So my flatmate (and good friend) wants to move out at the end of the contract in June…

Right, so I’ve mentioned before that I like my flatmates. That’s still true. I think they’re great.

So yesterday my one flatmate – he’s a second year student – came to me and said that he was going to find a place with some other friends to live with next year. This came as a bit of a shock to me given that I didn’t have any idea that he wanted to go. In fact, just until recently, we had been talking about putting up an advert for another flatmate for our place. He told me he felt settled here.

Without having to ask he assured me that it wasn’t anything about me other than how I approach cleanliness around the house. Basically he likes things less organised and tidy than I do. I can honestly say that I prefer things around the house to be clean. It’s certainly not obsessive though. I’m just particular about kitchen surfaces and how pots/pans are put away.

So let’s give an example so you’ll picture this more clearly:

<<If you make a sandwhich on the kitchen counter, wipe up the crumbs when you’re done.>>

And what if they didn’t clean up? Well, I would wipe it up because it’s me who has the issue with it.

<<If you put away the pots and pans, please try to put them away in an organised way. Please don’t just chuck them into the cupboard. Having 16 pots and pans randomly strewn about in a single cupboard means finding the one you want is extra work that could be avoided by putting everything in the order which you found it.>>

I’m actually curious to know what others think about that? Is my reaction too much? Am I too ‘anal’ about being clean?  I should point out that I don’t recite my ‘keep clean’ mantra on a regular basis at all. I told them before they moved in that I kept the place pretty clean (they all saw the house too and saw the level of clean we were talking about). I only asked that they do their part out of consideration. Also, I let the house get dirty. I’m ok if the vauuming hasn’t been done for a month. I’m ok if the shower has seen better days. The floor doesn’t need to be swept until there are large dust bunnies… So yeah, I think I’m pretty laid back.

Oh, and just to allay any fears i don’t have a specific ruler or method that they have to follow – basically, return the kitchen to the condition that you found it (which was clean). That’s it.

So I guess I’m upset because he’s a really good flatmate. In fact, he’s the best one I’ve had so far. He’s fun to be around, a reliable friend, and has a good sense of humour. He tells me that he wants his last year at uni to be more at his level. He wants to eat more ‘ready meals’ and clean less. He wants to watch more football (we don’t have a TV and I’m not really into football) and live with people who are into football.
When I told my bf about this he said (in a half-joking way) that Im just not able to live with anyone. So I’ve got that running through my head. Plus now I have to find 2 new people to live with here for next year (the other guy who lives here is an Erasmus student…he’ll be leaving in June I think).

I know I’m particular about things. But I suppose I’ve also recognised that over the years I’ve actually chilled out a lot. I used to be really high strung and wanted things done to a certain specification (before I would have had a ruler and measured things). Now I’m ok with a bit of mess.

I know he and I will stay friends (he made dinner tonight and next week we have plans to go out). But I just wish this would have worked out. I suppose I might find my own place. We shall see…

But please do give me your thoughts on the cleanliness issue. Do you keep clean? Does someone periodically ask you to tidy up, and if so, what do you make of the request?


Comments Posted

Comment by Iona posted on Mon, 22/02/2010 22:03

Cleaning … the ever contentious issue in shared houses – it’s definitely a trouble maker!

I don’t think you’re cleaning standards are too high – i love things to be clean too!  But I also have become overwhelmed by the judgement I imagine from  other housemates because I’ve been busy/ill/forgetful and have failed their cleaning standards – so I guess I’ve been on both sides – and …dare I even say it.. when continually feeling fuilty and judged have thought about living with other people so I could feel happy and relaxed when getting back from work instead of the way I was feeling.  I guess some of that’s from the paranoia and low self esteem that accompanies depression though!  I guess the learning point I wanted to get out of that was that you’re housemate may have a valid reason in wanting to live somewhere with cleaning standards more similar to his own so he can relax more – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re standards are too high (there’s a wide variety of standards around – I’ve gone from being the cleanest/tidiest freak in the house one year to the sloppiest another year as housemates change round!)  Also it doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy your friendship – sometimes getting rid of extra pressure can mean you can enjoy the good parts of the friendship which have begun getting burried by these issues.

Hope you’re finding peace with it all!

Take care, Iona

Comment by Emily posted on Mon, 22/02/2010 00:52

I can understand you feeling hurt about him moving out, to be honest, if you’re level of clean isn’t that extreme then I would say it’s just a lame excuse… Nobody wants to live like a pig.

In my house we’re all quite tidy, though there are those that don’t do their fair share of the work. The cleaner people get annoyed, grumble and then usually end up doing it themselves. Asking for a clean house isn’t that much to ask but some people are just lazy. If this guy wants to move out then don’t beat yourself up about it, sounds like he’s a bit of a doche. I wouldn’t wanna live with someone who’s happy to let the house go to ruin.

Living together is always hard, being around people all the time can be stifling, you find out things you didn’t want to know etc. Maybe you’re just not suited to living together in his eyes. It’s nothing to be upset about and it doesn’t mean you won’t find people more domestically similar who you get along with. It especially doesn’t mean you’re too anal about the cleaning.

Good luck! You’ll be alright.

Comment by Rees posted on Sun, 14/02/2010 01:04

I relate completely to what you’re saying – I don’t think you’re clean obsessive so much as very organised – it’s not like you’re vacuum cleaning at 3am every night! I’m very much the same way – there are some areas in my room I haven’t dusted since moving in, and I don’t have a regular schedule for vaccuuming, it’s done on a very ad hoc basis which depends on factors such as “visible dirt,” “whether the cleaner is accessible,” “what else I have to do” and “whether I feel like it.”  The kitchen, being a shared area, I am more inclined to keep clean, which basically means washing my stuff once I’m done using it, putting it back in my cupboard and giving any dirt a wipe down.

I don’t get particularly annoyed if other people leave the kitchen in a bit of a state, I tend to assume it will get cleaned up and leave it at that. However, I do find myself getting very angry if people use my stuff and don’t return it. This happened a bunch of times at the beginning of the year but stopped when I left a note in my drawer. It happened again this week though, and it’s really annoying – one of my forks was in someone else’s drawer, another was left unwashed in a take-away container on top of someone else’s cupboard (everyone has their own elevated cupboard, so it took me a while to find and then was disgusting). I’m still missing one fork and a decent stainless steel paring knife from the beginning of the year, and it’s very annoying. Other people in the flat have complained about food being stolen, which is unacceptable in my eyes, though it hasn’t happened to me this year – when I was living in Canada someone stole a frozen burrito from me, and even though it was cheap and not much, it was the only food I had, I was planning to wake up, eat it and go to class, then shop on the way home. Seeing it was stolen I had literally no food in the house!

So I can see where you’re coming from with not wanting to live with someone inconsiderate, and I can imagine it being frustrating not being able to find things. On the other hand, do you really need sixteen pots and pans to begin with? I’m assuming they’re not all yours, can you take any excess to some other area of the house? Last year my crockery was being used all the time and left dirty in other people’s rooms, so I ended up taking it all to my room, leaving most of it in a box in my wardrobe and then washing and re-using the same plate and cutlery over and over.

With regards to your question “Does someone periodically ask you to tidy up” and “What do you make of the request,” I did have someone from the University check my room over last term and give me a notice saying my bathroom needed cleaning – it wasn’t disgusting or anything, I do like to keep my bathroom clean, but I had a new towel and there was a lot of fluff on the floor. It was a fair request and not a mammoth job, but it was embarrassing to think that the University has a piece of paper on file saying that I needed to clean my bathroom!

I’ve also been on the other side of the equation, asking someone else to tidy up. Basically someone had left a pot of spaghetti in water for ages – think weeks rather than days – and one day I noticed it there in the kitchen with mould growing on it. After a few days there was mould all over the inside of the pan and it was smelling pretty bad, so I left a friendly-ish note (“Whoever’s pan this is, either clean it or cure something with it,” or something like that) out in the open. Of course, the note was ignored and then someone moved the pan into a cupboard along with some other odds and ends that had been left out as they were having some friends over for a study group and wanted the place looking good. The pan was left in the cupboard overnight and then we had the only spot-check of the flat for cleanliness that semester! Couldn’t believe my luck! So I guess in that case I was the first one to crack and say something needed to be done, which isn’t usually my way at all.

The only other thing I think I should mention is how bad it can get when there’s a hygiene problem and no-one says anything. Last year people were leaving the kitchen in such a bad state that I couldn’t bring myself to cook food in there – I went months literally eating cold food that was bought ready to eat, take-away or occasionally a microwave meal, if I checked the microwave before going to the supermarket. The cooker was disgusting as my house-mates seemed oblivious to the mess they were making. Looking back at my time in the house, it was pretty obvious the living conditions played a big part in my decrease in mental health.

I think it’s very normal for even very good friends to go their separate ways at the end of the lease – at the end of my second year I was going off to Canada; two of my house-mates who had been dating wanted to move into a smaller place for just the two of them, equidistant between the University and the hospital one of them was training to be a nurse, which meant a different town; another house-mate was moving in with a bunch of people from his course and the last was moving in with his drinking buddies. So while I realise how it came as a surprise to you it isn’t really shocking to me with an outsider’s perspective.

I don’t see it being any reflection on you and certainly don’t picture you as someone that no-one would be able to live with. Your friend just fancies a different life-style to you and doesn’t want to impose on you – maybe be glad that you won’t be sharing your house with a bunch of lads who are watching the footie with the volume turned up to eleven, eating take-away curry out of the foil tray and swigging lager from the can! Maybe think about the living arrangements you would like and try and find someone with similar views – there must be hundreds of people looking for a place to stay next year who are prepared to keep things nice and organised!

I realise I’ve run on for an awful long time here, so sorry for dominating your page – the sad thing is I can think of half a dozen irritating flat-mate experiences I could mention! Loud music, young children, fire hazards, food beggars, inconvenient gatherings,  I guess this year I realised just how big an impact your living environment can have on your well-being, and I guess I had more to say on the matter than I realised!

I hope you find the living conditions that are right for you, and find the right people to share your living space with. Think of it not as a step backwards, but an opportunity to move in a different direction!