You try to open the door to your apartment and hear the meaty thunk as it collides with your roommates discarded backpack and festering rain boots you could smell from the bottom floor.
Gritting your teeth in determination, you power your way through, forging your way through the knee-high canyons of discarded unmentionables, kicking a pizza box of dubious origin using only the very tippy-toe of your foot. You’re ready to pull your hair out over this mess, but there’s already so much of it clogging the drain, why bother?
Sound familiar? If your NYC roommate is a slob, it can be stressful at best and even evolve into a legit health issue. Especially in New York City, where humidity is higher, and apartments tend to be smaller, so there’s really nowhere to go to escape the bio-hazard zone!
Here are five helpful tips to clean up your roommate before the Center for Disease Control starts calling you up for free samples. And three options for a Plan B if diplomacy breaks down and conflict ensues across the perpetually troubled living-room-to-bedroom border.
- Talk about it. This is so important but not as easy as it sounds. You have to live together, and life is stressful enough trying to survive the workday without coming home to a room filled with so much tension you can pluck the air like a guitar string. But if you don’t bring it up, they won’t. So sit down and make sure you communicate what the problem is. Don’t be confrontational or hose them down with accusations, even if you’re right. (And let’s face it, you so are.) Keep it calm, clean, and honest with your NYC roommate.
- Remember this is about persuasion. You can’t really force them so you’re going to have to convince this person to work with you. Taking a “rules are rules” attitude might make sense logically, especially for organized people who are the first to raise concerns about sliding sanitary standards. But in reality, isn’t going to gain a lot of traction with a slob. Slobs are the sloths of rebellion. They will break the rules on basic principle through simple inaction or by taking so long to clean something up, a glacier in the next ice age will mop your floor before they do.
- Set clear goals and propose solutions. Nobody can reach a goal if they don’t know what it is. Make the expectations clear and simple with a cleanup schedule. Put it somewhere visible and break up cleaning duties evenly. Yes, it’s a little unfair if one person is making all of the mess. But singling them out is a sure way to put them on the defensive, making it even harder to convince them to clean up.
- Don’t make your home a battlefield. Taking a big pile of your NYC roommates’s stuff and rigging a laundry basket to dump it on their fuzzy little head in the morning when they are still too weak to defend themselves might sound fun, but it’s only going to aggravate the situation. That said, consolidating all their stuff, respectfully, into a box and giving it to them can be a good way to get the ball rolling on a new habit.
- Do all of it at once to make the strongest impact. Consolidate their stuff, hand it over respectfully, have “the talk,” and present the new cleaning schedule, all in one session. This is pretty direct, so make extra sure to keep your body language relaxed, your tone serene, and your language respectful. If a Buddhist priest watched you do it, they would give you the nod. Now you are presenting yourself as a reasonable adult who is leading by example and offering solutions. Triple-wham-bam. Complete with comic book explosion effects. (Wait, do they even still write comic books? Or is all just movies now?)
If all that fails, you’re dealing with a roommate who is, quite frankly, never gonna change. At this point the best thing you could do is one of three things:
- Move out. If you’re not the landlord and it’s driving you that crazy, there is never a shortage of people looking for roommates, especially in New York.
- Accept it. Think of it like camping. In your own home. Complete with bugs.
- Revise the lease to include specific cleaning duties for all. This only applies if you’re the landlord, obviously, but that old phrase still holds true… get it in writing. When the day finally comes around that your roommate needs to renew the lease, you can point it all out. If they decide to move on, now you can communicate it clearly to the next roommate and hopefully head the problem off at the pass.
If your NYC roommate does decide to leave, nobody is advising you to dump a laundry basket full of their crap out the window when they walk to their car for the last blessed time, while you laugh maniacally alongside your cat. Because that would never happen.