How To Survive Life With A Slob

It’s tough to live with someone who has lower cleanliness standards than you. You feel as though you’re the one doing all the work to keep things looking presentable and fear inviting company over for fear of embarrassment.

Lifehacker has some suggestions for making the living arrangement work without going insane or having your roommate resent you as a domineering neat freak.

Key advice includes resisting the urge to nag. Instead, it’s best to work out some ground rules of cleanliness you both agree on — example: the last person to use the video game controllers puts them away — and hope they stick.

When it comes time to tidy up, you can spur your roommate into action by offering to do one task in exchange for him doing another. You can also set up a common to-do list and try to establish routines, such as Sunday morning is when the floor gets vacuumed, so he can’t leave his stuff everywhere at that time.

How Can I Live with a Slob? [Lifehacker]


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  1. falnfenix says:

    whoa. one aggregate is reposting another aggregate’s posts. i feel like i’m stuck in a loop. is this real life?

  2. The Happy Homeowner says:

    Nagging just makes a situation worse–it’s always a lose-lose situation so keep your trap shut unless you can communicate in an effective manner!

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      I know for a fact you are not my ex-wife.

    • StatusfriedCrustomer says:

      The problem with slobs is that any “game” or “agreement” you set up with them will eventually be ignored. Eventually you will be forced to nag them and then the rest is history. You might as well start nagging from the beginning.

      • Difdi says:

        Your irrational, neurotic hangups are your neurotic, irrational hangups. They are not natural law, nor are they justification to abuse someone. And if you feel that they somehow are and act accordingly, then you have no standing to complain about anyone else’s treatment of you with the same rationale.

        I’m a bit of a slob, and I know it. I’ve lived with other slobs (many worse than me) and I’ve lived with people who take neatness to the verge of outright psychosis, and beyond. I have my own quirks (among them is treating someone with the exact degree of respect they show me, and hitting someone back instantly exactly as hard as they hit me). If someone abuses me because of their own mental illness and refuses to acknowledge they have a problem, they won’t like my response at all.

        • bigTrue says:

          Exactly this. I’m not a total slob, but I leave clothes on the floor of my bedroom and sometimes go 3 days with dishes soaking in the sink. If you NEED to have the clothes put away or those dishes done because somebody is coming over and you can’t stand a house to look lived in, go at em.

          It is not my problem you’re neurotic or society rewards ocd cleaning behavior with praise from other neurotic ocd cleaners.

        • JennQPublic says:

          “…Treating someone with the exact degree of respect they show me, and hitting someone back instantly exactly as hard as they hit me…”

          It’s interesting how you set the standard for your own behavior at the lowest point of those around you. Personally, I feel I am capable of better behavior than most, and try to hold myself to that standard no matter the provocation. But kudos to you for recognizing your own limitations and setting that bar low. It’s very mature of you.

  3. Hi_Hello says:

    don’t bother…move out or get another roommate.

  4. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    Can we slobs get a counter article on how to suffer living with nagging neat-freaks?

    • annecat says:

      Right on!

    • Difdi says:

      It’s simple. Every neat freak I’ve ever met has something they don’t go neat freak over. For example, most people’s kitchen sinks are dirtier than their toilets. My mother will wipe down food and food prep surfaces with a used dish rag, pile food in her sink as a storage spot, etc. Her sink is dirtier than mine is, and I’d have to be crazy to do something that filthy. But she has this blind spot to it, in her otherwise nearly-obsessive neat freakiness.

      She’s effectively eating out of a toilet when she does that, but it simply never occurs to her that that is what she is doing. It gives some awesome ammunition when facing her nagging about vacuuming my carpets or dusting a bookshelf.

    • RayanneGraff says:


      My mom is always coming over & flipping her shit because I keep frequently used food products(non-perishables, of course) & appliances *gasp* ON MY COUNTER TOPS! Oh, the horror. And I don’t do my dishes every single day, my bathroom vanity is cluttered, and sometimes there’s dirty laundry on the floor of my closet. All mortal sins to a neat freak. She calls me to yell at me about what a pig I am because I don’t spend at least 4 hours a day cleaning like she does.

      Sorry but when I’m on my death bed, I highly doubt that my last words are gonna be, “I wish I’d have spent more time cleaning!” I’m fine the way I am. I do laundry when I have enough for a full load, I do my dishes when I have enough to fully load the dishwasher, I clean my toilet & kitchen sink regularly, and I vacuum my floors every week or so. I’m by no means filthy, I just don’t freak out over clutter & every little dust bunny. Neat freaks can live their lives however they want to, but I’m too busy & I have better things to do than clean all day long.

  5. El_Fez says:

    My friends will love that their messy living room is being used for the “live with a slob” photo.

  6. carlathecommander says:

    That’s why divorce can be a wonderful thing.

    • airren says:

      Hallelujahs. I think many times when spouses continue to be slobs knowing that the other one will have to pick it up, it’s some sort of power trip. Anwyay, agreed!

      • Difdi says:

        Has to? Your neurosis is your neurosis, nothing more and nothing less. Is it inconsiderate to step on someone’s neurosis? Sure. Just as inconsiderate as abusing someone for not sharing yours is.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      Amen!! I have a clothes basket in the bathroom for dirty clothes. It’s beside the tub, you know, for when you take a shower and change your clothes? The asshat throws his clothes on the floor next to it. He leaves dishes in the living room, and will even shove them under the couch to avoid taking them back to the sink. I’ve come to the realization he does this on purpose to irritate me, as no one can be this careless or lazy.

  7. katarzyna says:

    Tips from John Watson? Like, just ignore the head in the fridge and the mannequin hanging in the doorway.

  8. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    Just burn the place down, it’s the only way to be sure the mess is cleaned.

    Seriously – move out and find a new roommate or whatever. These people can’t be reasoned with. I’m sorry, but soaking the dishes in the sink for 4 days isn’t cleaning them

    • thomwithanh says:

      My roommate will not load the dishwasher – ever, he just leaves his stuff in the sink. We compromised, I take care of the dishes, he vaccums – problem solved.

      • hoi-polloi says:

        This. There are some tasks I prefer to do, those I can tolerate, and those that are really low on my list. If you can have that conversation and divide work in a way that feels fair for everyone, it’s going to save frustration. If I’m doing the tasks that I prefer to do and visa versa, I’m not even necessarily worried about who is putting in more time.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          yeah, i just found out my roommate hates doing laundry. i hate doing the dishes because the position of the dishwasher aggravates the arthritis in my hip.
          i’m about to offer to do her laundry in exchange for dishes. it doesn’t hurt my negotiating position that i cook her dinner several times a week.
          *disclosure – i’m the slob roommate but i’m also the homeowner*

    • jesusofcool says:

      I completely agree. Either move out or learn to live with it. Nagging isn’t helpful; it’s just going to cause tension and harm your relationship/friendship. Either move out or decide that getting to live with them is more important than cleanliness (and learn to ignore the things that really bother you).

  9. Straspey says:

    Of course, if it’s not your roommate – but your spouse – that changes the game entirely.

    We still have a bag of Christmas paraphernalia sitting in the living room. Since my wife is in charge of all things Christmas around here, I don’t know what to do about it.

    Well – that’s not really true, because there’s the “male solution” of simply putting it out with the trash.

    The missing bag would go unnoticed for months, until one day when…

    WIFE: “Hey – do you know whatever happened to that bag of Christmas stuff that was sitting next to the sofa in the living room ?”

    ME: “Umm — Well, since it was left sitting there until Lent, I just thought nobody cared about it anymore, so I threw it out, and…”

    WIFE: “Oh that’s great ! Throw out all MY stuff that’s in YOUR way. How come we NEVER throw out any of YOUR stuff…??

    If it was up to me – I’d be buying a bunch of 20-gallon garbage bags to fill up with all the clutter around here.

    • theduckay says:

      Ask her where the bag goes and put it away yourself? Of course, she should be doing that…but if you reallyyy want it gone then that’s the only option I can see…

    • The Porkchop Express says:

      My dad does that to my mom, kind of. If something sits around for long enough, he then hides it somewhere for a month or two. If she never asks where it is or if he has seen it, he tosses it. She really has no idea either.

      I think he used to do it to me too when I was still living there.

      • Yomiko says:

        My parents too, but reverse the roles. When my parents’ basement flooded, my mom used the excuse to throw out shop projects my dad had saved from high school and about 40 VHS tapes containing 90s Celtics games. Yeesh.

    • ninabi says:

      Put the bag away where you think it can go (except to the trash) and tell your wife you gave her a jump start on getting the Christmas stuff cleared out.

      Sometimes a gift of cleaning up is far better than flowers. Makes you look good, makes the house look good.

      If there’s simply no space to store it all, buy a container that can fit into your storage, open a bottle of wine and say, “Let’s go through the decorations while we drink and chat. We’ve got way too much and let’s just keep the best of them.”

    • shthar says:

      You never learned the ultimate answer.

      ‘I dunno’

      Repeat as needed.

  10. brinks says:

    My fiance was compulsively clean…until he moved in with me.

    THIS is how you live with a slob: relent. Or move out. There is no curing us.

    • Difdi says:

      Stubborn, won’t-back-down slobbishness is a form of mild mental illness. So is being a compulsive neat freak. It’s just as irrational to expect one to bend in their compulsion as it is to expect the other to.

      To tell someone “I’m crazy but it’s okay, but we need to do something about your craziness, it’s not acceptable” is the absolute ultimate hypocrisy. And if there’s any justice in the relationship, it will get exactly the respect it deserves.

  11. Alan says:

    As a slightly unneat person myself… I’ve always made the counter argument, “why do I need to go to your level of cleanliness? Why don’t you go to mine?” That normally shuts them up. Of course that only works if you are not a complete slob.

  12. j2.718ff says:

    Understand that by living with someone else, your cost of living has decreased. Thus, you put up with the other person in direct exchange for lower rent. This simple realization helped me immensely.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i think that’s why my roommate tolerates my clutter. i’m not charging her rent while she gets back on her feet after a divorce, just a few bucks for utilities over what my bills usually are. she’s helping me sort the clutter but she doesn’t try to do it while i’m not around so i don’t end up looking for something “i just set down here the other day”

  13. graytotoro says:

    I’d like to try this but I have the added complication of dealing with his GF who seems more concerned with me leaving the shared door open and them having to “sleep in the cold” because they don’t have space to put their space heater inside than the pile of recycling they’ve built up in the living room.

  14. ScandalMgr says:

    Nobody else said it, so:

    Felix: “Your dinner’s in the oven; turn it off in twenty minutes. Oscar ‚Ķ what can I say? Five years ago you took me in: a broken man on the verge of ‚Ķ mental collapse. I leave here a cured human being. I owe it all to you. [gesturing toward apartment] It’s all yours buddy. I salute you. [empties waste basket onto floor]”
    Oscar: “Felix, you know how I’m gonna salute you? I’m gonna clean that up.”
    Felix: “It has not been in vain.”
    [They shake hands and Felix exits stage right through front door. After door closes …]
    Oscar: [swings his hand through the air] I’m not gonna clean that up! [exits stage left to bedroom to audience laughter]
    [Felix sneaks back in stage right and looks at floor]
    Felix: [disgustedly] I knew he wouldn’t clean it up! [proceeds to pick up trash to audience applause] (fade out)

  15. richcreamerybutter says:

    When I first moved to NYC, I lived with a very tidy roommate, and another untidy one. We all kept common areas clean, but my tiny room was pretty typical for a student not spending a lot of time at home (not dirty, just disorganized). My other roommate was identical this way.

    One day we came home to find that someone had climbed over the roof and jumped into our kitchen through a window that had been slightly open. The tidy roommate was missing $600 in cash, and the other slob and I were missing nothing at all. Even though my floor was littered with clothing and books, I could immediately tell the thief had maybe pushed only one or two things around before giving up.

  16. jewpiterjones says:

    My roommates know that if they leave dishes in the sink for more than 24 hours, I will move them to their beds. They do their dishes pretty quick now.

  17. oldwiz65 says:

    I tried it and gave up. Slobs are slobs and nothing you can do will stop it.

  18. backinpgh says:

    What if the slob is your husband?

    • Errr... says:

      My husband is a slob. Luckily we have separate bedrooms (we both sleep in my room, but his stuff is in his room and my stuff is in my room). If I get sick of his crap all over the place, I just throw it all in his room. A lot of the other stuff tends to be done by me (cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, dishes, etc.). I just try to remember that I would have to do those things even if he didn’t live there, so it’s really not that much more effort for me to do it for both of us.

  19. shthar says:

    A clean room is the sign of an empty mind.

    • Kuri says:

      Einstein said it better.

      “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, then what is a clean desk?”

  20. chatterboxwriting says:

    A friend of mine is a total slob and I am so lucky I don’t live with her. What ticks me off is that she blames the fact that she has kids for her house being a mess. I’m like, “Really, your 6-month-old threw your work pants on the floor and dumped six months’ worth of coupon inserts in the bedroom?” I’ve known a lot of people with kids, and not a one of them ever had a brand new house look like it was 20 years old because of the lack of cleaning. Her little girl has tripped and fallen a number of times because there is not even a clear space on the living room floor. And no, she’s not a hoarder — just a slob.