Ask Anna Anything: An Advice Column for College Students

As a soon-to-be graduated student of Seattle University, I have spent the last few years of college relying on the good—and the bad—advice I have received from peers, family and friends. Each week I will answer two questions submitted by readers to the best of my ability. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

My roommate never does their dishes or cleans up, how do I talk to them about that?

I wouldn’t say I’m the cleanest person, but I always keep shared spaces in my house neat and tidy. My room is another story, but that’s not the point of this advice. Every person has specific things that can get on their nerves when it comes to living with other people. It is super important to talk about your reasonable pet peeves when you start living with someone, that way there are clear expectations outlined before these kinds of issues happen. 

Now, I have also had roommates where we have these discussions and they continue to still do the little things that bother me. I despise a sink full of dishes or reaching for a plate and not finding one because they are all dirty. Try to avoid taking it personally. I highly doubt your roommate is not doing their dishes to spite you, although that can happen if your roommate is petty. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt—sometimes stuff happens and you have to throw dishes in the sink to avoid being late.

Regardless of the reason, casually talk to your roommate about the fact that the sink being full is bothersome to you. Avoid criticizing them or placing blame, but rather express that it makes you feel a certain way. Using “I” statements and starting the conversation with “I feel” can eliminate the feeling of blame on your roommate. 

It’s also important to note that sometimes you may just feel the need to do the dishes yourself. Try to think reasonably about the situation—if you really need to use a pan that’s dirty, consider cleaning it yourself. I know it can be frustrating, but it’s the reality of living with other people. Try to avoid doing the dishes out of anger or to prove a point, if you can wait, having a conversation with your roommate will most likely solve the problem in a cordial manner. 

I started dating my housemate and my other housemates don’t know, should I tell everyone?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, but I would say that telling your other roommates that you are romantically involved with one of your other roommates is important. Starting a new relationship is exciting and I am sure your friends and roommates will be excited for you, but your roommates will likely be more affected by the situation than your friends.

I think it’s important to not sneak around when it comes to living with other people. I find it bothersome when roommates aren’t up front and honest with me from the beginning. Also, telling your housemates first is crucial, you wouldn’t want them to find out through  mutual friends. 

Setting up boundaries with the people you share living spaces with is important, regardless if you are dating one of them or not. However, now that you are in a relationship with one of your roommates, having the conversation about boundaries with roommates is worth revisiting. Through this, some worries and concerns from the other housemates may be able to be addressed straight on. This doesn’t mean they are against you and your relationship, but the dynamic of the home will change, so try to be open about understanding one another’s feelings. 

Finding love in unexpected ways has its ups and downs, but being honest with yourself and your housemates in this situation will likely diffuse any issues that could arise in the future. 

Looking for some advice and wanting to remain anonymous? Submit a question to this form here or email [email protected] for any questions.