My roommate is a jerk. She won’t help with anything, including fixing meals. She spends all of her time watching television, going out, working, or doing her homework. She says she doesn’t have time to do anything else. When I tell her to give up her favorite television show or to skip going out so that she can help me clean, she says, “I’ve got to have some life,” and leaves me alone to do it myself. She doesn’t seem to care that I don’t have a life and even less of one because she can’t lift one pinky finger to help me. I am about ready to kick her out, but the one thing she does do is help to pay her portion of the rent. If I kick her out, I will have the entire rent to take care of until I find someone else and I don’t think I can do that.
What do you suggest?
Stuck with the dirt
I used to be a firm believer in motivation to help someone “clean up the dirt.” I thought, “All I have to do is get the person to think the way I think, or at least get them to think in a more positive way, and the deal is sealed.”
Motivation is a great thing but when it comes to cleaning, what the other person really needs is training in cleaning in favor of a memorable cleaning “rah rah” speech. Let me explain what I mean.
An adult friend of mine hates to clean. It rarely gets done because she says it’s always at the bottom of her list. Every day she creates a list, whether on paper or inside her head and cleaning never seems to make it to the top. There are other things she would rather be doing and more relevant projects she could be working on, so she does these things first.
I explained to her that cleaning really didn’t take all that much time. Take a room for example; if she picked up every day, made her bed, picked up her clothes and paperwork, it would take about 10 minutes max for her to get the job done. Waiting weeks without cleaning her room created the overwhelming mess; one that she didn’t even want to begin.
This was my pep talk. I told her that she could do it, that it really wasn’t that big of a deal if she did it every day—that it took far less time to clean than waiting to clean it after two weeks—but she didn’t believe me.
“I just don’t think about it,” she said, “until it gets real messy.”
And so I showed her. She was gone one day and I took it upon myself to get it done for her. When she returned we sat down and had a talk. “I’m going to show you how I do it,” I said. “Tomorrow, I’m coming over.”
She was a bit embarrassed but finally relented.
I spent the next morning picking up. After one day of dirt, the place wasn’t too bad and I was finished picking up within a half hour.
She seemed surprised. “I had no idea,” she said.
The next day she did it herself and so far it’s been working out. She lives in a cleaner place and the time to clean and straighten is not the stress that she first envisioned. In fact, cleaning has become a bit of a relief for her.
The same can be true for you. Once your place is clean and you give her a bit of a skill lesson, it’s going to be easier for her to see that perhaps she could help with the cooking or the laundry.
I think the important thing to remember about your friend is that she is perhaps just overwhelmed with all that she has to do, and wants to do, to keep her life going. She isn’t thinking of the huge mess as it relates to you or the time she could be saving by keeping up with the cleaning. She is just thinking there are other things she’d rather be doing.
A shift in thinking along with some new cleaning skills is what is required here, not a long lecture or a guilt trip, or merely some “rah rah” party that you hope will finally motivate her to get going.
In the end you will see that you not only have more free time (your wish) but that she is less cranky (also your wish), and that living with you isn’t such a bad deal (for her) after all. Best of all, you will have one clean place.