How to deal with flatmates who don’t clean

Flatmates Team

Friday August 25 2023


Another week, another bunch of chores left undone by your flatmate. In the words of Alf Stewart, “strewth!”. If the mess is messing with your head, it might be time to do something about your flatmate’s refusal to clean.


Before we begin, take a look at our article on good ways to keep your share house clean. It has some sneaky general tips that can help set the right tone for cleaning in any share house.

Of course, good intentions and nice plans only get you so far, duh. Sometimes, you’ll be faced with a flattie who just can’t seem to get their share of the cleaning done. Like, ever. Here are 9 ways to motivate them to clean before the roaches move in.


1. Remind them (to remind themselves)

Obviously the first stop in getting that chore-avoiding housemate to clean is to remind them of what needs doing. This seems elementary, but if you feel it’s justified, you might take the opportunity to explain how the lack of help with the cleaning affects the rest of the household, or the home itself. If your grimy house attracts pests, for example, you’ll be the ones paying for an exterminator. Talking through those possibilities can help your flatmate to realise that cleaning, while not a joy, is necessary. Oh, and don’t forget to tell them to put a reminder in their calendar so they never “forget” to clean again.


2. Discuss the issue at a household meeting

If you’ve had a chat and the flatmate in question (or flatmates!) still isn’t cleaning, consider holding a household meeting. This can be a good time to discuss the issue as a group and put a little communal pressure on the person who’s avoiding the chores. By talking things over together, the flatmate in question is likely to realise that they’re the odd one out when it comes to the cleaning culture in your household, which might make them more likely to try to fit in. But a household meeting can also be a good time to put some of the following steps in place…


3. Create a roommate agreement with a cleaning commitment

If you’re reading this article, we’re guessing it’s because your verbal agreement with your flatmate to clean the place hasn’t really worked. But what about a written agreement? If you don’t have one in place already, now might be the time to draft one up, and make sure it documents each person’s commitments (or your requirements) to clean the property. It might also mention a cleaning roster.


4. Make a cleaning roster

A cleaning roster takes the guesswork out of share-household chores. It clearly states who’s up for what chores and, if you like, you can give a due date to each one. Whether your roster is a piece of paper that’s stuck to the fridge, a calendar invitation that you send to your flatmates, or is even stored in a dedicated app, drawing up a quick roster means everyone knows where they’re at, and what they’re expected to do. Just make sure everyone agrees to what you’re asking, otherwise the likelihood that they’ll do the tasks you’ve set will be woeful!


5. Agree on “cleaning day”

If everyone in your share house is home on a certain day of the week, you might decide together to make that “cleaning day”. This can help you avoid the scenario where someone routinely “forgets” to do their chores, since you’ll all be doing them at the same time. It has the added bonus that the entire house is clean once you finish — it’s not cleaned in dribs and drabs over the week as each person finds the time in their busy schedules. And it can help motivate everyone in the household to get the cleaning done and dusted, since you’ll be questing toward a clean home together, rather than battling it out on your lonesome.


6. Given your flatties tasks they like

Raise your hand if you hate cleaning bathrooms. Or vacuuming. Or mopping! We all have our preferences for chores, so why not make the most of them in your share house? Work out who gets satisfaction from the chores you hate (and vice versa) and soon enough you’ll have each cleaning task allocated to someone who doesn’t mind it, at the very least. We’re all more likely to do the tasks we don’t hate, so this can be a good strategy to get the cleaning done on a regular basis.


7. Give them tasks they can’t avoid

If your flatmate loves cooking (or always cooks at home as a way to save cash), then putting them in charge of keeping the kitchen clean might just work. They’ll need it to be clean if they’re going to cook, right? Let’s hope so. Similarly, that flatmate who adores soaking in a nice, hot bath might be the prime candidate for bathroom cleaning duty, otherwise they’ll never get to enjoy bathtime at home. The fact that the chore is tied to something your flatmate enjoys can make the job a little more rewarding for them, and after all, reward = motivation!


8. Set a “penalty”

We’ve talked about positive reinforcement, but what about “negative” reinforcement? A humorous penalty for not cleaning can be a fun but meaningful way to remind your flattie that they’ve failed at cleaning for the week. What kind of penalty are we talking? Something fun and inclusive, like buying Friday night drinks for the household, or cooking dinner for everyone. Whatever you choose, their “penalty” should benefit the whole household, to signify that they’ve let the whole household down by not doing their share. And if the penalty takes more work (or money) than the chore, it should be a good encouragement to just get the task done next time, no matter how much fun that dinner turns out to be!


9. Ask them to pay for a cleaner

If all else fails, you could ask your flatmate to pay for a cleaner to do their share of the chores. This might seem a bit dramatic, but if you’ve tried everything on this list, it might be your last hope. Of course, some flatmates would rather pay someone to do the chores than take on the work themselves, so this suggestion could end up being the solution that keeps everyone happy.



Flatmates Team