Don’t be an unpaid maid

Dear Annie: Next month, I will be moving into my boyfriend’s apartment, which he shares with two other guys. They’ve been living together for about two years, and everyone gets along without issue. They all have their own space and work different hours, so depending on the time, it’s kind of like living alone for each one. Though I am friends with both roommates, I do have one worry: the cleanliness of the apartment. I understand that my benchmark for a clean place is higher than all three men’s. For example, I’ve been over to their place a few times when a giant stack of dirty, smelly plates has been in the sink. I don’t mind dishes soaking for a few hours or even for a day, but two-plus days leaves a nasty stench. As a visitor, I wouldn’t say anything. But as a roommate, I would have an issue with things smelling up our apartment.

I don’t expect any of them to change dramatically, and I respect that I will be the new addition to this bachelor pad. However, I would like to set up a conversation before I move in to set up expectations and hear concerns. I don’t want to turn into a nag or seem overbearing, but I also don’t want to start things off pretending not to care about something I do care about. — New Girl

Dear New Girl: First, regardless of how you decide to handle the situation, you’re already on the right track just by being conscientious.

You can and should have a conversation about household expectations — division of chores, what food is to be shared, when the quiet hours are, etc. However, if they’ve been living for two years in a state of relative messiness, it’s doubtful that they’ll suddenly change, no matter how many well-intentioned conversations are had. For some people, dish mountains are just a part of the landscape.

A more realistic option might be to hire a cleaning service. Seeing as it would be split four ways, it wouldn’t cost anyone too dearly, and it would save you a lot of strife. Propose the idea to your roommates-to-be. If they refuse to do their dishes and also refuse to hire a housekeeping service, you might want to reconsider whether this is the best living arrangement for you, as you’d end up feeling like a maid who’s not getting paid.

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