Your Homie Naomi: This is BuffaLow Down, an advice column about the intricacies of college life. A reminder that however wise I may be, I am not trained to professionally provide advice. If you are dealing with mental health struggles, you can dial 988, which will reach the National Mental Health Emergency Hotline, or you can click this link that has resources that may help. Anonymous submissions for the advice column are accepted on this form if you’ve got any questions or stories worth sharing.
Dirty Dish Disaster: How do I confront my roommate about never doing the dishes?
Your Homie Naomi: Thanks for the question! This is a very common point of tension when it comes to living with new people. Chores are especially tricky to navigate, and conflict is worse when you’re living with the person whom you’re beefing with. Depending on whether there’s been an agreement about who was assigned to do a specific chore, I think there are different paths to a good solution.
If you made an agreement with your roommate to have a schedule where each roommate takes turns doing the dishes, I would say the best option would be to talk to your roommate and ask if you could alter the agreement and have each person do their own dishes.
As you probably know, at the beginning of the semester in the CU Boulder dorms, roommates are required to create roommate agreements that outline this type of chore assignment. If you’re worried about them getting defensive about it, you could use yourself as an excuse by saying you “use more dishes” and you’re “worried about it being fair.”
Alternatively, if you have already agreed that everyone should do their own dishes, you could leave their dishes in the sink to pile up and clean only your own. Hopefully, eventually, they will get the memo. If not, it admittedly can get kind of gross if they’re left for weeks. If this is the situation you have encountered already, there are a couple of other options I would suggest now — depending on how petty you want to be.
I know people who have dealt with this by putting their roommates’ dirty dishes on their pillow: a very passive-aggressive choice that probably got their point across but may have created a whole different set of issues between the roommates. This is not the course of action I would generally suggest, but if you’re looking to stir the pot, it’s an idea.
Additionally, if you’re stuck having to do your roommate’s dishes to have dishes for yourself, that becomes a struggle. To deal with this, if you are a conflict-avoidant person, you could have your own set of dishes that you keep in your room and bring out only when you’re using the kitchen.
Ultimately, the best solution for most issues between roommates — or between anyone, for that matter — is communication. Maybe asking to have an open conversation between you and your roommate about the chore distribution that has been working and that which hasn’t will allow you to talk to them in a way where everyone could end up feeling content with the results. During this conversation, you could speak your mind about the dishes, and hopefully, they will be receptive to it. This can indeed be hard because some people struggle with receiving criticism. Using “I” statements to express your feelings will prevent the conversation from sounding accusatory. For example, say, “I feel stressed when the dishes don’t get done.” Also, try to give your roommate a chance to respond to what you say, and do your best to listen and see if you can find a solution together. Lastly, try to be patient because fixing habits can take a while.
You got this! Remember that feeling this way is very normal, and you are valid for communicating your feelings and hoping for a behavior change. And if you decide to leave your roommate a present on their pillow, good luck! Maybe invest in some padlocks or sign yourself up for Ralphie’s List.
Cheers to fruit flies and balancing household chores,
Contact CU Independent Assistant Opinion Editor Naomi Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org