Food & Fitness

The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Cleaning & Organizing, Part Three: Dealing with Housemates

Welcome back to the Living Healthy Guide to Cleaning mini-series! Be sure to check out our previous sessions: 

Part One: Why Should I Clean?

Part Two: Starting Fresh

Part Three: Dealing with Housemates

By no means am I a Susie Homemaker. But I have learned a few strategies over the years, and following these tips will keep your house clean, help to reduce your stress considerably, and improve your relationships with the people living with you:

– If you have young children, get them involved! My parents trained me early by giving me Little House on the Prairie to read. Seriously, give your kids those books, and they’ll want to help you clean so that they can pretend they’re Laura Ingalls. It’s a sneaky tactic but it totally works. When I was an au pair in Spain I tried this same trick, and I found that the girls were very receptive to turning cleaning into a game.

– If you have older children, don’t let them get away with leaving a mess and not cleaning up after themselves. It’s a sign of disrespect. You’re the one in charge! Besides, that’s the point of having kids, isn’t it? So you can have slaves to do the housework for you? 😀

– If you have a spouse, find a compromise for who does which chores at what time. The same can be said for roommates. Figure it out when you first move in together! You don’t want this to be something that becomes a major problem later on down the road. If the person you’re living with never makes the bed but you need the bed made all the time, then either teach them to do it or do it yourself; chances are, there’s some kind of routine that they really like that you don’t care about very much. In my house, I grew up with the understanding that whoever didn’t cook supper was in charge of cleaning the kitchen afterward. It worked out really well, and I recommend doing this in your house, too. On days when you cook together, it’s easy enough to share the workload of cleaning, too. Try to clean as you’re cooking. Alternatively, you can take turns cleaning up. Ultimately what you do not want is for any resentment to build up. If you have a problem with a messy housemate, talk about it and figure out a solution. If you let it stew in silence, that’s only going to be bad news later on.

– If you have pets, there’s really not much you can do to keep your house clean (unless you have a snake. I miss my roommate’s snake Frank. She was such a sweetie and never made any mess!). If you have a big house, perhaps you can keep a couple rooms off-limits from the animals. Country homes make it more possible for the animals to spend much of their time outdoors. But really, if you’re committing to owning an animal, your house is constantly going to need maintenance to keep the shedding fur at bay. That’s the bottom line. Keep that vacuum cleaner in arm’s reach!

– If you live by yourself, you have the luxury of only ever cleaning up after yourself. Set up a schedule for yourself to have a cleaning day once a week. I like Sundays. This doesn’t have to be an entire day of cleaning; it’s just an hour or two that you spend doing the things that you otherwise don’t get around to doing during the week. Vacuum, dust, clean the bathroom, sort through the mail that has piled up in the corner. Take out the box of recycling. Depending on the size of your home, it may take you longer to do this, but if you continue to do it about once a week, you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to maintain as time goes by. The trick is to not let the clutter and dirt get out of control: constant maintenance will keep your home organized, clean, and running smoothly.

What obstacles have you come up against when dealing with housemates?


  1. fd

    i struggled to read that because you mentioned snakes. am totally disturbed that you lived with snakes. ugh. i take cat fur anyday!

    this series is interesting to me because its giving me insight into the mind of a clutterfree person. i do feel more relaxed when things are clean, but i feel very stressed and anxious when things are clutter free. i clean lots but i don’t tidy much. i like my mess. its my permanent reminder that there’s always something to do so i shouldn’t stress myself out trying to do it all. obviously i have a limit to what is a liveable mess, but i find clutter free houses just eerie. i can’t relax there.

    thankfully my housemate is a hoarder so we’re compatible that way. the only thing that drives me nuts that gets hoarded at our place is broken appliances and old newspapers. broken appliances should be fixed or given away. and old newspapers should only be kept if there is news in them of huge significance, and then they should be treasured.

  2. Sagan Morrow

    fd- Hehe, most people are disgusted with Frank. But she really was a sweetheart. We got along well; she likes hanging out with people to a point, but then she needs plenty of alone time 😉 I’m fascinated that you feel anxious when things are clutter-free! I agree that a TOTALLY spotless house kinda freaks me out (I would be running away and hiding from a Stepford Wives-style home), and it IS nice to have an ongoing “project” of a home to clean, but I like things to be in their proper place.

  3. JavaChick

    Ha! Rooms off limits from animals…Hilarious….Obviously you have never met my cats, furry beasts that they are…And going outdoors (in their enclosure) just makes it worse because they track in mulch from the gardens. Also the occasional dead rodent, bird , or frog…Or even better live ones….

    What were we talking about again?


  4. Holly

    Ahhhh, roommates. I’ve had some experiences, let me tell you!

    I’ve kind of learned that there are just some things you have to let go, and things you need to address with roommates. For example, a pet peeve of mine (drives me crazy!) is when people leave dishes in the sink. A few hours or even a day is okay, but any more than that and we got a smelly problem, people! My last roommate was particularly bad about this, so I brought it to his attention (very nicely) and that took care of that. The “smaller” things (like tracking in dirt, taking up a lot of room in the small fridge, and not cleaning up crumbs on the counter) I can deal with!

  5. Emergefit

    Although I actually find cleaning therapeutic, which n my household is good since I am the only one who knows how, I am a bit of a slacker. All the usual excuses; work hard all week, play hard all weekend, etc., I do ensure the basics are done daily or weekly.

    Once a month I have a girl come in and do the dusting and deep vacuuming, and it’s worth it to pay her so I can have the time to keep the inner me clean 🙂

  6. Sagan Morrow

    JavaChick- Aren’t cats wonderful? Hehehe.

    Holly- It’s important to pick and choose our battles. I like my sink to be clean, too.

    Emergefit- Nice! Cleaning IS quite therapeutic- though there are times when I have absolutely no desire to do any kind of cleaning 😀

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