Here’s the short version of my question: How can I get my flatmates to help with the household chores?
Here’s the long version: I live with several other adults. They clean the common areas either not at all or on extremely rare occasion. I have lost every game of “kitchen chicken” (where you wait and wait and wait and see who gives in and does the washing up first) ever.
Part of this is because I was raised by a Joan Crawford-esque mother and grandmother who punished messy children quite severely. Part of this is because my flatmates just do not seem to care about the mess. At all.
Now, despite my upbringing I think I have quite reasonable expectations about cleanliness. For example, the bathroom should be thoroughly cleaned every couple of weeks and/or before/after a party. Dishes should be done within a day or two, especially since we have had a couple small pest incidents (though nothing major). Everyone’s personal bedroom is his or her own business. Yet even with these fairly relaxed standards I am still the one doing 90% of the work.
I have tried having an open and non-hostile conversation with the flatmates about chores (“Hey, we are all adults and everyone needs to do their bit”). I have tried humorous little quips and hints. I do not want to be a nag. I do not want to be a bitch. Basically, I do not want to be my mother. But I do not want to continue being the only one to scrub the loo or empty the dishwasher.
Can you help me, Captain Awkward?
Tired of the Mess
I have a fairly simple and straightforward answer to this question. In fact, we might set a CaptainAwkward.com record for brevity.
Hire a cleaning person.
I have lived in numerous roommate situations. I have been the clean(er) person and the dirty(er) person. I have lived in exactly one roommate situation that had zero conflict or hard feelings about household chores, and that was because the three of us hired a nice gentleman to come clean the apartment once every 2 weeks. At $15/hour times roughly 3 hours divided by 3 flatmates times 2 cleanings/month, for an extra $30 out of my pocket every month I never, ever, ever had to clean someone else’s pubes out of the shower drain.
Now, we did our dishes regularly and kept the common areas clean of clutter because we were grownups and considerate of one another, but I think that having the place scrubbed every two weeks made keeping things clean the norm instead of something we did when company came over.
You can have house meetings and make chore charts and nag and complain, or you can go scorched earth where you put a person’s dirty dishes and other mess in his or her room instead of washing them yourself (uh, enjoy that small pest problem you have as it will soon turn into a giant raging pest problem), but if “Jesus Christ, we have BUGS, do your fucking dishes” hasn’t worked by now it won’t ever work. At the end of the day the other people you live with are adults and you have to assume that you can’t change their behavior. If you treat “cleaning” just like any other utility that you pay for in common (heat, internet, electric, water, etc.) you can bring the stress level way down. In between visits you can just take care of your dishes and your own mess.