How to Deal with a Messy Roommate

Deal with a Messy Roommate

Whether at the office or at home, the people around you can make or break a situation.

Luckily, there’s a lot you can do when wondering how to deal with a messy roommate that’s not as diligent as you about keeping it clean. Here’s your plan.

Is your peace at home shattered by stepping on a dirty plate next to the sofa or not finding a spot to sit between forgotten books and jackets in the living room? And it’s not even yours!

This is a common occurrence with people sharing a flat and it’s to be expected. If studies show over 30% of people have messy desks at the office, it could be that a third of roommates aren’t as tidy as you would like them to be. So, you don’t even have a guarantee that you’ll solve the problem by getting a different roommate.

Rather, manage the situation by following these tips.


Be Clear About the Rules

Start by making sure what the other party’s perception is. Were you clear on day one by sharing all the house rules with them? This is easily done with the Enzo app so you can onboard someone new effortlessly.

If the mess occurs after being clear about the level of cleanliness you want to maintain, it’s time for a house meeting. By talking together instead of simply telling someone what to do, you may get more buy in.

During the house meeting you can discuss everyone’s expectations and your current guidelines for living together in the same space. Perhaps others have suggestions about improving it or making it more practical. Discussions can include:


  • Personal and common area guidelines: If everyone doesn’t have the same preferences about cleanliness, allow different rules for common areas and personal spaces. As long as you’re not sharing a bedroom with the messy person, you may not mind their clothes lying next to the bed—as long as it’s not on the couch everyone uses.


  • Chore lists: Yes, even adults need chore lists! If you don’t have a task list already, create one. List your tasks and use a chore chart generator to make it clear who is responsible for which tasks on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.


What You Say and HOW You Say it

Whether it’s during one of these house meetings or during an informal conversation, make sure your communication gets you the best possible results. If your manner offends or seems judging, the other party may develop a negative attitude towards you. This can put strain on your relationship and create an uncomfortable living environment. So, whatever you’re saying, remember the following:

  • Address a matter immediately or soon after it takes place. This prevents frustration from building up inside you. Also, if you mention it somewhere down the line, other parties may accuse you of bringing up old, irrelevant scenarios.
  • Always stay polite, so no one can accuse you of being a bully.
  • Don’t accuse others. Rather ask questions. For example, instead of telling someone how upset you are about neglecting their tasks, enquire if there’s a reason they couldn’t complete their chores that week.
  • When you do state a problem, also provide a possible solution. Instead of sounding like you’re only complaining, you’re proving you want the best for everyone involved.


Dealing With the Cleaning

If being nice and having clear guidelines still has you wondering how to deal with a messy roommate, you need a strategy to ensure some synergy in the house. Possibly, all they need is some inspiration or encouragement.


Be the Example

Start your plan by being meticulous in how you clean the house. This sets the example and seeing others clean may remind them—inspire them—to do their share.

You may even do their forgotten chores—only one time though—so they realize how much you prioritize living in a clean, hygienic environment. Hopefully their respect for others will motivate them to start doing their share.


What can You do Together?

Still not getting the reaction you’re hoping for? Then it may require taking others by the hand and guiding them in forming new habits.

Organize a time where everyone will show up and do their chores. Working together—put on some music—may even lead to fun bonding times.

Here’s another creative solution, especially for smaller living spaces. While analyzing how to deal with a messy roommate you may see it’s simply their clutter that’s causing the problem. Let’s be honest, many apartments are simply too small for everyone’s furniture and personal items. Suggest renting a storage space together to easily cover the costs and get some excess items you don’t often use out of everyone’s way.


Let There be Consequences

In some cases you do need to resort to stricter measures. Implement a penalty system where individuals lose privileges or need to pay a fee if they don’t do their part in keeping the apartment clean.

To protect yourself from criticism, discuss these guidelines during a house meeting, put it in writing and make sure everyone agrees to the arrangement. Give warnings first, so messy roommates can’t accuse you of being too strict or not understanding enough. After all, anyone can have emergencies that prevent them from doing a chore once in a while. The penalties should only apply if an individual continuously refuses to do their part.


Basket Cases

If the main problem is someone leaving their clutter all over the apartment, put it all in one container and add to it whenever you find something else of theirs that’s in your way. You can place a basket by the front door and put all their ‘stuff’ in there.

Here, again, it’s important HOW you go about it. On the one hand you may send a clear message by placing a box in a corner with their name on it. They’ll understand you’re getting frustrated and applying some passive aggressive techniques. Unfortunately, some people may take offence at being singled out this way.

To keep the peace and perhaps initiate a system that can work for all future roommates, position aesthetically pleasing containers—one for each roommate—in the common area. Anyone has the right to move personal items to the containers if they find it unattended. It’s an easy solution to keep the house tidier and you’re making it easy—and no one has excuses—to move clutter to private spaces.


Keep Your Sanity – General Tips

When learning how to deal with a messy roommate, you do need to look to yourself as well. Also be cautious in how you manage the situation. Is one of the following strategies the better option of how to deal with a messy roommate?

  • Acceptance and compromise: Perhaps your views on cleanliness are too different to what most people find acceptable. Your wishes aren’t the only ones that matter in the house. Make a list of tasks you’re willing to compromise on to make it easier for others to keep to the rules. Your attitude may prompt others to be more accommodating too.


  • Pick your battles: If you share a space with a truly messy person, you may need to accept some of their habits. Unfortunately, you can’t change a person completely. Also, it’s not worth fighting about every dirty dish! You want some peace in your living space, right? For this reason, talk about the big changes you would like to see and forget about the small stuff.


Worst Case Scenario: Move

For some people a clean, tidy living environment is vital to enjoying their living space. If this is you, you’re unable to make more compromises and you’re not getting any positive feedback or assistance from those you live with, consider a big change: moving.

Take your time finding your next home though. Have in depth conversations with potential new roommates. You can even do roommate compatibility quiz, so you know what their habits are in terms of cleanliness. Only move in with someone if you’ve asked all the necessary questions and you’re fairly certain you have a similar approach to hygiene and managing clutter.


Final Thoughts

No two people are exactly the same, so any roommate you pick may have a few quirks that bother you. But if their messiness is one of them and it’s driving you up the wall, you have the right to do something about it. Start using this checklist as guide to find a solution that works.

And for any rules and chore arrangements you agree on with your flat mates, remember the Enzo app makes it super easy to manage.

If you have tips about living with roommates, please share your advice with the rest of us!