Sarah Weir
December 10, 2014 6:49 am

Dear Sarah,

I’m a college student and I live with five girls and they are all great! But, one of them is starting to drive me crazy. She is always leaving her stuff out around the apartment. She never washes her dishes, or even puts them in the sink—she just leaves them on the table. All of my other roommates are sick of having to clean up after her! I’ve been getting more and more annoyed, but a recent experience put me over the top: she used my crock-pot—which is fine, we all share things in the apartment—however, she left it dirty for week and then went home for the weekend, so I had to clean it. It’s so frustrating! That same week she also left a bowl of cereal and spoiled milk on the counter, so I had to take care of that too.

I don’t know what to do. I want to tell her in a nice way to please clean up her stuff around the house because it’s bugging all of us. But she is the type of person who gets defensive really easily and I don’t want it to become a big fight.

This has gotten so bad that anytime I am around her I feel irritated. I can’t handle it!!! Please give me some advice before I lose it!

—Fed Up With Filth in Utah

Dear Fed Up,

From one neat freak to another, I feel you. During my freshman year of college, my suitemates were such slobs, I eventually had to shut the kitchen door, consider it a hazardous waste zone, and survive on green apples, yogurt, and slices of pizza from the corner deli. Living with someone who has different standards of cleanliness can be a total pain. But, you know, at least you’re not bunked up with, say, a serial killer. I’m joking, however the point is things could be a lot worse. Yes, it can feel like she’s being willfully lazy or self-centered, but what I’ve come to realize is that some people honestly don’t notice or care that much about a tidy living environment; they kind of space out on the whole cleanliness thing. They are still nice people—nice, but messy.

THAT SAID it’s perfectly reasonable to establish some basic house rules so everyone can enjoy your shared abode. You write that you want to tell her in a nice way to clean up her stuff—so do it! Too bad if she’s defensive, let her get a little P.O.’d. Sometimes women avoid confrontation at any cost—and then get all passive aggressive and prickly anyway (men too, but girls are more typically raised to be sweet and play nice). Even if things get a little heated briefly, being honest gives another person a chance to rectify their behavior. Learning how to speak your mind calmly but firmly is a good all-around life lesson.

Why don’t you call a “family meeting” and hash out the apartment bylaws. Bring snacks. Put on music. It doesn’t have to be a misery. You may be surprised to hear that she’s been simmering about some issues too: like somebody’s long showers, not replacing the milk, or hogging the living room with outside friends. Come to a consensus on each commandment and post them prominently. Then, the next time she leaves an egregious mess, just say, “Dude, rule number 4,” and move on.

Love, Sarah

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