It’s inevitable. At some point, you will have messy college roommate, whether you want to or not.
Messy roommates can cause all kinds of problems. For instance, let’s say you’re bringing a date back to your apartment for an after-dinner movie. Even if it’s your roommate’s fault, it still reflects pretty poorly on you if the first thing your date sees is flies buzzing around empty food boxes on the coffee table. What’s worse is that you may start hating your roommate for leaving those boxes on the table...until you realize you’ve started to take some cues from him/her and do the same.
The easiest way to avoid this situation? Don’t room with someone who’s messy. But since that’s not always doable, here are some other ways to clean up your messy roommate:
Set some ground rules
In my current living situation, we have a sign above most of our smaller trash cans that reads, “NO FOOD BOXES.” It’s a simple but effective reminder in most cases. It can be made even more effective when each time someone leaves a food box in one of the aforementioned trashcans, a picture is taken, posted to our Facebook group, and complained about. When boxes are left out like that, they sure do smell up the place. Fortunately, my roommate has learned to put his empty food boxes in the kitchen trash sparing us all the smell of three-day-old Chinese food.
The example of me posting pictures to our Facebook group is part of speaking up in general (albeit virtually). Don’t be afraid to tell someone when they’re doing something unclean or messy. They probably don’t really need to be told they’re unclean in the first place, they just need to be told to stop. Sure, people are busy with schoolwork, but that’s no reason why they can’t spend 5 minutes every night helping you clean up the living room. For us, we take turns vacuuming, and when someone doesn’t do their job, they hear about it. Speaking up works, though; I can’t remember the last time one of us had to be reminded to vacuum, and it prevents people from leaving future messes.
Lead by example
If you’re going to push your college roommates to be cleaner, the first thing you have to do is make sure you aren’t responsible for any messes. Is the recycling full? Take it out. Did someone leave dirty dishes in the sink? Wash them. This doesn’t mean you should do the hard work for everybody else. If you find yourself doing these things constantly, then you need to stop. Recognize that living with roommates is a give-and-take exchange. More often than not, I’m the person who ends up taking out our apartment’s recycling. However, this mixes with speaking up: if I see dishes in the sink a day later, I don’t hesitate to say, “Hey, I took out the recycling yesterday, why don’t you handle the dishes?” This reinforces that you and your messy college roommates need to work together for an effective living environment.
Messy roommates can be changed for the better: all it takes is time, structure, and repetition. Take my word for it, teaching someone how to be cleaner is way more tolerable than watching someone live like a slob.