How to Keep Your Dorm Room Clean (Without Annoying Your Roommate)

Problem: The Roommate

By talking with your roommate calmly and setting up a cleaning schedule, you might be able to lessen conflict and have a cleaner room.
By talking with your roommate calmly and setting up a cleaning schedule, you might be able to lessen conflict and have a cleaner room.
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My roommate saw me as a spoiled, lazy slob. I know this because she told me. This was likely her first mistake.

How you go about confronting the cleaning conflict makes all the difference in the world, and it starts with realistic expectations. First, your roommate's 115 square feet (10.6 square meters) is beyond your scope. Focus on the habits that affect your 115 square feet, like throwing stuff on the floor, producing odors and leaving exploded pasta in the microwave indefinitely.

Second, a messy person is not going to suddenly become a clean freak, so your aim here is change, not revolution. Even inspiring change may prove a struggle, but there are ways to both increase and decrease your odds of success.

If you want to live in a constant state of tension (and probably little change in housekeeping habits) try these fun activities:

  • Yell, "Clean your junk up, you spoiled, lazy slob!"
  • Make passive-aggressive comments like, "Dirty roommates are so inconsiderate" and "I don't know how this room gets so messy with just the two of us." Also, go around picking up his or her stuff as you mutter, "This isn't mine. This isn't mine. This isn't mine."
  • Vent to your Facebook friends about the problem before you tell your roommate.
  • Silently glare at the soda your roommate spilled on the floor whenever you're both in the room. Is she gonna wipe that up or what?

If want to live in a cleaner space with someone who still talks to you, do this instead:

  • Share your cleaning habits and expectations on day one. You might avoid the conflict in the first place.
  • Talk to your roommate as soon as the problem comes up. Festering leads to "Clean your mess up, you spoiled, lazy slob!"
  • When expressing your displeasure, say "I," not "you," as in, "I like my home to be cleaner than this," not "You're making our room such a mess."
  • Be specific about what bothers you and why. Instead of "Jeez, would you clean up after yourself?" try "Would you please put your leftovers in the dumpster instead of the trash can? The smell of old food really bothers me."
  • Set up, together, a cleaning schedule that addresses both of your needs. Maybe you take care of the big jobs on Sunday together so you don't nag her about them the rest of the week. Rotate tasks, and be flexible about trading jobs if there's something you don't mind but your roommate particularly hates doing.

Hopefully, your roommate is someone who knows how to compromise and cares about other people's needs. If so, you may be able to get a little bit closer to the tiny dorm room of your dreams.

If not, chalk it up to character-building, get the heck out in May, and room with someone more like yourself next year. A "clean type."

Or, do what I did and beg for a single. Crying can help. Just don't overdo it.

Author's Note: How to Keep Your Dorm Room Clean (Without Annoying Your Roommate)

This article was an eye-opener for me. Both I and my roommate made every mistake in the book trying to address the conflict. Conflict resolution really is an art, and I think I provided here some fairly comprehensive and effective methods of "cleaning up" the issue. I can certainly vouch for the "Don't" list. Oh, how she annoyed me. And I became even dirtier to annoy her back.

I did e-mail an apology for my filthiness in the midst of my research. She forgives me.

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  • College Candy. "5 Common Roommate Problems – And How to Deal." March 19, 2011. (June 12, 2013)
  • Dimensions Info. "How Big is a 1 Car Garage?" (June 12, 2013)
  • eCampusTours. "Dorm Room Cleaning Tips." Feb. 22, 2012. (June 12, 2013)
  • Rees, Lauren. "Dorm Life: Living in 114 square feet." The Register-Mail. July 24, 2010. (June 12, 2013)
  • Solomon, Christopher. "Roommate survival guide: 15 strategies to make it work." MSN Real Estate. (June 12, 2013)
  • Tippet, Elizabeth. "The Dirty Roommate." WORKS by Nicole Williams. (June 12, 2013),0
  • Walsh, Peter. "Clean Up Your Messy Dorm Room." Oprah. (June 12, 2013)
  • Wieman, Bethany. "Natural Alternatives to Bleach for Disinfecting." National Geographic. (June 14, 2013)