How Not to Be an A-hole When…

…Your Roommate Leaves His Dirty Dishes Out

How do I tell my roommate to clean up his dishes (in the living room) without being an asshole? Keep in mind, I’m bad about doing my own dishes. I don’t leave them everywhere though.

When I was in my 20s I had a potential roommate be up front with me when we started discussing getting a place together. She said that she doesn’t always wash her cereal bowl in the morning or her dinner dishes at night right away, but she always puts them in the sink and will always wash them within a day. I tend to be a tidy person, so I thought about whether that was going to grate on me, and realized it would be okay, because she was self-aware enough to be straightforward about her personal habits and the fact that this one wasn’t going to change.

But dishes left all over the house? Gross.

If you and your roommate usually have a time each month where you talk apartment stuff, like who owes what for the cable bill, try using that time to mention that the dishes in the common areas are not okay. In fact, even if you don’t have such a time set aside, maybe suggest you start doing that so you have like 15 minutes a month (I mean, it really doesn’t have to be that long) to talk about money, food, if you have people coming to visit, or anything else that might be either bugging you or that you want to change (like getting a new couch). It doesn’t have to be formal, but some people respond better to suggestions or criticism when they don’t seem out of the blue. If your roommate knows it might come up at certain time, he might at least be willing to listen.

However, some people are not receptive to that type of structure at all, so you could try just casually working it into conversation, and coupling it with a reason for why you’d like him to change what he’s doing. Something like ‘hey, I don’t really care when you clean up your dishes, but do you mind putting them in the sink instead of leaving them on the coffee table? I really do not want to get mice or cockroaches in the living room.’ I find most people don’t want to think about bugs crawling all over their stuff, so this might be sufficient.

If your roommate isn’t a total asshole, my guess is that he’ll say something along the lines of “oh yeah, sure, no problem,” but then possibly keep leaving dishes around. That’s a habit that doesn’t just appear overnight, so it’s probably not one that goes away. Ideally he’ll make an effort, but he’ll probably forget every once in awhile. Someone who is not an asshole will recognize and allow for that.

If he doesn’t make any sort of effort to accommodate this really basic request (it’s not like you’re asking him to do something bizarre or morally questionable), you have to consider how much of an issue this really is for you. If this is just one of many things he does that you’ve asked him not to do but he continues to do anyway, he’s probably not the right roommate for you (and is also kind of inconsiderate). But if he pays rent on time, doesn’t have loud sex next to your room the day before you have to be up at 5 for a big work thing, and is generally a good guy, then maybe this just becomes a thing you deal with. No roommate is going to be a perfect fit, so you just have to know where your line is.


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