drmonkeysnack (drmonkeysnack) wrote in asksnackmonkey,

Dear SnackMonkey,

Recently my best friend moved into my house on a long-term temporary basis. We get along great, but I'm getting a little annoyed with one part of her behavior. When we lived together back in '96-'98 the only big issue we ever had was cleaning dishes. At that time we didn't have a dishwasher and it would get to be a battle of wills on who would wash. There were many times that every plate and glass we owned were dirty. This time I figured, I have a dishwasher! It will be all resolved! Um, no. She has no qualms about making a pot of soup, not eating all of it and leaving it on the stove for days. Ick. Last night I cooked spaghetti for both of us and told her it was her turn to do the dishes. She told me that she feels badly for not carrying her weight with the kitchen and house clean up and that most definitely she would do them. Apparently that didn't mean that she would clean them last night since they were still dirty this morning. The sink is full, there are pots on the stove (including the pot of soup from two nights ago). Tonight the plan is to cook pork chops and yams. She e-mailed me that she is working late, and will be home for dinner by 8:30-9:00. (By which point I'll be starving) I'm not sure who was going to cook - that I don't care about - but I can't cook with a dirty kitchen and a sink full of dishes. I'm the type to clean as I go, or at least right after dinner. And I'm every so slightly peeved that to have dinner tonight I'll have to clean the kitchen. We're both adults and we've joked about how there are certain things that I'm really anally retentive about. And I think I've let those items go - like having the utensils in a certain order in the drawer or things in a certain place in the fridge. I'm trying to let them go. But I don't think that having the dishes cleaned after dinner is something unreasonable. Frankly, having dirty dishes sit around on the counter and in the sink is disgusting to me.

There are other things going on that I could be really ticked off about - like her cats being mean to mine or her one cat peeing and shitting on the living room carpet for a few weeks after moving in. Or the fact that my roommate has yet to order the stuff to clean the carpet. But those things really don't bother me like the dishes do.

Am I being unreasonable? How shall I approach this without being demanding?


Distressed with Dishes

Dear Dishy,

Oy. Roommates and chores are a winning recipe for turning a friendship into Hateland, Population 2. One of the many reasons I live with cats now instead of friends (another being the freedom to rule the t.v., internet, and music simultaneously while in my underwear). But, you've made the choice to confine your porn to so-called "private areas," so we'll deal with how to regulate the public space in your house.

My basic philosophy when it comes to living with someone else is that, because no two people match up exactly on the cleanliness scale, compromise must be made. But I don't hold with the idea that compromise must be equal. While the dirtier (or, to be kind, laxer) of the house should not be expected to change into a neat freak, she must be the one to bring up her standards in such shared spaces as the kitchen, living room, and bathroom. You, on the other hand, will have to prioritize which areas are really, really, really going to drive you stark nutters, and which you can learn to relax about. It sounds like you've already made some choices in that direction (although you might want to invest in some cat repellent and enzyme cleaner for your more precious upholstered items), which is good. What you have to do next is communicate that you've done that,

1) this is going to make or break your commitment to living with your friend,
2) what exactly you need done,
3) open up the floor for her to figure out how she can live up to your needs. And believe me, you need to make it clear that this is a need for you to live peaceably, not just some control issue.

Now, one idea is to eliminate her from dishes altogether, if there's a room in the house that you absolutely hate to clean. If she's willing to clean the bathroom every week and wipe down the sink every day, or be the Captain of the Litter Boxes, perhaps that's a worthy trade for both of you. If not, your roomie will need clear kitchen rules. For example, when the two of you share meals (which it sounds like you need to restrict to days when both of you will be home at a reasonable time), the cook does not clean except for placing used pots and utensils in the sink, and food must be put away within an hour of dinner being eaten: this is really a health issue, I agree. Soup should not be given the opportunity to create new life, and the kitchen is no place to play God. Further, while you like to have dishes done right away, it sounds like the actual need for you is to have the place clean enough to cook by the next day at dinner. So however she wants to do it, that's when it needs doing. End of story. Same goes for cooking solo. Must be done by the time you want to cook yourself, although you might want to allow her to set her dishes aside somehow if you wanted to use the facilities right after her.

Finally, you need some consequences. You could invest in a medium sized rubbermaid container to set her dishes aside so you can use the sink, or even to put the dirty dishes in her room so you don't have to see them and so she has a clear reminder that this is her mess. You can stop cooking together and get separate dishes, so you aren't restricted by her using all the clean ones and forcing you to do her work. Whatever it is that will help you put aside the personalized anger at her relaxed cleanliness needs and not feel the need to punish her in other ways. Agree beforehand on what each of you thinks is reasonable, and then Follow Through. Every Time. No nagging. Just set those dishes aside and get on with your life.

Drs. Snacky & Monkey
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