The kitchen of someone living with slobs.

Photo courtesy of Good Housekeeping

The kitchen of someone living with slobs.

The Sane Asylum

The Sane Asylum examines a topic relevant to mental health and human relationships–a breakdown of some common challenge to our sanity. 

          As I wake up at 6 AM to a wonderful sunrise, I hurry up and make my bed. I always like to make sure my bedroom is nice and clean in the morning. It gives me motivation and energy to continue happily with my day. I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth and shower, as anyone who values proper hygiene does. Afterwards, I make my way to the living room for some breakfast and, just as I suspected, my brother has left a huge mess. His clothes are everywhere, there are banana peels and baking supplies on the table, and piles of dishes in the sink. I am nauseous seeing my home’s destruction. I’m sick of living with a slob, but I just don’t know how to deal with this problem.

          In comparison to bigger issues we have in the world, living with a messy person may seem minor, but it is a common problem and can taint relationships if not addressed. 

          Scholars from across the ages recognized the potential harm and often tried to encourage good habits. Benjamin Franklin, an early advice giver, identified both cleanliness and order in his list of thirteen virtues that all people should work at attaining. 

          “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation,” declared Franklin.

          Today, as in Franklin’s time, the problem pervades all types of  living situations. College life is often gravely impacted when dorm or apartment mates have different  housekeeping habits. Year after year, people move out of their dorms or request a new roommate due to disgust and frustration over foul living habits.

          Teddy Mondloch, adult son of Helen Mondloch, English teacher, recalls, “When I was a senior at JMU, I struggled with a roommate who was seemingly allergic to doing his dishes. It got to the point where we basically didn’t need cabinets anymore because all of the pots, pans, plates, and utensils that sat dirty in the sink until it was time to cook again.” 

          Living with messy people can be frustrating on both ends. While the one person is accustomed to a clean ambiance, the slob may have adapted to their mess;  it might even seem organized to them, which can cause conflict. The slob may be used to living in their own filth, but the clutter problem affects others in two harmful ways. 

          First, it can be exhausting to navigate through the disorder. It  can also be demotivating and demoralizing,  especially when you get the feeling that the slob in your life does not care about you. 

          You may think it can be solved with a simple conversation. But often you find yourself hesitating because you don’t want to hurt the feelings of your family member, college roommate, or friend. Just finding the right time to have that talk can be difficult, too.

          But when living with someone who is accustomed to dirty or chaotic living conditions, confronting the problem is essential to living peacefully. 

          Sarah Titus, blog writer, suggests, “The first thing I would say is to choose your battles. Is it really THAT important your roommate  put the cap back on the toothpaste?”

          If the problem is much bigger than that, you should not hesitate to try and find reasonable solutions. You are certainly not alone in your need for neatness. Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, and Gwenyth Paltro are all famous “neat-freaks.” 

          Kardashian admits, “I don’t have people over for that reason, because I don’t like anyone in my space.” But perhaps we don’t have the same choices as the famed reality star and therefore need to address the people who are in our space.

          Before the conversation, you could try creative ways to encourage the slob to clean up on their own. If you feel capable, clean up after them and hope that they catch on and offer assistance. 

           Albert Shweitzer,  author, famously wrote, “The three most important ways to lead are…by example…by example…by example.”

          If your example fails to do the trick, you must bite down and communicate. 

          According to advice from The Storage Queens, “Instead of pointing fingers and lobbying accusations, start the conversation with you.” She means that you should avoid making accusations or engaging in name-calling. (The word “slob” may enter your mind, but that doesn’t mean it should leave your lips.) You should express your needs and indicate how much you are willing to compromise–what your end of the bargain will look like.

          Reflecting on his frustrations back in college, Teddy Mondloch added some advice: “To avoid a messy situation, I suggest setting ground rules with your roommates at the beginning of the year about keeping common spaces clean, especially the kitchen.”

          Perhaps the ground rules could include a regular cleaning schedule, which has been proven to work in many situations. This way, if anyone is busy or has more important things to do, the schedule ensures that everyone does their fair share, and hence, that everyone’s sanity remains intact. If this, too, fails, it could be time to call it curtains on your current living situation, if that’s possible. 

         Kari Lamanuzzi, author of Living With a Messy Roommate,  advises, “When all else fails, grit your teeth and try to make it through the rest of your lease…usually, the only last a year and when you move somewhere else, make sure you choose a tidier roommate.”

          Teddy Mondloch followed his own advice and managed to overcome the housekeeping tensions with his messy college roommate. This June, the two will be moving into an Arlington apartment together.

          As for me, I am still navigating ways of living with my messy little brother. Ultimately, learning to pick my battles, staying nice, and finding common ground will be essential to maintaining peace in my household.

The author is learning to live with her brother. Lucky for him, he is adorable. (Photo courtesy of Dayanna Corado-Hernandez)