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How to Deal with Roommates Who Won't Clean Up After Themselves...

Updated on April 13, 2011
Lisa HW profile image

"Lisa" , a "social sciences enthusiast" and Mom of three grown kids, writes from personal experience/exposure and/or past research

And You're Sick of Cleaning Up After Them

After a lifetime of being a "Felix Unger" to a number of different "Oscar Madison's", I'm convinced that a "Felix" and an "Oscar" should never share living quarters. (To those unfamiliar with Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, they are two characters in "The Odd Couple", by Neil Simon, which is a comedy about a "neat freak" and a "who-cares" kind of guy, who make the mistake (sort of) of becoming roommates.)

Not everyone who thinks living space should have a normal degree of cleanliness and neatness is exactly like Felix Unger; but, when living with someone who won't clean even the most middle-of-the-road among us will find himself thinking more and more about "being a Felix". That's the thing: People who won't clean make the rest of us feel as if we're the ones who are "compulsively neat" or "germ phobic".

The problem is that people who clean regularly care, and people who won't clean don't. People who clean want to know there will always be a clean pot to use. They want company to feel like the atmosphere in the home is nice. They, themselves, enjoy the feeling of "fresh air" that a clean place brings. To them, a clean place means having a clear head for working and a nicer place for relaxing.

People who clean are often more "others centered". They believe in table tops with nothing on them because it's more attractive for inhabitants and guests, alike; but they also tend to see the thoughtfulness in leaving table tops clear in case someone in the house wants to use them.

To people who see cleaning as important, a welcoming and pleasant environment is clean, fresh, and neat.

People who clean generally see cleaning as a part of day-to-day living and will find a way to get it accomplished without seeing it as a major undertaking.

Then there are the people who won't clean. I can't explain all of the motivations of these folks because - to be honest - I can't really imagine how the heck they think. I have, however, heard enough comments from this sort of person to be able to pass on a glimpse into their thinking.

People who won't clean don't want to take up their precious time cleaning. ("There are more important things in life.") They often believe it's their home, and they want to be able to relax and not "worry" about cleaning. To some of them, a clean and neat home is "not warm", and they like "the lived in:" look. Apparently, they think it's "friendlier" (friendlier to people who won't grow up and clean their bloody living quarters - that's what I say).

These are people who laugh about the fact that the pizza box from two days ago is still around. They don't empty bottles and overflowing trash. If asked about these things their response is usually, "I'll get it - just not right now."

People who won't clean will not wash dishes and will instead keep taking more and more clean ones, until there are no more clean ones left. When there are no bowls left they'll start eating their cereal out of pots, and when there are no pots left, they'll either eat out or make aluminum foil bowls (or, perhaps, hit the vases).

People who won't clean don't have a "clean clothes" supply, a "dirty clothes" bag/bin, and something like a jacket or two hanging separately because they've been worn once and may be worn again. These are people who have several giant clothes piles, with "most of the clean ones over there" and "most of the dirty ones on that side" and some pre-worn-but-not-entirely-dirty items mixed in.

They don't mind a little scum on the bathtub or black marks in the toilet. They don't worry about fire hazards, and these hearty souls aren't even afraid of the Board of Health! Their home is their "castle" (???). How they live is "nobody's business" - and, in fact, they may even see themselves as more emotionally well adjusted because, after all, they know what it is important in life - and it isn't cleaning.

The Felix who lives with an Oscar has two choices: Either adjust or do the cleaning ("if it's all that important to someone"). The trouble is that The Odd Couple was a comedy, and when you live with an Oscar Madison it isn't the least bit funny. In fact, after a while you don't feel like you're living in a cute comedy any longer. You start to feel like you're Cinderella, and you're living with the ugly step-sisters.

How much you can work with the situation depends on how much space you share.

My sister and I laugh now because when we were kids she was messy, and I was neat. (Today, she has a clean, nice, home - for the record.) We shared a bedroom and a long bureau. She is five years older than I, so she had bigger clothes and lots of them. She was old enough to have lots of accessories as well. She would use up available space on beds and other surfaces, and inevitably her stuff would end up on my bed and my half of the surfaces. One day I got so frustrated I marked "officially" divided the top of the bureau into two, distinct, sections and said, "Your stuff goes here. This is for my stuff, and I want it clean!" I proceded to divide everything in the room, and from that day on half of everything in the room was neat.

When roommates operate at two completely different ends of the spectrum it can help to keep absolutely everything separate - food, dishes and pots, toilet tissue, paper towels, absolutely everything. That may involve having a "bath tote" or having a storage bin in a bedroom, in which dishes are kept; but with a little effort the neat person will at least always have clean plates and a shampoo bottle that hasn't spilled because someone left the cap off it.

Separate refrigerator shelves and drawers, separate cabinets, and separate shelves in the medicine chest and linen closet can help. If your roommate doesn't mind retrieving his food from behind a mountain of items thrown in on a dirty refrigerator shelf; and you want all your fruit juices facing out and on a clean shelf, separate shelves can make a big difference.

Dividing space can at least allow a Felix to function in his own spaces. Also, a successfully divided living space can then be close to 50% clean.

If roommates have separate bedrooms it can help to establish that the living room, kitchen and any dining space is "public". Establishing that someone can make a big mess in his bedroom but can't leave his stuff out and around "public" space can sometimes help. Messy people just live messy. If their stuff is brought into the living room they'll just make a mess with it. They can't be with their stuff and not make a mess, but sometimes they're willing to keep their stuff in the room (if they're not too selfish).

Messy people, however, have a way of using up one space and then expanding out to the next available space - until their stuff has taken over every available space, like "The Blob". Not all messy people are mean spirited, though. Some would like to improve the situation, so sometimes designating certain spaces as "off limits" for stuff is something with which they can work.

People who won't clean always have a reason. They never have time. They often "don't have any place to put anything". They never really explain why it is they pile up big, falling-over, piles of miscellaneous items, rather than at least make neat piles of items of one category or another - but I guess they don't owe anybody an explanation.

For the person who "doesn't have any place to put anything" there are always storage bins that can be stacked; and if it isn't possible to buy those, then there are always heavy-duty trash bags (or better yet, the more attractive clear or light blue bags). It's not that difficult to scoop all the stuff from the coffee table into a bag, move it to Oscar's room, and let Oscar take his time about sorting it all out.

Having a calm, civilized, discussion can help. A Felix should not wait until his head explodes before trying to address how much the situation is bothering him.

People who clean always learn, too, that leaving the mess until it finally gets the best of the other person is futile. Mess does not get the best of an Oscar. In fact, I suspect that Oscars need mess to be able to thrive.

If two roommates can at least come to an agreement on a clear division of space and an establishing of "public" space (which, in a roommate situation, may be limited to a living room and kitchen) the degree to which things become messy may at least be reduced.

If the "cleaning" roommate is then left to vacuum, dust, and take care of the bathroom fixtures it isn't so bad, since both roommates may acknowledge that one cares more than the other about such things.

Then there is the matter of not being able to use the kitchen sink because an Oscar has been loading dirty dishes and pots into it for days and days. If roommates can have a civil conversation about ways to accommodate both, and if a division of space is something on which they can agree, the last matter may be the matter of the sink. If it's a divided sink - great. (Well, the dishes in it are obviously not "great"; but at least having one clean half is).

If the sink is not a divided one the it may help if the two roommates can agree on the point that it is reasonable to expect to be able to use the sink; and that if dishes are left for more than x number of hours they will be placed in a strong trash bag and moved to Oscar's bedroom until he feels like dealing with them. (If Felix and Oscar share the bedroom, then some other location will have to do.)

The problem of two different types of people sharing living quarters is a messy one and a complicated one. Like all messes, it sometimes takes breaking the larger mess down into smaller, simpler, ones; and then addressing each one separately. Straight talk, compromise, and respect for the other person's different ways are usually crucial.

When engaging in that straight talk mentioned above, consider bringing up the fact that landlords throw people out for not keeping the place appropriately clean. Bring up the matter of bugs and rhodents. Bring up the fact that you have a right to a certain amount of clean space, and a right to be able to have guests who aren't horrified and nauseated.

As long as people are in this kind of situation both need to realize that neither can have everything they way they'd like it. A Felix may always be a little bugged at having to look at a coffee table that's clear but an end table that is loaded up with stuff. An Oscar may need to be told that he has just taken over too much space while not taking an equal proportion of the cleaning responsibility. If both parties are reasonable people it should be possible for them to work out a plan that is fair to both. If one is not reasonable it may be time to consider finding a new roommate.


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    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hoarder, apparently, thank you for taking the time to offer "the other side" the neat/messy issue. I started to reply to your post, but I decided I'd like to turn the issues you raised here into a two-sided "debate" of a whole new Hub. That will be up in a few days for anyone interested (and I don't assume anything about who may be interested in reading such a "debate"). Again, thank you for offering that side to things.


      Joan, you're far from alone, and there's a longer response I'd like to write here (but I'm on my way out). I'll post the reply to your comments (for whatever my reply may be worth, and I'm not sure it will be worth much) within the next day or so.

      Thank you for taking the time to share how difficult your life is being made because of this issue (that so many people have among themselves and whoever it is they live with - and on one side or another of the issue).

    • profile image

      Joan 7 years ago

      I have a daughter who is 24 years old and lives at home with my husband and I. She is a good person. but she is a mess in her room and around the house. she holds a full time job and graduated from college. we are very proud of her. but when it comes to helping me out around the home she has a fit and says i am a cleaning nut. I am not. I am very normal. The problem I have is from being injured several years ago I lost a lot of muscle in my body and certain tasks are very hard for me. Like cleaning anything overhead or like the refrigerator or more heavier cleaning such as under the sofa's or walls and ceilings. Or really scrubbing the tub well. I only ask her a couple of things. They don't get done by her so I have to attempt them myself. Her only responsibility of cleaning is her room. After reading many posts on this site I realize it is her and not me. I have been bullied by her and her father about her not cleaning her room or at least taking the clothes off her bed so she doesn't sleep on the couch. She flipped out yesterday because for the first after asking her for four months I took all her clothes off her bed and neatly folded them along side her bed and in a basket and put on a clean mattress pad and sheets and made her bed so she can at least sleep on it. she came home from work and flipped out and starting screaming that I runined her organization and that needed help from a counselor because I was controlling and a cleaning nut. It is so stressful and her father said to me oh why do you do that? I want to run away. It has been going on for about 12 years that she won't clean her room. The very last time it was cleaned was two years ago by me from top to bottom. I gave up it hurts so bad and she does throw a temper tantrum. sometimes she wears dirty or messy clothes to work. she keeps her car messy too. I tried to just ignore it but she is so nasty to me about it and I feel so disrespected and i have financial problems and health issues and marriage issues and I hold it all together and I work part time, I clean the house make a nice life for my family and her and her father throw it all in my face and no one helps me clean or do anything in the home or outside. Thanks for your advice. Heartbroken in jersey

    • profile image

      Joan 7 years ago

      I have a daughter who is 24 years old and lives at home with my husband and I. She is a good person. but she is a mess in her room and around the house. she holds a full time job and graduated from college. we are very proud of her. but when it comes to helping me out around the home she has a fit and says i am a cleaning nut. I am not. I am very normal. The problem I have is from being injured several years ago I lost a lot of muscle in my body and certain tasks are very hard for me. Like cleaning anything overhead or like the refrigerator or more heavier cleaning such as under the sofa's or walls and ceilings. Or really scrubbing the tub well. I only ask her a couple of things. They don't get done by her so I have to attempt them myself. Her only responsibility of cleaning is her room. After reading many posts on this site I realize it is her and not me. I have been bullied by her and her father about her not cleaning her room or at least taking the clothes off her bed so she doesn't sleep on the couch. She flipped out yesterday because for the first after asking her for four months I took all her clothes off her bed and neatly folded them along side her bed and in a basket and put on a clean mattress pad and sheets and made her bed so she can at least sleep on it. she came home from work and flipped out and starting screaming that I runined her organization and that needed help from a counselor because I was controlling and a cleaning nut. It is so stressful and her father said to me oh why do you do that? I want to run away. It has been going on for about 12 years that she won't clean her room. The very last time it was cleaned was two years ago by me from top to bottom. I gave up it hurts so bad and she does throw a temper tantrum. sometimes she wears dirty or messy clothes to work. she keeps her car messy too. I tried to just ignore it but she is so nasty to me about it and I feel so disrespected and i have financial problems and health issues and marriage issues and I hold it all together and I work part time, I clean the house make a nice life for my family and her and her father throw it all in my face and no one helps me clean or do anything in the home or outside. Thanks for your advice. Heartbroken in jersey

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      Hoarder, apparently. 7 years ago

      It sounds like you think about what is and isnt clean on a regular basis, almost as if theres a checklist in your mind about where everything should go, and how it should be. When things are out of place, you move them back and you make sure this list is in check and orderly. But that isn't something everyone can adhere to, because not everyone agrees theres a particular way anything should be. So if your philosophy is the latter, then cleaning really doesn't have much importance, however you would understand the importance of a clean home, but it will be one of the last things to think about doing. Like something you do before guests come over. What's more important? Reading, learning, thinking about ideas and growing as an individual in a comfortable environment without rules.

      When it comes to roommates i agree with you, there is a certain amount of respect you pay to one another. However, its too stressful to adapt to an extreme, and its unfair. So finding common ground is good. A messy person should find ways that they can be more tidy that works for them. Like cleaning on sundays at noon-4 every week. Or for an hour after work on tuesday and thursday. Neat freaks should adapt by allowing a messy person that relaxation they need, the retreat into their mind for introspection. Maybe leave their messes for them to clean up in 6-12 hours from when they made them, rather than immediately.

      I find messy people tend to be introverted, and clean people tend to be extroverted. Because extroverts see outside of themselves constantly, thinking outwardly. And introverted people thinking internally always. So that's why an introvert may seem self centered, because he is, he is internal, it is how he operates. However, because you think externally, he is in your peripheral so you must have some interaction with him. He needs to act similarly to you or you dont feel comfortable, like cleaning, talking etc. However, he doesnt expect anything like you do, and allows you to be who you are. If you didn't clean he wouldnt mind, he just wants to live. Extroverts really do get the short end of the stick.

      I wouldn't belittle introverts, or see them as lesser! Most introverts are scientists and engineers who create the technology that saves lives, or makes life more convenient. Not every introvert is coming up with life changing ideas, but they definitely believe their ideas are more important than cleaning. But, i am sorry that makes your life uncomfortable.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Jamescanada, I've been in sticky (pardon the pardon) situations like that. What's difficult is when the person is decent enough to do something, and one really doesn't want to make him feel bad. She either knows how to do a good job and just doesn't, or else she doesn't (for some reason)see the leftover stuff or think it's worth cleaning.

      Either way, telling someone who isn't one's child can be awkward. If you tell her boyfriend you run the risk that he's among all those people who isn't going to pass on what you said the "friendly" way you said it, or else he may not include all your words and tone and will share something less diplomatic with her than you aim to when you tell him.

      If it were me (and I've lived with people who aren't the biggest "fanatics" about clean dishes (LOL), I think I'd just get my own few dishes, take care of them myself, keep them separate, and/or get disposables if/when there was a need for more dishes than my own few.

      This may not be the right thing to do, but I'd probably make up some lie about how "I read a thing about how much easier it makes it everyone who shares living space to take care of their own dishes, so I thought I might do that with my own dishes." Or, maybe better than that one (I know lying is never "great"), I might just go buy myself own few dishes in a style that I really like, bring them in, and say, "I just loved these so much I decided to buy them for myself."

      Then again, if you know for sure your brother would get your message accurately and would be as interested in not hurting feelings as you are, maybe you could tell him how you "hate to even mention this, but...... and you don't want to hurt her feelings, but etc. etc...."

      It can depend on people's personalities too. Some friends can just be blunt with each other and make jokes about things. Others can't. I guess if I were dealing with someone whose feelings I worried about (because it wasn't a "joking, blunt" kind of relationship), I just get my own place setting and either say little about it, or else think up whatever reason I could. :)

    • profile image

      Jamescanada 7 years ago

      Me and my brother share a appartment. His girlfriend "cleans" the dishes but does a poor job, theres still food stuck on them. So end up washing them anyways. I just don't know how to tell her or him that his gf can't clean the dishes properly. It annoys me when I go to use a pan and it still has food stuck to it.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      dingdondingdon, yes. The tea kettle!! I thought I'd gotten about whatever there was to clean, never imagining I needed to open the lid to the pretty little tea kettle. Eventually, I did - and the bottom of the kettle was full of whatever peas she didn't feed her child. (The spaghetti and noodles thing sounds familiar to me too! What - do these people all "specialize" in pasta and noodles, I wonder... ) LOL

    • dingdondingdon profile image

      dingdondingdon 7 years ago

      Hahaha, a tea kettle?! It's funny now, but I guess at the time it must have driven you crazy. The girl I lived with had this thing where she would eat spaghetti or noodles, and then if she had any left over when she was done eating she would just tip them into the sink (when the trash was literally right next to it). I would come home every other night to find the sink just crawling with wet noodles. So gross.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      dingdondingdon, I'm kind of laughing at your comment (not that I don't know how awful living with someone like that can be, but instead because I can really relate). Years ago, when my mother was sick, I had to deal with an extended family member who "just wasn't into" washing dishes (apparently). It was horrible. I tried the thing with not washing the dishes, and this person just went on to (I'm not kidding) doing things like heating peas in a tea kettle! LOL I swear this person would have kept going until she ran out of all dishes and found herself eating out vases if I hadn't washed the dishes.

    • dingdondingdon profile image

      dingdondingdon 7 years ago

      I used to live with a girl who would just never clean up after herself. At first I cleaned everything up, because I cannot stand mess, but after a while I tried not cleaning her mess to see if it would get to the point where SHE would clean it herself. Incredibly, it never got to that point. Her dirty dishes would just pile up next to the sink, and the food she left on the counter or in the sink was never got rid of. It was disgusting. It was like she wanted to live like an animal. I ended up cleaning it all up, because it was making me sick to go into my own kitchen.

      I'm so glad I don't have to live with that pig anymore.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      past fed up, you're in the situation that so many other people are in - living with someone who just doesn't care about whether things are "a big disaster" or not. There's not an easy way for a person who does want some semblance of "normal/clean" at home to deal with the person who doesn't care. The neater person is either going to end up living in the other person's mess, or else end up cleaning it. Sometimes a messier person sort of cares a little but will think/say, "I'm going to clean later." Some actually will wait a long time and eventually spend a day cleaning - only to let a mess happen again two days later. For some, "later" is never; or else it's "six months from now, when it's Summer and ants may find the crumbs I've dropped for ten months now."

      Living in someone else's mess can truly "suck the life out of" a neater person. In fact, living in an unreasonable mess can take its toll on most people, to the point where they may actually feel they have depression. For some people, having to live in too much clutter or mess can make it difficult to think clearly. It's not a minor problem for the person who is bothered by someone's mess. Neither, though, is struggling with bills. Personally, I wouldn't particularly recommend opting to have financial struggles (I've had them in my life). Then again, though, maybe it depends on whether the bills you wouldn't be able to pay would be, say, the cable-TV bill, or the light bill.

      I suppose, too, it depends on how bad things are and how often, or how many ways, you find yourself cleaning up after him. Some people kind of capitalize on the fact that they know you need their part of the rent, and that kind goes to their head "power-wise" ("I don't have to change. You can't make me. I'm paying my half here.") Some people (often guys) have it in their head that guys "are all slobs" and "it's either women or 'sissies' who clean." People who do have to (or should) compromise with roommates (including neat-niks and "normally clean" people).

      I suppose one approach may be to "establish" with this person, "OK. I'm the one who cleans here, and I'm the one cares about keeping things clean. The person who cleans gets to be the one to set things up in a way that makes his/her job easier". If you could go with an arrangement like that, you could then do something like get rid of open-topped trash container. Put a closed top one in the kitchen or back hall, and hang grocery bags in places like the bathroom or living room (maybe on doorknobs)- and then go around nights and replace the bags. Tell him you're sick of picking up trash and don't want to be looking at, so this is your answer to solving the problem in a way that ought to work for both of you.

      You could try asking him to use paper plates "since he doesn't like scraping his plates".

      At least some compromises on the things that are the biggest problems for you have to be made, and if he isn't willing budge in the slightest; I think you have to ask whether this person has a shred of respect for you, and whether you can ever happily share the place. Maybe it depends, too, on whether you have a personal relationship with this person beyond just being roommates. If the arrangement is nothing more than a business deal, I'd think there must be a way to find another roommate.

      I don't know... I know none of this offers much help to you. It's not an easy situation. Ideally, people are supposed to be able to talk and work together and compromise on such things. Ideally, people can even set up "business-deal" living arrangements in a way that's fair to all involved. If this person isn't someone you can do that with, I'm not sure it's the healthiest arrangement for you to be living in anyway.

      I suppose, if people get so they can't agree and can't get along; there's always: "Everyone go live in your bedroom, as if it were a studio apartment; we'll leave the kitchen and living room un-used by anybody; and we'll say 'hi' in the hall if/when we ever run into each other."

      I wish I had better suggestions here. Good luck. (Of course, one other point is that a trustworthy slob of a roommate is usually far better than an un-trustworthy neat one - so there's that consideration too.)

    • profile image

      past fed up 7 years ago

      my roomate/hlf is extremely messy and inconsiderate he thinks im his live in maid, my garbage disposal is broke but he still puts food it it I asked him why he said it was just a little bit sounds like soomething a kid would say I know he knows better he is very smart, he will miss the trash can and leave what ever it is where it is I try to wait him out but that never works I would have put him out but in this economy...... so do I let him drive me nuts with his trifflin ways or lose his income and struggle with my bills?!?

    • profile image

      7 years ago

      There's your sign that it's time to help out around the house. The person who is cleaning up after you just doesn't care anymore if you can find your things. You may see that as unfair but the cleaner sees it as unfair that he/she has to clean up your stuff in the first place.

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 7 years ago from Indiana

      Sometimes I go on to long without cleaning up a space. But if someone else touches it and I can't find what I'm looking for, it causes me great distress.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Lisa, again, sincerest hopes it all irons for you. If there's one thing that's certain, you are far, far, from alone in having some version of this problem to deal with. I have a friend with a daughter with three young children. The mother loves her daughter but would ask her to leave if it weren't for the two little grandsons and granddaughter. So the grandmother, knowing if she doesn't keep an eye out for the children, lets the daughter stay and "run into her the ground". That problem, I think, goes on behind more closed doors than a lot of people would ever realize. Again, good luck. (Hey - maybe you should start a support group for people in your situation. :) )

    • profile image

      Lisa 8 years ago

      Well we do have numerous bins already that are over flowed. We use paper plates which I end up throwing away. And unless I'm actually standing over him with a trash bag I don't know if it'll ever get picked up. But then again he always surprises me when he does clean. It's like who are you and can you stay here more often. Oddly enough he does have O.C.D. But not in the way most people do. It has absolutely nothing to do with cleaning. It's even numbers and animals. We did have a very long chat last night about everything and I thought he was going to get mad like always but instead he was calm and came up with suggestions on his own. If it will happen we'll see. I know it's horrible to say but I'm just so glad I'm not alone. Even though through out the years I've tried all of your suggestions to no true avail just knowing that I'm not crazy and the only person who's had to deal with a situation like this makes me feel a little better. But I will definitely keep you posted on situation. Maybe we'll see some change. Thank you for your support and by the way I do love your name LOL!

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Lisa (another "Lisa" :) ), (At least your boyfriend shows some signs of at least wanting "some clean". Not every messy-nik even wants things clean!)

      Chances are the weight gain is related to your stress level (maybe it's the cleaning thing, or maybe that's only one part of it; but I'm guessing the housework problem isn't helping). Having the choice of either living in an abnormal mess or else cleaning it yourself doesn't leave you much time for not feeling stressed.

      Some people who can be really messy are people who actually do have something like ADHD and can't stay organized. Some people who feel a little (or a lot) depressed can have trouble even getting up out of a chair, so they may be more likely to just leave something like their snack plate on a coffee table (or something like that).

      I think cleaning and procrastinating (about cleaning or about anything else) are both related and similar. If someone's a person who is "challenged" in these areas, I think the only way to keep from letting things get out of control is to decide one thing or another is "The Enemy" and vow never - no matter what - to let it happen.

      With something like the overall mess problem, I wonder (since your boyfriend does seem to want clean) if starting small would help. For example, if he just decided to go with the thing that leaving a snack plate in the living room was "The Enemy", and he would NEVER EVER do that one thing, there's be one less problem (even if the rest of the room was a mess). One of my "enemies" is dishes in the sink. An empty sink just makes the kitchen look nicer, no matter what else needs to be cleaned. Not leaving a single dish (maybe for more than an hour or so) prevents the uglier job of having a bunch of dishes to wash, or always looking at dishes in the sink.

      Something else that's easy for people to go along with is something like one rule about one or two surfaces (like a dining room table or a section of kitchen counter). A rule like "no leaving anything AT ALL on those two surfaces" can give you that much more clean space to look at, operating from. Something like an dish-free sink and a couple of "no-leaving-anything" surfaces not only makes things just that much better, but I really think just that much can help a person's mood.

      Not that you haven't tried everything already, but just in case... Sometimes if a person is too tired, depressed, busy, preoccupied, or whatever to be able to deal with things; something like disposable dishes, paper towels, or anything else that makes things easier are better than feeling overcome with mess. (No, it's the not most Earth-friendly thing, but sometimes a person need to make a few exceptions if he's going to get his life in order.)

      Usually, the biggest messy-house makers are things like dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and trash someone didn't bother to throw away. Another problem is clutter. If he's someone with a lot of belongings and no place to put them, just the thought of having to find a place to put something he's brought out may be a challenge. What about getting a bunch of storage bins that stack, getting him to just put whatever he doesn't use daily in them, and agreeing to sort them all and find a better place to put things later. (Chances are he'll leave stuff in the bins and get stuff out when he needs it (and maybe not put it back in a hurry); but at least there'd be a place to just scoop up stuff and dump it, to make cleaning somewhere like the living room easier. Getting clutter out of sight can at least help a person have the mind-clearing time of not looking at it. Sorting out one bin really is less overwhelming than looking at room full of clutter and imagining where to start.

      I think the only thing for a cleaning-challenged person is not to let things build up. If he won't throw away trash when he's watching tv ask him to leave a bag nearby for the trash. If dirty laundry is the problem leave however many laundry bags or trash bags you have to and ask him to at least do that much. (You can always use the dirty-laundry trash bags for trash later.)

      This may be a little too "structured" for someone like him, but if the mess does get to be built up what can help is to think, "OK. I'm not even going to think about that whole big cleaning project. I'm just going to move one thing and then have my tea. OK, now I think I'll move one more thing before I have a second cup of tea," or "Every time I decide to go upstairs I'll bring just one thing with me." Just doing something like that will gradually make things look overwhelming; and what often happens is once a person moves one or two things he'll think, "As long as I notice that one other thing, I'll take care of it too." Doing something that simple (and eliminating even the smallest part of a cleaning task) can actually make things a lot less overwhelming and depressing. With any overwhelming job I think sometimes people have to settle for not thinking about the end result, and just "thinking small".

      Going back to the storage problem, something like stacked containers or bins look better and feel better than "junked up" stuff. For people who have trouble putting every CD back in its place in what he keeps them in, it can be easier to just have a bin or box and just throw them in ("to sort later" - which probably doesn't happen, but in the meantime it's better than leaving them on the coffee table).

      It's easier to go through the living room each night and toss out whatever grocery-store bags have been filled; and it's easier, if company is coming, to move the throw-all containers out of the living room and stack them somewhere else.

      Something people with kids (or a cooperate but messy adult), who tends to let whatever he takes out "live" wherever he leaves it "forever" is establish something like this: "If that's still there tomorrow I'm putting in the throw-all bin for you to deal with later." or even "If that's still there on the weekend...." (that type of thing). Should you have to be moving the person's stuff at all? Not really. Still, that kind of compromise makes cleaning surfaces and changing tablecloths easier while still not expecting a messy-nik to change his ways of putting away his stuff immediately after using it. (Of course, from experience, I've learned that when you do that kind of thing a messy-nik will inevitably say, "Where did you stash my _______?" LOL )

      There's a difference between a messy roommate you're happy to kick out or move away from and one you love. I guess I'm thinking if both people are willing to make some reasonable concessions some kind of plan that works for both can probably be worked out. As a mother of three kids (and most kids are "messy roommates" times however many kids you have factored with any who have an organization "issue'), I always accepted that my kids' standards and mine weren't going to be the same. I didn't expect them to have the same standards, only do a few easy things to make my accomplishing those standards (in the public areas of the house anyway) more easily. With kids, as opposed to an adult, it was easy to establish the rule, "The person who does the cleaning gets to make the rules about things like where trash goes, where dirty dishes go, etc."

      Maybe with an adult "roommate" you love, you have to do what mothers do, which is accept the role of "the person who cleans" (rather than expecting that other adult to "pull his half of the weight" when it comes to cleaning). If you lived with an adult with a physical disability you'd have things around the house like bathtub bars and ramps. Maybe if the two of you agree that he's "challenged", add a few simple changes that would accommodate his "challenge", and establish that the "most able" person will be "the cleaner" it might help? I wonder if you both agree that an overwhelming mess is "The Enemy", if finding more small ways to head it off, "think-small" approaches to dealing with any built-up mess, and having a few "sacred surfaces" might help.

      He may be the most wonderful person in the world, and if he loves you he loves (as you said) even after the wei

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      Lisa 8 years ago

      Thank you so much for your words. I have tried not to clean I actually stopped and only picked up after myself for about one year thinking that that would do something. LOL! In fact I actually gained an immense amount of weight during this. I'm not talking 10 15 lbs I went from 110 to now weighing 190! The funny thing is he still finds me beautiful and even gets angry when I say anything bad about myself. In all aspects of our relationship everything is amazing except for this one thing. Honestly all I want is for us to move and be together and he says he wants that but it's been said for about 2 years now. Last year my mother tried to get me to move in with her. He begged me not to, said he'd help out more and he did for a month. When we were first dating I wasn't aloud in the house I couldn't even look inside and I thought he was just playing. Then an emergency happened and he really helped me out. He was so embarrassed and still is about the house. And I know he at least wants some kind of clean because our bedroom has always stayed clean between the two of us. He even likes to wash the dishes! Mind you he sucks at it and I almost always heave to go behind him to rewash. During the past few months all I've been thinking of is saving up so I can buy a house and give him the option. I just hate it because his brother raised him one of the reasons he cares so little about his environment I think. Then again though he's constantly complaining about it himself! But when I reply okay let's start cleaning and hand him trash bags I get oh well it's too late or tomorrow or I'm busy in a little while. I am so depressed and I always put on this air that I'm happy and everything is okay but I just don't think I can do it any more! I love him with all my heart but I'm starting to wonder if I have anything left in me to give.

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      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Lisa (B): I think when you're living with someone who just isn't going to work with you on some compromise-type of arrangement (when it comes to cleaning), you're either living with someone who is passive-aggressive; or else you're living with someone who is so committed to his own ways of doing things (which is to disregard your needs/wishes, disregard what's considered "normal living", and disregard the normal cleaning up that grown-ups do as a part of life) he actually thinks he should have "the right" to do whatever he wants, and is going to "teach you", that you won't "change him". A lot of people (guys especially) have the thing, "It's my house, and I'll leave the seat up if I want to" (not that that's the issue here, but it's a classic). The thing is, since it is your boyfriend's house; and since he's apparently got his brother as his "mess-buddy", maybe he does have a point that people should be able to do what they want in their own house. Where the problem comes in, though, is if he were living alone in "his" house it would be one thing. He's not, though. He's living with someone he's supposed to care about. Chances are he does care about you, but people can care about someone "in their own way" (but not in the way that makes for the healthiest relationship).

      By not being willing to work out some reasonable compromise with you, he's putting you in the position of having three choices: 1. Keep cleaning up after him. 2. Learn to accept the mess. 3. Move out, because if "normal" is "so important to you", you're not going to get it in that house. That last choice seems awfully drastic, I know (but I'm not suggesting you move out - only saying it's an option, and you wouldn't necessarily have to break up with him).

      As you say, though, you've lived with it more than three years, and you're burned out. I don't know how badly you're exhausted and burned out at this point, but I do know how bad it can get. It's not a minor matter for someone in your position. There's a good chance one day you'll feel so disregarded for so long, and you'll get so, so, burned out and exhausted, you'll just up and leave - even if you never planned to. People have a "saturation point", and when they reach it they just can no longer tolerate whatever it is, no matter how much they wish they could stay and work something out.

      Again, I wish I could think up something more useful to offer here; and, you know, all the above words came from the fact that I know how you feel - and I know where that kind of thing can lead. I guess you could try asking him to go to some kind of couples counseling, where maybe a counselor would tell him what his behavior is doing to you.

      I once read a book that analyzed the different types of love there are between people (parent/child, romantic love, etc.), and the woman who wrote the book said how genuine love always included two elements: Respect and admiration.

      I'm guessing you aren't feeling respected a lot of the time, and I'm guessing you don't particularly respect this aspect of your boyfriend's personality. I have a feeling this issue you have between you is going to turn into a bigger one for the relationship, if it hasn't already.

      I'm only one person with one opinion (and it isn't even an expert opinion - just a "regular" one). People who don't get the concept of someone wanting to have a normal home environment (as you said, not a freaky-clean one - just normal), or who don't know how much an absurd mess can "suck the life out of" someone who needs "normal", will think I've made a big deal out of nothing here.

      I'm just guessing that the exhaustion you feel must be something similar to the kind I've felt in the past, so I suppose I'm just going on and on because I remember how it feels to wish the person you're dealing with would "just stop" and how, if s/he doesn't, to wish someone would speak up for you. (Do you have a mutual friend who might talk to him about how he isn't really behaving the way someone in a healthy relationship behaves?)

      When you're dealing with someone who has no respect for you (at least when it comes to one particular matter), that person isn't going to listen to you either. That's what makes such a situation so difficult, and it's what makes what works for other people not work. Your comment here has "transported me back in time", and I guess I'm imagining you feeling now they way I did when I was going through it. I didn't have an answer when I was dealing with someone who wasn't interested in working things out the way most people usually do back then, and I know how it bad it felt to know I had no answer.

      We always hear how "relationships take work", so we tend to think that some "minor" matter like who's messy and who's not shouldn't be considered a big deal. We can care about the person, see how s/he is other wise a great person, and truly not want to "make a mountain out of a molehill" or seem to have lost sight of what's important in life.

      So, we try to stay our "reasonable selves" and keep putting up with stuff. What we "know in our heads", though, and how we "just end up feeling" can be two different things. If someone else's thoughtless behavior is so unrelenting it exhausts us, then it isn't only a matter of who's messy and who's not any more. It's a matter of one person's mental and emotional well-being.

      Like most people, I hate to see relationships have problems (even if I don't know the people). I think most of us just want everyone to have a nice, solid, relationship with both people happy. I don't know you, but I'm hoping your relationship stays (otherwise) strong and happy. By not being a little more reasonable, he's putting a big strain on you and your relationship; and it seems to me the only thing that may get through to him is that serious-but-friendly conversation (or else just moving out).

      I know you're adults, but my mother used to say how when three kids were together there was "always a problem". She'd say, "When there are two everything is fine, and if there are more than three it's usually fine too - but three, together, always causes problems." I suppose she may have had something there. Maybe it had to do with the "two-against-one" thing. It seems to me that you may be dealing with that "extra element" in your own situation. There are two guys (with guys' attitudes), and they're "on the same side".

      Just one more thought before I stop this rambling that has apparently been triggered by my being "irked" on your behalf: (maybe you've already tried this) What if you just stopped cleaning up after them? Just don't do it. Let the house become the biggest "horror show" it will become, and decide it's not worth your mental health? Go ahead and invite your family. Decide you're going to (at least temporarily) just do what your boyfriend apparently hopes you'll do - stop letting it bother you. In other words, decide you're going to change to be what he thinks people "ought to be". If you "embrace the mess", would it make you feel less exhausted if you just stopped cleaning? If you went ahead and invited people in, made it "no secret" that you live with slobs, and decided not to care what anyone else thinks - is that something you could learn to do? If you thought your family saw how bad it is, and what you live with, would you feel humiliated to think they knew you're powerless to stop what's going on; or could you just "embrace the mess", let everyone on in, and be entirely comfortable with their knowing your boyfriend "just won't work with you"?

      I guess what I'm getting at is this: Somewhere, in your heart, you know whether your boyfriend's behavior is really something you can overlook "because he's such an otherwise wonderful person" - or whether it's something that is going to "destroy" you and/or your relationship.

      I guess I think when there are no apparent answers, we all have to look within and follow what - even if it's buried and hard to see at first - we really know in our heart.

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      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Lisa, I wish I knew how to help; and I wish I had an answer beyond the above (unfortunately, and apparently, useless for you) suggestions. Maybe someone else who sees this will have a better answer.

      The above suggestions only work if both the "Felix" and "Oscar" are willing to work out an arrangement (even if the "Felix" isn't a 'neat-freak' to the point of being neurotic, and only wants a normal home environment, or else not to be the only one who ever cleans).

      I know the kind of burn-out that can happen when only one person cleans (and when that one person often ends up cleaning up stuff that shouldn't have even been a mess in the first place, or else when the person who won't clean up after himself essentially leaves you the choice of living in a mess or cleaning up after him).

      This isn't going to be much help, but I suppose I'm saying it by way of being supportive (which is yet more uselessness on my part, I know :) ); but having experienced always being the only one who cleans, I think I'd seriously have to think twice about ever living with someone if I thought that would be my life for "the rest of time". I guess, if I try to imagine being in your situation, I'd have to calmly have a discussion with my boyfriend and seriously tell him he had a choice - a reasonably normal living situation at home, with me in it - or his mess with me living somewhere else. To me, it has to be either a matter of his being able to do something about it or being incapable of doing something about it. I don't know what makes for worse prospects - someone with some kind of disorder that makes picking up after himself impossible, or someone who disregards your very reasonable wish just to have a normal environment and be able to have people over.

      Or, there's the other "choice approach", which is to ask yourself to be the one to make the choice about who/what is more important to you - living with him, his mess, and his abnormal living situation; or living away from him and having a normal home situation. One question might be whether it would do anything if you told him you're moving out for your own mental health, you still care about him and don't want to move out, but need to "at least for awhile". One person I dealt with (and cleaned up after) actually seemed to be attached to her mess! That mess was important to her (and I'm not talking about a normal mess; this young woman had family and friends wondering what on Earth was wrong with her). Even with people who seem attached to their "normal mess", there's something that makes everyone around them wonder why on Earth they seem attached not only to the "stuff portion" of their mess, but to the crumbs, trash, and dirty-dish "portion" of it too. LOL

      I know how bad it is, and how burned out you must be. I know how it feels to feel like a lab rat (the kind they frustrate just to accomplish one thing or another).

      I don't think someone who (for whatever reason) likes a mess can be changed, but I'd think your boyfriend should be willing to at least compromise on a few of the "battles" if you pick those battles. I'd think you'll probably never live in a particularly orderly home with him, but maybe (if you haven't done this already) a calm, serious-but-friendly, conversation about how it's really robbing you of a normal life might get him to agree to "at least" do "x" and "x". I don't know.... to me, if a friendly-but-serious discussion about how it's wearing you out isn't enough to make him stop doing the biggest "offenses", I think you're dealing with someone just isn't going to worry if you're stressed out over it or not - and that's a serious concern beyond the mess. Every healthy relationship is supposed to have some "give and take" to it. I think at some point you'll get to where it isn't just the mess any more. It's going to be you feeling completely disregarded as a person.

      OR, the other thing you could try to do (but I don't know if anyone can really do this kind of thing) is just decide "this is my life, and he isn't going to change". Let the guests come, and when the come tell them the house is a mess because he won't clean up after himself. He's probably someone who doesn't care what anyone else thinks, so that won't embarrass him into shaping up; but at least the people you have visit will see what you're dealing with. Maybe they'll talk to him. Maybe they'll start telling you you should leave. You may have to ignore all that, but at least you'd have your family visiting (and maybe at least feel a little more like you have a normal life than you do now).

      I'm a neat-freak (but a relaxed, non-OCD-type person except for a couple of things I know are extreme, although effortless and really not OCD). I wrote a Hub in answer to someone's question about whether being a neat-freak is a "personality disorder". I decided I'll point out that a perfectly happy, normal, person can just be someone with high standards. You should see all the (presumably "mess-lovers") who commented, telling me I need a psychiatrist! LOL I added the "LOL" because I have a sense of humor about the psychiatrist-thing, but it isn't funny. It's pathetic that so many people actually think if you like these neat and clean you're the one with the "issues". :/ (Running out of space in this comment box, so I'm going to add a "B" comment below. I know this is long, but I also know how you feel and think - if nothing else - it's worth finishing whatever useless thoughts I have to offer)

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      Lisa 8 years ago

      Okay so I live in a house with two Oscar's and they own the home. One is my boyfriend who says he wants a clean environment but when asked to pick says later. The other is his big brother and no matter what I do or say every time I leave a room and come back there's just more mess. I have tried all of your suggestions through out the years and in the end I'm always the one cleaning and then I get burned out. But when I come back it's doubled the mess it was when I first cleaned. And when I say something about it I get, "oh well I couldn't find any bags", even though they're right in plain view. I have been dealing with this for almost three and a half years now and I just can't take it anymore! I mean I'm not a neat freak or anything I just want a clean home to where I can at least have my family visit. Please help me I'm desperate!

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Sally, I wish I had some good advice for you; but I've been through something very similar with my mother when she was elderly (and eventually bedridden), and there was a family member (young though - 20) who pretty much wouldn't pick up after herself or her own young children.

      On the one hand, my mother didn't like it. On the other, she had health issues and pretty much thought whether or not this young family members and her young children were making the house messy was "the least of her problems". My siblings and I tried speaking to our mother and even health-care workers; but as long as she wasn't willing to boot out the individual there wasn't anything anyone could do. We were all told (and knew) that our mother was an adult of sane mind, and if she didn't want to say anything to this "problem person" (who did have serious emotional issues, and so who also had my mother's sympathy and support) it essentially wasn't our business.

      I'd clean up after this character, and as soon as I did she'd go around behind me and make a new mess. Because she had emotional problems she would have "giant temper tantrums" if anyone "dared" try to tell her anything.

      This individual actually did drive me out of the house when my mother most needed me most. There were other people to also care for my mother, so I certainly didn't leave her alone. Still, it was a pretty awful situation. I'd keep returning to do a few things and visit, but that only worked because I wasn't in the house more often.

      If someone were yelling at my mother I'd have to tell them to stop - end of story. And, if they EVER yelled again I would report them to whoever investigates "elder abuse" cases. Maybe it isn't technically "abuse", but maybe if someone came for a visit they'd tell your step-sister she can't yell at your mother. (My siblings and I did that one, and that's pretty much what happened.)

      It does make elderly people upset when people are having "issues", and - really - I think people need to keep in mind that if an elderly person lives under too much stress it could potentially cause serious health problems. Sometimes that why people get a way with stuff (because they know nobody wants to upset the elderly people involved).

      I've had my share of dealing with people who don't clean up after themselves; and I think when they aren't willing to cooperate; they put you in the positive of having to choose between living in their mess, cleaning up after them, or booting them out and creating all kinds of "upheaval" between you and in the rest of the family. None of those are good choices.

      If your step-sister isn't a complete "nut case" who absolutely won't cooperate with anyone else; the only think I can think of is appealing to her "sense of 'co-caring' about your parents; and seeing if you can work out some kind of reasonable set of rules between you. With a person who doesn't clean up after himself you're usually dealing with someone who doesn't care a lot about the state of the house or her belongings. Because of that, I think there's only "so much" you can expect of her.

      Maybe you've already tried this, but what about going with something simple, like she agrees to pick up after herself and her kid; and you tell her other than leaving whatever she uses/goes to into as she found it, you're not expecting her to "take a turn" on taking care of "public" house chores?

      It seems to me that getting her to wipe up the sink and not leave any stuff around the bathroom ought to at least help you not feel you're picking up after her, personally. With an elderly parent (and I'm only assuming you're mother is elderly because you say the step-sister is in her forties), I don't think I'd be above asking the step-sister to use paper plates and disposable flatware if it helps her not leave a mess. (She can buy her own.)

      So I guess my point is I think (if your step-sister isn't absolutely disturbed person, as the person in my situation was); I wouldn't even aim (at least at first) to get her to chip in on the "overall" housework. I'd be reasonably satisfied to 1. have no more yelling (ever) at my mother and 2. have her pick up just after herself and her child. I suppose, in fairness and in reality, I'd even go as far as to be sometimes be willing to pick up after the child (kids make messes when their mother isn't around). The BIG thing I wouldn't want to do is pick up after another adult.

      I think for even this "modified" plan to work it would probably have to be approached with a cooperative tone and in a way that appealed to her "as a caring person", rather than being confrontational. When things get confrontational everyone gets uncooperative.

      I think I'd try to talk to her about the fact that when adults share a home it's tricky and challenging, no matter how close everyone is; and to tell her I wanted to work something reasonable that made life comfortable for everyone involved. Generally, I think the "if-you-could-just-do-this-much-it-would-help" approach is more likely to work than trying to "revolutionize" the whole way things are going on now.

      I know this isn't much by way of advice; but, as I said, I know how - in day-to-day reality and with someone who is difficult - there aren't always a lot of options.

      If your mother is elderly, and if trying to work a "modified" and "cooperative" plan doesn't work, I think (if you haven't done this) you should talk calmly with your mother about it, get a reading on how she truly feels about it (she may not care about it much), and ask if she thinks you both could use someone from outside who specializes in problems elderly people deal with.

      Sometimes, with my mother, it was worse that I tried to stand up to the difficult person and "defend" my mother than if I'd just "happily" accepted the "horror" of what this kid was doing. The trouble was, I would have accepted it if it was AT ALL within reason, but this individual has my mother's whole house in one kind of upheaval or another (as well as stealing from her).

      Of course, what you often get with situations like this is grandparents (or grandparent figures) know if they make a big stink about what the problem person (the mother of the child) does, there's the chance Social Services will come in and maybe take the child). (I have a friend in that situation too.) As a result, the mothers/grandmothers don't want anyone making any trouble because they know the child is better off in their (the grandmother's/grandmother-figure's) house. This may also be something your mother is worried about (even if the worry is not well founded). Something to consider, too, is whether, since this person has yelled at your mother, your mother is intimidated, doesn't want to get her angry at her, and doesn't want to honestly say how she feels. (Of course, feeling intimidated by someone gets into the "psychological abuse" or elder abuse area.

      Again, even if your situation is different than mine was, I wish I had a better answer. The trouble with this kind of problem is there aren't always great options. I do know that if I thought my mother were at all feeling intimidated in her own home, I'd see a professional outside for some guidance about what to do. (Provided a child is being neglected, the outside professionals dealing with this kind of stuff can often be pretty "subtle" and know how not to get "a whole big stink" going in a family.)

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      Sally 8 years ago

      I have a step sister who does not clean or help around the house, she is in her 40's and her daughter is 18 years old who moved in the house last August, and neither one of them pick up after themselves, they leave their hair in the tub, long hair. They do not offer to clean the rest room at all nor do it at all. I am the only one who cleans the rest room. There is no pitching in, they only wash and dry their own clothes here, and top it off my step sister has her son 8 years old here too, they buy groceries once in a blue moon, and drink the milk my parents buy and they do not buy any milk at all. I have already confronted them and they are not easy to talk to, they don't like it when I discussed they need to pull their weight around here. My mom is older and she gets sad about it, and to top it off my dad says nothing about it. I need advice about what to do? They have tried to drive me out of the house and I refuse to let them get to me. I just do not like to see my mom being taken advantage of them. I mean she is done raising kids picking up after kids, she shouldn't have to deal with that behavior. And when I set rules around here, my step sister yells at my mom and I have to confront her and she stops. Any mature advice on this situation???

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      pre, you're very definitely not alone, by any means. I once lived with someone who just wouldn't do dishes - that was it, no doing dishes ever. She'd go through everything there that would hold food; and - I don't know - I think when there was nothing left she just wouldn't eat food that required, for example, a bowl. I'd leave her dishes for a long time, thinking the old, "I was going to do them" line might "be in effect". Finally, I'd just do whatever dishes/pans she left, and - I'm not kidding - within sometimes minutes, she'd discover something like a clean pot and BLOODY USE IT!!!! Seriously, if you live with this kind of thing too long you can it into a situation where your own mental health really suffers.

      I actually even gave the girl I dealt with the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe she had depression. When she'd just do something like take a clean pot that wasn't even finished drying yet, that told me she was just a ________(whatever).

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      pre 8 years ago

      I feel exactly the same way and finally I am so happy to see that I am not alone. I feel like my roommates are incredibly rude, disrespectful, and above all selfish. Even though one of them is my boyfriend of 3 years, I am the only one that goes to school full-time, works, volunteers and still manages to do all the cleaning and me and my boyfriends laundry. Completely ridiculous. The other guy is so disrespectful. I was standing one foot away from him the other day and finally fed up of constantly cleaning up, politely asked him to clean up after himself wen he was done in the living room because I literally spent 2 days cleaning. I called his name again and he still ignored me, talk about rude. And as sumone mentioned above my 2 days of cleaning gets destroyed in less that 1 hour (and I am not joking). I too decided to give up and have started to look for another place to stay. I cant handle it anymore, and until then I have decided to not clean anymore and become 3 times more lazier than everyone, meaning I will be creating a wonderful pig sty for these selfish pigs to live in!!!

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      Noser 8 years ago

      I know what you mean, the neat one suffers when it's messy, the messy one doesn't mind clean or dirty, but dirty is earier. As a person with average cleanliness standards, in contrast to messy people, you become uptight and mal-adjusted, with 'control issues'.

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      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      kk, thank you. I appreciate your kind words and hope at least a couple of the ideas here work for you.

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      kk 8 years ago

      I want to tell you how much I appreciate your article!!!!!!!!! My roommate is SO TERRIBLE about cleaning! She makes such a mess I used to clean up after her but my efforts would be destroyed in the next two hours because she's so messy!!! I appreciate the tips in your article and will be using each one!

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      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Danielle, I'm not all that "thrilled" with having to concede that someone's bedroom is his own business; but I think it's the only way roommates can work something out. As you say, though, the kitchen and bathroom are another matter. Good luck with making changes in the living arrangement. :)

    • profile image

      Danielle NL 9 years ago

      I agree that a person's bedroom is their own space, but my room mate keeps the kitchen dirty and won't clean the bathroom either. So I think I'm going to get my landlord to file a 30 day notice so she will leave.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      Yuck. Double yuck.

    • profile image

      MDizzle 9 years ago

      I have the same type of situation. The only real difference is we actually have roaches in our house.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      I agree - I was responding to a comment further up the hub.

      I think, ideally, people should choose flatmates with a similar view on cleanliness. It saves a lot of grief!

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      I agree that people's own rooms are their own business; and I didn't intend to imply otherwise. I suppose if I said anything that came across that way I may have been thinking in terms of fire hazards and invitations to bugs. The stuff they've showed on local news with regard to what college students do goes way beyond not putting socks in the laundry and not making the bed. When things get that bad it isn't just that person's business any longer (at least I don't think it is). :)

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      I'd have thought that, if the shared areas are clean, his room is his business, not yours?

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      It's a big problem among college-living people.  Boston and the surrounding area has neighborhoods that are heavily populated with local college students; and each year local news does a piece on the disgusting health/safety hazards many students leave in the apartments.

      You'd think the "have-some-pride" thing would matter; but a lot of "mess-nicks" (as opposed to neat-niks and regular-niks) seem kind of proud that they're not neat-niks.

      I wrote a hub in response to someone who asked if "clean fanatics" have a disorder.  I wrote the hub to point out that plenty of neat people are perfectly healthy, able to easily keep things neat and clean, and fall on the messy/neat spetrum well within the range of good mental health.  It's an old hub, but just today I got a really nasty comment on it, with some person saying I'm a "psycho".  Apparently, some people are proud to be messy and wouldn't things any other way.

    • profile image

      justin 9 years ago

      im lucky. my roomate does a decent job at keeping the 'common' area problem is that his room is aweful! i dont know how he does it. he has glasses and beer bottles all over his computer desk, the floor cant be seen becuase of all the clothes and nitrus cartrages from the whipits he does, and i dont even hang up his towel after he takes a shower. The alarm system for the house is in his room and we both have sliding glass doors so from time to time ill go in there and make sure they are all locked. for a while i had an issue with him not locking doors. we don't live in a good neighborhood and crime is happening all the time. he's doing a better job at locking up - but the other day we had an argument that got bigger and bigger about him not cleaning his room. we've lived together for 6 months or so and he has only clean his room once. i complained and even lied and said that roaches were coming from his room. I keep his door closed because I dont want my friends seeing how nasty his room is...this article was right - sometimes i feel like im the neat freak. it use to be worse when I lived by the college - I use to freak out about little things like the dishes or the coffee table, but now even I get lazy and put things off from time to time. sometimes i leave the laundry in the dryer for a week. i guess what im trying to say is that i know he cares and that he has it in him - but when I bring it up its almost like im offending him. it is 'his space' but come on...take some fucking pride in yourself. i know that when he gets a gril in his room that he really likes, chances are he'll clean up for her. i hope...

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      "Hoarding" is one name for those people who won't/can't get rid of things and clean up; and that's an "official" name for that particular thing. That's more a practice than a "condition", though. Then there are people who I would "diagnose" (if I had a license to diagnose anything) as "just can't be bothered" or "just don't think neat and clean are important". On the more serious side of things, it conditions like Alzheimers can be the cause. People with ADD can have trouble "living organized". People who have depression or exhaustion from stress can be this way too.

      I've known a few people in my life who seem to be this way to some extent (and in a couple of cases, to a large extent) - and I've been trying to figure out how on Earth they can possibly be that way for years! The people I know are otherwise "regular" people. I think some people just don't think neat is a priority. Others feel "above" being the one to clean anything. Some even seem to prefer a horrible, disastrous, mess.

      There is a pretty good article on hoarding at:

      There is one thing I've noticed about people who won't clean: They seem to think that their way is a perfectly normal, "legitimate", way to operate while you are either "just different from them" or even "a clean fanatic". They don't seem to realize when their casual attitude about things as crossed over into "absolutely abnormal".

    • profile image

      sandra 9 years ago

      What do you call this kind of sickness, What if you are married to someone like this. How do you deal with this, and the persom is a female and you have small kids together that have to live in this.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Moving sound like a good idea, particularly in view of the fact that apparently your roommate's mess is bad enough to bring roaches!

      Felix Unger and Oscar Madison are the two characters in "The Odd Couple", which written by Neil Simon. The Odd Couple was performed on Broadway, made into a movie, and later became a television sitcom.

      I was under the impression "Felix and Oscar" are household names (at least in the US), so I didn't include a note about who the characters are out of concern that I'd insult all the readers who are all-too-familiar with the names. I neglected to consider people who may too young to have heard of The Odd Couple and people who live in countries where Neil Simon's characters may not be well known.

      I'm going back and adding a little note now.

      (As far as "that person" goes, if people let things get that bad around them sometimes it's a matter of their being depressed, having other emotional issues, or having a substance abuse problem. It's too much for you to handle, and moving is the best thing you can do; but keeping in mind s/he probably has serious issues may be a good idea too.)

    • caicai1015 profile image

      caicai1015 9 years ago from virigina

      okay buit who is felix and oscar??? really had me lost there. i have tried talikng and the worst part is that the person doesnt even work!!!!!!! so how could that person not have time??? i just gave up and im moving. im not anyones maid i clean my own stuff and thats it. since all that happen im scared to even cook in the kicthen cause 1 its dirty. 2 we now have roaches 3 that person still wont clean even with the bugs. so how do i propose to get the problem solved is move!


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