Q: So my roommate -- where do I begin -- I liked her, until we were moved in together. She never cleans up after herself, and worst of all, she never does the dishes. I am not alright with a sink full of gross dishes piling up, and I am not really alright doing all the dishes, all the time. But in the interest of peace, I do them. This is making me increasingly angry and I don't know what to do. On the one hand, I don't want my house to smell like death. On the other hand, I am sick of doing gross dishes that I never made.  I'm running out of hands. Help!?

One (Doer of dishes): Sage advice from one is absent, due to her absence. From experience, I'll tell you she keeps doing the dishes or cleaning or laundry or whatever needs to be done for the sake of peace. Resentment builds up for a while, and then it doesn't bother her anymore. That's how you know she's a mom.

Two (Guilty as charged): As one who has been guilty of this sin herself, I would give you this advice: Make a new house rule that at the end of the day, dishes left undone will be left on the bed (or in they have their own bathroom, sink) of s/he who dirties them. Old habits die hard and sometimes, you have to do your part in helping the process along.*

*This method of punishment is never to be used against two or person(s) who might have taken the pseudonym "two," since two is immuno suppressed and since you love her too much to do anything like this to her. After all, she is your sister. A room mate is an entirely different issue.

Three (Roomie in Residence): Lady I feel your pain. I live in a house full of roommates, most of whom are quick to admit that I do the majority of the common space cleaning. I have yet to find a solution, but I think I'm getting close using the process of elimination. So here are some things I have personally tried that DO NOT work.
  • chore charts
  • designated dishes
  • shaming them by bringing over friends and then saying loudly--while your roommate is right there--"look how disgusting all of those dishes are! I do them all the time, and it really gets on my nerves. Boy-oh-boy my roommate is a pig!"
  • telling roommate (as you're scrubbing and he's making a sandwich), "man I'm sick of this, do you realize I'm just doing these dishes because they're driving me insane?" He says "yeah, that sucks. (sticks dirty knife in the sink and walks away noshing)"
Wow. That was cathartic. I think I'm going to post this on said roommates' Facebook walls, and suggest you do the same.

Four (Arbiter of Clean): This is a toughie.You have to weigh the importance of maintaining a pleasant dynamic against the necessity of keeping your apartment within health code. Unfortunately, it seems like the pleasant dynamic is already gone. So, how to inspire cleanliness? I share a bathroom with one of my sisters (who shall not be named, but isn't One, Two, or Three) and things can get kind of messy--really fast. Even though she contributes more to the mess than I do, in hopes of keeping things "fair", I clean it every other week and ask the nameless sister to clean it in the off weeks. I usually just remind her nicely and she's very happy to comply. You might try doing an every-other-day rule. Now, this works when your roomie is sweet and willing to accept responsibility. Things might be more challenging if she has less self knowledge. If this method fails, you might try soiling her clothing and seeing how she reacts to that.

Five (Washes Hands, Not Dishes): I myself would probably resort to a good old mexican standoff: I would refrain from any household upkeep, and see who breaks first (I can pretty much guarantee it would be her; I have an almost man-like threshold for extreme levels of disarray and putridity). However, if that's hard to stomach, tell the room fellow in question that if she doesn't plan on washing actual dishes, she's got to buy her own sustainably disposable flatware. You may even leave a set on her bed to send a not-so-subtle hint.

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