#752: “My roommate is acting like my teenaged son.”

Ahoy Captain,

Several years ago my fiance and I started hanging out with a guy named Devon*. At the time we started hanging out with Devon he was having a lot of personal problems. He was living in a hotel that he could barely pay for, slept all day and stayed up all night, and seems to have had a minor drug problem. Fiance and I, seeing that he was in a difficult situation, invited him to come live with us for a few months.

It’s been two years.

I like Devon, a lot, and I enjoy hanging out with him. He’s a sweet guy and being around him is simple and fun. I don’t necessarily want him to move out, which I guess is good for me because it doesn’t look like he’s going to any time soon.

Devon is now has a job, doesn’t do drugs, and kinda sorta pays rent *sometimes*.

My real problem, though, is housework.

I think it’s only fair that Devon take some responsibility for the house work. I’ve tried to talk to him about this so many times I’ve lost count. He always brushes me off, says he’ll do it ‘later’, he’s tired from work, or that the dishes in the sink aren’t ‘his’.

These excuses are childish the point of hilarity. I don’t argue about whose shit stain is whose on the toilet when I clean it, why does it matter whose dishes they are??. I brought it up again last night and he said “well I keep my room clean”. Well yeah, that’s all fine and dandy, I don’t expect him to clean my bedroom. I DO expect him to help with the kitchen and bathroom, which everyone uses every bloody day.

I’ve tried multiple tactics:

I’ve tried telling him what is expected of his as a member of our household

I’ve tried gentle encouragement

I’ve tried reasoning with him

I’ve tried yelling at him

I’ve tried explaining that it’s not fair for all the housework to fall on my shoulders since I’m not a damn maid

I have even tried boycotting all chores in the hopes that the revolting state of the house would encourage Devon to pitch it. The only outcome of that is, after a few weeks, the house (especially the bathroom) became so disgusting I couldn’t stand it anymore and I cleaned it myself.

What am I supposed to do about the cleaning short of kicking him out? I feel like I have tried everything. It’s driving me completely batty. In the past few months I don’t even bother doing more then a perfunctory clean because everything is always messed up 5 minutes later anyway. Sort of like in that episode of The Simpsons, “Bart Gets an Elephant” where the kitchen door opens on a clean kitchen, swings closed, and opens messy (sorry couldn’t find the gif) [Ed note: FOUND IT]!

Kitchen from Bart Gets An Elephant

I can hear him cooking in the kitchen now and just dread the stupid mess of discarded vegetable parts that will be everywhere in about 20 minutes.

I have been very explicit about my expectations but he just doesn’t hear it. I’ve even asked my fiance to speak to him about it in the hopes that maybe he would be more inclined to listen to an older man. Nothing. Same brush off.


Molly Maid

Dear Molly,

A++ for descriptive email subject line/post title and A+++++++ for .gif selection and Simpsons references.

Unfortunately that’s the only good thing I have to tell you. You can like people a lot and still be totally incompatible as housemates.

“What am I supposed to do about the cleaning short of kicking him out?”

I am pessimistic that Devon will change his behavior around cleaning when the status quo works so well for him. Asking, begging, threatening, boycotting, etc. on your part will not do a thing to change it because the dude doesn’t give a fuck. He’s not really all that easygoing and fun when you realize that your chill (simple, relaxed, etc.) interactions with him come totally at the cost of you doing all the housework and you swallowing your rage about that.

Your fiancé is also basically fine with the status quo. What’s that all about? What would happen, I wonder, if you said “Please get Devon to do his chores, and if you can’t, please do his chores or hire someone to do them I don’t care which kthnxbye“?

There is one way that Devon might start giving a fuck, and that is if you raise his rent, enforce regular collection of said rent, and make cleaning duties (or paying someone to carry out his cleaning duties) specifically part of a written agreement that spells out the conditions of him living with you. “Devon, now that you’re more on your feet, it’s time for you to sign a lease if you want to keep living here. The rent is $x, collected monthly on the first of the month, and includes $y to cover the cost of a regular housecleaner who will carry out a, b, c, and d chores that are your responsibility from now on.”

If he won’t sign the lease or otherwise cooperate, “Sorry to hear it. Good luck finding a new place, man, we’d like you and your stuff out by [date].” If you do want him to leave, you’ll need to consult a lawyer and/or otherwise get really familiar with the housing rules where you live because there is a process under which tenants/roommates can be evicted. If you let everything slide and go back to the status quo after getting it to this point chances are he will become even more insufferable as a roommate because he’ll know that you won’t actually follow through on enforcing boundaries and house rules.

You’re not alone, as this epic thread on housework shows. What year is it again?

175 thoughts on “#752: “My roommate is acting like my teenaged son.”

  1. I know that some people find it weird or passive aggressive, but signage can sometimes help a lot, if the problem is one of legitimate forgetfulness and/or executive function difficulties. Like, a sign in the kitchen that says “Please wash your own dishes” or “please rinse dishes and put them in the dishwasher” with a little hand drawn picture or some clipart, can be helpful.
    Given Devon’s assertion that the dishes aren’t his, I wonder a little if the LW has clearly explicated that this is a question of the dishes, in general, being Devon’s job, as opposed to emphasizing something less specific about participation and dealing with his own shit. Also whether the problem might be that Devon just really hates doing dishes, and switching things up so he does something else might help. I hate doing dishes, and floors, and this is something I know about myself, so I will volunteer to take over basically any other two chores in exchange for not having to do dishes. Clean the toilets? Sure. Do all the laundry for everyone in the house? Easier to do differentiated loads with a lot of clothing anyway. Wash the windows? I mean…why? But sure. I’ll even use the ammonia spray. Just don’t make me touch dishes. Especially when they’ve been soaking. Egh.
    Additionally, while I don’t have any good solutions for this if it’s the case, I wonder if Devon might lack the wherewithal to do more than stay sober, go to work, and maintain a diurnal sleep schedule. Post-acute withdrawal (I don’t know what or how severe his drug things were, but this is basically where for up to a couple years after getting sober you will intermittently feel awful and exhausted and depressed), or whatever issues ended him up in a motel and on drugs in the first place, might be limiting his capacity for doing things.
    Basically, what I’m saying is, it seems like this might be a situation that evolved without any real negotiation, and one wonders if before any ultimatums are issued, it might be worth sitting down and having a conversation about what everyone feels willing, and *able* to do, what steps could be taken to alter or expand that if necessary, and basically get a sense of whether all your various needs and preferences are compatible. And maybe don’t make it Yet Another Conversation About What Devon Is Doing Wrong, or Here Are All My Grievances About The Existing State of Affairs, but just like “We never really talked about this, let’s all sit down together and make a plan, and then periodically revisit it.”
    I don’t mean to be accusing the LW of anything, or just mindlessly defending Devon, but I’ve been in his position, a lot. There have been years where I didn’t have the resources to do much of anything besides going to school, watching TV, and maybe doing homework if I was having a pretty good day, and I had to rely on the patience and kindness of the friends who were willing to take me in to also deal with my relative inability to contribute. And that sucked, but feeling bad about it didn’t help anything. If he’s made as much progress on other things as the LW describes, it seems possible that work and housework, all in the same day, might currently be beyond him but won’t be forever.
    On that note: is Devon in therapy for the possible drug problems and/or whatever got his life to the point it was at when the LW met him? Is there a way to gently suggest that he maybe should be?

      1. I’ve grappled with this precise conundrum; my sobriety (and sanity and otherwise physical health) required me to live life — for awhile, anyway — like an ascetic, robot-y monk with limited available programming and very filthy floors and regular intervals of therapeutic naps and introspective baths. It was hard on the people around me, who had to pick up the slack while carefully insulating me from feelings of resentment and worry my newfound hermetic lifestyle elicited, as well as their own problems and neuroses.

        The captain’s advice is spot-on. It offers real concessions and real rewards, and it’s going to look quite a bit more attractive to the roommate when he considers the untethered solitude and overwhelming responsibilities he’d face living on his own. I’d just slightly amend the bit about your roommate contributing his rightful third+ towards the proposed household-cleaning budget by offering him some good advice: that he pick a chore, any chore, and make it part of his routine. Say, taking out the kitchen and the bathroom rubbish on his way out the door for work. Just the one, and knock a dollar or two off that portion of his rent to drive the point home. Once he’s accustomed to the one, once he realizes that it’s no longer dangerous (everything “extra” is dangerous when you’re teetering on the edge) to start being a fully-fledged and invariably flawed human adult again, that he can let his guard down another notch and still comfortably keep control, he might opt for a second chore.

    1. I’ve grappled with this precise conundrum; my sobriety (and sanity and otherwise physical health) required me to live life — for awhile, anyway — like an ascetic, robot-y monk with limited available programming and very filthy floors and regular intervals of therapeutic naps and introspective baths. It was hard on the people around me, who had to pick up the slack while carefully insulating me from feelings of resentment and worry my newfound hermetic lifestyle elicited, as well as their own problems and neuroses.

      The captain’s advice is spot-on. It offers real concessions and real rewards, and it’s going to look quite a bit more attractive to the roommate when he considers the untethered solitude and overwhelming responsibilities he’d face living on his own. I’d just slightly amend the bit about your roommate contributing his rightful third+ towards the proposed household-cleaning budget by offering him some good advice: that he pick a chore, any chore, and make it part of his routine. Say, taking out the kitchen and the bathroom rubbish on his way out the door for work. Just the one, and knock a dollar or two off that portion of his rent to drive the point home. Once he’s accustomed to the one, once he realizes that it’s no longer dangerous (everything “extra” is dangerous when you’re teetering on the edge) to start being a fully-fledged and invariably flawed human adult again, that he can let his guard down another notch and still comfortably keep control, he might opt for a second chore.

    2. Schedules and chore lists are amazing inventions. I’ve shared with 3-5 flatmates at a time for the past six years, about 20 people in total, and they ALL had different cleaning habits and the ONLY thing that really worked was some kind of schedule. The schedule needs to be based on what actually needs doing, predictable and a bit flexible.

      Some people will still ignore it, most people will wait til the end of the week (or whatever) but I’ve found the crappy people will usually do at least a couple of things, and it gives them set expectations and something to trigger the ‘does this need cleaning and is it my job’ process. It also makes it much easier to make people accountable. Sometimes the hard part is just realising something needs doing AND that you should do it AND fitting it in when there’s a vague deadline (and we all know about procrastinating and last minute deadlines that actually prompt us to do stuff, right?).

      And yeah, there will still be issues. But if the expectations are managed to be averaged out across everyone (people have different ideas of acceptable workload and cleanliness) and they are clear and don’t require effort to figure out, it will help.

      – we used to have a weekly chores list for stuff like the toilet, mopping, recyling. We dropped this when the flat people changed to a more responsible, cleaner bunch who all automatically did a few things that they noticed and cared about, so it more or less shared out nicely. Some stuff now doesn’t get done properly, but overall it’s okay enough we don’t care about setting up a list. Or rather, I don’t, and I’m the one who’d have to organise and manage it. Which should be an additional chore on the list in its own right. But if we get new people in, who don’t automatically share out most of the stuff between them, we’ll start a new list.

      – we have a daily dishes roster. One person per day cleans up. This has been almost 100% effective since I started it when I started my current flat, after four years of dishes hell in the previous flat. It works amazingly well, because no matter who ate or didn’t, the dishes average out and everyone gets most of the week off and can plan for that one day they have to do half an hour of washing up. We don’t interfere with the ways other people do it as long as it gets done.

      That said, I had one very sucky dishes person (partly because he is terrible at emotional labour and partly cause he was majorly depressed. He left stuff til the next day and half did it when he did do it. He also was related to me, so my asking him to do stuff was blanked automatically.

      Stuff that worked:

      – the schedule REALLY helped. It meant that it wasn’t negotiable that it was His Turn and it made it really clear that it was Fair. It also gave him a deadline. Which he missed a lot, but it meant he’d do it half a day later, rather than just never doing it.

      – A basic list of Stuff That Needs Doing. Washing, drying previous day’s stuff, wiping food of the counters, basic clean up. Basically ‘no crumbs, everything cleanish and able to be used the next day’. Again, he was crap to start with, but having the list helped a LOT.

      – Keeping said list straightforward and limited to stuff that had good reason. I don’t make people organise the crockery the way I like, but everyone knows why they need to wipe the counters down. You will have to actually explicitly spell out that reason as they will just blank it as ‘another random thing X is demanding because they are picky’. Linking cause and effect requires emotional labour, but they can still grasp and care about it.

      – Someone who wasn’t me telling him he needed to Go Do His Dishes Now. He blanked me a lot, but when someone else asked, it broke the white noise effect and made him realise that other people could actually SEE him not doing the dirty dishes and it wasn’t just me trying to make him Do Things)

      1. I…think I might print this out and try the list thing with my husband and child. (Both of whom struggle with the emotional labor.)

    3. While this is all true (and compassionate!), it’s not LW’s job to be his housekeeper on the hope it’s *possible* that *eventually* he will get his shit together. It’s not LW’s job to bite her tongue and do the chores with a smile on her face because making Devon feel terrible about his shitty behavior won’t help.

      Devon has to give a fuck to want to change. He plainly doesn’t. Neither doesn’t LW’s fiance, which is a whole different suitcase to unpack.

    4. LW, this is all good advice and perspective. Please remember it’s not your job to be his chores therapist.

      I feel for y’all. I barely do housework right now or even have a job because of mental health/stabilizing after some shit went down. The thing is, me and my Dad, who I live with, have explicitly negotiated this so that it works for us.

      LW, if Devon is not negotiating then you need to set some limits. Keep all the good advice here in mind and remember it’s not your job to figure Devon out.

      Also, where’s your fiancé in all this? Methinks doing 1/2 the chores instead of 1/3 would still be odious, but potentially less frustrating.

      1. I was wondering the same. If the house degenerates into a filthy mess as soon as LW boycotts the chores, then what exactly is the fiancé’s contribution? If he isn’t doing his share then why would Devon want to?

  2. This made me grind my teeth in frustration – I’m can’t believe this shit still happens in 2015. I’m also sorry your fiance won’t support you more. If this is symptomatic of how issues that are important to *you* are handled in the relationship, please think very carefully before you marry him.

    I don’t have any concrete advice that the Captain hasn’t already given (in this and previous letters), just want to say I feel angry on your behalf.

      1. Well, I got it from the fact that the LW’s the one fighting this battle, mostly alone, and that they considered asking for the fiance’s help to be the last resort, “I’ve -even- asked my fiance to speak to him”, when he should’ve had the LW’s back the moment he found out Devon’s mess mattered so much to them.
        Also, if the LW is a woman, this smacks of male privilege on both the part of the fiance’s and Devon’s. “As long as I’m comfortable, not my problem, let the women handle all the discipline around here” is a common enough trend.

        1. She mentions at one point having to do everything herself, so fiance doesn’t seem to be pitching in either

      2. I mean, we don’t know what the fiance does, I supposed, and maybe he works 18 hour days, while taking care of children that weren’t mentioned and going to school full time, but if the LW stopped doing chores in protest, and within a few weeks the house became so disgusting that the LW had to give in, that means that neither Devon *or* the fiance are doing any chores. She didn’t write in asking about her fiance, of course, but it also doesn’t exactly sound like he’s pulling his weight to me.

        1. I think LW should move out and let the two guys live how they like. She’ll only move back on the condition that a system has been created and is being maintained for housecleaning by the two guys. Or, she doesn’t move back in. Seriously, this situation would be a deal breaker for me. There are other people to date, other places to live, other people to share living space with.

          1. High five, Sparky. I second this. LW–find your own place. Let the boys live in their filth. Make it clear to your fiance that a return to cohabitation is contingent on not living in a pigsty with shitty roommates.

          2. Yep. I’m surprised nobody has said this before now.

            I mean, LW likes Devon and loves the fiance, and if LW doesn’t want to consider that option, fine. But it is an option.

        2. This was my thought process as well. When LW wrote about the chore strike and then the house getting messy without LW’s efforts, my first thought was “so…is LW the only one doing any chores?” Now, I will play devil’s advocate and note that not everyone has the same standards of when something is clean, so it’s possible that fiance was doing a share of the chores, but LW has a higher standard of cleanliness than both the fiance and the friend. It’s possible the house was clean enough for them, but not for LW. It sounds to me like they all need to sit down and figure out the chores. I also second the person who suggested that maybe Devon doesn’t like doing the dishes and would be better at doing something else. I hate vacuuming and my fiance hates cleaning the bathrooms, so we divided up those two chores fairly easily. My fiance can’t cook to save his life, but I cook relatively well, so I do the cooking and he does the clean up. I’ve been in relationships before where there either wasn’t a clear split of the chores or there was, but one person still slacked off, and it always seems to lead to resentment and anger.

          1. Aside from different standards (mine are fairly low, so I tend to not get much done that doesn’t affect functionality) at a certain point the job can seem big enough that you can’t find a starting point and/or its just plain daunting. For me things usually go roughly

            Tuesday: It’s not bad enough to address
            Wednesday: where the hell do I start?

            Not that I think that really changes how the LW should address this. Maybe a gentler approach as others have suggested will work, maybe he needs a shape up or ship out ultimatum to shock him, and maybe the only fix is to give him the boot.

          2. “…maybe Devon doesn’t like doing the dishes and would be better at doing something else.”

            I keep seeing this prospect come up, and I keep vigorously shaking my head at the proposed solution that Devon “do another chore”.

            The thing about dishes is that they are dirtied every. dang. day, often multiple times a day. And if you’re living in a house with three people, you probably need to do the dishes on a daily basis so that you have clean dishes for the next meal and so that the sink doesn’t overflow with dirty ones. So excusing Devon from this chore based on the fact that he “doesn’t like it” and allowing him to vacuum or clean the bathroom instead (which probably happens around once a week (bathroom) or 1-3 times a week (vacuuming)) is NOT an equal trade.

            Frankly, for me, it’s also too large a concession since they INVITED this guy into their home and he only sporadically pays rent. This is an untenable situation for the LW, who wants to live in a minimally clean house (that she pays for) and not be responsible for other peoples’ messes. I don’t think the solution is giving Devon *more* leeway in a situation that is already working really well for him.

          3. Standards of cleanliness matter, sure. I’m a slob, and while I’ve been willing to do better for the sake of household harmony, I’d resist an arrangement where the expectation was everything always spotless, no clutter ever. There has to be room for compromise.


            One person doing all the chores is not compromise.

  3. Yes, when I saw “he kinda sorta pays rent” I thought: time for something on paper! I was interested to learn that agreements on cleaning could be written into leases. A friend of mine always used to give tenants (living in the same house, which he owned) one-month contracts, which he could just not reissue if there were any problems.
    Good luck in riding out the flak that may ensue from setting and reinforcing the boundaries.

  4. I’m sure there’s much merit in sparkly’s comments – I wouldn’t know as I have no experience of addiction.
    However I would add that, to wheel out a well-used phrase: you don’t have a Devon problem – you have a fiance problem. Or rather, you don’t ONLY have a Devon problem.
    I’m grinding my teeth along with RedCat here, because this dynamic is one that I DO have experience of. When I was a young buttercup, and dinosaurs roamed the earth, I shared a flat with my fiance and one of his friends. I often didn’t get home from work until 7pm, and I would find them both lounging in front of the tv, dirty cups, plates, crumbs and fag ash everywhere, and last night’s dishes still piled up in the kitchen. They were both students and had usually been there since mid afternoon. Fiance would languidly raise his eyes as I walked through the door and drawl “what’s for dinner?” If I responded “nothing, until you get off your lazy arses and clear the dishes”, they acted as if this was the most hilariously ridiculous thing they had ever heard.
    Asking nicely didn’t work. Getting angry didn’t work. Crying and telling them how exhausted I was didn’t work. If I walked out and left them to it, I just had the same mess to come back to if I wanted to make anything for myself, because they would just get takeaway for themselves and add the mess from that to the mess they had already made.
    Readers, you will be disappointed to hear, I married him. Don’t judge me too harshly, I beg – I had been brought up to believe that being treated like shit was normal. I did manage to cure myself of that misapprehension, eventually.
    What I’m trying to say, dear LW, is that you seem to be shouldering a grossly unfair level of responsibility. Where is your fiance in all this? Why is he not doing any of the work to maintain your shared home? Why is he not taking a firm stance with Devon? It’s not a matter of “*III* didn’t dirty that cup!” It’s a matter of taking responsibility for being a grown-arsed adult living in a house. And part of the work of the house is supporting your partner, which he is conspicuously failing to do.
    You’ve had some good practical suggestions from Madame Capitaine and previous commenters. I will only say that I lived to regret marrying my lazy-arsed shite womble fiance. Not saying you will too, but if he gets the chance to act like a grownup who actually gives a crap about you and fails, I would think very carefully about whether your futures should be entwined. Oyyy. That we should still be talking about shit like this in the second decade of the 21st century. And people say we don’t need feminism any more.

        1. Fair point, but I was referring to the way mess accumulated AROUND him, as if it was HIS life’s work to create it. Perhaps he should be called “The Anti-Womble”. He was certainly far less useful than an actual Womble. Even a stuffed toy one.

    1. Yep. And there’s another aspect to this being titled that the roomate is acting like a teenaged SON. Girl children are usually expected to be able to clean after themselves and contribute to the household chores after a certain age.

      1. My dad did pretty major farm chores by the time he was a teenager, and his dad was getting up before dawn to do chores in elementary school. Chipping in is part of being a family member as far as my dad was concerned. We have no farm this generation, but I have no doubt at all that if I’d had a brother he would have been pulling his weight around the house. The ‘boys don’t help’ idea is very culturally specific and would sound insane to many people.

        1. That’s interesting – most people I know with a farm background were raised with a “boys do outside work, girls do inside work” mentality, which still translates to not doing any/much actual housework.

          1. That’s generally my experience, although specifically it was “boys AND girls do outside work, girls do inside work”.

          2. I was raised on a farm and this is how it was. Except girls were expected to do both. So as a female, you can see how this is a pet peeve of mine.

          3. This is very true. Farms are definitely not bastions of feminism. My father was raised on a farm with three sisters. The women took care of all chores inside the house, worked the garden, and took care of the hens. Menfolk did the “real” farm labor of running machinery and taking care of livestock. We used to joke that my grandfather would starve in front of the refrigerator if there wasn’t a woman around to open the door for him.

      2. I would like to commend to all parents my mother’s approach to this issue.

        She taught all her children, boys & girls, basic housework. When one of my brothers had the gall to complain that it was girl stuff, my mother said “Oh yeah? Well, I’m going to tell all your girlfriends not to fall for any excuses, because I taught you to do laundry and clean. I’ll tell them that if he tells you otherwise, he’s lying. Now go clean the damn kitchen.”

        (Fastforward 10 years to the same brother teaching his wife how to cook.)

        1. That’s how my grandparents were. They had six kids, everyone needed to be doing chores to keep things running smoothly. My dad and all my uncles cook, clean house, and do household repairs, as does my aunt. It’s not about “girl stuff” or “boy stuff,” it’s about being able to take care of yourself as an adult. That this eludes so many people makes me very sad.

        2. My mother used to believe that this is how she raised my brother and me. One day I asked her to think really hard about holiday dinners and the like, and who she would expect to help set/clear the table, do the dishes and so on. Funnily enough, it was me to started helping (the other women in the family) with that kind of thing. Because while she did ask my brother and me to help at the same time, he was usually excused after washing a dish or two while I helped cooked the entire meal AND clean up.

          PS: I grew up on a farm as well and absolutely agree with the “men do outside work, women do outside AND inside work” experience.

  5. When I read this letter I must say I am more concerned about the fiance than about Devon. This man, who is supposed to be the LWs life partner, is totally abdicating responsibility for housework? Not cool. He’s also letting the LW handle these stressful interactions with their roommate, only stepping in when asked to, as if the responsibility wasn’t equally his. I give side-eyes. Could be I’m missing something or there are factors not mentioned in the letter that makes this a healthy situation, but it might be worth taking an extra look at those dynamics to see if this is how you want things to work, LW, or if it’s time for some renegotiation, and if that doesn’t go well perhaps reconsideration.

    I don’t have kids (yet) so other commenters might want to weigh in, but I’m also thinking you could view this as a chance to examine how you and your fiance would work together with an actual teenaged son, or child of any kind, if you plan on having children in the future. How you share stresses and responsibilities. How you work as a team. To be clear, I don’t mean treating Devon as a child (the suggestions on how to deal with Devon are good, so try them), but I’m thinking there could be valuable information and learning experiences gained from this situation.

  6. Ive had these issues. Ive found two solutions:

    1. Get a dishwasher, make a rule that anything dirty goes straight in it. (Advanced level: if full, turn it on, or put away the clean stuff as applicable.) Buy a shiny new toilet brush in holder, and put a sign on the back of the door (ie prominently visible when sat on the loo) which says “If the toilet needs ‘brush use’, USE IT!” This shamed my flatmate into doing it. Because he didnt want his friends to see that sign!

    2. Hire a cleaner, split the cost equally. Be prepared that, no matter how good your hygiene, they may initially want to deep clean each room, so it may take a few visits before they get into a regular routine of coming in, blitzing everything, and vanishing. Also, if you go for this, I think you do have to all pay – rather than saying “I clean my dishes so only people who dont have to cover the cleaner” – but it also gives you license to chill out and not be cleaning so much either, beyond basics.

    Personally Id go with the second option, saying “it’s no secret that our different cleaning schedules have caused disagreement in the past. We need the house to stay cleaner in communal areas, so Im going to get some quotes for hiring a cleaner once a week, and we all need to pay an equal share towards that. Devon, do you agree? Ill get the quotes, then give you the info to make a standing order into my bank account each month just after your payday.”

    Whether LW wants to include asking for rent, or to see this as an initial step and if it works out, ask gently if he could increase the standing order to include a payment towards rent, is up to them. I think Id do it that way – then if necessary say “Devon, this isnt really working. Not only do you not pay rent regularly, but you dont even cover a cleaner to do your share of the chores” and take it from there. I dont think Id swoop in with the threats to evict… Yet.

    1. If there is no interest in kicking Devon out and no interest in being his parent – then I honestly believe that the only way to solve this is to a) let him know that rent is increasing and will be due every month and b) it’s due to requiring a cleaner.

      As someone who has lived with many roommates and a boyfriend over the years – roommates do not become more tidy or more hygienic no matter what kind of signage or nagging is involved. I say this as someone on the receiving and giving end. There may be some short term changes, but that usually comes with varying degrees of passive aggressive grumbling (at best) and then usually back sliding. When you’re in a romantic partnership, sure the negotiating process is different – but that basic level of “I’m ok with this level of cleanliness” I’ve rarely seen move very much.

      1. Such good advice! While reading it, I was struck with an idea that LW can choose their own emotion in this. Why not pick Happy Excitement? “Hi Devon! Hey, I’ve had this great idea how I can make my home feel more inviting when I come home! I’m hiring a cleaning service. The good news is we are splitting the cost and your share is X. I really love my home when I come in so tired, and everything is clean!”

        It is your home, it is your life, Devon is there conditionally, things cost money; Devon is not your son, in actual fact. Stern Taskmaster is the role addicts love, since it is largely one they will not respond to. Happy Excitement is an action voice where decisions have been made and implemented. And it’s even good for him.

    2. Listen to Flashsays!

      Step one in my experience is to remove as much of the work to machines and contractors as you possibly can. Dishwashers are the best thing. I had a lazy flatmate who made about 3 times as many dishes as me (I hardly ever cook, which is a whole other issue LOL) but I was doing them three times as often. I bought a dishwasher. He complained that it was lazy (this guy was pretty awful actually and we didn’t live together for more than a year or two) but I insisted that all dirty stuff went straight in. Even if he dropped the ball with setting it off and emptying it it massively reduced my effort in picking up the slack. If you can’t afford a new dish washer you can get them second hand, sometimes quite new models at a massive discount. If you rent and can’t insert one into your kitchen, know that for many years I kept mine in the laundry hooked up to the laundry taps with a double adapter tap attachment and a long hose. They even use less water than hand washing. They are fantastic inventions.

      I also second getting a cleaner if you can afford it. Some people are super reluctant to do this even when they can afford it because it seems lazy or entitled. I used to feel a bit that way myself. But this does remove a huge chunk of the labour. It can feel like giving up and losing the argument that you should all just pull your weight, but it’s a lot easier to convince people that they have to regularly pay their share of the money than it is to convince them to clean the bathroom before the black stuff on the walls gains sentience and starts eating your house guests.

      I suppose I should also end by saying that right now I live on my own in a flat precisely because I am sick to death of cleaning up after other people. I’m not even that clean – I consider monthly bathroom cleaning adequate, for example. I’ve just lived with a lot of men who either didn’t do their fair share or had to be dragged kicking and screaming into it every single time with some tear down exhausting argument (usually a combination of both) and I am one thousand percent done. There is this constant grinding stress and anger to living with someone who doesn’t care that you’re shouldering an unfair burden that casts a pall over your whole life.

      1. Fortress of Solitude (and not cleaning up after other people) high-five! I’m done with it as well.

        I got engaged and my ex moved in with me under the provision that if he didn’t pull his weight regarding chores, he’d be paying for a cleaner. This came about because we were long-distance for a couple of years and every time I went to see him, his home was FILTHY, and after the first two times of arriving-and-scrubbing, I walked back out, sat on the steps and said I was changing my flight to go home the next day. It was gross, y’all.

        Unfortunately, I just… couldn’t make it stick. He never had enough money (yes he did), he was really going to change, he MEANT to do it, he was ABOUT to do it, can I just explain to him one more time, can I just show him one more time, he’s forgotten how to sweep…

        So, it’s a rather large part of why he is my ex and I am frigging delighted instead of miserable. I only have to scrub the toilet every couple of weeks, not multiple times a day! And that’s only because I figure “oh I ought to do that” not because there is compelling, gross reasons to! My countertops aren’t sticky and loaded with food and ants! The gunk on the walls has been vanquished and is no longer whispering dark secrets!

        Moreover, my home is now a clean, safe environment for me and my cats, and dude wanted KIDS. Because leaving cabinet doors open, cans of paint open, moldy food science experiments in the sink (and. we. had. a. dishwasher.)… would somehow just STOP when a baby was born? This is my extremely, extremely skeptical face.

        1. Hahaha as I was reading the bit about forgetting how to sweep my expression went all flat and I could feel my eye lasers heating up in preparation from scorching someone from the face of the earth with my scornful gaze. Yes it does sound familiar. Ugh. I’ve encountered so many guys who use this weird passive resistance just be bad at it and she’ll stop asking me thing. My actual Grandfather once confessed that he deliberately ruined a whole load of washing once so that my Grandmother would never ask him to help with it again. I’m soooooooo done with that weird “let me show you you poor dear who is apparently a child in an adult’s body” dance. I feel like I could actually feel my brain cells dying once when I had to explain to a guy who supposedly earned money as a cleaner that yes it’s possible for the shower glass to be clear after you clean it. Or that if you put bowls in the dishwasher open end up badness happens. Screw it! If I can help it I plan to never again live with someone who can’t perform basic household tasks without being told or dragged through it kicking and screaming.

          Gods I once watched a guy sit down and complain that he felt faint because he’d been drying dishes for too long. A fit 20 year old guy with no health problems, I should specify.

          Or there was a time I cleaned broken glass off the floor of a (female) flatmate who’d left this mulch of papers and clothes on the floor while moving out… The glass had been under the mulch for months at least.

          I love my tiny flat. The only mess in here is caused by me and my cat. Admittedly my cat is a genius at finding new and horrifying ways to make a mess, but she’s 15 so I forgive her. :-/

          1. Oh my gods yes. This was my first husband (Mr Shite Womble) to a T. Current Mr r is quite capable, and in some ways better at household chores than me, so that’s all behind my now, thank whatever implausible outmoded supernatural constructs are listening.

          2. I’m really in that “so done” stage right now, too. I feel like I need to explicitly put in my online dating profile: “You are toilet trained and capable of cleaning up your own literal shit” because I am DONE, I tell you.

            The stuff this guy put me through, just. I don’t even know. Also everyone has their own dishwasher techniques (although BOWL SIDE UP IS WRONG I TELL YOU, EW) but he couldn’t even manage to put his dirty dishes in the dishwasher, they sat in the sink for days despite dishes being, in writing, his chore. He also gave me food poisoning because he didn’t “believe” that raw food needed to be microwaved for more than one minute to be safe, to the point where I started objecting to this, so he’d microwave it for a minute, then toss it on the grill to give it grill marks and make me THINK it had been fully cooked on the grill.

            I… it’s more work to do that, than actually grill the damn thing. I just do not understand, to this day, and he has neither explanation nor a fuck given about it. It’s really what started my “why would someone who says they love me hurt me deliberately” questioning.

            As for kitties, oh man. I have one regular barfer and one with chronic sinusitis, so I hear you on gross kitties. They’re both seniors, so definitely forgiven (and it’s not their fault!), but man, true love is syringing snot out of your cat’s nose (and then her sneezing the rest all over you) on a regular basis.

          3. My reaction to this whole thread is, “AAAAAUGH.” The only thing I’ve ended up teaching the guys in my life is the proper reading and interpretation of care labels – which, to be honest, many people deliberately ignore *anyway.* (And this was only after one of them complained to me that his sheets came out of the wash all piled up last time)

          4. Ran out of nesting, responding to Trundlebear, just to say that that story about the grill marks is HORRENDOUS, and truly does make me think that he was trying to deliberately hurt you. Agggggh.

          5. Oh Trundlebear! OMG!

            But yes to literally toilet trained. If I have to wash piss off the floor one more time… My male guest pee on my floor FFS. Whyyyyyyyyyy? Why don’t they wipe it up with some toilet paper at least?

            Ahem. Also lol syringing snot out of your cats nose! Poor kitty… I’m sure he’s not amused by the process.

  7. > What would happen, I wonder, if you said “Please get Devon to do his chores, and if you can’t, please do his chores or hire someone to do them I don’t care which kthnxbye“?

    But they tried that already?

    “I’ve even asked my fiance to speak to him about it in the hopes that maybe he would be more inclined to listen to an older man. Nothing. Same brush off.”

    1. I think the point was that fiancé talked to him, but did not take on the responsibility of follow through: “if you can’t, please do his chores or hire someone.” It just fell back on LW to deal with again since he had tried talking without results.

    2. Those are different things, imo. What the LW says she did is ask her fiance to try and help persuade him into doing his fair share. What the captain is suggesting is she hand 100% of the responsibility for fixing this issue -by either getting the roommate involved or by paying to outsource the solution- to the fiance. In the first instance, the LW retains responsibility for the problem, even a she’s appealing for people to assist her with it, but in the second, she washes her hands of it entirely.

  8. I’m trying to keep my rageasaurus in check, LW, but I’m afraid I’m failing. The captain and above commenters offer sage advice. Mine (probably not nearly as sage) is: I honestly think you should kick him out. And let your fiancé know you’re displeased he hasn’t fully got your back, while you’re at it.

    I understand that Devon needed some help in the past, and I commend you guys for taking him in. But now he’s just taking advantage of you, and that’s not something you should deal with in your own home. What good is it if he’s a fun or sweet friend but your hearing him cooking causes you feelings of dread? That way leads only to sooner-or-later destroyed friendship, IMHO.

    You say it yourself: the arrangement was for a few months, it’s been two years. Things have run its course, and he’s now back on his feet. You can give him a lovely African violet for the good things shared and send him on his merry way:
    “Devon, we’re* so glad to finally see you firmly back on your feet. Now that you’ve a steady job, I’m sure you’re longing for a bit more independence, and as fiance’s and mine relationship grows**, we’re finding that we’d like to have the house to ourselves. It’s been lovely sharing a house with you!*** By [fixed date say, three months from now] we expect your room to be empty and your things to be out. Don’t worry, we’ll help you move into your new place!”

    And then, when the time is up, change your locks. Make sure everything you guys do stays within proper legal bounds, though.

    Expect to be called, pardon my French, a selfish cold-hearted bitch. He’ll obviously won’t like your standing up for yourself, since he’s already shown he cares more about his comfort than yours, and that he’s unwilling to compromise (even though you helped him out and I think he should, at least if just for that, be mindful of your feelings). From his point of view, his eviction will be an “act of evil from someone who is not mature enough to deal with a few dirty dishes, jeez, just chill out already”. The thing is, “chilling out” won’t make it any easier for you to cope with his mess. If the arrangement is not working out for you, it’s not working, period.

    He’s not going to change how he acts because it’s very convenient for him. He doesn’t care about your well-being. Are you sure you want to keep sharing a house with him?

    Whatever you decide, best of luck to you, LW.

    * Make sure you and your fiancé present an united front. If he doesn’t want to evict him, tell him something along the lines of “fine, as long as you take care of all his neglected chores. I’ve had enough of that and I’m not going to keep on living with his mess” and see how long it takes for him to change his mind.
    ** No matter if that’s a blatant lie, you have my permission to use any socially acceptable excuse you need to get this parasitic friend out of your house.
    *** -Any- blatant lies you need. Most times people react better to/can’t find a good way to argue with a broad, sincere smile and a compliment.

    1. Agreed! They were ready to help him out when he was in trouble, but it’s totally fine for them to want to get their apartment back to just themselves. This would be the case even if he were a stellar roommate. (I know the LW said she doesn’t really want him to move out, but the sentence that followed that statement “good for me because he WON’T move out” kind of gave me the feeling she doesn’t dare to make the request that he move out. Don’t feel like you can’t make him move out, LW.)

    2. Yep. Living alone might be the only way Devon will truly stop believing in the dish fairy. I hate to think what I might have been like as a roommate if I hadn’t spent a year or two alone first.

    3. So seconded!

      You’ve done a lot to help Devon out, LW. But having been so generous and kind in the past doesn’t saddle you with the obligation to ‘help him out’ (read, put up with him not stumping his fair share in either chores or rent) indefinitely. I’m going to ask the ages-old CA question: how long would you think is a reasonable wait for him to start doing this stuff?

      Three months?
      A year?
      Five years?

      I think that regardless of what options you serve him with, it’s totally reasonable to add: ‘and if there’s no improvement within x amount of time then you will have to find somewhere else to live’. If you’re worried that should evicting him be necessary his reaction is going to be anything like the scenario that B suggests, I think that’s a point in favour of drawing that line sooner and firmer. He can either deal with behaving like a responsible housemate now, or he can deal with it on his own time somewhere that is else.

      And as an aside, the minute he leaves I’d be resetting boundaries around housework with fiancee too, as they sound like a bit of a mess-apologist. That’s ok, my favourite housemate is a mess-apologist too, they just need to understand that designating the responsibility of housework to their tidier counterpart is actually not very fair and leads to more unhappiness than they would feel just wiping the goddamn bench occasionally.

      Good luck, LW, and I send little Jedi feather dusters if you would like them.

    4. Nthing the it’s been two years thing – a couple of years back (I still live at home) my cousin moved in with us for what was initially going to be at most a month while she tried to find a new apartment and she ended up staying for over 10 months. She’s a lovely person and we all adore her, but that didn’t change the fact that we wanted our house back. Having a person stay for a lot longer than initially decided leads pretty much only to resentment, because the dynamic of what is meant to be your space changes, especially when the person is in a position where you may not necessarily feel comfortable reconciling the idea of kicking them out.

  9. When I read the first paragraph of your question, about Devon living in a hotel, doing drugs, and sleeping weird hours, I was expecting something far more horrific than chore negotiations! Fortunately (and unfortunately) chores can be difficult for housemates even when there is not other stuff going on. I am relieved that things are not worse for you guys, and I am crossing my fingers that you are able to set some strong boundaries with Devon moving forward… good luck!

  10. Don’t think for him. Make him do the thinking. I say this as someone with severe executive dysfunction which, yes, meant that I had a really hard time renting rooms in other people’s apartments because I couldn’t promise them that I would follow their cleaning routines. I still have my problems, but I have my own apartment and a system that I and my partner are reasonably okay with.

    So, make him THINK, on threat of eviction. “You’ll be on the street in a month unless you make a cleaning schedule for our common areas.” Make HIM come up with a written plan that everybody accepts. Sign it.

    If he’s executive-ly disabled like me, he’ll have to confess and make a plan that includes his disability (for example, he pitches in money to hire someone). If he’s not, he’ll have to make an equitable cleaning plan anyway and then stick to it.

    This isn’t about cleaning, this is about you being unhappy with a housemate, which is worse than cleaning. Pissing of his landlords is HIS problem (and it’s a huge problem! for him!), not yours. I mean, if you evict him and he can’t find somewhere to live after trying for an entire month, you can keep him on for another month if you don’t want to make him sleep outside, but he needs to recognise that he’s in real danger here. He needs to solve the cleaning issue.

    1. wait… if he’s executive-ly disabled enough he can’t cope with chores, isn’t it likely he’ll have the same problem with making a plan?

      I’m not sure what the solution to that would be, though. personally, I lived alone until I was more like LW than Devon. 🙂

      1. I think the point might be that if he is executively-disabled enough to not be able to make a plan that he’ll say so (or it will come out somehow), and then he can get help coming up with a plan/someone can outline how the chores are done/something like that with the end result that 1) there is a plan and 2) Devon now knows a method of completing said chores. Of course, LW would (likely) end up doing that emotional labor, but the tradeoff might be worth it to LW.

        1. Not really. My point is that he SHOULDN’T “help”, he should DO. He should carry the entire responsibility. Also, this isn’t about not knowing how, since a responsible person who doesn’t know how to do important stuff will ask. The emotional labour burden should be shifted from the LW to him.

          So, she tells him to come up with a plan that everyone can agree on, and if they don’t agree, he’ll have to move out at the end of the month. The contract should include an eviction time frame, as in “and if I decide to move or you decide I need to move out, I get one month’s notice”.

          She must refuse to do the thinking. When he presents his best solution, having tried his very best because he needs to make her happy or move out, she gets to agree or reject. She should only agree if she actually feels that it’s a good plan that she’ll be happy to live with it. If his plan is unrealistic (he’s underestimated the chores, it involves a new dishwasher but doesn’t say where the dishwasher magically comes from, he’s given himself a too light load, etc), she should reject it. And if she does, he moves out before the month is up.

          It’ll be on him to figure out how the housework gets done. If he can’t, if it’s LITERALLY too difficult even though he’s HONESTLY trying (not huffing about how much effort it is, but truly trying), he’ll have to admit he failed – like when you have to face the facts and tell your boss that you actually aren’t competent enough to do your task. The LW can choose to help (not do the job or walk him through it, just HELP, like an outside consultant with no ownership of the task) or that she doesn’t want to help negotiate.

          This isn’t unfair. It’s not mean. He gets a loud and clear signal that his landlord is unhappy and wants to stop living with him (yay, he won’t be blindsided!), and a reasonable notice period where he can fix his problem, either by sorting out his current living situation or by looking for new housing. She either gets a housemate who does his own emotional labour or gets rid of a housemate who doesn’t. She won’t throw a possibly disabled person out on the street (one or two months should be enough for him to find something else or a couch), and he gets a true chance to fix everything instead of just being evicted or being resented by his housemates.

          I wouldn’t have been able to do a third of an entire household’s work, so I’d have to confess and make a plan based around what I could do. I’d have to find a way to compensate, like paying more or doing other stuff. Some landlords would accept that, some wouldn’t. If we couldn’t agree on a contract, that would mean that we no longer have a deal. Then, the only thing left for me to negotiate world be a time frame for moving out.

          And that’s just what it’s like. I’ve negotiated, I’ve tried to honour deals I couldn’t possibly live up to, I’ve begged. I’ve been threatened with eviction and I’ve had landlords break their deal with me. Life fucking sucks. There’s no solution that’ll make them both happy – or, if there is, it’s on him to find it. She doesn’t have to let him live in her home. She can, if she wants to. But she doesn’t have to, and it’s on him to make it easy for her to want to live with him. If he’s disabled, she can spend some brain power helping him find something else or put him in touch with a social worker if he wants to, but they don’t explicitly have a deal that he gets to live with her and be taken care of.

          It’s worse to live with an unhappy landlord (and the dread when they can might throw you out at ANY TIME!) than to have a contract and a time frame, because then you KNOW that you’re safe and that you will have time to look for new housing.

  11. A thing that stood out to me was the lack of respect that Devon has for the LW and their fiance. There’s a buttload of generosity going on here and Devon is simply taking it as his due — *of course* the LW will take him and do all the chores and manage the household. When the LW expresses, in many and various ways, their needs, Devon will react with childish excuses and weaseling and adolescent rebellion.

    I have no personal experience with addiction, but I’ve known folks who have and during recovery, they might occasionally reach a point where they lacked the spoons to have a conversation like “I just don’t have the spoons to do housework,” in the moment, but they have always been able to scrape together the spoons to have it at some point. Devon’s had years to have that conversation and he’s not had it.

    I think LW is clearly a kind and patient and generous soul. I think that they have the right to make rules about their space and to live somewhere they is happy and comfortable. Not just the right. The responsibility. It’s hard to continue to be a good partner to their fiance and a good human being when your personal space is being violated. And that’s what he’s doing.

    (Full disclosure: I’m having Issues With My Personal Space right now. May be over-reacting.)

    I agree with the Cap that you need to sit down and explain things to him in a clear way, if you want him to continue living there. That said, I’d suggest moving straight to phase two: Devon needs to leave.

    1. I read the lack of respect issues as being part of the co-dependency/addiction-personality issues, which, guess what, are fixable! Refusing to enable Devon has the benefit of helping a friend regain his health.

  12. Chore schedule! As someone who lived in student co-op housing for * cough cough* years, visible accountability is mucho important. Having a chore schedule / chore wheel / designated chore day can be super helpful, both for modeling good cleaning behaviour, and for holding him to a standard and previously agreed-upon chores. Have him sign off the chore when it’s done, and you and your partner do the same. And, while it might sound counter-intuitive, making sure that he SEES you and your partner doing your own chores (no grumbling in a dark kitchen, doing the damn dishes alone as midnight approaches) can also be helpful.

    Also, splitting the chores up differently might also work. Some people follow the “leave the land as you found it” school of thought (ie, you are responsible for cleaning up after yourself), while others respond better to chores that are predictable and scheduled, rather than done on an as-needed basis. If Devon always takes the garbage to the curb, or always does the grocery shopping, or always mucks out the fridge on Thursday night (or better yet, all three), that might go a long way to forgive a sink full of dishes a few times a week.

    1. Chore tables were a godsend when I was sharing a house in uni. We set it so that out of the 5 of us each week you’re given a task and then you have a week’s ‘holiday’ from chores when the rota goes back around. So everyone has a chance to have a week off and everyone has a chance to do the more gross jobs like toilet cleaning. You do your chore, you put up a star sticker on the chart, so everyone knows who isn’t pulling their weight and those who do get the fun of playing with stickers. Sounds childish but it worked great.

      With Devon I agree you’re not getting respect. Getting him to pay full rent might help get him out of the teenage son funk. And fiancée needs to pull his finger out.

  13. I would take two steps: First, talk to your fiancé and make it clear to him that the cleaning situation is becoming untenable for you, and that you’re not going to be fine with Devon not doing his share of cleaning. If you present an united front you’ll have a greater impact. (If your fiancé won’t back you up or doesn’t agree with you, that’s a new problem that you’d have to think about.) Second, attach consequences to your requests to Devon. Unfortunately I think you’ll have to make it explicit that he can only keep living with you if he starts cleaning more in order for him to take it seriously. It feels bad to give an ultimatum, but essentially it’s the truth that you are simply not cool with the situation and him moving out would be the logical consequence of the problem not being solved, so why not be open about it?
    (I also think that all of this still applies even if Devon legitimately cannot do more housework for whatever reason. You get to set boundaries in your living arrangements, and even if Devon is not blameworthy for not conforming to those, this doesn’t mean that you’re not entitled to keep defending them.)

    1. Also, this part: “I don’t necessarily want him to move out, which I guess is good for me because it doesn’t look like he’s going to any time soon.” raised some flags for me. It’s like the LW is expecting that she won’t be able to make Devon move out even if she wanted to. Hints at a weird dynamic going on.

  14. “What am I supposed to do about the cleaning short of kicking him out?”

    The Captain has commented before that she gets a lot of letters essentially saying: “This person’s behaviour is a problem for me, and I’ve tried a zillion nice ways of getting them to change their behaviour but none of them worked, so how do I get them to change their behaviour without upsetting them or showing them any unpleasant consequences?”

    And the answer is always basically that you can’t, because you’ve already tried all the nice ways, and they didn’t work, and that’s why you’re writing to an internet advice column. But if you think of yourself as a good person, it’s hard to hear that, because you want to handle everything without upsetting people or making their lives harder. It sounds to me like you’ve already tried the “nice” ways to get him to do his share of the cleaning. I’m on Team Kick Devon Out. I also think you need to reframe this as his choice: if he can’t/won’t do the cleaning, he’s making a choice to leave.

  15. This was going to be a short-term arrangement, yes? Time to end it. It will be so great when you no longer spend time listening to the sounds of kitchen mayhem and despairing. Trust me on this.

  16. I want to point out that hiring professional cleaners can be a wonderful option, and Maude knows it has saved my marriage, but professional cleaners have specific things they will and won’t do, and the more things you ask them to do, the more it will cost. If this situation is just basic “the toilet isn’t clean so we are hiring someone so it will get regularly cleaned” that’s one thing, but if it’s actually more the case that Devon cooks food for himself and leaves actual food parts around, that’s another. I would not ask my cleaning people to clean up my dishes, food waste, etc., because they are there to clean, not pick up after me. The living space has to have a minimum of being picked up, or they can’t clean the surfaces. I guess it’s possible to hire an actual full on maid or housekeeper? Who would literally pick up after full grown adults? But I personally would not be comfortable with that; maybe LW and crew would be, and could afford it. But I wanted to throw out there that this sounds like a situation that your usual “Merry Maids” type of situation is not going to actually fix. Also, LW I have to agree with some other commenters that it sounds like you have two problems, and only one of them is named “Devon.”

    1. Oh my goodness! I love this comment. It encapsulates the “but you have to clean for the cleaner” discussion I and my female friends have had so often with our male friends.

    2. Actually I’ve found that having a house cleaner is like: “Hey, it’s wednesday night, the cleaner is coming tomorrow, help us clean this shit!” Re: dishes, laundry, shit laying around.

      One extra advantage to this is it creates a regular schedule, and sortof a group activity. Wednesday nights you all pitch in to get the house ready for the cleaner.

      1. Our cleaner comes every other Wednesday. The spouse and I have a calendar reminder of this that buzzes our phones at 6 PM the night before. After dinner, we have a pick-up party.

    3. Yeah, I just wanted to chime in on the “hiring a cleaner” thing, which is, had I all the money in the world I would not want a stranger in my home touching my stuff. Given that the LW has been okay with allowing Devon to move in in the first place, her comfort level about that might have a different setting than mine, but the “have a hired person come in” sounds less to me like a solution than “and then there will be a THIRD person to add to the managerial mix on LW! Instructions, payment, collecting contributions to payment from Devon ha ha hah ha ha ha good luck with that, happy fun times!” I’m with the folks who have said (1) figure out how to kick out Devon [and you might find out that actually, your role has been household manager all along and actually, your fiancee liked having Devon around as the fellow “employee” whose lax performance made him shine comparatively or (2) move out yourself, to a nice and clean and lovely little apartment of your own. Clean bathroom, clean kitchen, no HR responsibilities. Does that sound tempting at all?

      1. I suspect you’re right. It’s certainly what would have occurred with Mr Shitewomble and friend. I do hope I’m not projecting.

      2. We have a gardener, so she never comes in the house. She is lovely. But I still feel really odd being in the house when she comes, or getting an invoice for payment to say she’s been and I didn’t know. So I really dont think I could get a cleaner!

      3. I’m with you on cleaners – I can’t stand the idea of a stranger coming in and fettling about and me being a boss/client mix. No thanks.

        With Devon it doesn’t address the core problem of him being an ignorant baby.

  17. I lived in a group house for a few months with three men. They were total slobs. I tried to get them to do simple things like leave the drain trap in the sink when they rinsed plates and their response was, “But then food gets in it!” And I was like, “Yeah. That’s the point.”

    I shared a bathroom with one of the guys. He didn’t think a bathroom needed to be cleaned. I disagreed. We finally worked out a deal where I would clean the bathroom if he would let me use his phone. (This was before cellphones.)

    But I finally just moved out. I couldn’t stand living in a pigsty and I had no power to make them clean up after themselves.

    There is nothing wrong with kicking a moocher out of your house. You are not obligated to support him or clean up after him. He is not your minor child. You have done a nice thing, but it’s OK to be done.

  18. Dear LW:

    I too believe part of your housework woes are fiancé issues.

    Here’s my additions to the Captain and Crew’s suggestions. I apologize for the emotional labor they take.

    – Have a housework discussion with fiancé. What I’m hearing is that he has allowed himself to ignore what maintenance means.
    – The discussion could include how often you do specific tasks “I dust the windowsills every week. (*) I wipe down the light switches in the bathroom every time I clean it, which is every time I defecate.(**) I take out garbage every time I leave the house, which is several times a day. I make notes for the shopping every time I’m in the kitchen (***)
    – The discussion could, on the other hand, start with his listing what he perceives as household tasks. My guess is that his list is vaguer than yours.
    – Now, it’s time to hand over Devon to your fiancé. You could indicate consequences to him if Devon doesn’t shape up a bit.

    Deep down inside though, I think the solution is you moving out. With the dishes. And the nice furniture.

    Because neither of them seem to listen to you.

    I can’t tell you how angry I get about housework issues

  19. Seconding whoever said to move out and leave the two guys to sort it out themselves. Maybe that’s overkill, I don’t know, but there are a lot of disturbing things referred to casually in passing here bigger than the chores themselves. (not sure if she could kick him out if she wanted to, doesn’t clean and house gets dirty aka fiancé doesn’t do it, she ‘even’ asked her fiancé to talk to the roommate). My two cents – the real unspoken problem here is with the fiancé. Roommate is just a symptom.

    1. Possibly, but it’s also possible that LW and their fiance have an unequal split of chores but it worked for them until another adult was added to the mix. Plenty of households function that way. It wouldn’t work for me, but it works beautifully for my brother and his wife.

      1. I have a household where I do less chores than my husband, due to work scheduling (I work a LOT and am the primary breadwinner) and back issues. Unequal splits are great — as long as everyone is okay with them. It doesn’t sound like the LW is though.

      2. My experience is that unequal splits of chores that BEGIN as wildly unequal are untenable over time–you start out 70/30 and it slips over time to 100/lazy shitewomble. 55/45 is tenable because it tends to even out, but if you start out with “I’ll do this lion’s share (because I know you won’t)” over time it becomes you working 45 hours a week and then coming home and doing the second shift of 30 hours a week of housework. (Why yes, I AM bitter, and I can tell you some terrible, terrible stories.)

        I am becoming angrier and angrier on behalf of LW, and I am starting to think that they need to remove themselves from this cold-pad-thai equation and let it spin out to its inevitable filthy conclusion while she lives somewhere else in a clean home without cockroaches.

        1. I think the worst situation is when there isn’t any discussion of chores in the beginning. It’s harder then to start a chore chart when everyone is used to there not being a schedule. But, it isn’t impossible to implement a chore chart going forward. Just harder.

          In college I lived with roommates. I was tidy, but not yet in a place where I could see what needed to be done and figure out that I needed to do it. We had a very tidy roommate who did clean, and was angry about it, but, she didn’t want to be oppressed and confined by any kind of scheduled routine. She was some sort of free spirit against the man as well as naturally tidy. So we had stress and strife. Ask me to clean and I will, point out that the tub isn’t self cleaning and the I should take a turn to clean the bathroom and it will happen. Wait for me to decide to clean (back then), you’ll wait a long time.

          So, anyway, a chore chart would be a good idea, along with getting a dishwasher, maybe a roomba, and maybe all paying for a twice a month housekeeper.

          Or Devon moves out, and cleans only what and when he feels like it, but it doesn’t affect others.

          1. Had a roommate once who was in the unfortunate overlap on the Venn diagramme between “picky about cleaning” and “hates confrontation”. I am the polar opposite. She’d be angry that the counters had crumbs on them, I’d be mad that she got passive-aggressive with me instead of just saying “wipe the counters”. She moved out. Life is better now.

        2. Started giggling a bit reading this…”pad thai” is the code word my husband and I use for marijuana.

      3. I would be really cautious about accepting an uneven split of chores as the default, even if it works for you now.

        My sister and BIL used to have a very uneven split of chores (she did the shopping, cooking and cleaning, he did the gardening and DIY – it was very gendered, because that’s how he grew up) that worked really well for them – she liked taking care of him, he liked being taken care of.

        Then they had twins.

        My poor sister had to address all these “that unequal distribution of chores that I was totally fine with is now killing me – please help” issues at the same time as dealing with being a first-time parent to two babies. They got a cleaner, which probably saved their marriage, and worked on the rest over the next year (but much as I love my BIL, he still doesn’t pull his weight), but I know it nearly broke her in the first sleep-deprived months of twin motherhood.

        1. Word.

          I think it can work really well to split the chores unevenly, as long as the overall work is being split as evenly as possible. My wife and I (both female, FWIW, so not dealing with some of teh gendered aspects of this kind of thing; though I believe my straight parents had a similar deal and modeled it well) often don’t split chores evenly, but it’s a balance that changes depending on what else is going on in our lives. So if only one person is working outside the home and bringing in income, say, the other one does more housework. But that’s something we’ve traded off over the years and rebalance regularly, not a default!

          I’m sorry your sister had to go through new motherhood (of twins!) without her spouse and coparent playing on her team. 😦 We have a young baby right now, and I can just about imagine how destroying it could be to be stuck as the primary caretaker and primary housekeeper and having a partner who didn’t realize what they were skipping out on.

        2. Ha, as it happens, my brother and his wife also have twins! And their relationship is still amazing. When he’s at home, my brother is totally one hundred percent on twin-wrangling duty. When he’s out, he’s working. My sister-in-law is one-hundred-percent twin-wrangling when my brother’s out, and when he’s home she gets some cleaning and washing done. They both cook. She’s also amazingly organised, so she’s in charge of what happens when and he falls in line.

          Neither of them gets any free time except for collapsey evenings after the twins are in bed, and it’s incredibly hard work. But they have twins under one: there is no version of life which isn’t incredibly hard work.

          Like I said, it wouldn’t work for me, but it totally works for them.

  20. Maybe not super helpful, but one guy told me the story about how when he was living in a house full of dudes if you left your dirty dishes too long they were put in your bed (which they then made). I assumed this was a known consequence, but with a bunch of college aged guys who knows. Either way, apparently it worked very, very well.

    1. This is one of those things that you’d need to have explicitly in your roommate contract for it to be okay. As someone who’s parent regularly put wet recycling in my bed if I didn’t take it outside daily, something like that would make me flip out unless we explicitly agreed beforehand.

      A consequence I proposed in my house was keeping a bucket under the sink that you put other people’s dishes in if they’ve left them too long and you need to use the sink for your own stuff. (It was shot down because “no one will ever forget dishes no way” and boy was I mad three months in when dishes sat for weeks and I needed to cook stuff. Luckily they were replaced by someone who seems to spend their spare time doing dishes for fun.) Having a contract about chores and especially agreed-up on consequences for non-compliance is sooooo important.

      1. as another person whose parent tried those tactics: it doesn’t work. it only made me avoid chores even more out of spite.

        although it did encourage me to GTFO as soon as I had a job. 😛 at which point, having nobody around to clean for me or tell me what a horrible inhuman freak I am, I started learning to clean things.

      2. It’s SO different if it’s parent-to-child, though. A roommate arrangement does not have the same power dynamic that a family does – that’s what makes it not fucked up.

        1. The problem is if a roommate relationship mirrors a past parent-child relationship, it can become super triggering and hella messed up and not different or okay at all. Which is why consent and communication beforehand is so needed, so the power-dynamic doesn’t end up haywire.

    2. I like this idea. Storyranger’s right, though, notify first.

      I have SO MUCH to say here— I have all sorts of experience being a slob in the land of the Born Organized! But at the end of Internet time.

      I will say, though, if he CAN’T clean without external feedback, and you’re willing to help,

      2. Ten-minute tidies, where EVERYONE focuses on doing as much as they can in one room for set time, help; And you can do just about anything for ten minutes, even if you are tired, and having someone clean next to you WHILE YOU ARE ALSO CLEANING, can be so invigorating to a space;
      3. Roombas and dishwashers also help a lot. It says sucky things about human nature, I know, but it’s somehow so much easier to pick up for the cheerful little robot what nudges your shoes and beeps hopefully at you than for the sanity of the woman who pays the lion’s share rent.
      4. If he’s not willing or able to do dishes, maybe a trade would be in order— “I’ll do your share of the dishes if you do x thing that is manifestly my job but just drains the hell out me and takes energy just with dread;”

      If you’re not willing to help— and it’s going to be more work to set up the structure, at first, than to do it all yourself, although it _will_ pay off rather more rapidly than you’d think, especially if he is able to keep his room clean— then yeah. Walk, or boot.

      The above was probably said elsewhere, but definite underline on concrete consequences easily enforced.

      1. I love HabitRPG and it made a huge difference in my own life, but it only works for people who want to change. Devon is skipping chores and rent because there are no consequences for doing those things, besides more lecturing or yelling from LW, and apparently he’s willing to put up with that. LW needs to actually set and enforce some consequences (maybe raising the rent, maybe making him pay for a house cleaner, maybe giving him a deadline to improve or get out) and then Devon will either find the motivation to put a system in place that works for him, or he’ll leave for his very own filth-palace.

    3. My brother and his college roommates would play this game called literally “f*ck your neighbor” to determine who would take the garbage out and do dishes. It involved shoulder punches. Not a solution I would recommend for many people but it seemed to work for them.

  21. LW, are you living with my former roommate? Because wow, this was me two years ago.

    I’m adding my voice to the “kick him out” crowd: my roommate got himself together really, REALLY fast once he realized that his cushy living situation was ending, and that his future roommates would expect him to clean up after himself and pay rent. In a matter of months, he went from refusing to clean up after himself, keep a normal sleep schedule, pay rent on time, bathe, consider any treatment for his severe mental illness, and even feed himself without someone else cooking for him to having a steady job, a therapist, and normal hygiene and habits. Some people rush into adulthood with open arms; others need to have a fire lit under them before they move.

    In my ex-roommate’s case, he’d been raised to believe that women existed to care for and support him, and he ended up in a cycle where he took it for granted that his female roommates would be his surrogate moms, while also complaining that he couldn’t find a girlfriend to support him even more. I suspect I was the first women to tell him that this sort of behavior would not fly, and it was a hard lesson for him at the time, but in the long run I think I did him some good.

  22. Not really sure if it’s appropriate to me to respond to comments on my own letter but I want to lay to rest the assumptions that the problem is with my fiance because we have an amazing relationship and I don’t want people to think badly of him, even in an abstract way.

    I probably should have put this in the letter. My fiance is a lovely person who works way more then Devon or I do. We have an agreement that me and Devon handle housework and he does other stuff – like pay for the internet, among other things. I agreed to this readily.

    Fiance has also tried to talk to Devon a lot more times then I mentioned in the letter but he feels as ineffectual as I do in regard to our problem.

    1. Noted, and totally appropriate if you’re willing!

      I really think it’s time to send Devon out on his own.

      1. I agree with you, but I feel so insanely awkward about it. I’m the sort of person for whom it takes a lot to express my desires concretely, and the idea of actually making leave makes me feel sort of ill.

        As a side note: over the past 2 years Devon has systematically broken almost all of my dishes. Not on purpose, he’s just really clumsy and not careful. While I find this sort of funny, it’s not funny that I feel like I can’t have nice things because they’ll just be destroyed.

        Also, thank you all for your advice. I’m at work now but I plan to read through it properly later. 🙂

        1. It’s going to be awkward. Embrace the awkward. Enjoy it, if you can–the more awkward it is, the better a story you will have later, honestly. (Think about the commenter from a few letters ago who had to drag her newly-ex high school boyfriend out of her house and leave him ugly-crying on the lawn in front of her house–I’m sure it was awful at the time, but WHAT a STORY!) 🙂

          You’re going to have to be careful about how you evict him, because he’s lived with you for so long, but figure out what your legal options are, set the boundaries, and then enforce them. I would caution you against setting boundaries that imply he can stay if what you really want is for him to leave, because that’s going to end up being worse in the long run. Just rip the bandaid off, and then fling it from you with great vigor and don’t allow it to mooch up and stick to your knee again just because it’s sad.

        2. Devon’s clumsy and not careful because there are no consequences to him breaking your dishes.

          And he doesn’t clean for the same reason.

          Honestly, I’m not sure I can pinpoint why, but this little side note pushed me firmly into the Devon needs to leave, because if you don’t push him out, he’ll continue to glide along as he is . . . I’m not sure he’s manipulating you (and your fiance) on purpose, but . . . it’s starting to feel to me like he’s taking advantage because he knows you won’t kick him out. And being a little careless and clumsy supports the impression he’s giving you that he’s not capable of more.

          And maybe he’s not, but maybe he is. And you are denying yourself the grown-up pleasures of pretty dishes, because you are afraid they’ll just get broken. Something needs to change.

          1. Yes, I agree in a lot of ways it is detrimental to him to continue to live with us. He’s in his late 20’s and it’s probably high time he got up off his ass and learned how to support his own home.

            I don’t believe he is consciously taking advantage of us – his childhood was fucked and lacked parental support. I think in a lot of ways he considers my fiance and I to be like surrogate parents. Which is not healthy.

            At the same time fiance and I desperately want to give him the support he has never had. He is very vocal about how much he cares for us, how we’re ‘family’, and often goes out of his way to demonstrate his care and do nice things for us.

            Aside from the other crap I’m complaining about

          2. @Letter writer: I’d feel awkward too, it’s not easy to do. But think about it: You now still like Devon. If things continue the way they have, your relationship with him will be damaged. I think in a sense ending the co-habitation is the more supportive action because you give Devon a chance to keep this important relationship he has with you and your fiancé.

          3. LW, sometimes offering that kind of support means asking them to leave. At a certain point it is actually kinder and better for EVERYONE to let them flounder on their own. It will be awkward and uncomfortable, but ultimately will be better for you AND for Devon. And, should you desire to, there’s no reason you can’t still be in contact/offer advice if/when you ask him to leave.

          4. Devon’s clumsy and not careful because there are no consequences to him breaking your dishes.

            YES. I am a clumsy person from a family of clumsy people. We only rarely break dishes because we know we need to be extra careful with them and act accordingly. LW, if Devon cared about your dishes (because they are yours and taking care of other people’s stuff is a sign of respect for them), he would either a) adapt his behavior when handling dishes so that he doesn’t break them or b) find a way to not use your dishes, maybe by buying himself a separate set of plastic dishes that he can’t break (of course that might make it obvious that the dishes in the sink are indeed his. Added bonus for your campaign to get him to see the light!).

        3. Dear Letter Writing Frog, those “accidentally” broken dishes are bobbing around you in a pot of boiling water. Toss out the heated rock (Devon). Water temperature will gradually return to normal. It will feel nice.

        4. You deserve to have that desire, though! Even if it is hard, this whole situation is causing you a huge amount of stress and feeling ill already – actually making Devon leave might be a temporary jump up in terms of anxiety, but once he’s gone, an *end* to *all* of the awful stressed out feelings you’ve got now.

          I’m glad that you and your fiance have an excellent relationship and an actual agreement about housework. I also think that gives you a great basis for getting on the same page with him about it – let him know that you want to keep up your end of the agreement (because you’re cleaning for a whole extra human – a messy one at that – instead of just you and your fiance) but that it’s making you this upset and unhappy, so a change is needed. To my mind, the most logical change would be getting Devon out — something he would be agreeing to help you with, which would hopefully help it not feel as awful for you — but it might also be him doing more of the housework, or him doing more nagging Devon, or whatever.

          If your fiance is lovely, he should help you find a solution here. That means you two are a team so this isn’t just your problem, it’s his, too, and he should want to find a way to get you back to being happy with your arrangement and your living space.

        5. Oh Letter Writer!

          It’s great that your fiancé isn’t the creep I thought he might be.

          As he’s wonderful, maybe he can give Devon the talking-to this situation warrants.

          So you and Fiancé can figure out what will be livable for you (e.g. D does chores X,y,z everyday, and w,v,u each week; or moves out by X day …etc)

          And then, when the three of you sit down, Fiancé can tell Devon what the rules and consequences are.

          And hold his feet to the flame.

        6. LW – if you want to be kind to Devon, kick him out. The support you have given him was very generous, but at this point, it is obviously NOT helping him. And, bluntly, may be HINDERING him.

          The thing about parenting is that eventually you have to send the kids out on their own. They do not learn to adult if you do all the adulting for them while simultaneously telling them how much they should be doing it themselves.

          1. Yup, this is my thought as well. They’ve done a simply spectacular job at helping this kid get on his feet and overcome a shitty childhood, but it sounds like it’s time for the little bird to fly on his own. It’s not like he can’t call them for moral support or advice in the future, just that he needs to take more responsibility for himself now that he’s in a better place. So, very much like surrogate parents, actually.

        7. Devon has, from the sound of it, managed to parlay a temporary situation (“come and stay with us for a few months, while you get back on your feet”) into a permanent (at least two years so far) living arrangement, and he’s managed to do this without actually having to compromise much in the process. So you have to ask yourself, LW, what’s in it for him if he does change his behaviour? What’s going to alter significantly for his benefit if this happens?

          (About the only thing I can see altering if he does change his behaviour is your temperament, which would improve. But he’s already indicated pretty thoroughly he doesn’t give a damn about how you feel on this subject. The dishes are symptomatic of this.)

          There are no ways to alter this sort of situation short of the emotional equivalent of high explosives. Research the legal side of the whole “kick him out” business, and if/where necessary, get the paperwork drawn up. Things have to get real for Devon before he’s going to change. At present, there is no real reason (in his opinion) for him to alter anything – everything is working just fine. He gets everything he wants and he’s not having to do too much he doesn’t want.

          Be warned: any attempts at setting boundaries may well earn threats of breaking off the friendship, or accusations of same on your part. However, I’d argue the friendship is well on its way to wearing out its welcome (in much the same way Devon himself has), and it would be kinder to everyone, overall, if this were acknowledged. As was said by Mercutia here, “If standing up for yourself ruins a relationship, the relationship was already ruined. You just slapped a ‘condemned’ sticker on it and evicted a squatter is all.”

        8. Former Devoness here. I understand you and your fiance really wanting to help Devon, BUT–

          Is your mental picture of helping him congruent with his mental picture of being helped? Because frankly it sounds like you two are thinking “He needs time to get on his feet” and he’s thinking “Oh, this is nice, I have a house to live in that comes with surrogate parents who forgive everything I do.”

          Our local bears go through a phase in early adulthood in which they will follow anything vaguely bear-shaped, such as a Labrador retriever or the person walking said Lab through the woods–not aggressively, but hopefully. They don’t WANT to have to find their own food. They don’t WANT to have to dig their own dens. They want to be HELPED.

          Well, their moms DID help them. They kicked them out, because they are big grown-up bears now and the only way to get any better at bear-ing is to buckle down and do it. Anyway, their moms have Other Things To Do.

          Granted, bears are taught what to do by their mothers before being turned loose, BUT ALSO–I had a dysfunctional upbringing that my sibs describe as me being spoiled, while I remember it as not being taught anything, plus a bunch of messed-up stuff on top of that. I drifted for one summer myself–until my MIL-to-be, who had invited me into her home, told me that she was tired of me not doing chores and that I would have to leave if I didn’t pull my weight. Was it embarrassing for both of us? Yes. Did I need to hear it? YUP.

          And I moved out as soon as I could, and got a book called Leaving the Nest, which was written by a mom who had seen lots of helpless young adults turn their whites pink in the dorm laundry room, and did what it said. Because I had realized that, like it or not, unprepared or not, I am a big bear now. (The book, by Dorinne Armstrong, is long out of print and somewhat out of date, but it’s still available on Amazon. I’m sure there are a zillion blogs on the same topic by now.)

          1. Wow.

            A light just went off. This bear thing reframes the ghost of an abusive former relationship of mine so profoundly… I think I might have a chance at letting it stop the black-hole distortion of the fabric of my life.

          2. I like Kelly William’s book “Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps”. It isn’t just about house cleaning, although it does have some tips for that, it covers all kinds of subjects. I’ve been on my own for 20+ years, and I still learned some things from reading it. I like to give it as a graduation gift.

        9. over the past 2 years Devon has systematically broken almost all of my dishes.


          I have three sons. The youngest of them is nine years old. They are, ahem, not all paragons of manual dexterity. The vast majority of our pre-parenthood dishes are still intact.

    2. Thanks for the clarification. I am still bothered, though, that the two of you haven’t sat down with Devon as a united front and said “Look, we care about you very much as a friend, but as a roommate, this isn’t working out. We’re not asking a lot here. If even that’s too much, though, then we’re going to need to start looking at alternatives.” If you don’t make it clear not only that this can’t be brushed aside and there will be consequences if it’s not addressed, but that this is not just you nagging and your fiance trying to placate you but not really caring, nothing’s going to change.

  23. I haven’t read Captain’s response yet but my first thought is “why the hell isn’t your fiance pitching in as well?”

    1. LW answered in the comments: Fiance works a ton outside the house to the point that he literally does not have time, and the agreement is that the LW and Devon will share housework.

  24. LW, I have stared at this letter for a long time, and I’m afraid that the only idea I can come up with that isn’t kicking Devon out is ‘Remove your name from the lease, add Devon’s instead, and abandon him and your fiance to their festering bro-pit, while you move into alternative accommodation where the bathrooms and kitchen surfaces will sparkle beautifully for you and you alone.”

    Change requires co-operation. You can’t change people against their will, and Devon does not seem to give a crap about your feelings if it’s going to inconvenience him. Really, you’ve tried nice, and you’ve tried not so nice, and he seems 100% unwilling to take responsibility or work with you to find a solution, and he and your fiance both seem basically content to live an uncleaned-sty lifestyle, so…that’s about it. End of the road.

    Or you really could kick Devon out. That would also work.

  25. If addiction is in play, you should attend some version of al anon. Also you need professional counseling, not because there is anything wrong with you; there isn’t but because you’re in way over your head. If your fiancé is on the lease, your options are limited to what he will allow. As everyone is telling you, you have two problems. A professional can help you sort this out. Addicts write the book on selfishness and using people. Drying out doesn’t change who they are. Al anon can help you with that. As things stand, you’re not really helping Devon.

  26. I believe Devon’s drug problem to have been circumstantial. I think he got into it because he was depressed and homeless and needed a community to attend to. Not once has he shown signs of going back to it, and he stopped of his own accord when his circumstances changed and he was able to engage in our healthier community.

    I have known several *real* addicts, and he is nothing like them. In fact I just go out of a friendship with a full blown alcoholic and she was self-serving, selfish, underhanded, and cruel.

    I know what it looks like.

    While he has a tendency toward this kind of selfishness and not giving a fuck re housework, he is a giving friend in many other aspects. It’s only this thing he doesn’t seem to be able to hear or understand. I only mentioned in order to give some background as to how Devon came to live with us.

    1. not getting your “real addicts are terrible people, people with good qualities don’t have substance abuse problems” distinction. Suspect no one else will, either.

      1. It is simply that, after he came to live with us he distanced himself from that sort of stuff immediately and has never once looked back.

        The two people I’ve known to have been addicts had good qualities, I’m not denying that.I mean I was friends with both of them for years. It was just that overall they were very selfish “darth vaders” and I have not really seen those qualities in Devon. That’s all I mean.

        1. There is a whole lot of co-dependency coming off of this, I think. If Devon is doing well with his recovery (and it sounds like he is, which is great!), then he has plainly embraced the fact that recovery is the *addict’s* responsibility. Not their friends, not their family’s, not their roommates, not their community’s–theirs. The consequences of his actions ( I pay rent sporadically, I flat-out refuse to clean, etc.) are also on HIM, not on you or your fiancée, no matter how much it feels like they’re somehow your fault/issue. Shielding him from consequences is a bad plan, because it’s still allowing him to live that part of the addictive cycle but without the substance to abuse. He needs a clean break from everything that harkens back to that life, even if it seems hard–recovery IS hard. Trust me, I know (that’s why they have groups where one remains Anonymous, if you get my drift). Just my .02, LW. Be strong, because I think you already have the answers you need and the strength to turn them into reality.

          1. Thanks, a lot of great points.

            I think what I am going to to is try to set up some more concrete rules re housework, as some others suggested, before I make any moves to make him change his living situation. Clearly just saying it isn’t working.

          2. LW, you have had two years of trying to set up “concrete rules” and it not working. In your letter, you say you have tried everything, your fiance has tried everything, and it results in 1) no change 2) insta-messes and 3) your nice things being broken. What “concrete rules” do you think are going to make him suddenly change his tune when begging, pleading, reasoning and cajoling from BOTH you and your fiance have failed? And why do you think they will work this time?

          3. If you’re going to set up concrete rules this time around, make sure you also lay out consequences at the same time you set up these concrete rules. And be prepared to actually enforce these consequences. Don’t make the mistake of coming up with the consequence only after the rule has been broken, and be ready and willing to do the hard work of enforcing these consequences. Otherwise you are in the exact same place you’ve been in.

    2. Devon can be your friend or he can be your tenant, but he can’t be both. Not any longer.

      Not only because it’s bad for you (frustration over chores) but because it’s bad for him. Unless he’s going to live with you forever and ever, he needs to get used to paying rent, every month, on time. He needs to get used to cleaning up after himself, and keeping living spaces, well, livable. These are skills and discipline that adults need in order to function as independent adults, and by allowing him to continue living with you, as he is now, you’re preventing him from getting those skills.

      Save some money, and have you and your fiance’ meet with a lawyer to discuss landlord/renter laws. Draft a rental agreement that includes an amount for rent, when it’s due by, and what the consequences of not paying rent would be. Include clauses for doing chores and housework, and establishing consequences for failing to do chores and/or damages to the house, its fixtures, or shared property. (like dishes)

      Pick a date that’s less than a year away, but at least two months out, and put that date on the rental agreement. Meet with Devon, and tell him that for various reasons, you and your fiance have decided to formalize your renter / landlord agreement, and give him the choice of signing the agreement by the listed date, or moving out by the listed date. Make it clear that if he moves out, you’re all still friends. If the stays and signs the agreement, make it clear that while you’re all still friends, if he can’t follow the agreement, he may be evicted.

      Devon will not like this. That’s understandable; the current situation is a great deal for him, and he doesn’t want it to change. Too bad.
      He may try to play one of you against the other. Be sure your fiance is on board with this and has your back 100%.
      He may try to use your friendship as a bargaining chip against signing the agreement. Point out that doing something like that isn’t something good friends do to one another.
      He may decide to move out. Until he signs the agreement, consider setting aside and saving any rent payments he does give you. If he decides to move out, you can “gift” that money back to him for security deposits or first/last month’s rent or other moving costs. Basically, I’m saying save his rent money to use as a bribe if he wants to move out but claims poverty; don’t call it that. Just say that you want to support his choice, however you can.

  27. I don’t really have ideas, but hearing about this certainly makes me complain less about housework! I actually hate doing the dishes, because it’s the same chore my parents made me do EVERY NIGHT for the ENTIRE family since I was about 10; and now, it’s like, I have to do them for spouse for the rest of my life? But, I can’t cook (well, I can a bit, but we can’t afford enough food for me to screw anything up to the point of inedible without going hungry, and spouse always hovers/helps when I try, so then she says she also cooked, so I have to do the dishes). So, I don’t get much chance to try, and thus get out of dishes. We don’t have a dishwasher, so it takes a while, and I also do her breakfast/lunch dishes.

    I also don’t like vacuuming because I’m extremely sensitive to noise, plus that was another chore I had to do a lot as a kid, from 8-9 on three times a week. We had a big 100-year-old 4 bd/2.5 bath Victorian growing up, and from about 9-14 I was on a swim team. And guess what? My mother liked vacuuming done right away after coming home/in the mornings, which meant that I often had to do it directly after practice/a meet, when I could barely stand up and just wanted to be a blob for a while. So I hate it.

    But, these are both chores I have to do, and I don’t want to stick my spouse with all the more-often chores like these are. I just want to switch, and maybe get a chance at cooking without having to also do the dishes.

    I also take the trash out (3rd floor walkup, so six flights of stairs carrying trash and recyclables), and constantly feel like I am picking up things. Spouse does do chores, but the only daily thing for her is cooking dinner and cleaning litterboxes (they are the roll-over kind, so no actual digging/grossness). Otherwise, it’s just the bathroom once a week, with me sometimes cleaning the tub/sink if asked, and washing the linens as needed. Not sure I like this distribution, but she does do our budget, so I don’t want her to be annoyed at me and maybe decide we don’t need X thing that I like.

    1. ::hugs:: If you’re worried that talking to your spouse about things that make you unhappy is going to lead to some kind of reprisal, I think that might point to an issue beyond just chores.

      1. That’s not the case. I’m actually not open about my feelings about anything except around him, and my mom, and the anonymous internet. My fiance is the same way, except with me. It’s one of the things we relate to about, our mutual inability to express our needs and desires and expect them to be heard by friends, etc.

        It’s caused a lot of problems and hurt, bad relationships etc,

        We have both gotten a lot better though.

      2. I didn’t quite mean it that way; it’s just stuff like, she sometimes stops on the way home from wherever, and if we’ve argued she will sometimes not get me anything and say “I am not going to share because you were a jerk/whined.” Childish, maybe, but not abusive. Or maybe if we argue, one or both of us will decide to cancel a date night.

        I guess I’m just tired of doing more-often chores. Dishes especially since that’s at least twice a day!

        1. Yah, especially when it’s explicitly “punishment” for making entirely reasonable requests, I’m not buying that as evidence of the health of your relationship.

        2. Whether it is or isn’t abusive isn’t really the point, though; it’s disrespectful to you, selfish and as you say, childish, and it’s no way to behave toward a partner.

          There’s a BIG difference between ‘I am upset and I need some time alone to cool down rather than have date night’ vs. ‘well I got myself some ice cream but YOU can’t HAVE any because I don’t LIKE you NYEAAAAAH’.

        3. It’s not okay for one partner to do most of the daily chores while the other partner just does stuff that happens weekly or less. When my husband and I needed a chore list (we have things divided up pretty well without one now), I wrote out everything that had to be done and categorized them into daily, every other day, weekly, monthly. Then we each took half of EVERY caterogy. It’s absolutely not okay for you to have to wash dishes every single day if your partner can do all her chores on, say, a Saturday and have the rest of the week free (unless you are genuinely happy with that).

          My way isn’t the only way to divvy things up. A weekly chore might take as much time/effort as three dishwashings, perhaps. Or you might hate one chore enough that you’d happily take on two others just to get rid of it. The point is, fairness means EVERYONE has an equal say and everyone needs to come out of it feeling that it’s equitable. You feel unfairly burdened. You have every right to ask for things to change. There are many more ways to divide chores than “whoever cooks doesn’t have to do dishes.”

          If your partner isn’t even willing to have a discussion about this and consider alternative arrangements, it doesn’t speak well of their respect for you.

          1. I’d also add that while it may technically be true that your spouse also cooked when hovering around watching and helping you, the kind and supportive thing to do would be to acknowledge the work you put in to cooking by at LEAST helping with the dishes – maybe washing while you dry, or something. I mean, if you both cooked, shouldn’t you both clean up after?

            I’m also getting the feeling you might not be as bad at cooking as you imply. I mean, I’m pretty terrible at cooking and rarely do it, but I’ve never messed up an entire meal to the point that it was inedible. Do you really want/need spouse hovering over your shoulder to help? What would happen if you asked for space when cooking? Practice is the best way to learn, after all.

          2. Responding to Allya:
            Do you really want/need spouse hovering over your shoulder to help? What would happen if you asked for space when cooking? Practice is the best way to learn, after all.

            This also occurred to me. When I lived with my mother, and when I visit her now, cooking was/is something of a nightmare. Because she has been cooking since long before I was born, and she gives me instructions that I (now) already know, which make me feel second-guessed, off my game, and unsure of what I’m doing (even though, if left alone, I’d be fine). (Plus my parents live in a different house now than the one I grew up in, so I don’t know where anything in their kitchen is kept.) In my own home, I cook all the time…I experiment with new recipes all the time, and it mostly turns out great. But as soon as she starts sowing doubt, I start screwing up in little ways. And I think that might be what is happening in this situation as well.

        4. Uhm, yeah, the pointed “we had a fight so I’m going to spend our money on nice things for me and tell you you aren’t allowed any” sounds kind of awful, whether it’s your picking a fight and her trying to assert herself as her own person worthy of something nice, or you trying to bring up something valid and her slapping you down.

    2. Sometimes I wear shooting-grade hearing protection while I vacuum. It’s something to consider, for the commentariat at large if it doesn’t work for you in specific. (+1 to “I’m not trying to bludgeon you with my crutch” from above, btw, that’s a great metaphor.)

    3. notcryingonsundays – I really do think that there is a problem here, and it’s raising all sorts of red flags for me.

      It sounds to me like you are doing most of the daily grind chores, including ones that you specifically hate because of bad childhood experiences. Spouse has control (and I use that word deliberately) of the cooking, and when you try to learn to cook, she has trained you to think you’re going to mess it up, with consequences for the household finances (which she also controls, as she controls the budget), or stands over you and “helps” enough that she takes credit and sticks you with the dishes again.

      I know you say that Spouse does daily chores, but as far as I can see from your post, she does cooking (which many people enjoy, as it can be creative, fun, and a performance; and is also the role of nurturing generous food-giver) and litter box changing, which doesn’t sound particularly onerous. You take out the trash, wash the dishes, do the vacuuming, and help out with the bathroom cleaning, which is Spouse’s chore. I’m sure your spouse does do more chores, but it sounds like you do the tedious, messy ones.

      The word that kept coming to mind when I read your post was “child”. The way you describe Spouse sounds like a controlling parent. Your responses feel like those of a child who has no power in this situation – if you try to stick up for yourself and change things (by cooking yourself or addressing the situation) you are punished. Withholding the thing you like because you’ve been a “jerk” or a “whiner” is punishment, if Spouse is the one with the budget who decides what things you buy. Is there an old dynamic (parent/child springs to mind) that you’re playing out with Spouse in this relationship?

      What I read in your comment is Spouse has made you too scared even to try cooking in case you go wrong (which you will occasionally – you’re learning! It’s fine! Cut off the burned bits and eat around it!) and if you do somehow summon up the courage to have a go at cooking, she “helps” enough that the end result is that you’ve had a stressful cooking experience being judged by your spouse, AND you then have to do the dishes. No wonder you’re anxious about it. But cooking can be very easy – there are lots of good cookbooks out there that will give you very simple recipes to follow, or you could ask a friend to help you to learn to cook – not your spouse, though, as I think she has a vested interest (maybe a subconscious one, if I’m being kind) to keep you as kitchen hand to her head chef. N.B. If you cook together, why don’t you do dishes together? Why does Spouse helping out mean you end up with the dishes?

      Even if there’s nothing hinky about the situation, it still isn’t working because *it isn’t working for you*. That’s enough of a reason to change things. A fair division of chores isn’t “you do the daily chores you like doing and I’ll do the daily chores I hate doing”. It’s finding a fair split that you can both live with.

  28. I don’t know if I psychically communicated or something – but Devon just walked in the door and announced he had bought a whole bunch of cleaning supplies. Crazy!

    1. As long as he didn’t say “for you to use, LW!” I think that’s a good sign.

      Maybe Devon reads CA?

      1. He doesn’t even have a computer. It was pretty good, he bought a bunch of stuff and started talking about helping me clean and stuff. I’m pretty shocked.

        1. Hah, maybe he was at an internet cafe? *g*

          Given this shining sign of hope, it might be a great idea to pounce on it and try agreeing on a specific chore list that describes what each of you is responsible for doing, since a) that makes life easier and b) it also gives you something concrete to point at if his surge of good intentions fades and he stops doing his share.

  29. Hey LW, it’s great to hear the follow-up from you.

    I have similar experiences. Both times, we didn’t have that so-important conversation up-front about expectations. Either in terms of timeframe or housework or whatever. Both times, it went very, very badly.

    The first time had a natural timeline because the person’s seasonal job ended and they moved away. But their room smelled horrible. It didn’t get better until we thoroughly cleaned it including the draperies, rug, etc. The stench used to waft from under the closed door while he was still living there. But I was already having Talks with him about doing his dishes, not leaving his stuff lying around the common areas, etc. As the weeks went on, we saw less of him as he hung around less (maybe because Expectations?) and there were fewer opportunities to casually bring up things and work them out while they were minor. Ugh. I frankly was boggled, because he’d moved here from a housing coop, where he’d been living with other people. I was shocked that I apparently needed to explain Roommate 101 stuff to him. He sounds like your friend Devon.

    The second time we opened our home this way, we had a friend who moved out of state to warmer climes without a plan or support network. She did okay for awhile, and then she was suicidal. When she was discharged from the hospital, we invited her to move back to our area despite the impending winter because she could live with us rent free, access various resources to help with her mental health issues, and have the support of us and other friends in the area. We wanted to help this person who was really struggling and really needed help. She got a job and got a little better. But not really. And again, problems with housework. Often it was because of incompatible styles. She would leave dishes soaking in the sink before washing them, but that might be 12 hours later, and in the meantime, no sink access. She set one of my pans on fire twice because it was a small pot on a large burner and the gas on maximum left unattended. Twice! I was pretty upset about that. Well, we ended up asking her to leave by X date. Because the toll on us was adding up. She was with us for maybe 6 months. The problems with her compounded the problems I was having with partner, who already wasn’t contributing to the household because of hir mental health.

    You know what–I moved out this spring. The house was unlivable for me. I was not capable of working full-time and also being pretty much entirely responsible for the domestic chores. Before I moved out, I started using the most basic of task lists on the refrigerator with colored magnets: make dinner, wash dishes, feed cat, clean litter box, take meds/supplements. Really, really basic. It helped. It helped with partner’s jerk brain when it said zie had done nothing all day, and I could point to all hir magnets and say that’s not true. And it helped midweek when most of the magnets on the list were my color, so zie would make an effort to do some more. But it wasn’t enough. I was still so angry and resentful and frustrated and exhausted and unhappy. So I left.

    I am so much happier in my own tiny space. And depressed whenever I go back to the house to do laundry, or pick up some essential item left there (I moved out with the basics, not all my worldly goods) and stay for more than a few hours. And now the cat is spraying, and the house stinks because partner is not staying on top of litter box. And we just got a fine from the city for the lack of lawn maintenance and the weed ordinance. And it makes me very, very sad. My partner is still struggling with severe depression and has little to no cope, but zie needs to find resources that are not me to help with that because I am mostly used up. I’m wearing my oxygen mask but haven’t completely evacuated. I’ve set a deadline of January for us to decide whether to keep or sell the house. I am expecting to sell, because I can’t imagine the situation improving to the point where I would consider moving back in. But I haven’t abandoned the smallest flicker of hope that keeps me trapped eternally astride this fence. Don’t be me.

    So, sure, try to have the conversation, get it in writing, and it might ameliorate the situation. But it won’t fix it. You might want to save yourself a lot of grief (literally) by acknowledging that it needs to stop, and just go with that, full stop. A complete change is what Devon needs to reset himself. And it’s what you need to start healing. It is too, too easy to backslide, fall back into the same dynamics, etc. Best to cut it off cleanly now.

  30. Sweet Arceus… this could be my brother-in-law… seriously. It’s to the point that I have all but given up on cleaning ANYTHING because I can’t keep it that way with my anxiety and depression issues, I get ZERO help from him OR my husband (who has anxiety, depression, and PTSD issues, in addition to physical issues with his hands simply *working* to do anything). Okay, they *try*, sometimes… but it usually extends only to gathering up *most* of the trash out of the living room and nowhere else.

    I’m at the end of my rope. But apparently Housecleaning is something I Am Expected To Do Because Woman Of The House or some sh…tuff like that. *deep sigh* I wish you the best of luck in finding your way to a better future, whatever that may end up looking like.

    1. Yeah, funny how depression and anxiety issues are a great excuse to do fuck-all, unless you’re a woman, right?

    2. Do any of you qualify for any social services? I live in Colorado, and I know there are free services for seniors to have people come and clean their houses. It might be worth looking into, although that would mean having a stranger come in and touch your stuff.

      Jedi hugs to you, Maracae Grizzly, if you want them.

  31. Pretty much when I say “concrete” ideas for making this work for all of us, I really need to sit down with him, draw up a schedule and figure some stuff out together. I’ve thought about this a lot ever since I send the letter to the captain. I don’t mind if he wants to live here, but I am going to make this work. I’m not going to sit back and be a nag anymore, and complain about my lot while grudgingly cleaning the bathroom.

    I’m going to speak with fiance about making sure Devon makes prompt rent payments at a specific time, and I’m also going to chill out a bit. If I come upstairs and Devon spilled some water on the floor, there’s no reason to get angry or upset. I can deal with minor stuff. Not to say I’ll be a doormat, but there are limits. There are more important things I need to be thinking about.

    The fact that he came home today and started talking about cleaning independently tells me that it is, on the very least, on his mind.

    I really appreciate all the comments and advice, you guys are awesome. ❤

    1. Go you, LW! Sounds like you’re finding a way through this, and best of luck with it, because you’ve been carrying too much for too long. While you’re in the setting limits frame, I suggest you ask Devon to replace things he breaks too. The odd incident of clumsiness is understandable, but that much breakage reeks of not giving a fuck, for your things and, by implication, for what’s important to you. It’s OK to care that your nice stuff is all broken! And it’s OK to expect that if you care about it Devon should too.

    2. LW – Really glad that Devon has made a move towards doing more. And it’s a great idea to use this as a springboard to roll out some of the more concrete stuff like a schedule for chores and regular rent payments. It will also be doing Devon a favour in the long-run – he needs to learn to adult for himself, and these are important adult skills that will be expected of him in the future.

    3. Encouraging signs! However… I say “however” quite a lot, I notice… anyway… it’s my experience that the Devons of the world have a superhuman sense of when they’ve pissed you off ALMOST to the point of no return. That’s when they surprise you by doing something nice and sweet, and you don’t have the heart to be angry with them any more. The fact that what they’ve done is usually no more than what could reasonably be expected of them as adult humans tends to go un-noticed. So, while I’m happy for you that Devon appears to be making an effort of his own volition, I’d advise keeping an eye on how long he manages to keep it up. The Devons I have known have usually done just enough to avoid getting kicked into touch, then lapsed into their old ways as soon as the pressure was off.
      And I’m glad to see that fiance isn’t a complete tool, but I still think he’s being rather selfish and unfair to you. It’s not fair to just dump all things domestic into your lap, especially if you have a job too. What if, as a previous commenter suggested, you did have an actual child? Would he still expect you to cope with everything on your own? “Doctors appointment? Whoops, sorry, gotta go to work, bye!” That’s not a partnership.
      I completely sympathise with not being good at The Wurdz. I have a horror of Using mine, if only because it means someone else can use theirs right back at me. But I think this is a time for some serious words with fiance, both about how you’re going to enforce living standards with Devon, and about your domestic arrangements in general, for the sake of your own sanity.

      1. I… yeah, I’m sorry but I still believe its time for him to go and Adult by himself. Ranunculus is right – manipulators manipulate because they are really REALLY good and reading people and knowing when to be sweet and when to go right on manipulating. erugh, not that I’m trying to paint Devon as Evil Freeloader, just … given his past, given all the events that have happened – its time for him to go. Or draw up a physical contract where he pays monthly, he does chores or he takes a hike.

      2. I’m glad LW explained the arrangement re: fiance, work, Devon etc., but when Devon does nothing, fiance needs to do some cleaning, as well as trying to cajol Devon into cleaning. Otherwise, it’s all LW or they all live in filth. This might motivate fiance and Devon re: Deon housecleaning, because I think if fiance is having to spend some precious free time on chores he might be more emphatic with Devon.

        I always hated having the (non) choices to live in filth, do all the housework, or repeatedly try to get other people to contribute. The are a zillion ways to keep a house clean, chore charts, or everyone does 15 minutes every night, or a cleaner is hired for the bulk of the work, etc.

        Fiance should be as invested as LW not just in Devon cleaning, but in the house not being a pit. Managing staff, even if the staff are non cleaning roomies is a job in itself.

  32. My husband is a chronic no-chores guy, not because he’s a bad dude but because his father never lifted a finger, and after many years of trial and error I’ve had success with asking specifically and out loud to do half the work while I’m doing the other half:

    Our friends will be here in an hour. Do you want to run the vacuum or clean the bathroom?
    I’m emptying the dishwasher, would you put the slow cooker away and then clean the silverware?
    Would you rather chop the onions or cook the carrots?
    I’m going to sweep the kitchen, would you do the kid’s teeth brushing and story time?
    I’d love it if you could put in a load of laundry while I dust.

    And so on. He never notices this stuff on his own or remembers to check a chore chart, but if I’m working and ask him to do jobs at the same time, he does cheerfully do them. It’s something.

    Also he had an apartment roommate in college who never washed dishes. He eventually just threw them away. Fair enough, IMO.

    1. Yeah it’s better than the passive helpless act, but it still leaves responsibility for EVERYTHING on you. I used to say to my ex “no I don’t want you to ‘help’ around the house – I want you to take responsibility.” If he’s an adult who lives in a house, he knows that certain stuff needs to be done in order to maintain said house, and I don’t care how poorly it was modelled for him as a child.
      I’m happy for you that you’ve found something that sort of works for you, but it still sounds bloody exhausting to me.

  33. LW, I’m kinda getting the vibe from your letter that your annoyance is not only about Devon not doing his part of keeping the house clean. You offered to hep him out for a few months and ended up with a permanent roommate, which doesn’t seem to have been part of the plan. Maybe I’m misreading you, but to me, that sounds like you don’t actually want Devon as a roommate, regardless of the cleaning.

    You don’t mention what financial situation he is in now, and I can totally see not wanting to put your friend in a difficult situation, but if I were you, I’d ask him to start planning to move out.

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