Tips For Keeping a Clean House With Messy Roommates

By Jacqueline Saguin

Everyone who’s needed that extra person to split the rent harbors some sort of horror story or “war flashback” to past living situations. Perhaps their random roommate said they’d foster a dog for a couple weeks and ended up keeping it indefinitely, leaving them to sweep up the ever-present layer of black fur. Or, a wife likes the shoes lined up by the door while a husband sweeps his fallen crumbs under the sofa – out of sight, out of mind. These are the ghosts of roommate’s past. And, let’s admit it, maybe we’re the roommate. Regardless, keeping a clean house is a struggle when you live in such close quarters with someone who has vastly different living habits than you.

Household labor is one of the leading causes of roommate conflict and it’s among the top three conflicts for romantic couples, according to Sarah Riforgiate, an associate professor at Kansas University, who studied cleaning conflict. Messy habits may simply mean that people aren’t as concerned or spatially aware about their disorderly environment. Messiness and neatness may just serve as markers of someone’s mess threshold.

“When a romantic couple or roommates have differing threshold levels, the person with the lower tolerance level will often become bothered and complete tasks more promptly,” she said in her research. “Repeated instances of this behavior can lead to those tasks being regarded as the person’s job.” It’s not about praising cleanly people and vilifying those who aren’t. It’s about finding out ways to alleviate problems for all parties – from married couples to roommates alike.

Here are some best practices to get on the same page regarding household expectations:


There’s no way for your roommate, spouse or partner to know you have a problem with they way they “keep house” unless you communicate it. Find a time and place to discuss your problems face-to-face. Messages get lost in interpretation over text, so it’s best to hash it out in front of one another. Make your point by explaining how you feel and how you’d like to work on it. It’s not a blaming game, so don’t pick apart every little thing. Think about your major problems and go from there. It’s likely that one conversation won’t fix the problems overnight, but if both parties respect the process, things get much easier.


If you feel frustrated about something, sometimes It’s easiest to just remove yourself from the situation. Practice understanding and give them time to clean up that lone cereal bowl left on the counter or their pile of laundry that has been sitting on the floor for months. For those that value an orderly and spotless house, it’s our impulse to clean as soon as we see a mess. But if you’re always the one cleaning, then they may not even realize it bothers you and leave the responsibility to you.


In a perfect world, those you live with would meet your every expectation without having to ask, but it’s not. Keep in mind that you share a living space. Be that with your spouse, parents, kids or roommate. You’re bound to have your differences. A chore chart could help, holding you both accountable and with splitting the workload.

3 Top Benefits of Keeping a Clean House

A cluttered bedroom can affect your mentality more than you realize. Your personal space is a reflection of you. It’s your solace – your place to relax, doze off and call home. A cluttered space triggers guilt for letting things get out of control, according to a Penn State article. Simple acts around your home can do wonders in boosting your mood.


“Making your bed every morning is directly correlated with higher levels of productivity and overall happiness,” psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter told Penn State. This simple accomplishment increases self-esteem and gives you that productive rush you need to jumpstart the day.


Restore some order into your life by doing a total clean once every other week. It can be that reset you need. It improves your health by eliminating the amount of hidden dust mites and dander. Plus, it’s a de-stressing activity that pulls your focus away from whatever work or personal frustrations you might have. Blast your favorite playlist and start vacuuming!


There’s nothing more stressful than running late to an important meeting or event. And amidst all this, you’re rushing around frantically looking for your other shoe or your planner. Organization can make life that slightest bit simpler when you know exactly where to find your belongings.


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