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Here’s how to stop those roommate cleaning arguments for good

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Fed up of being the only one to wipe the counters down, deep clean the oven and vacuum the hallway…only to return a few days later and find everything back in the hideous mess it was before you started?

You’re not alone. The majority 56% of renters we spoke to told us that cleanliness is the biggest reason they’d have a falling out with their roommate. But how do you negotiate the minefield of communal cleaning without: a) coming across all ‘mom’; b) getting totally ignored; c) fighting forever?

Addressing the problem

First off, leaving passive-aggressive post-its out won’t get you anywhere. Sure, scribbling an angry, cleverly-constructed threat can make YOU feel ten times better, but in the long run it’s probably going to irritate your roommate and lead to even LESS cleaning effort from them.

The best approach to take is ‘firm but fair’. Sit with them and explain that you feel the balance is a little off, and you’d appreciate not having to be the only person to tackle a job as boring as cleaning the toilet. They might not even know they’re not pulling their weight, or cleaning might just not be so important to them. Either way, making it clear up front that it IS important to you and it IS actually a big deal will help persuade them to do their part out of respect for you and your shared home.

Think about a chore wheel

Now you’ve had the chat, you can negotiate how to get the job done. It depends on your schedules and how your household operates. If you’re not cooking as a group, it makes no sense to clean up together – it’s probably easier for each person to wash up after themselves, so you’re only cleaning what you’ve used. If you’re all super busy and operate on different work schedules, it might be helpful to have a weekly chore wheel that helps rotate different jobs – like vacuuming, emptying bins, cleaning the bathroom and kitchen.

Alternatively you could book a regular day in every couple of weeks when you’re all free, and blitz the whole place together all at once. Bribing roommates with the suggestion of a case of beers and pizza at the end may go a long way…

Set up a money jar

Get everyone to drop five or ten dollars into a money jar, then use this to get communal items as and when they’re needed. Things like sponges, cleaning sprays, garbage bags, carpet cleaner and even toilet paper rolls can all come out of this – saving money, and arguments.

Be straight up

Of course, all of this can be avoided by checking with potential roommates how much cleaning matters to them BEFORE you move in together. When you’re listing a room or apartment on SpareRoom, make sure you give plenty of details in the description about the kind of roommate you’re looking for – someone clean, tidy and respectful of their housemates. Sure, there’s no guarantees, but being honest from the get-go will hopefully lower the risk of being stuck living in someone else’s mess.

Time to find tidier roommates? Have a look at our current listings.

Time to find a new room? Have a look at what's available.


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