM on August 11, 2011

You mention in the OP that she doesn't respond to texts to emails before asking how to bring this up with her; that to me indicates you're not good with what you see as confrontation and really don't want to talk to her about this.

As others have mentioned, though, you must talk to her about this. Confronting people is not the same as criticising them, which is what I think most folks get stressed out about. Blame the size of the kitchen if you need to offload some of this. "Hey, Jenna, with the kitchen being so small, it seems to get messy really quickly. I think it would help if we wiped down counters and did dishes every day, just to keep it clear of clutter. What do you think?"

Deal with the fridge stuff as needed. "I'm cleaning out the fridge; do you want me to pitch this cottage cheese?"
posted by DarlingBri at 5:25 AM on August 11, 2011

I would be agreeing with most people IF your roomate hadn't sold herself as a clean person in the interview. Because she specifically addressed the cleanliness in the interview, it is well within your rights to bring upto her that she needs to be cleaner. Just be straightforward, say "listen I love you as a roomate but jeeze take the trash out when it's full and quit leaving your dishes in my side!"

If you're going to call her out on her cleanliness, then be sure that your own cleanliness is up to par as well. If this means NOT leaving dishes to "soak" for more than an hour, then so be it. She might just be lax on her dishes because you are.

If you don't want to be confrontational, you can be passive aggressive and just clean up her messes while periodically saying "ew gross!" once in a while. But that's kind of immature.
posted by katypickle at 5:35 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking as a roommate who is the messier one of two living in an apartment I actually appreciate the way in which my roommate approaches confrontations about this sort of thing. For small things, she just says, hey would you mind not leaving the doors open so much, I have a tendency to bang my head on them, or the like. And I say, sure, and she says thanks! And then I remember for a couple months and then usually the habit starts again. But over time, my annoying habits have lessened considerably (I think).
For larger issues she would send me long emails detailing what she wanted me to differently, usually in a non-accusatory tone, and not making it sound like I was a bad person for having different standards of "clean". I think this is key -- the thing is, you just have different standards, and you don't want your roommate to start resenting you, or the living situation could get uncomfortable. Just clearly set out what you'd like her to do and use lots of please and thank you. My mother says my roommate's been able to train me better than she's ever been able to do so it's certainly possible to make a messy roommate cleaner, or at least to contain the mess to her own room.
posted by peacheater at 5:41 AM on August 11, 2011

I used to live with a girl who would buy fishfood ice cream, eat out all the candy and then leave the soupy melted remainder in the sink to rot for a week. The tiny kitchen was a smelly disaster all summer. Until i asked her to dump it so i could make brownies. Suddenly i was making brownies all the time, but she was like OH you NEED that space!

Quick like a bunny is really the best way to deal with the dishes and counter tops. catch her in the act- or the kitchen and ask her casually and directly. "yo, when you're done cooking could you wipe the counter down? thanks dude." If she's all "what do you mean by that" just say you're planning on cooking later. no big deal- because it isn't for her.

Accept that she is not going to know at what point the stink of the garbage will become unacceptable to you. "oof I think i can smell the garbage all the way into the hall. Would you mind taking it down a little early?" done.

Accept that the open cabinets are annoying, but not worth flipping your shit over. Seriously, just close them when you walk in.

It also might be worth thinking about dividing duties based on what makes sense less in a "equal time for each task" and more in a "you do what i freaking hate and vice versa". I did all the dishes for my last roommate (and also my current live-in boyfriend) but I never ever have to haul the trash down. Works for me since i can't stand dirty pilled up dishes but I will allow trash to become a mountain just so i con't have to go to the basement.
posted by Blisterlips at 6:00 AM on August 11, 2011

I'm shit at dealing with roommates and very messy. That being said, the boyfriend and I go through the fridge looking for expired/spoiled/gross foods nearly every time we take out the garbage. That way, spoiled food isn't sitting in the garbage can for any period of time. He does what other posters have suggested and just asks, "Can we throw this away?". We also use the odor resistant garbage bags and keep the can in the cabinet under the sink, both of which really help cut down on any noticible smell.
posted by youngergirl44 at 6:07 AM on August 11, 2011

I think that your policy of splitting the sink is not going to work. Washing dishes can be messy and stuff will definitely splash over from the other side. I also think that leaving a bunch of clean dishes to soak regularly (you say they have 'sticky stuff' on them, and just soaking 'sticky stuff' off doesn't mean they're clean) would be really confusing to most people. You need to work on your confrontational skills. It could be that you have a psycho awful roommate who delights in ignoring your needs, but it is far more likely that you aren't being assertive and firm about what you want. You feel so bad about this that you've resorted to asking a bunch of strangers on the internet--you need to deal with the Real World sphere of getting things done!! I will answer your bullet points with things that I would say that have worked for me in the past.

a) leave drawers, cabinets, and closets wide open without closing them

Tell her that she needs to close the cabinets. "Girl, can you PLEASE close these cabinets? I keep hitting myself in the dark!!!"

b) leave large quantities of raw food scraps on the counter after cooking (that, if I don't notice them in time, often become baked on and almost impossible to remove)

"Girl, can you PLEASE clean these counters off when you're done? This is straight nasty!"

c) not remove rotting food from the fridge after it's gone bad

Okay, MOST people are guilty of this. Every house I've lived in has had this happen. Just say:

"GURLLLLLLLLL, is this nasty rotting hummus/tuna/chinese takeout yours? It isn't mine! Throw it awayyyy!!!!!!!!!!! We should clean out our fridge soon!"

d) take the trash out only when it's overflowing, not when it's starting to smell

Why aren't you taking out the garbage or asking her to do it?

"GRRRRRRRRRLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL, can you take out this garbage while I wipe down the counters? It is fixin' to get nasty!!!"

Alternatively, you can just have a time where you clean. It's as simple as saying (like above), "Hey, ROOMIE, can you take out the garbage while I put away these dishes?"
posted by 200burritos at 6:07 AM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

It seems this person doesn't have a sense of respect for what you value. Surely she has noted that you prefer a tidier environment, but has opted to be unclean.

This is not a constructive way to frame this situation. It is not about you. People are different, and are bothered by different things. Full stop. Ginning up stories about what she does or doesn't value won't help here.

Nthing everyone who has said to just be Just be direct and low-key about asking for what you need.
posted by jeoc at 6:59 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

c) not remove rotting food from the fridge after it's gone bad

This one's easy: you care about this, so once a week go through the fridge and throw out expired stuff (by date.)

Um, the date on food is the sell by date. The food is usually good fro a long time after that date. And I agree with parmanparman that throwing away somebody else's food without asking is a bad, bad idea.

Anyway, what worked with me was for other people to do my chores. If you washed my dishes that had been sitting there for a week, I'd wither with shame and never leave a dirty dish the behind for months. But that's me. Other people have no shame.
posted by BrashTech at 8:05 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I tend towards ... being not so neat. Mr. B is OCD neat and clean. We live in a TINY space (270 sq ft!) I have learned to clean up after myself, to put things where they belong, etc but one thing in particular drove Mr. B nuts ... I would take out the trash but not replace the liner. He said something to me just recently that resolved that, which is what I am posting to share ...

He explained "putting in the trash liner is completing the cycle (of the chore) ... not doing it is leaving it open ended". Wow ... that one statement revolutionized my life ... now I think in terms of "completing the cycle" and all kinds of things I didn;t do before or I looked at as a PITA are getting done because I think "what is the cycle here" and want to finalize each thing.
YMMV .....
posted by batikrose at 8:17 AM on August 11, 2011 [7 favorites]

d) take the trash out only when it's overflowing, not when it's starting to smell

I just wanted to say that I've been the roommate who doesn't take out trash when it's starting to smell, and it was honestly because I have a fairly bad sense of smell and didn't actually know the trash was offensively smelly to my roommate. Your roommate may be in a similar situation, in which case you're never going to be able to agree on when the trash is smelly enough to throw out. When the trash starts to get smelly, mention something about it to your roommate to gauge whether or not she can actually tell it's smelly. If she can't, it's unfortunately just going to be on you. I know I did my best to toss the trash when I knew there were a bunch of potentially smelly food scraps in there, but I didn't really have any way of knowing when the trash was offensively smelly to my roommate without her telling me. Otherwise, you can just agree to switch off taking the trash out every however many days.
posted by yasaman at 12:08 PM on August 11, 2011

I am going to disagree with the majority opinion here and say that all of your requests, including asking your roomie to close drawers and cabinets when she is done with them, are reasonable. It shouldn't be your ongoing responsibility to take your time and effort to clean up after her, or even to shut all her open drawers.

I have found through long experience that the best way to avoid hard feelings like the ones you are experiencing now is to get agreements in writing. Again and again when I haven't had an agreement in writing, the other party violates what I believe were the terms of the agreement. And then I have this huge unpleasant issue where I have to choose between tolerating their shit and saying something about it and then having a debate about what is reasonable.

If you have a written agreement, there is no debate about what that agreement was. It doesn't matter if people remember it differently, because it's right there in writing to be consulted at any time. It doesn't matter if people have "different definitions of clean" because hey, it's right there in writing that trash needs to be taken out every night (or whatever).

I gather that some people find having a roomie agreement to be anal. Ok. I'd rather be anal before inviting a roomie to share my space rather than after finding out they are different than they verbally represented themselves to be.

Also unlike most of the other suggestions, I would not take a piecemeal approach to this, saying something about each particular issue at the time you notice it when she is in the room. Instead I would sit her down and have a comprehensive talk about this, where you state what your expectations are and ask whether she would like to continue to be room mates under these terms or not. Yes, it will be unpleasant, no matter how polite you are it will probably have a confrontational feel. But it should nip the issue in the bud. Otherwise, you are going to be relegated to having to spend your time and energy continually cleaning up after her and feeling resentful.
posted by parrot_person at 3:07 PM on August 11, 2011

Thank you all for your input. As I write this, my roommate is violating another one of our agreements, which was to notify each other if we were going to have people over. I ALWAYS let her know. She hasn't, and now there are 6 people sitting on the couch using the TV I wanted to come home and watch after a shitty day. The kitchen is a mess because she's fed all of them, and again, there are dishes in my side of the sink because she hasn't done her dishes yet. They've even used some of my glasses, and I've told her previously that my stuff is my stuff.

Given that she was the one who suggested most of this stuff and that she's now violating most of it, I guess I'm going to have to ask her about it, and very bluntly.

I am so frustrated right now.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 6:20 PM on August 11, 2011

Don't be frustrated - go be angry. I suspect you will find it much more useful in meeting your end goal here.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:34 PM on August 11, 2011

I think you may be setting yourself up for failure by having separate dishes and separate sides of the sink. However, she was out of line in inviting all of those people over. Is she being passive-aggressive and responding to what she perceives as your "strict" rules (not that it is okay)?

You need to sit down with her tonight. She sounds as though she is not respecting you and maybe it is time for her to find another place. I have lived in a lot of situations and nothing degraded my quality of life like having to deal with roommates who didn't respect our initial cleanliness agreements.
posted by 200burritos at 5:52 AM on August 12, 2011

I have been in this situation. Let it out.

I tried to be an amicable roommate, sacrificing my happiness and sanity for their convenience. When I realized that is exactly what it was, I stopped. And a lot of the problems stopped. Or happened far less frequently.

Just like you don't want dirty dishes in the sink, they don't want to hear about dirty dishes in the sink every time they leave them. They're not home? Text them. Oh, I see you on facebook chat! 'Hey, we don't have a lot of kitchen space - can we try to clean up sooner so everyone can use the kitchen when they'd like to?'

Copy and paste sista (brotha?), copy and paste. I started to laugh when I'd highlight my little 'dishes' note or 'cat shit' note to send to them. I made it fun. Sometimes I'd add an 'xoxo' or 'you're a babe' to the end.

Did I achieve my ultimate goal of everyone adhering to the house agreements? No. Did I spare myself a lot of anguish? Yes.
posted by at 3:58 PM on August 31, 2011

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