Cohabiting is difficult at the best of times and, considering we're now in the worst of times, for many people its become a daily struggle. Have you noticed their chewing? How many times they go to the bathroom? Have you sussed who's been using up all the bog roll so quickly? Or, let's be real, have you noticed what utter messy little pigs your household are? Well, call me Kim Woodburn but I think these
expert tips for confronting messy housemates are the absolute ticket.
I reached out to
counsellor and therapist Susan Leigh for her advice about speaking to your housemates and getting the most out of the conversation. I also heard from CEO of Laundryheap Deyan Dimitrov who, after years of working in an industry that's all about keeping things clean, has some very sound words of wisdom on this topic.
Having open communication with housemates is always a good thing, but as countries around the world face lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's now more important than ever. At the moment, things that might not ordinarily drive you up the wall could be really riling you up, and you need to address them before they get out of control. Below is some advice that might help you do that.
1 Check In With Yourself First
Breathe. Count backwards from ten. Think about what's really bothering you. As Leigh points out, the problem with your housemate(s) may run deeper than you think, and you'll want to be aware of that ahead of time. "I think it's important to ask ourselves why are we so upset about the dirty mugs and messiness or are there other things going on and this is a final straw?"
If the issue is larger than cleanliness, it may be worth taking a few days to think about what's happening and what the best solution is.
2 Pinpoint What’s Bothering You
If you've decided that this is
definitely about the dirty mugs, then you need to get yourself prepared before the confrontation. Not being funny but if you're going to fight your case, you'd better have some flipping good evidence.
"Identifying exactly what the problem is helps you avoid rambling when you broach the conversation and will ensure you make what you’re asking really clear," explains Dimitrov.
Leigh agrees, but adds that you should avoid giving
too many examples as "they can sound accusatory and often take the conversation down a totally unhelpful track."
Leigh also suggests you go in knowing exactly what outcome you're after. "When genuine issues do need to be dealt with it's important to decide what you want as the eventual outcome (eg. a weekly rota, standard of cleanliness) and stay with that as the primary focus." Of course, you may need to compromise at some point (more to come on that) but you should at least know what you want before you open up the conversation.
3 Talk To Them About It Privately
There's nothing more humiliating than being called out for being a bit of a slob in front of a load of people. In a past life, long before I lived alone and became obsessive about my flat being clean, this happened to me —
a few times.
According to Dimitrov, "It can be a little uncomfortable to have someone call you out on your lack of cleanliness or untidiness, and it would be unfair to do so with an audience. Keep it between you and be respectful by finding somewhere quiet and private to chat."
Leigh adds that approaching the conversation in a light-hearted way may help. "Remember, self-deprecation and a sense of humour can achieve far more than anger," she says.
4 Tone Of Voice Is Everything
Tone is absolutely everything. Don't approach them on the defensive and remember, as Dimitrov says, "this might have been building up in your head for weeks or months, but for them is an entirely new issue and you’ll be catching them unawares." Try to keep yourself cool, calm, and collected to get the best out of the situation.
5 Be Realistic & Willing To Compromise
It can't always be your way or the highway. As a matter of fact, as Leigh acknowledges, you might be unknowingly annoying your flatmates too. "Be prepared to listen," she says, "as there may be grievances on both sides."
As well as that, you have to remember that this is their living space too. As Dimitrov says, not everyone's standards are the same. "Just because you like everything sparkling clean and spic and span, doesn't mean you can demand that everyone in your flat bends to your will. It’s a shared space after all." Try to come to some sort of compromise about the level of cleanliness.
6 Consider A Cleaning Rota
Have you ever been to someone's house who has a cleaning rota and been super impressed by their success? Well now's your chance to get on it too.
Dimitrov says rotas are invaluable as they "ensure that duties are shared evenly between the flat and people are responsible for dedicated tasks, such as taking out the bins, washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom and so on." He adds: "If everyone is doing their equal share, conflicts and resentment are less likely to build."
So, there you have it. Keep your house clean, your home happy, and your stress levels at reasonable level.