Dear Barb – Roommate Needs to Learn Responsibility

Dear Barb:

I am a first-year university student, living on my own for the first time. My roommate is a friend that I grew up with and this is also his first time living away from home. I can’t think of an easy way to say this, but my roommate is a slob!

He leaves his clothes all over the house, dirty dishes are everywhere, and the bathroom sink is full of toothpaste and hair. I won’t even try to describe the shower. We have a cat and he never cleans out the litter, even though he was the one that wanted the cat.

When I bring other friends over, the smell from the litter is overwhelming. I can’t stand it, but I don’t know how to approach him. He is a great guy otherwise and we get along terrific. I don’t want to lose him as a roommate, but I don’t know how much longer I can live like this. What should I do?


Hi Jim, thanks for writing. I can relate: while growing up my sister and I shared a room and she was also a slob. Now, as adults, her house is immaculate and mine is less so. Go figure!

My first suggestion is to tell your roommate how you feel. Choose your words carefully, as you don’t want to put him on the defensive.

You mention that your roommate is a great guy and that you get along well. Therefore, you should be able to sit down with him and work out a housekeeping schedule. Take turns cleaning. For example every Monday you clean the bathroom, every Tuesday your roommate cleans the kitchen, etc.

Be specific; don’t leave out any household chore. I assume you each have your own room. Keep in mind, if your roommate chooses not to keep his room tidy, there is not a lot you can do about it, since that is his personal space.

It may take a few weeks to get this schedule working effectively, especially if you have been doing all the cleaning up to this point. As your roommate begins to realize you are not going to do it, chances are he will. I’m not saying he will be happy about it, but hopefully he will do it. He probably grew up in a family where someone else did all the cleaning and picking up after him. He will soon realize part of being on your own is cleaning up after yourself.

Good luck, Jim

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