Our Readers’ 8 Best Tips for Peacefully Sharing a Kitchen with Roommates

published Nov 2, 2015
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(Image credit: Brittany Purlee)

Sharing a kitchen with several people is never a cake walk, even in the best roommate situations. A few weeks ago, we asked for your advice on divvying up the cleaning duties and keeping the kitchen peace, and you responded with some excellent tips for what’s worked for you — and what hasn’t! If you’re struggling with how to tell your housemate it’s his turn to do the dishes, then you’ll want to listen up.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Photos)

1. Take responsibility for your own messes.

Is the solution to this problem not the most simple one? Everyone washes the dishes they make as soon as they’re done using them. Right? – CheeseOfNight

Yes: You make the mess, you clean it. Pretty darn simple. – GardenStater

Unless everyone is willing to chip in and hire someone to come in and clean (including dishes), everyone has to be responsible for their own stuff. This usually ends in guilting those few people who never want to clean up after themselves into doing so. – Heartattack_and_Vine

2. Make a chore chart.

We made a chart … it made living together a lot easier. – Hkmm

My suggestion would be that people must clean up after their own cooking, and then have a schedule for regular scrubs of floors, counter, and stove (as wipe-as-you-go sometimes doesn’t take care of everything). – eilonwy

I have lived in an 8+(!) living situations before. The way we made it work was that everyone had one job that they were accountable for. One person took our the trash. One person took care of the lawn. One person cleaned the floors. One person cleaned the bathrooms. One person did the dishes. And so on and so forth. That way if something came undone, we knew immediately who was responsible. There will be no mystery to solve, gang. It is your job. – Mobotropolis

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

3. Agree to some house rules.

If you trust these people to pull their share and clean, you need to set up house rules. Some people will have to relax their cleanliness standards a little because it’s not exactly fair to make everyone live up to the standards of the Martha Stewart of the bunch, but you should be able to agree on some minimum standards. – JennElizabeth

Reach a group consensus about how clean “clean” is! Everyone will have their own versions and likely the neater people will have to relax their standards and the messier ones will have to tighten theirs. Also, figure out what kind of community you want to build. Does every person/couple have their own shelves in the pantry and fridge? Do you share spices/staples or do you need a dozen bottles of olive oil? It’s so important to set these boundaries early! – romancandles

4. Buddy up for cleanup.

Our rules are the following: You can’t cook until you unload the dishwasher, which is run every night. When you are done with anything — plate, pots, etc. — it goes in the dishwasher, not the sink. It is worth buying a very good dishwasher that can handle pans. – twocatsnowaiting

The easiest way my boyfriend and I found was to split the task. So one of us would rinse and load the dishwasher, the other would unload. Made the task feel 1/2 the effort and having a “buddy” lifted the burden a lot. Team up. – Emmasaltsugar

(Image credit: Chris Stout-Hazard)

5. Keep your dishes separate.

In college I once shared a kitchen with 10 other people, only half of whom cleaned up after themselves. The dirty half wouldn’t be reasoned with, and I regularly found myself having to wash my dishes twice (before and after I cooked) so I saved my sanity by keeping a few basic dishes in a separate cupboard. – JennElizabeth

If one lives with people who don’t know or care about taking care of good kitchen items (which is okay! Everyone has their own priorities), it’s a good idea to have a set of cheapo pans and whatnot that can take a beating, and have your stuff off limits. – jerk_nugget

6. Be willing to compromise.

This problem is so difficult for so many people because everybody has their own preferences about cooking and cleaning. I think the best way to deal with this stuff is to talk it out with your roommates. Lay out what you don’t mind doing and what drives you crazy. Maybe one person can be in charge of cleaning the shower regularly, because it doesn’t bother them that much, while another person can make sure the trash and recycling get out on time. As long as everybody contributes and is willing to make compromises, I think it can work. – oohlookasquirrel

(Image credit: l i g h t p o e t)

7. Think about hiring a cleaner.

If you’re having issues working together to keep the kitchen/household clean, very seriously consider hiring someone to clean the house once a week. My guess is this group is living together to save money, but you can keep the cost low by only having the cleaner do the kitchen, bathrooms, and common areas, and if split nine ways, it wouldn’t cost each individual much. – Katie_NW

If the rules for keeping the kitchen clean cannot be agreed on, then everyone must pitch in to hire a professional cleaner to come in on a fixed schedule and clean the kitchen. – Kyle Walker

8. Just let it go.

I’ve found the “clean your own mess” rule is something most people don’t know how to put in practice. My boyfriend and I have tried asking people nicely, writing notes on the board, cleaning up other people’s mess, and complaining to each other a lot. We found it put more stress on our lives than was worth it. And the reality is it changed very little. So you gotta let stuff slide and deal with it. – Soft Pomegranate