two young women with flowers in their hairarm and arm walking

Save Your Relationship Now!

Living with other people can be a huge challenge, below is an interview I did with a journalist.

“How would you encourage a roommate to clean up their space, without seeming overbearing or annoying?”

“Communication is key, you must take the time to communicate how you feel in a nonthreatening or judgmental way. Their mess is about them, not you, however, it does affect you. The easiest way to handle this is to discuss expectations and each person’s strengths and weaknesses related to messiness. When I was in college I was not big on doing the dishes, but my roommate Clare loved to do the dishes! We were a good match. Creating chore charts together so that each person is committed and rotating the jobs is a good idea… If messiness is a deal-breaker for you, maybe need to look harder at your potential roommates and possibly even check with past roommates. Living with people takes commitment and communication!”


Some of my roommates in college.

“Should you confront that person, and if so, how might you go about it? Many people find doing that awkward, so how can you make it as smooth a conversation as possible?”

“Confronting the person is negative and usually when you confront someone you are angry…nothing good comes of that. Treating them respectfully and outlining how their messiness affects you and working out a system together would be my recommended approach. Plan what you want to say and if you would feel better practice the conversation with someone ahead of time. Also when you are living in a situation that is uncomfortable it is very important to speak up as soon as you recognize this, addressing issues as soon as they arise is much easier than waiting until it becomes a larger issue.”

Would creating lists or “chore charts” help? That way, each person knows what’s expected of them, and on which days.

Chore charts are a great option, that way everyone is clear on their responsibilities. Also keep in mind that everyone’s skills regarding messiness are different. We need to educate each other sometimes. I had a roommate that washed dishes in cold water- they were disgusting…I had to show her the importance of using hot water…keep in mind I was the one that didn’t like to do dishes.”

Is it, to some degree, about learning to deal with the other person’s habits? What one person defines as messy, another might define as clean or tidy—how can someone control their expectations, I suppose.

“Absolutely, I think my prior example speaks to that. We all grew up in different homes with different standards and habits. When we live with roommates we are learning about our roommates and their habits and standards, it is not always easy and it takes effort on everyone’s part.”

Any other tips you might have on this subject would be most appreciated!

“Communicate, communicate…and then communicate some more.”