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How to Deal With a Roommate Who's Messier Than You

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Maybe you're what they call a "neat freak," or perhaps you just like to keep your apartment looking clean and presentable at all times. Either way, if you care more about housekeeping matters than your roommate does, this could lead to conflict. Indeed, many apartment dwellers who find themselves in this situation decide to end their living arrangement and look for another roommate who's more compatible in this regard.

Ending your roommate relationship over housekeeping differences may be the best solution, but before you assume it's inevitable, keep in mind that there are ways to try to make things work. If you and your roommate want to stay together and you're both willing to compromise, you can reach an understanding that will let you tolerate each other's differences and, with any luck, enjoy the roommate relationship you signed up for.

Here's what you can do:

Seek to Understand

Don't assume that a roommate who doesn't appear to like keeping her apartment clean is doing it to annoy you. Roommates may act this way for one of several reasons. It could just be your roommate's nature, or your roommate may be going through a phase following the loss of a job or a relationship breakup. It's also possible your roommate would like to be as clean and tidy as you are but just doesn't believe she's capable of it.

Talk to your roommate to see what you can learn about what's driving her to be messy, especially if your roommate used to care much more about keeping your place presentable. If you understand what's behind it, you're likely to avoid bitter arguments and get closer to reaching a resolution about housekeeping issues.

Think of Your Apartment in Terms of Turfs or Zones

If you expect your entire apartment to be kept the way you like it, you'll be disappointed and frustrated with your roommate for not living up to your standards. Try an approach in which you consider your apartment as consisting of three turfs or zones: yours, your roommate's, and both of yours.

Your zone is your bedroom, and you have the right to keep it as clean and tidy as you like. Similarly, your roommate's bedroom is her zone, and so she can make it as unpresentable as she chooses. Finally, there's the zone that you share, which includes common areas in your apartment such as the kitchen, bathrooms, and living room. Limit your discussions to these areas.

Consider Hiring a Professional Cleaning Service

When it comes to the common areas, see if your roommate would be willing to chip in with you to hire a cleaning service. Having a professional cleaner visit your apartment once a week, or even every other week if funds are tight, can make a big difference. Plus, the clean, neat feeling that you'll get each time the cleaning person leaves may inspire your roommate to expend more effort toward keeping your place in order between cleanings.

Offer to Do More Cleaning in Return for Other Chores

If you care more than your roommate does about keeping your place looking neat and clean every day, making it happen no doubt comes easier to you. Keep in mind that just because a roommate doesn't keep his place neat and clean doesn't necessarily mean it's because he doesn't want to.

If you're better at cleaning, offer to do more than your roommate toward keeping your common areas looking good. In return, see if your roommate would agree to do a greater share of some other chores. For instance, your roommate could be the one to do the weekly grocery shopping or accomplish the errand of paying the rent and bills for your apartment. Dividing chores this way will maximize what the two of you can get done as a team.

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