Learn How to Deal With a Messy Roommate

by iROOMit Team
August 9, 2022
4 min read

It seems like no two roommates have exactly the same sets of standards when it comes to maintaining the cleanliness of their common areas. If you're frustrated with your roommate's mess, talk to them about it. Keep your discussions solution-oriented, and make sure you're leading by example. Together, develop systems for keeping your shared spaces clean that are based in compromise and collaboration.

Confronting Your Roommate

Be Straightforward

Be as specific as possible about the messiness that you find difficult to live with. For example, if the dirty dishes piled up in the sink are making your blood boil, try asking, "Could you try to wash your dishes after you've used them?"

  • Tell your room mate what you'd like to see change about keeping your shared living area tidy, and realize that you'll likely need to be willing to compromise. For instance, in the example above, you may need to add, "I know sometimes we can both get busy and may not always wash our dishes the very same day they're used, but maybe we can try to make sure they're washed the same day most of the time…"
  • Don't talk to other people about your roommate's messiness unless you've first spoken directly to your roommate. Your roommate won't appreciate learning about your feelings through someone else.

If you roommate isn't listening, maybe you need to find a new roommate?

Starting Out Conversations

Starting out conversations by telling your roommate all about their messiness is likely to result in hurt feelings, defensiveness, and/or bitter words. Instead of focussing everything on your roommate's messiness, point out areas where you could improve as well. Ask your roommate if there's anything they would like you to do differently.

  • Don't use phrases like, "I can't believe you do this…" or "That's so gross!"
  • Instead, say, "I can get annoyed when there are too many dirty dishes in the sink. I'll try to make sure to empty out the dishwasher, if you'll be sure to put your dirty dishes in when they're finished."
  • Being open to compromise will help this conversation be more productive.

Present a Solution


Remember, it's likely (or, at least possible) that your roommate has no idea that their habits are bothering you. If you're going to point out problems, be prepared to offer solutions as well.

  • For example, "It would be great if you could clean up after you have your friends over. I don't mind helping out if you need me to."
  • Remember that different people have different standards and expectations regarding cleanliness and hygiene.
  • It's likely you do things that your roommate finds unacceptable as well. The best solutions will take all perspectives into account.

Set Boundaries


Remember that your roommate has the right to maintain their own standards within their own area, whether it's a bedroom or just their own bed and closet. Focus on the areas that you share together, such as a kitchen, bathroom, living area, or hallway.

  • For example, you might say, "It's really important to me that there not be dirty clothes in shared spaces. I try to keep all my clothes in my bedroom (or, on my side of the room). Do you think you could try this too?"
  • If there is the likeliness of bug infestation or mold from your roommate's hygiene habits, this might require that you suggest changes to the personal area as well. However, most of the time a messy roommate's habits are just distasteful. Avoid aggressive acts of revenge. If you've had a conversation and nothing has changed, or if you're still putting off talking to your roommate about the problem, you might be tempted to take passive-aggressive moves to rile your roommate into action. This should be avoided, because it's likely to provoke a worse response.

And if your roommate is absolutely filthy... you may like our other post about What to Do with a Filthy Roommate.