Question of the Day: How to Get Roommates to Share in Cleaning?

A reader named Jason Stauffer writes:

I live with four guys in a house. We had no cleaning schedule until about a month ago, but the house was never cluttered, and was more than clean enough for actual women to feel comfortable visiting. Even the bathroom was clean enough for the girls to freely use it without vomiting. However since we have implemented our cleaning schedule the house has gotten into worse and worse shape. The toilet downstairs is even looking so bad I don’t want to use it. What gives?

Okay, everybody, let’s hear what you have to say about private vs. public incentives, moral hazard, and the general cleanliness of men.

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  1. Theo B says:

    I lived with 5 guys for many years and I found a system that generally worked very well. We had a chore wheel that turned once a week to rotate the duties. On the side of the chore wheel was a sheet with all the roomates names listed and the week start date. By Sunday evening at 10pm you needed to do your chore and have a roomate check that you did the chore adequately and if so you could initial in their box. If you didn’t get your box checked off, there would be a fee associated that someone else could earn if they did the chore. For the chores that were not a weekly chore, the deep cleaning stuff, once it was deemed to be intolerable, if a handful of the roomates were home, there would be a “roll off” competition where each roomie would roll dice and the lowest number would have to do the chore.

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  2. jose says:

    I live with a brother and his sister none like to clean I’m always cleaning. All three of us found this house and pay rent. But when it comes to cleaning it up to me. These people are grown men and women. I guess it starts at home with the parents…

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  3. Jo says:

    I find it amazing how many people ignore the rental contracts they sign in which most will state that the place has to be maintained in good order or words to that effect. Bad sanitation attracts pests which are both difficult to remove as well as expensive. For this reason cleaning is a must. Nothing is free! Would you be happy if after a month of work you received nothing for your labour? Perhaps this is why there are so many bad landlords out there.

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  4. Taylor says:

    This is an awesome question. And something I think alot of people have a problem with. You should check out this website that is helping roommates everywhere.

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  5. bunny says:

    in my long experience with cohabitation this is largely driven by personality and class background. some people are just slobs – they don’t “see” it like others do, and they don’t “smell” it like others do (nose-blind is particularly bad with pet keepers).

    class and family dynamics come in when you live with someone who grew up with a full-time-at-home Mom who did everything, or they grew up with a maid, so they’re used to having someone going around cleaning after them. once you start going about cleaning up after them, they just fall back into it.

    my two current roomies are a combo of these, and one of them decided to take in a pregnant stray, so now there are 9 animals in the house as well. i moved in 2 months ago and have basically been cleaning since. in addition they both have mild physical disabilities which become an excuse for not cleaning.

    they’re both nice, and it’s getting better. it requires a lot of communication. a lot.

    goddamn entitled shithead slob motherfuckers… 😉

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  6. emma says:

    I know the pain. I’m female and live with 2 guys. I’ve learned a lot (with it solving anything)
    First there are two types of cleaning/mess.
    1 being clutter. Objects out of place. General mess
    2 being dirty. Things needing cleaning not clearing.

    So it’s not just a difference in standards that people live by. But what they see between those cats gores.
    For example I’m messy. I leave clutter on a daily basis. But regularly clean (deepclean)
    the boys are the opposite. They keep things neat. But never actually clean anything.
    Creates huge tension. I feel the house is gross cause nothing is clean. They think the house is gross cause its messy.
    Then there is the fact that they don’t just have different cleaning standards for jobs. There are jobs they don’t know or won’t accept are jobs.
    For example I do all the shopping and organise all bills and utilities. I also cook. Because they aren’t home every night they don’t see cooking as a job unless they see me doing it (despite relying on freezer meals when I’m at work) and they don’t see shopping and bills as a job. I think they think the fridge and pantry magically stay full.
    They don’t know that mould can be cleaned and the shower screen isn’t made of frosted glass or that the microwave needs cleaning after spills. In 5 months I’m the only one who has cleaned anything in the bathroom.
    I don’t know how to fix it.

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