Coping with frustration
October 22, 2013 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I get frustrated with my roommate easily (sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly), and need some coping mechanisms to remain civil. Roommate and I are friends, and generally have fun when we spent friends time together outside of the apartment. But we have some living differences...

Roommate is male, I am female. We've been friends for 2 years and roommates for 3 months. Generally the roommates thing is good, but I get frustrated with him easily. We have some communication differences that result in arguments over really petty differences.

Ex: Last night, it was warm and I asked him to turn the fan up because he was up. He didn't hear me so he turned the AC on... which was okay, but then because it was dusty he went to clean it with a wet paper towel (bad way to clean it b/c the dust ends up glued to the surface) and I told him to use a rag (which I have, and were in fact closer). He freezes, gives me a look, and kind of stutters in confusion. I go on to explain why, and he does what I ask but with a "you're being unreasonable" attitude. Then I get annoyed because every single time I ask him to do something a different way (a way that I think is better), he perceives it as being patronizing/bossing or something, and then I get frustrated because he's annoyed.

So it's this vicious cycle. The things I tell him to do differently are things that I consider basic knowledge -- for example, I have a kitchen trash can with a closed lid. He moved in while I was away, and had put his open trash can in the middle of the (small) kitchen, and it was making the whole apartment smell. Ensue argument wherein I try to explain the virtues of a trash can with a lid, and he explains that he was using a small trashcan because he wasn't making enough trash to use the big one, and I say that doesn't make sense because his trash can was overflowing and not that much smaller than mine, and then he gets annoyed because I'm "not listening to his explanation" and then I say I get his explanation, but the point of what I was saying wasn't about whether he was right or wrong in the past, but about using the trash can that won't make our apartment smell in the future.

I consider this kind of argument petty. I think it's sometimes necessary to correct things he does, but he doesn't take criticism well, even when I do it as considerate as I can. This has led to me not caring how I deliver my criticism. I'm also particular about some things so I try to save my criticism for where it matters (like hygiene and smells), but because his level of cleanliness is lower than mine, he doesn't even notice things I'm disgusted with. I don't think I would mind so much if he noticed things and just didn't have time to deal with them.

So: MeFi, save our friendship. We are planning on being roommates for the next year and a half, and I don't want to have fights over silly things. What can I do to keep these discussions from devolving into fights?
posted by Chaussette Fantoche to Human Relations (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Then I get annoyed because every single time I ask him to do something a different way (a way that I think is better), he perceives it as being patronizing/bossing or something, and then I get frustrated because he's annoyed.

I'm unclear on why this is surprising -- I think that's pretty normal unless he's doing something flat-out idiotic like using oven cleaner in the washing machine. Most people have little quirky preferences about the 'best' way to clean something.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:35 AM on October 22, 2013 [31 favorites]


Then I get annoyed because every single time I ask him to do something a different way (a way that I think is better)

Stop doing this. He's a grown up. How it works with grown ups is that if you don't like the way they complete a task, you do it yourself. I know--BELIEVE ME, I KNOW--how frustrating it is when someone loads the dishwasher like a nincompoop. But you know what? The dishwasher is still getting loaded, and it really doesn't matter. Not in the long run. If you don't like it, shut up and do it yourself.

If the trash smells, it needs to get taken out. I hate lidded garbage cans, personally, because if something is stinky, it should not be in the house. Stop trying to hide it. If his trash is overflowing and/or stinky, he needs to take it out.

Long story short: you need to chill out or you're going to drive yourself mad. Personally, I hate living with other people for precisely these reasons. People don't do it my way, and even though I realize it's irrational to think I can tell them what to do, the fact that they're still doing it bugs me. That's why I live alone now. If you can't afford to live alone, then you need to chill out.
posted by phunniemee at 7:38 AM on October 22, 2013 [52 favorites]


Stop correcting him. Your way isn't right, it's different. If it's bugging you, do it your way. He doesn't have to live up to your expectations.

So he wipes the grate with a paper towel. Big deal. If you don't like the result, go over it with your rag the next day.

If the trash stinks, ask him to take it out. Don't nag and lecture him about the virtues of a trash can with a lid.

You do have to settle on a level of cleanliness for the apartment. No dirty dishes in the sink. No stinky trash. So sit down and discuss rationally. Your way isn't the RIGHT WAY! It's just A way.

Here's an anecdote. Husbunny selects Fancy Feast from the left side of the pantry, I select it from the right. I like the kitties to have a certain rotation of flavors. Now it would be STUPID of me to insist on my way in this matter, so I started taking the cans from the left. No argument and the kitties don't get Tuna Feast twice in a row.

Here's another: There was some left over pizza, and Husbunny asked me what to do with it. I said, "Save it for tomorrow." He asked, "What should I put it in?" I said, "I'll leave it to you to decide." Mostly because, could the question have been any more stupid? He said, "Okay, I'll put it in a Ziplock." I thought about it for a second and decided to shut up. He did it the way he thought it should be done and that was fine. Sure, some Saran Wrap would have been cheaper, but in the end, who cares?

You can tell someone what to do, or you can tell them how to do it. You can't do both.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:40 AM on October 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


Then I get annoyed because every single time I ask him to do something a different way (a way that I think is better), he perceives it as being patronizing/bossing or something, and then I get frustrated because he's annoyed.

I hate to sound like a writer of a cliched sitcom but you only get to do this with your spouse or partner. And even then it should be avoided.

The best way to deal with arguments like this, I've found, is to do it yourself. If I'm upset with something in the house, I clean it. I don't get to be pissy about it because I'm the one who is annoyed enough to do it. When you are in a situation where you have totally different ideas about what 'clean' means, this doesn't work. But it doesn't really sound like you are worlds apart, and in that case, it's up to you to make it the way you want it. If you can't live with that, you probably shouldn't be roommates, but, like I said, it doesn't sound like you are really there.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:43 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess I should clarify -- I know sometimes I'm being unreasonable with my requests and feel free to comment on how I can bite my tongue.

But sometimes it's definitely cleanliness standards -- like smells coming from his room, or "cleaning" the table for company by brushing all the crumbs onto the floor, or finding that all of the dishes he just washed by hand have food very obviously stuck on them.

I was living alone before, and don't need to live with a roommate, but he needed a cheap place to live, and I wanted to help him out, and I thought it could be fun. And it is mostly fun. We discussed this before he moved in, since I knew our cleanliness standards are different. He said he would try to keep things how I liked them since we knew it was a potential issue.
posted by Chaussette Fantoche at 7:47 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was living alone before, and don't need to live with a roommate,

Then you should move. Sorry to your buddy, but it's going to make you crazy.

Back in my roommate days I lived (separately! in two different apartments!) with two hoarders. It was awful. One of them, in addition to the hoarding, never washed with soap and didn't flush his poop down the toilet. The other one kept bags of cat poop in the closet and swore up and down that the ants we had were not caused by the food she always left smeared around the kitchen.

I get it. I do. You can't control his behavior. You can't micromanage his cleaning habits. It's going to get to the point where you resent him so much that you can't be friends with him again. I know because I've been there.

It only ever gets worse.

Move.
posted by phunniemee at 7:53 AM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


He said he would try to keep things how I liked them since we knew it was a potential issue.

This tends not to work, in my experience. It's always easier being the messier roommate.

To tackle your main question, "What can I do to keep these discussions from devolving into fights?" it's probably best to avoid the discussions if at all possible. Try to accept that a "good enough" standard of cleanliness is the best you can expect while living with this roommate. You also need to be very careful with your tone; above you say The things I tell him to do differently are things that I consider basic knowledge, and though you may not say this out loud with him, I expect your tone says essentially the same thing; if it does, that will shut down the conversation quickly.

Having a state-of-the-union discussion in general may help, depending on the circumstances.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:54 AM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


You say that you try to "save your criticism for where it matters," but the example you give (cleaning the AC with a rag versus a paper towel) didn't actually matter (to you) at all.

It sounds like you're condescending ("things I consider basic knowledge") and not very kind ("not caring how I deliver my criticism"). You say that it's sometimes necessary to correct him—I wonder, are you open to being corrected by him, or is all the imparting of knowledge and A Better Way going in one direction?

Good for you for recognizing that what you're doing isn't working. Rather than criticizing, you might try the animal-trainer method of rewarding behavior you like and ignoring behavior you don't.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:55 AM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ruthless Bunny: "...

Here's another: There was some left over pizza, and Husbunny asked me what to do with it. I said, "Save it for tomorrow." He asked, "What should I put it in?" I said, "I'll leave it to you to decide." Mostly because, could the question have been any more stupid? He said, "Okay, I'll put it in a Ziplock." I thought about it for a second and decided to shut up. He did it the way he thought it should be done and that was fine. Sure, some Saran Wrap would have been cheaper, but in the end, who cares?

You can tell someone what to do, or you can tell them how to do it. You can't do both.
"

First, tin foil for the pizza. Then it can go right into the (toaster) oven for reheat.

The Bunny may be Ruthless, but she is right. I think this is on you to change more than him. If you want it done, ask. If you want it done your way, do it yourself.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:59 AM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


From your update it sounds to me like part of the issue might be that he moved into your place, and you expect him to live up to your standards. I'm not sure that he should have to do that.

I have to say if someone told me to use a rag to clean instead of the wet paper towel I had in my hand, I would throw all of it right out the window. Just reading that irritates me, so I can imagine how your roommate feels.

I would make things as easy to clean as possible. For example, we have a container of Lysol wipes under the bathroom counter. Now when (never if) someone messes up the sink it takes two seconds to clean it, whereas before I had to hunt down cleaning supplies, which gave me more time to get mad.

Perhaps you could try to choose your battles - if something smells, that needs to be cleaned. If something is dusty, it can probably wait. Think about three things that really bother you, talk to him about those three things, and let everything else go.
posted by lyssabee at 8:03 AM on October 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


It sounds like you resent your roommate and/or feel you don't need to compromise because you are financially better off and are only living with him to help him out. Try to see it from his perspective, though: as far as he's concerned this is a mutually beneficial relationship, not you doing him a favor, so you both get equal say in how the household is run.

If most of your arguments are about cleaning and it's really damaging your friendship or jeopardizing your ability to live together, why not use some of the money you are saving by having a roommate and hire a cleaning service? You should still come out ahead overall compared to living alone.
posted by payoto at 8:07 AM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd agree with all of the advice you've been given above.

The only way you'll survive this situation (and future living situations) is if you learn to mellow out and lower your expectations of others.

Let's consider the "cleaning the AC" situation. I clean vents and fans the way your roommate did. Your way of cleaning the AC (with a dry rag, I'm assuming) causes dust to fly everywhere as you wipe it off. Like your roommate, I always grab a wet paper towel. Sure, a little more dust can stick to the surface, but then it's not flying everywhere as you clean something off. Most of the dust actually goes on the paper towel.

The point is not whether I'm right or you're right, the point is that it's a personal preference, and it's not a big deal. Either way, the AC vent is cleaner.

If you want it done your exact way, then do it yourself. If you ask him, then be prepared to live with some minor differences in how things end up.

And the one habit you have to stop is lecturing someone about how to do something while they are in the middle of doing you a favor.

If you continue to lecture him about things like this, I can guarantee you that his resentment will build (why is she lecturing me all the time about such stupid stuff, I'm trying to help) and your resentment will build (why can't he do everything the exact way I tell him to).

Even great roommates will live differently and do things differently. I love my wife and we get along great, and we are very compatible... and we have to learn to deal with each others' preferences, and learn to let things go.

Work on breaking these habits and stopping these expectations now. Good for you for noticing that your current patterns aren't working!
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:08 AM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


To speak to your two specific examples:

If you cared enough to ask him to turn on the fan, you cared enough to get up and do it yourself. The fact that he was "already up" is irrelevant - at best. From his point of view, he was helping you out, at your request, only to find himself being criticized when he had been minding his own business a moment ago. When I'm in that position, I start feeling real shitty real fast.

The trashcan issue is simpler. Since he moved into your place, you get to say in as kind a tone of voice you can muster: "I prefer to use a lidded can in here if that's all right. The smell of garbage really bothers me." If he doesn't oblige you that, then yeah he might be a bit of a jerk too.

Choose your battles, indeed.
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:08 AM on October 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


Everyone has different standards for cleanliness. My roommates don't clean the stove as often as I'd like, so I do it. The grime used to annoy me until one day I realized that I literally do not know if they clean other things that I don't clean. The living room, for example, is immaculate despite being often used. I never clean the thing. It must be my roommates cleaning it. Once I had the epiphany that there are probably things that I get dirty that they clean all the time, I felt a lot happier about cleaning the stove. You might also try reminding yourself that you value his friendship and don't want to hurt your friend by being callous about his habits.

If his room smells, whatever, it's his private space.

By the way, sometimes the greatest of friends just cannot cohabitate due to different roommate standards. And that's okay! You don't have to live together next year if it sucks for both of you, and that's fine.
posted by nicodine at 8:11 AM on October 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Try to differentiate in your mind what's a cleanliness issue and what's a thing that you think could be done better.

Brushing crumbs to the floor doesn't eliminate crumbs or clean table - cleanliness issue.
Wiping down the A/C unit the way you don't like - not a cleanliness issue.
Gross smells coming from his room - if food or mold, cleanliness issue; if sweat, close the door and MYOB.

Ensue argument wherein I try to explain the virtues of a trash can with a lid, and he explains that he was using a small trashcan because he wasn't making enough trash to use the big one, and I say that doesn't make sense because his trash can was overflowing and not that much smaller than mine, and then he gets annoyed because I'm "not listening to his explanation" and then I say I get his explanation, but the point of what I was saying wasn't about whether he was right or wrong in the past, but about using the trash can that won't make our apartment smell in the future.

Gah! Instead of All. That. Drama. just say "I already have a kitchen bin, keep yours in storage."

Stop explaining to him why your way is better. It may be better (sometimes it definitely will be), it may not (sometimes you are dead wrong) - it doesn't matter. It's your place so you're free to lay down some rules without becoming den mother.
posted by headnsouth at 8:17 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad you followed that up, because your original question was phrased in a way that made you sound condescending and ungracious. He did you a (yes, very small, and bumbling) favor by turning on and cleaning the AC and your response is to tell him he's cleaning it wrong? That's petty and rude.

Smells from his room, though? Leaving food on handwashed dishes? Crumbs on the floor? Those merit discussion and a certain amount of extra work on your part. It's only fair--he's taking on some extra cleaning work he wouldn't do if he wasn't living with you, and you're taking on some extra cleaning work you wouldn't do if you weren't living with him. You're doing him a favor, yes, but it doesn't make things any better for you to have the attitude of "I'm doing you a favor so now I can tell you what to do". You'll have more peace if you give him the normal amount of say a roommate would have in how they handle chores.

With respect to the smell in his room, I'd make a habit of asking if him if he has anything to throw out when you are taking your trash out. With respect to the food on the dishes, can you set up the sink so that it can soak whatever is put in there? My roommate recently said, "Dishes always become an issue with roommates". It's the truth! After a series of roommates, I've given up on "fairness" with respect to dishes and just rewash anything that I want to use that is still dirty. Saves me a lot of stress. Crumbs on the floor? Can you keep a broom and dust pan close by and let him know that you'd like him to use it whenever he wipes the table down? You might also want to increase the frequency with which you vacuum. It does seem like the two of you are incompatible, but there's probably some middle ground you can live with until he finds somewhere else to live.
posted by rhythm and booze at 8:20 AM on October 22, 2013


You can ask people to do things, but you don't get to tell people how to do it. You are being patronizing/bossing when you insist on rag over towel.

As for stuff like brusing crumbs on the floor; it's a reasonable request to ask him not to do that. This is a separate problem from the above.
posted by spaltavian at 8:44 AM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's sometimes necessary to correct things he does

NECESSARY is for something like when he tries to put out a grease fire with water instead of smothering it. In the AC and the trashcan examples, it wasn't NECESSARY for you to correct anything, because he's not doing anything wrong, just different from the way you would do it. Deal with your frustration by reminding yourself that he didn't do anything wrong-- you just have your own preference. And therefore you are out of line to criticize him. (Here's the litmus test for knowing if he's wrong: if it's not damaging the house or any of your personal property, or creating a risk of illness or injury, then it's not wrong. Trash odor may be a nuisance but it's not injuring anybody.)

If these things are important to you, ask nicely if you can use your trashcan instead of his. Ask nicely if he can let you dust the AC from now on.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 8:49 AM on October 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think some people are just not well-suited for roommate-type situations. I'm one of them.
It also sounds like you are just plain incompatible roommates.

Here's the thing though:
He said he would try to keep things how I liked them since we knew it was a potential issue.

He actually is trying. Trying doesn't mean instant success. To be frank, if you want to keep your friendship, you're going to have to work on meeting him halfway. But it's going to get really unfun, really fast, if you keep trying to manage his behavior.

The easiest thing to do would be for him to find another place to live.
posted by sm1tten at 9:04 AM on October 22, 2013


things that I consider basic knowledge...

sometimes it's definitely cleanliness standards...


There are no such things as "basic knowledge" or "cleanliness standards." There are things that you know and things that he knows, and there are your cleanliness standards and his cleanliness standards. It is possible for the messier person to achieve the cleaner person's standards, but it requires two things:

1 -- The messier person has to want to make that climb.

2 -- The cleaner person has to explain those standards very precisely (and it's pretty useful to the messier person if the cleaner person can explain why).

So if your roommate wants to make that climb and achieve your cleanliness standards, it is incumbent on you to explain what they are. "Clean dishes" is not a useful explanation. "Dishes without visible food remaining on them" is more useful. Most useful of all is doing the dishes to your standard while he's standing there and watching, then you do them together the next time, then he does them while you're watching the next time. Always do this "real world" -- use the actual dirty dishes so he can see the change from dirty to clean.
posted by Etrigan at 9:17 AM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I totally get where you're coming from - I feel that there is A Right Way for most things in life, including cleaning, and I get the strong tendency to correct others too. We need to crush that tendency, though - it isn't a healthy friendship dynamic.

Can you try to focus on results rather than methods? It sounds like you're being really critical of his cleaning methods, which comes off as patronizing, but the real reason is that you aren't happy with the level of cleanliness achieved. He agrees that the level of cleanliness is inadequate, which is great, and means that there is hope. So, e.g.:

1) instead of "you're using the wrong garbage can", try "hey roomie, the kitchen smells recently huh? how can we fix this problem (he gives input) ...ok let's try that and see if it helps (that=any solution that might improve things, even if it isn't what you consider ideal) (re-discuss in a few weeks if it doesn't help)."

2) instead of "you're cleaning the vents/dishes/table/etc wrong, do it this way", try "hey roomie, I noticed the dishes you washed are still dirty, fyi" (he will probably come up with his own solution, if not, this is where you can offer suggestions)

Cleanliness is important, but acting like a parent is not a good way to approach things. Treat him like an adult - point out the problems but don't force your solutions on him. Any way he wants to clean is totally fine, the end result is the important thing. And that end result is something that is inevitably compromised in a roommate solution - you can insist on basic stuff like "dishes and surfaces clean" but you can't really have very detailed expectations - it's not fair to have him be the only one compromising.
posted by randomnity at 9:21 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you have a sit-down about what matters? The smell actually does effect you - especially if you have mold allergies. Dishes that are put away as clean but aren't effects you. There are probably things you do incorrectly as far as he is concerned, btw, so remind yourself heis making adjustments, too.

The rest, just do it yourself. If you have the time and energy to tell him how to do something, then you have a the time and energy to do it.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:23 AM on October 22, 2013


Last night, it was warm and I asked him to turn the fan up because he was up. He didn't hear me so he turned the AC on... which was okay, but then because it was dusty he went to clean it with a wet paper towel (bad way to clean it b/c the dust ends up glued to the surface) and I told him to use a rag...

Look, you have two choices here.

You can do stuff yourself, and have it be done to your specifications. Whether that's "make the room cooler" or "dust things" or whatever.

Or you can delegate these things to someone else and be happy with it being done whichever way suits that person.

It would have taken you no time at all to turn on whichever house-cooling appliance suited you, and/or to dust a thing you noticed needed dusting. And you would have avoided all this roommate agita. Instead you chose to ramp up the drama and not really save any time at all by micromanaging your roommate.

Also, assuming your roommate is a neurotypical adult human, stop micromanaging the way he does things, in general. Unless his way of doing stuff is actively causing real harm, just let it go.

If it's a borderline case, like his way of doing something is actually detrimental to your quality of life in a demonstrable way (not just "because he's not doing it how I would do it and it bugs me"), for example a stinky* kitchen, I would find a way to make your concerns known in a tactful way that is neither accusatory nor patronizing. Like, don't assume he doesn't know how garbage works, just say, "Hey, the kitchen smells a little garbagey. Would you mind taking out the trash?" Or, hell, you could just take it out. Like you do, when you notice the garbage is overflowing.

*One caveat here: the demonstrably actually causing harm/impacting your life needs to be ACTUALLY HAPPENING NOW, not a thing that could potentially happen in some nebulous Worst Timeline. Harm actually being caused here and now in a way you can point at and say, "this is happening, and it is specifically not good because X"? Point it out to your roommate. Theoretical possibility that something bad could happen in a worst case scenario involving a simultaneous zombie apocalypse, Y2K, and alien invasion? Do not bother your roommate.
posted by Sara C. at 9:30 AM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Allow me to caveat myself: If you're talking about actual filth, or stenches, or anything like that, then the hammer needs to be laid down and things like that need to be nipped in the bud.

If you're talking about, say, clutter, or a difference in the way something is done as long as the end result is essentially the same, that's where compromise needs to come into play.

The best way to handle this, I've discovered, is for the "more particular" person to make things as easy as possible for the "less particular" person.

Example: My husband would get pissed at me because I wouldn't put the cover back on the sofa at the end of the night (so the cat doesn't scratch it). I would get frustrated putting it on because it has to go a certain way and I could never easily figure out which end was which and I would be really really tired at that point. So, making things easy, he put a piece of tape on the inside front of the cover, so all I have to do is find that and it takes me 30 seconds to put it on properly.

He'd also get annoyed about the amount of clutter and whatnot in the living room, left between me and our son. Solution: we each have a bin that we put our clutter stuff in that goes by the stairs. The room is cleaned to Mr. Lucinda's satisfaction, and we just take our stuff upstairs and put it away at our leisure.

TL; DR - the "more particular" person needs to set things up so that the "less particular" person does not need to put much more effort into things than they normally would to achieve the "more particular" person's level of desired cleanliness.
posted by Lucinda at 9:32 AM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think you need to let go of the way you want things done and give him a lot more credit for the things he does do. Take your example:

Last night, it was warm and I asked him to turn the fan up because he was up. He didn't hear me so he turned the AC on... which was okay, but then because it was dusty he went to clean it with a wet paper towel (bad way to clean it b/c the dust ends up glued to the surface) and I told him to use a rag (which I have, and were in fact closer).

He did you a favor -- adjusted the AC at your request. AND he independently noticed that it needed cleaning and decided to do that.

You may have thanked him for adjusting the AC, I don't know. But the perception he's going to come out of that interaction with is not any kind of gratitude but that if he tries to keep things clean, he's just going to get ragged on for doing it wrong. You're basically training him to do as little as possible, because doing things just attracts negative attention.

You need to train yourself -- if he's doing a cleaning task, then your feedback needs to be nothing but positive at the time. If you don't have anything positive to say, say nothing. At another time when he is not actually doing dishes, you can be super-friendly as you say something like "sometimes I notice there's still bits of food left on dishes that you've washed, just wanted to let you know." Don't tell him how to fix the problem, just tell him what it is. Your methods for fixing it are likely to be neither the only right answer nor infallible and telling him what to do is just making it worse.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:42 AM on October 22, 2013


Just be glad he's not your husband! You can leave at some point when you want to.

Seriously, though, these problems are so so common when people cohabitate. It's almost impossible for people to have the same cleanliness standards. I am on the receiving end of this in some regards, and I'm the cleaner one in other regards so I know the pain both ways. I don't have the answer, but I agree that it helps to let some things go (he won't do it to your standards, but at least he'll do it). Try to figure out what you can let go, versus what things will drive you batty if they aren't done properly. Of the things that will drive you batty, you need to either do them yourself, let them go anyway, or have a heart to heart with him and tell him why they drive you batty and could he please do them [x] way. Recognize that not everyone would be driven batty by those things, and that your way isn't necessarily objectively the best way, but it would make you feel saner if he would do them [x] way.
posted by semacd at 9:59 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there really is filth, squalor, reeking stenches, and/or danger happening, I think it will be a lot easier to address that stuff if you dial down the Type A my way or the highway neatnik thing. It's sort of a "crying wolf" situation. If I have a roommate who treats "dust on the AC vent" and "festering rotten food smells" as the same level of problem, I'm just going to tune her out and not listen to any of her housekeeping concerns.

Even for stuff like crumbs on the floor. Does the floor get swept regularly? Then someone getting crumbs on the floor is not a problem, because they're going to get swept up within the next day or so anyway. Crumbs get on floors. It happens. It's not the end of the world. The real problem is when the floor is not getting swept ever. This is why picking your battles is important -- it's a lot easier to talk about who sweeps the floor how often than it is to have a constant state of argument about proper table wiping procedure.
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My last cohabitation (and relationship) ended after a disagreement about how to spray down the guest bathroom sink.

To keep these discussions from turning into fights: stop having these discussions. Pick your battles. Rotting trash: good battle! Proper way to clean AC: not...so much.

He's probably still trying to clean up to your standards; you don't know what his baseline was before he moved in with you.
posted by RainyJay at 10:54 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


You guys don't sound very compatible. I'd tell him you definitely want to keep him as your friend and so he needs to find a new living situation. If you don't I have a feeling you will end up losing the friendship.
posted by wildflower at 11:17 PM on October 22, 2013


Sometimes I just don't understand the DTMFA culture of AskMe.

ottereroticist's link was hilarious, but raised a good point. I fall into the habits I was raised with (nagging), but I know it doesn't work. I started this last night with thanking him for washing 2 wine glasses -- and it feels better for me and him, because it also draws my attention to what he did do while reinforcing for him that I notice and appreciate what he contributes.
posted by Chaussette Fantoche at 9:37 AM on October 23, 2013


We discussed this before he moved in, since I knew our cleanliness standards are different. He said he would try to keep things how I liked them since we knew it was a potential issue.

Okay. So here's the problem. I have been the messier roommate in this situation before, and also the cleaner roommate, so I can absolutely tell you: in both cases, you are not communicating what exactly that means.

"I like it a little neater, I'm worried about you liking it messier, can you try to be cleaner when you're living here?" is the easiest fucking thing in the world to agree to, bar none. There is no quantitative standard. As long as you're trying harder, or doing more, than you would actually be, you have lived up to the standard. Meanwhile, you're often driving the other person bonkers.

I can almost guarantee you have never broken down the infinite number of things "Everyone should know" that are how you would do things, most certainly not before he moved in. To him, your list of things sounds like incomprehensible nitpickiness - COMBINED with a little "If it was that important, you should have told me your specific demands before I moved in here. I told you how I was, you said trying was good enough."

Try writing down a list of things that bother you/things you need things to be done to be cleaned to your standard. Then look at the list. How long is it? If it's longer than a page, this is not going to work without you BOTH readjusting your ideas of what it means to live together.
posted by corb at 12:07 PM on October 23, 2013


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