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After coming home from splurging on groceries and excited to cook, my roommate told me that this living situation was no longer working for him and that I should look for housing elsewhere. He cited three reasons:

  • I couldn't keep the kitchen tidy, his words were "like no one was there"
  • I jeopardized our health by going back to work during the pandemic
  • I was bringing bad vibes into the place and it was making him uncomfortable

The kitchen thing started off as benign requests here and there. But he would end up reproaching me for leaving the kitchen too dirty. I made continuous efforts to clean more thoroughly but he said it was only getting worse and worse.

I'm now just going hungry petrified to even enter the kitchen. I was self-conscious before whenever I was in there, but now I really can't imagine cooking there since it's one of the reasons he's throwing me out. Just being more tidy isn't a good solution because I thought that's what I was doing and it escalated to me being thrown out with the other factors. There aren't a lot of food options out these days and at work it's just snacks. While I'm looking for a way to leave this living situation, I need to eat at home and don't want all my fresh produce to go to waste.

What interpersonal skills can I use to defuse this tension with my roommate so I don't feel scared to use the kitchen?

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    Did your roommate actually ban you from the kitchen, or is this self-imposed? Because if it's self-imposed, there's not much interpersonal skills can do for you. – Erik Apr 16 at 9:49
  • He did not ban me. But things are so tense that I feel I need to address it with him. – user29421 Apr 16 at 9:53
  • Okay. Perhaps it's good to rephrase the question to accomodate for that, then? Along the lines of "How can I defuse this tension with my roommate so I don't feel scared to use the kitchen?" A more direct question and concrete goal will help you get better answers. (Also, welcome to the site! Forgot that in my previous comment :) ) – Erik Apr 16 at 9:54
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    Between "there is crumbs on the table" and "you jeopardized my health", maybe you are too focused on the first? – nvoigt Apr 16 at 16:13
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    Does he have any legal right to throw you out? Is it possible that there is actually a very different reason he wants you gone? Would he rather live alone due to an income increase, or is his best friend looking for a place to live? The lack of improvement after you've put a lot more effort in it makes me suspicious. – Orbit Apr 17 at 9:49
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First, since you have been thrown out anyway, don't refrain from cooking. Cook what you bought. Do your best (see below) to make things better, but you probably can't make it worse, so eat your food.

Second, learn more about what your room-mate expects when it comes to tidying a kitchen. Here you can ask, when you think you're done, if the kitchen is ok for your room-mate, and if it is not, fix it immediately. This will perhaps improve things with the room-mate, and may clarify to you whether these requests are reasonable or not. You may have a better relationship with future room-mates as a result.

The reason I suggest these clarifications is that people vary wildly in their feelings about how clean kitchens need to be immediately after cooking, once eating is finished, before bed, etc. (I have had many room-mates, long term house guests, and people I've done camping with over the decades.) Some people are fine with a few dirty dishes in the sink that you will wash in the morning. Others want everything washed and put away. Some people are fine with leaving used items out if there's a chance you'll use them again -- eg reusing the chopping board you used for your lunch salad to prep your dinner on. Others want them washed or put in the dishwasher immediately. Some people are upset because you left the salt and pepper on the dining table instead of returning them to their spot in the kitchen, or left a dishtowel somewhere to dry instead of its official place, and so on. It can be very hard to comprehend and believe the objections of someone who is more tidy than you. Wait, what? You're this upset about the salt shaker? Or the other way around: Seriously, you think because it's soaking in the sink it somehow doesn't count as dirty?

Third, work on having more productive arguments when you argue. For example "you jeopardized my health!" "No I didn't and anyway I had no choice!" is not productive at all. Do you understand exactly what your room-mate is worried about? (For example, going back to work at a nursing home or hospital is much more likely to bring home Covid than going back to work at a three person software development company whose customers and suppliers never visit in person.) This is the same as the kitchen. You need to comprehend what specifically they are objecting to and why. Then you can either accommodate them or deliberately choose to do something you know they object to. You won't feel as bewildered and nervous.

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