If you were to ask the average person to close his or her eyes and picture a stereotypical college dorm room, the words “neat and organized” probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. But given that many incoming college students are going to be living with roommates for the next four years, a conversation about cleaning is in order.
“The first thing you have to accept is that you can’t control other people’s behavior,” says Jolie Kerr, the author of “My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag — And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha.” She shares these tips on how to share a living space.
Be the person you want to live with
“Set an example,” says Kerr, noting that picking up after yourself should be part of your daily routine. “You come from a better position if you’re walking the walk.” It’s also important to remember that not everyone has the same definition of the words “clean” or “messy.” Some people simply don’t mind having a pile of clothes on the floor.
Focus on the mess
“Try not to make it personal,” says Kerr. “If you have a roommate who leaves food around, it’s important to say ‘That bowl of half-eaten cereal is gross.’ Not ‘you are gross.’”
Make your bed every day
“Dorm rooms are so small, so it’s especially important to make the bed,” Kerr notes. A good way to get into a bed-making routine is to do it at the same time every day. “It could be right after you get up or right after you shower,” she suggests.
Set aside a few minutes a day to get organized
With schoolwork, exams and part-time jobs thrown into the mix, making time to clean can be difficult. “Just take 15 minutes to pick up after yourself,” says Kerr. “Before I sat down to study, I needed to tidy my space.”
Know when to go up the chain
It’s important to talk to your roommate directly before involving your Resident Advisor or formally requesting a room change. Kerr says that if things continue even after mentioning it twice, it’s time to take sterner action. “If your roommate is doing things like leaving food around or leaving used condoms on the floor, go to the RA and say, ‘I’ve spoken to Joe or Jane and nothing has changed.’ Having used condoms in the room is unacceptable.”
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.