6 Simple Ways To Deal With A Disgusting Roommate Once And For All

So, your roommate is gross. Unhygienic. Filthy.

A glob of mobile flesh surrounded by a thin (or thick) layer of dirt. It’s horrifying, slightly nauseating, and the main reason you don’t let friends, family, or potential dates visit your room. It’s even messing with your mind.

But what can you do? Your thoughtful, well-meaning suggestions that they “tidy up a bit” are waved off by a Cheeto-covered hand, or shrugged off by shoulders encased in a shirt that hasn’t seen the light of detergent since his/her mom last washed it. In September.

Time to take action.

Option 1: The Mom Approach

Dexter's Mom

Also called the Germaphobe, this approach is simple. You clean their mess up. Repeatedly.

The Mom Approach is good for those zen, suffering-is-the-only-road-to-salvation types out there. It assumes that your concern for a clean environment is more important than sticking by the principle of the offending party should clean up their own mess. Clean is good. Clean is absolutely necessary.

But the Mom Approach puts you in a perpetual position of weakness. You’re taking care of them. You’re cleaning up after them, and thereby enabling them to stay true to their habits of filth and personal negligence. It’s horrifying, and frankly, not recommended if you value your dignity – but a germaphobe’s gotta do what a germaphobe’s gotta do.

A modified version of the Mom Approach is the Mom Doesn’t Live Here Anymore Approach: keep your room not just clean, but pristine for a week. I’m talking hospital-pristine here. National park pristine. Autoclave-pristine.

Keep that up for a week or two, and then stop cold-turkey. Let everything get rapidly messy.

Your roommate, used to the high standards of cleanliness, will be caught off guard and will (hopefully) start making some kind of effort to regain the previously enjoyed levels of clean. You may not hit the Yosemite clean benchmark, but at least there won’t be dirty underwear everywhere.

Option 2: The Bombing of Dresden Approach

Take the offensive.

Pile all of their dirt and their crap onto a place where they can’t help but be hampered by it. Stuff all their dirty gym socks under their pillow. Throw everything they leave on the floor up on their bed.

They’ll come home, note the lack of dirty gym socks and grin broadly (like a toad or Madame Umbridge in the 5th Harry Potter book/movie), smug in knowing that their filth has finally broken your spirit to the point where you have caved and taken the Mom Approach after weeks of keeping a stiff upper lip.

They drop their bag on the ground, crushing your shoes/homework/copy of John Green’s new book that you paid extra to be signed and shipped as fast as humanly possible, and then they get into bed…only to be naplamed by the smell of a dozen pairs of sweat-and-dirt covered socks. Attack, success.

Enraged, your roommate sits up and begins a Counter-Strike full of expletives and aggressive hand gestures. Stay calm. Do not make excessive, if any, hand gestures. Simply and tranquilly explain that you are sick of living in your roommate’s personal landfill, and a pillow-full of dirty, fetid socks is how you feel about your room everyday.

The Dresden Approach is risky. Depending on how tenacious, or simply scheming and malicious, your roommate is, using the Dresden approach can either lead to your roommate ultimately learning their lesson and shaping up a bit (grumbling optional) or the start of World War III. Wear a helmet.

Option 3: The Blaming Buddha Approach

Buddha (image courtesy of Flickr user alicepopkorn)

It’s fairly straightforward. You become the Buddha. You stop caring.

You are at peace with the dirt, the slight odour, the flies surrounding the garbage can. You are one with the universe and nothing matters – not your upcoming exam, not the six ignored phone calls from your mom, and especially not a little dirt.

You must be okay with some dirt in your life. You must not be a germaphobe. If you pick the Blaming Buddha Approach, you are playing the long game and you better be okay with that.

But there is a key component to the BBA: the dirt is not your fault. If someone asks why your room is so dirty, you immediately point the finger at your roommate. It’s not you. Even if you make a tiny bit of mess, the whole room and its deterioration is the problem of your roommate.

While it’s not very nice to play the blame-game, the rising peer pressure will ultimately crack them like a chocolate Easter egg (how good are chocolate Easter Eggs? Why can’t they sell them all year round?).

Option 4: The Snitch (no, not the Harry Potter kind)

If you’re living with a really dirty roommate, chances are you’re in a dorm. And you roomed blind because you should know whether or not your friend from high school is a dirty slob before you agree to live with them. But go back to the part about living in a dorm: if you’re in a dorm, you have an RA or an RA equivalent. And the RA has power.

Editor’s note: The RA’s power is limited.

So when shit hits the fan (hopefully not literally) and you just can’t handle it, call the RA.

Yes, it means you’re a snitch, but it can be an effective problem solving technique. Handling roommate disputes is part of your RA’s job. Don’t worry about the label ‘snitch’: the soul-healing power of cleanliness will make you forget all about it.

Option 5: The Rafiki Approach

rafiki

Watch The Lion King. Now watch it again.

Rafiki was the best character in the whole movie and he knew his stuff. He would run around singing nonsense and laughing because an ant climbed a blade of grass, and then somehow he’s taught you a valuable life lesson without you even realizing it.

The Rafiki cannot be taught, only known. You must teach your roommate that the mess is unacceptable and they must take part in cleaning with you. The Rafiki ends with a Hans Zimmer-scored musical scene of you two cleaning together, side by side, despite the fact that you’re a lion and he/she’s a warthog.

Side note: as much as possible, avoid walloping your roommate on the head with a wooden staff.

Option 6: The Clorox/Sign Approach (largely for ladies)

You share a room/bathroom with someone who sheds like a dog. A large, furry dog. There is hair everywhere. It’s alarming. You could knit a hair-sweater out of all the hair left in the sink/shower/counters.

For unruly hair, there’s only one thing to do.

Arm yourself with Clorox wipes. Arm yourself to the hilt and go to town on that bathroom. Leave boxes of the wipes strategically placed around the bathroom so that no one has an excuse for not cleaning up their hair.

If that doesn’t work, make strategically placed, passive-aggressive signs in a false cheery voices with too many exclamation points helpfully reminding the offender that this is a communal space and could they please, please not get toothpaste all over the mirror? That would be sooooo nice. Thanks!!!

What strategies do you use to cope with a messy roommate?

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35 Comments on "6 Simple Ways To Deal With A Disgusting Roommate Once And For All"

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Dickworn

My gf and i have to stay with this fat slob. Hair everywhere in the bathroom…especially next to her assorted vagisil collection… Dishes piled high on her side of the sink. Laughs like a special-ed kid during an adam sandler movie and brings random people into the house. She reminds me of bubble bass from spongebob! Ha! Still no pickles..she ate them all

Will Lowley

my roomate n her two kids are slobs they don’t clean just dirty. mom don’t care about me cleaning up after a wreck I can’t stand. don’t tell her kids about cleaning up after themselves. I’m trying this got a white dry erase board n imma hang it where they can see when they walk out the door. so everyone can see n do there part atleast to clean up behind themselves it’s just respect n common sense.

Will Lowley

I did make the kitchen really dirty tho just to see what happens n how long it will be till every one chips in

Steve
This looks like a great place to vent, but nothing will get accomplished. I live with my two adult brothers. One of my brothers just WILL NOT do his own dishes. He’ll cook up a big meal and then leave them set. We have a housekeeper come in once every two weeks to clean the place up. But the very next day this lazy ass brother will start filling the sink again, along with other things he won’t take care of but that’s for a different conversation. If my clean brother and I talk to him about it he throws a big fit like a baby and the problem gets worse and worse along with animosity and snide and snotty comments for at least a month. We have given up. I think we’re going to all have to go our separate ways, which is a bummer. I love my brothers, but one of them is just being a selfish prick and I don’t see any way to get him to do his God damned dishes. My clean brother suggested we throw all the dishes away, but I can’t afford or want to eat out all the time. I like to… Read more »
Will Lowley

put all there mess on there bed n show them that’s where things go till you are ready to clean up the mess u created

David

I have a sister who is exactly the same. It’s hard, because you love them and parting ways is not easy, especially if it means leaving them to take on life by themselves when they’re not very capable as it is.

Something I’m going to try with her is everytime she leaves dirty dishes out I will clean the dishes, and then lock them away in a box in my room. Each of these dishes will be locked away for a week from the day I find it not cleaned, which means if she leaves the pot and pan uncleaned then she has nothing to cook with for a week, which means no nice cooked food for a week, she’ll be forced to eat out (which she won’t want because it’s not something she can afford). If I want to cook myself food, I can use the pot and pan even if it’s locked away.

More mess means less dishes to use, and less dishes to use means less mess. So if punishes her for not cleaning whilst reducing the amount of mess.

Tjay

What you describe sounds like personality disordered behaviour. They do it for 1) control, 2) attention, 3) to cause conflict, 4) a chance to play victim. It’s deliberate and that’s why it’s never going to end. Study up on Cluster B.

thepinch

Sounds like you need a dishwasher – freestanding, or built in, with a heavy duty cycle.

This has solved a thousand problems for me in the long run.

Show your favorite Neanderthal how to rinse a plate and drop it on the rack. He probably won’t do the former, (hence the heavy duty function) and he won’t unload it either, but at least the ants, flies and maggots will stop feasting.

Diana
This is a 46 year old man. He don’t clean anything. He don’t clean up after himself or his animals, he sleep with his dogs and cats, their is fur everywhere. His room reeks with urine and smells awful. He don’t care, if I say anything he lets it get worse. Or his famous words, I promise I will get on my day off. Three days off, and all he does is sleep. Or he pretends he is sick, or he hurts. I feel as he don’t care how I feel. I came into his home. And expects me to clean up, but he does not try to keep anything clean. I can clean, next day it looks like I didn’t do anything. I cry myself to sleep thinking, how can a man be so dirty and not care. On how hard I worked all day in cleaning his home, an all he says is, I’m sorry and goes to his room and goes to sleep. Not a care in the world on, my feelings, he can sleep with no quilt. Omg! Maybe I don’t belong here. I gave him two years, and I’m tired. All I get is It… Read more »
thepinch

Sounds like he may have depression. Very difficult to live with (in case you haven’t noticed)

Give him a first warning in writing along with a deadline. Agree to meet after 2 weeks and inspect his room. Then meet monthly,

You can pretty well bet on a final warning AND an eviction. He will drag this out indefinitely because nobody will put up with this, so be sure that you have set firm dates.

IndoJakGal
Three months ago my uncle moved to our family house where I stayed alone for the past two years. He moved in because he just got divorced and it’s his parents’ house, so there he is. I was sorry for him for what happened until I realized how terrible man he is. He never washed the dishes. He smoked all the time inside the house with no windows open even after I told him that I got bronchiectasis and repiratory problems. He used my bath equipments and made it broken. He never threw the ash from his ashtray, he never did the trash. He left the used toilet tissues in the westafel. He didn’t pay for the electricity and gas while he used it the most, in that case I paid for all the bills even though he has a job and making money more than me. He always on fight with somebody’s over the phone early in the morning. The list still goes on… But those are the major ones. I couldn’t take it anymore. I played Mom’s role but he became filthier than ever, I played Buddha part but couldn’t bear to breathe smokes and let myself coughing… Read more »
thepinch

There is nothing to discuss here. If you cannot breathe, nothing else matters. Leave. NOW.

Lauren

Talk to your parents about him first.maybe they can talk to him. Then I recommend if possible wash every dish he leaves in the sink and then take it and hide it in your room. Eventually he won’t have any dishes. Or better yet put his dirty dishes on his bed. It’s a but passive aggressive but he will get the message

Wendy

I have a problem with renting a room and these days there are no manners. For the last 2 nights iv had to tell this man of 52 to put a shirt on — and not walk around my kitchen and house half naked.

My dad was a bushy farmer and we kids never ONCE saw Dad walking around without a shirt–

If Walked down the rd or into the shops like that id be arrested.

I am, sick of men these days with no respect- no manners.

thepinch

A man walking around your home with no shirt on is not only rude, but asserting his dominance in your home. I am sorry to say that in my experience this behaviour will escalate. I get freaked out if a male roomer came into my kitchen in pyjamas!

If you have said no, and he keeps doing it, you have a PROBLEM. Put it in writing and give him a written warning. Try to have male relatives, friends, and other males drop by more often. Put a lock on your door. Be prepared to evict on short notice, and don’t even think about a refund.

Tristan

My roomate/ co worker is not only discussing but a two faced little bitch. Since I have moved in I have tried the mom approach countless times hoping once it was clean he would get the point and try and maintain it. Obviously not working I decided to move onto the Buddha approach and try and live with it, as I am in uni and also full time job I figured to focus my energy on that and just deal with the dirtyness. This has resulted in him talking shit to our co workers saying i’m the messy, dirty one Even though they all no that is not the case cuz I clean non stop at work while he does not. I’m honestly at a loss of what to do. I have asked if assigning chores would be better. However that did not even last a fucking week. I NEED HELLLPP . oh not to mention the penalty would not work because he is to cheep to even buy his own food and shit.

Peter Hernandez Fuentes
Peter Hernandez Fuentes

Tristen im in in the same boat- I hope someone answers you promptly so i can get the advice as well.

Jeanette Z

I bought a dry erase board and created a schedule when we alternated. After this, If it is not clean by the date and time, I tell her in person or via text that she passed the date and needs to clean as soon as possible because she is not respectful of the cleanliness of the apartment. It has worked for me cuz if she doesn’t clean and I text her, it’s her problem, not mine because that dry erase board is proof that she is dirty!!

jacktheripper
I have a terrible roommate, not that he is a mean or rude person..Just completely absent minded of everyone and everything around him. He leaves messes along the way as if he was a tornado leaving devastation in his wake. He pulls condiments from the fridge and leaves them out in random locations through out my house. He is always leaving his clothes, trash and drug paraphernalia all over my home. I have tried literally every option there and have even sat him down for a huge heart to heart. I’ll admit I am a neat freak but not to the point of having to be able to eat off the floors. The common rooms (living room, bathroom and kitchen) need to be kept clean because it is important for safety when I have my 2 year old. We have dogs that could get hurt with all the mess to. SO daily I clean starting with the dishes that are piled up for me after I do them the following night. Then I deal with my dogs, and vacuum what ever ashes off the carpets and clean off the coffee table of his various weed pipes, food trash and half… Read more »
Jihn

This ones easy. Turn him In to the cops.

thepinch

With YOU, Jihn. Immediately.

Arthur
I live with my partner and his friend (let’s call him Steve) who has slight asperger’s. Steve is nasty and his room is a pigsty. Steve was under the canadian disability program. My partner and i did our best to talk to him heart to heart about cleanliness and how strict the landlord is but still the same nasty habits . Whats annoying is that I and my partner have to set good examples by keeping the house spotless because we are living with a retard (im just really angry Please allow me to use that word). The fridge handle is wiggling, and it’s because of him, he broke the shower rod, he slams the door everytiMe he goes out, one day while snooping in steve’s room, i saw a letter from the government stating that they are stopping his monthly disability financial cheque because they found out that Steve has some financial savings set aside. So until he spends that money from his savings account and he provides them receipts of him spending it, he is not gonna be receiving disability money. Steve works under the table as a newspaper boy and he pays the bills but he is… Read more »
thepinch

Wiggly fridge handles and shower rods are no big deal.

Breaking into his room and reading highly personal and confidential material sure as hell is.

Did you bother to consider that working part time is both therapeutic and perfectly legal (within limits) for a Disability recipient? He won’t get rich delivering papers, but it sure beats sitting around a place where he’s called “retard” behind his back.

barbara

I live with an unimaginable nightmare of a sister in law for a slob. She leaves a towel in the sink and then throws a hairdryer in the sink… On top of all that she and her live in *girl* friend leave around makeup, quetips, and makeup towellettes. Then they’ll use my brush if i leave it in there . She also leaves hairspray in the kitchen and sometimes her makeup its disgusting!!! She is the most disgusting roomate ive ever had. It doesnt stop at the bathroom either they leave socks in the living room and never clean dishes and wait for my mother in law to clean up after them. Its a nightmare and i wish i could slap sense into them

thepinch

Cupcake, you have NO IDEA what a bad room mate is.

Q Tips in the bathroom? a cesspool, I’m sure.

Disgusting makeup? there goes the neighbourhood!

Socks in the living room? the horror…..the horror,,,,,,

JJ

Based on my last 2 years of living with others, I have concluded that at least 75% of my friends are utter slobs who think cleaning the litter box once a week is sufficient. Some of them feel the same about flushing the toilet. Being brought up to keep a clean house has only served to make me miserable in this season. H… or highwater I will live on my own again this time next year.

That or lose it all together.

thepinch

Living with someone who does not flush is not living at all. The cat box issue isn’t just disgusting, it’s cruel to the cat(s) too,

This is what you own.

Over the years, the decent people probably left and are forming their own colonies of paper toweled and broom flinging clusters.

When you start yours, decent people who value clean ovens and disinfectant will be drawn like moths to a flame (truth!)

List your cleaning expectations in writing in detail and have them sign it. Provide cleaning materials and monitor closely. If you think you got it all, think again – my room mates are 31, 41, and 55, and I just had to re-write how to keep a bathroom clean.

Some things may prove unenforceable. I can’t always get people to was full loads. Other things may grow in importance. Be a boss – be prepared to listen, meet with them regularly, give feedback, and if necessary, take corrective action and even evict, occasionally on NO notice. And NO refunds!

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