In our group of friends, "Mike" always hosts game nights, study sessions, etc. The rest of us never can return the favor since we don't have enough space and privacy. I feel it's the least I can do to clean up after myself, but "Bob" seems not to. Mike always thanks me for doing my dishes and has dropped joking hints to Bob about cleaning up, but it seems he'd rather be put out than directly confront him. I don't think Bob would be reasonable to think he can be fully catered to as a guest this way since we're often over multiple nights a week, and Mike is gracious to the point of keeping a stock of snacks for us and even letting Bob and his wife bring over loads of laundry to do while we all visit.

It's pretty offensive to me that Bob will use the kitchen to make something, and I'll come back in a couple of days to see his garbage and dishes are still on the counters and table. I'll end up cleaning up after him just so that Mike doesn't have to. Bob's even seen me doing this, and it doesn't seem to register. Since Mike won't say anything, how can I tell Bob politely that he should clean up after himself? Bob and I tend to be the only ones with moments of tension in an otherwise amiable group dynamic, so I don't want to be too abrasive.

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    Hi and welcome to IPS! Just so you know, I edited your question to focus on the "how" part, since "is this reasonable" is more of an opinion-based question. Otherwise looks like a good question :) Where are you all from, are there any cultural norms we should keep in mind?
    – Em C
    May 5, 2018 at 22:17

3 Answers 3


I would try to start slowly. Lecturing your friends or confronting them for a problem that doesn't really involve you isn't going to look good for you, and could very well make Mike feel very uncomfortable.

Think about it this way. Mike probably doesn't feel comfortable enough to confront Bob on his own, so imagine what he'll feel if someone else does it for him.

On the other hand, maybe Mike actually doesn't mind cleaning up, in which case you'll kind of look like a jerk for confronting Bob.

So let's look at some indirect strategies that can work without escalation.

Help Mike, Invite Others

Stand up and say,

Hey guys I'm going to clean up our mess a little to thank Mike for always having us over. Least we can do is not make him clean up after us. Bob, want to help me?

You can include other names, too, not just Bob. However, be sure to specifically say the names of the people you are inviting to help. Otherwise, you will create the Bystander Effect.

If you ask them specifically for help, then they will have to publicly say they are not willing to help clean up their own mess.

Help Mike Drop Hints

If Mike drops a joke, add in. Increase the pressure. Mike drops a comment on Bob's mess, maybe you say something like:

Yeah Bob, what's it like having your personal own maid?

Be careful. You mentioned that you and Bob aren't as close as some of the group dynamics. Only do this if Bob can take a joke from you.

You may not be trying to escalate things, but if you piss Bob off, he might escalate them for you.

Talk to Mike

When you guys are hanging out and it's just you two, mention how you've noticed Bob doesn't help.

Ask Mike if it bothers him. If you can get Mike to stand up for himself, it will be much more effective. The problem really is between Mike and Bob, making a lot harder for you to help without looking like a jerk.

And as an absolute last resort, which you should at least clear with Mike first........

Talk to Bob

This is really a difficult option. Again, this isn't your problem, so going to Bob and pointing out his offenses to another person isn't going to look well on you.

So here's what I would do. Shift the focus away from Bob's behavior. Completely.

If you talk about Bob's behavior, AT ALL, he WILL get defensive. When people get defensive, they stop being reasonable. So talk to him like you're on his side.

Say something like:

Hey Bob, I noticed lately that Mike has to clean up a lot when we go over to his place to hang out. I'm going to start helping him so that he doesn't have to clean up after us. If you could help out, it would make things a lot easier and really help out Mike. He's been a good friend to us.


If Bob doesn't clean up after himself, under the circumstances, before he is "talked to," he is "ignorant." If Bob doesn't clean up after being talked to, he's a "freeloader."

Bob has been "talked to." He is no longer "ignorant." It's time for the next step.

It's not (yet) necessary to cut him off completely, but you might suggest to Mike that he be "partly" cut off by being invited only, say, every other time, or only "two times out of three." Bob may start to wonder why he was sometimes missed. More to the point, others may start to wonder, and that could be a good thing.

Or perhaps Bob's laundry privileges can be curbed until he starts "contributing."

The above gives Bob a "last chance" to shape up. If he doesn't, he should be cut off completely.


Mike and yourself are very good friends, and Bob is exploiting Mike and his resources. Short term, people have excuses, long term, its ship up or ship out.

Some will play on soft touches and not realise they are getting something to help them which actually they have to be willing to pay back in some form.

The relationship is accept me and buy into my exploitation or have a blow up. Bob does this in lots of areas of his life, but needs to know it is not acceptable.

My experience of people like this, in the end when things are removed from them, they bad mouth the others and accept no responsibility themselves.

So you will have to face this reality, either they open up to their needs and responsibilities or they will stop being part of the group. It will eventually go there anyway, it is just a question of when you pick the time.

One way to breach the subject, is offer to help Bob some more, and find out why they have such an obvious problem situation. You can sometimes find out things you did not expect and ways to help a friend better than they thought possible.

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