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    My Roommate's a Slob!

    by Liberty Lay

    Growing up I'd often heard the old saying, "Cleanliness is next to godliness." For my freshman-year roommate Renee, cleanliness was next to impossible.

    I assumed everyone felt obligated to make their beds in the morning. Renee thought it was a waste of time.

    My dirty laundry went straight to the laundry basket, while Renee's was spread in little piles all over the room: a heap of socks by the bed, shirts and jeans draped over the backs of chairs, pajamas covering the closet floor.

    I kept my papers in notebooks or files; Renee's were scattered all over the place, from the chemistry lab notes stacked on the TV to the junk mail she routinely stashed under the bed.

    I expected to share cleaning duties. It took an act of Congress to get Renee to take out the garbage (including the boxed remains of a five-day-old pizza wedged among the junk under her desk). It was a nightmare. Classes had barely started when I was on the phone to Mom, complaining, "Yeah, she's nice. She's just kind of… a slob."

    I didn't think I had unreasonable ideas of cleanliness. I wasn't expecting living quarters that could ace a white-glove inspection, but at the same time, I didn't want to live on an obstacle course. I was, I thought, an average, middle-of-the-road, clean kid. Renee thought I was a "neat freak." Ouch.

    Obviously, Renee and I had different ideas about what cleanliness meant. This led, of course, to a fair share of roomie tiffs about the state of the dorm room. Eventually, we called a cease-fire by both agreeing to compromise a little. And our room was transformed from a war zone into a pretty cozy place to live.

    If you, too, are yoked with a messier-than-thou roommate, take heart: It's never too late to deal with the situation. Actually, even if you are the messy one, the following tips may help you find a comfortable and successful way to approach the subject with your roommate. However you decide to deal with it, remember to be diplomatic. After all, you'll probably be living with this person for a considerable amount of time, and you don't want a relationship that's even messier than your room.

    Define "clean." To some people, an unmade bed means the occupant is disgusting, lazy, sloppy, etc. To others, it may be considered a sign of genius ("I hear Einstein never made his bed," they'll say). When it comes to defining "clean" and "neat," not everyone has the same standards.

    The "How clean is clean enough?" question was a big problem for Renee and me. We simply had different ideas about what constituted basic standards of cleanliness. It would have made things much easier for both of us if we had known from the get-go what one another's expectations were. I was way off base when I assumed that my definition of neatness would jibe with Renee's definition.

    In the best-case scenario, roommates will find common ground and then stick to their shared standards. You both have to live there, so you should both be comfortable there. Decide early on what's OK and what's not, then stick to it.

    Share the work. If you're the only one doing the dirty work, there's a good chance you'll start to bear a grudge against your slacker roomie. Believe me. I basically did all the chores myself for two months, silently resenting Renee for not helping me out. Make it clear to your roommate that, even though you're the one who's always spiffing up the place, you want and need help.

    One suggestion that some friends shared with me was the chore chart idea. Make a list of housekeeping duties and then divvy them up. Post it on the wall so you know who's got which duty each week. You can even set up a reward system if you want—just like Mom and Dad used to do.

    Needless to say, this is something that you and your roommate should plan out together. Don't try writing a note that says "Hey, Chris, I've assigned you to clean the toilet for the rest of the semester. Also, please mop the floor every other day and scrub the tile grout with a toothbrush (yours, not mine) three times a week. I'll be in charge of watering the plants. See ya." I really doubt that arrangement will fly.