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Ask UfYH: Roommate Resolution

Q: I’m in college and have lived with the same roommates for two years. I’ve always been pretty bad at doing chores because of a combination of: 1. depression that makes it hard to do things, 2. never learning how to do chores, and 3. bad time management. Though I am getting better at doing the dishes and other chores, I’m afraid my roommates won’t want to live with me next year. Is there any way I can fix this, or should I live alone next year?

A: Talk to your roommates.

Anyone who has ever lived with roommates is likely to have lived with someone whose standards of clean greatly differ from their own, in one direction or the other. For those who have been the “clean” roommate, it’s basically a dream come true to have the “messy” roommate initiate a conversation about the state of cleanliness in the shared space.

What should that conversation look like? Ideally, you’re honest with your roommates about how you know you haven’t been great at doing chores in the past, but that it’s something you’re working on. Ask them if they have suggestions about things like a schedule or cleaning chart, if there are any areas that are particularly important to them, that kind of thing.

This isn’t about groveling to them and begging them to keep you on as a roommate, though. Let them know what your obstacles to cleaning are, and ask for help if you need it on specific things. Come up with a fair system for chores, and also a pre-arranged method for dealing with things if they go off the rails a little. For example, if Monday is your day to clean the bathroom, you might agree that if you don’t do it by Tuesday night, your roommates can remind you. That way, there’s a series of steps in place already, and you don’t feel picked on and your roommates don’t feel that you aren’t pulling your weight.

Truthfully, I think if a messy roommate came to me for an open and honest conversation in which they admitted they were aware of the problem and were actively trying to work on it, that would go a really long way toward me being way more understanding and reasonable about the whole situation. Keep in mind that most roommate problems can be alleviated, if not solved, just by having a simple discussion.

If you want to keep living with the same people, just talk to them. By initiating the conversation, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll buy yourself an awful lot of good will and leeway as you learn how to manage your time better, work within the limitations of your depression, and acquire the skills you’ve been missing up to this point.

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One reply on “Ask UfYH: Roommate Resolution”

As the clean roommate, when the messy roommate finally came to me and said, “I don’t actually know how to do that and that’s one of the reasons I haven’t done it,” it was a huge relief. I could TEACH her to sweep the floor. (And then I taught her to make a half decent martini, because really, the girl was a terrible bartender, and some life skills are just IMPORTANT, you know?)

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