I have 3 fellow tenants in the same building where I live. Every Monday evening, the refuse bins must be put out in the street so that the next morning the company could collect the garbage and empty the refuse bins.

I've noticed that no one, except me, is doing the job of putting the refuse bins out in the street. I don't think it's fair since all of us are living in the same building and the garbage in the bins is of all of us. It seems that they really don't care how the refuse bins have gotten empty and there's someone putting them out in the street.

I've been three days away from home and, getting back, I found that the refuse bins haven't been put out in the street and they're full. So they don't really care.

I'd like to tell them that their behaviour is not fair, because I am not the caretaker of the building, and I wish they'd contribute more on this.

I don't want to sound harsh to them ("You're not doing anything here", "Why don't you put the bins out in the street? I am doing this all the time!").

How can I tell them that I noticed this unfair behaviour and I'd like them to contribute more?

  • 12
    Are you all roommates in the same apartment, or are you tenants in separate dwellings with common building items (like the bins)?
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 12:36
  • 7
    Is this a problem of it being genuinely inconvenient to you, or is it instead harming your self-esteem because you feel that you are doing a menial task for others? I ask, because the solution may depend on the precise nature of the problem. Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 15:18
  • 1
    Is it the case that there are 3 apartments and 3 (marked) bins (one of which is yours) and you've been putting out all 3. Or that there is one big bin shared by all 3 apartments? Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 15:46
  • 14
    Have you ever discussed this with them? It sounds as though they may not even realize this is something that has to happen from them. If you continually do it without ever telling them they should; they may just assume at this point it will always be done by you.
    – JMac
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 16:29
  • 1
    @JMac Sorry for my late answer. I've done this weekend. I realised that one of them didn't know completely anything about it because he's rather new in the building. The others answered that they didn't know it was me doing it but anyway they didn't even knock on my door or ask themselves who was doing it.
    – NerdGuy
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 18:57

11 Answers 11


Well, just stop doing it.

Had the same problem when I was living in Hungary with 5 other girls. Don't wanna blame them, I think they just hadn't noticed at the time and since somebody was already taking care of it well, why bother? I beared the full and smelling bin for 10 days and after that, they realized, and we were 2 or 3 switching for getting them out then.

  • 15
    I beared the full and smelling bin for 10 days That's a significant downside to this answer.
    – WBT
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 19:20
  • 3
    The only issue I see with this option is that you might just end up putting someone else in the same position you were in. If no one discusses the issue, you could eventually get to the point where the dirtiest one is the one who does the cleaning, which isn't ideal. Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 20:10
  • 6
    Downvoting, because you escalated before trying to resolve the conflict. Note there's nothing wrong with escalating and destroying the opponent, but if they're your neighbor, you gotta think about living in the same building for a while, so not going straight to nuclear war is always a good idea.
    – user2135
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 20:39
  • 8
    @peufeu This doesn't sound like a "Nuclear Option" to me, that would be if you took the garbage and dumped it in front of their doors. This answer just says you should stop doing a thing that was never your job or responsibility in the first place
    – Maxim
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 21:29
  • 1
    Certainly an option, but doesn't answer the question "How can I politely tell my fellow tenants".
    – user3169
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 21:37

I'll rephrase the problem:

  • You take out the trash
  • You are (rightfully) pissed that the others don't do it, and don't even thank you for it.

It's a common situation with roommates: the one with the least tolerance to a pile of dirty moldy dishes in the sink ends up to be the others' personal dishwasher.

However... a group of people will not tend to self-organize to fix a problem when it involves work (like putting out the trash) that someone seems willing to do for them (ie, you). They will probably conveniently ignore that you do it.

Do they even know you do it? Maybe they think the landlord is paying someone...

So it falls upon you to organize things.

They're your neighbors. You're gonna have to live in their vicinity for a while. Unless they're complete assholes, why not try to handle it the friendly way?

I suggest having a meeting in front of the place where the trash bins are.

Don't whine. Yes, you have reasons to be a bit resentful, but it will not help to let it show. People are more willing to help someone nice that someone who sounds angry and is barking on them.

So, try to sound like "okay, I've been doing it, no big deal, but I'd really appreciate some help."

I've been three days away from home and, getting back, I found that the refuse bins haven't been put out in the street and they're full. So they don't really care.

"Since there was no organization, I guess everyone assumed someone else would take out the trash this day, and the result is this huge smelly heap."

(note: the sentence above doesn't dish out blame on anyone personally)

Next I suggest pinning a large sheet of paper on the wall with a spreadsheet on it, left column should be dates, and right column should be empty boxes where whoever will put out the trash that day will write their name.

You're a nice guy, so you put your name in first for next week, then offer the pencil to the crowd and smile...

This has the added benefit that everyone knows who is supposed to take out the trash, so when they don't, everyone knows whose fault it was, and it isn't you...

Then you can end the meeting by suggesting that it's a bit silly that the first time you got together with your neighbors is to talk about trash, why not have dinner some other day to get to know each other?

  • Thanks for answer, and sorry for the delay. I spoke with them in the weekend, politely saying that I've been doing it myself so far and I'd like to have more help from their side, as you suggested. If today (Monday evening) nothing from their side happens, I will put the bins out in the street and pin a sheet of paper as you advised.
    – NerdGuy
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 19:06
  • 1
    Let's hope it works, and good luck ;)
    – user2135
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 19:08

I had this exact issue in college.

I had two roommates, neither of which ever took out the trash. It was only me.

One evening, I got fed up and knocked on both of their doors so we could talk. I (politely) explained to them that I am the only one ever taking out the trash, and it's overflowing again. I shouldn't be the only one to take it out.

I told them I'd appreciate it if, when they saw it was full, they would take it out. Guess what? It worked. They both started taking out the garbage when they saw it was full, and all was right with the world.

So it's pretty simple:

Hey guys/gals, the trash is always overflowing and I feel like I'm the only one that ever takes it out. Can you please put the trash out when you see it's full? The garbage man picks it up every Monday-Friday, so the garbage needs to go out to the curb before 7 PM.

Most people are sensible, and the chance that they're offended or will be confrontational are very slim. I would not suggest throwing something like, "I'm not your maid," or "I'm not the caretaker of the building," into the mix, as this could put them on the defensive. Simply politely explain the problem, and ask them to contribute to the solution.

  • 4
    This answer seems the most sensible one. If this doesn't work, then, and only then, would I do some along the lines that avazula suggests... Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 21:03
  • Thanks for answer, and sorry for the delay. It's not very easy to speak with people with different work shifts and living in separate dwellings at the same time. Anyhow, I spoke with each of them in the weekend, politely saying that I've been doing it myself so far and I'd like to have more help from their side, as you suggested. If today (Monday evening) nothing from their side happens, I will put the bins out in the street (because they're full) and I will see what happens next, hoping that they got the message.
    – NerdGuy
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 19:09
  1. Have a sign made at the local print shop.
  2. Post the sign above the trash bins.


   Do you live in this building?
     Is It Monday? After 3pm?
           (0) (0)
     Move Bins to Street

Bold items appropriately. The (0) (0) are eyes.

*It is proven that if people believe they are being watched -- even with the simple addition of a picture of a face or some eyes then they are far more likely to do the thing.

Illusion of being observed can make you a better person


There was a study where they were attempting to get people to put $0.25 in a box when they drank coffee. Couldn't get them to do it. Only 15% of the time or something. Then they added a pair of eyes to the poster and 80% of the time people put the $0.25 in the box.

  • 1
    That's only if people know what the socially expected/right thing to do is. If they don't know they're supposed to take out the trash, eyes won't help, and jumping right to that step may seem pretty weird.
    – WBT
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 0:07
  • Actually, I think that is the strength of using the sign. It informs other tenants of the situation without direct confrontation. Also, the sign creates an air of authority, as if every tenant should know this in the first place (which they probably should) and the sign is alway present so it keeps in the forefront of the tenant's minds as they walk thru the common area.
    – raddevus
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 14:52

Maybe they don't realize it's a shared responsibility. Maybe they think it's an assigned responsibility, like taking the rubbish away from the curbside. Clearly somebody does it. Some landlords will give a rent discount to one tenant for taking care of a few responsibilities that the other tenants benefit from; other landlords leave it to the tenants to figure out how to share the work. Both are legitimate models.

A first strategy for a solution might be just putting a sign on the bins saying "Taking these out is a shared responsibility."

A next/alternative step might be posting a page on the wall near the bins with a title like "Taking out the trash responsibility - please sign yourself up for #" and then having about 4*# lines for names alongside the dates when the job needs to be done. Maybe tape up a pencil or pen on a string if it's not getting filled out. There's an incentive to sign up earlier due to more flexible date selection.

Put any dates that are exceptions to the usual Monday evening (e.g. due to holidays) in bold or otherwise distinguished (so it's easier to see "there's something different about that one.").

Sure, posting this every few months might be a bit of work, but if it's bothersome you could just put an extra line on the bottom for "make the next sheet" and hope someone signs up.

  • 3
    Please don't use signs to address this with your neighbours. That's an incredibly passive-aggressive way to communicate. I think that discussing the shared responsibility is a good approach, but do it in person, not via written notes.
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 1:18
  • @Dancrumb I think it depends on how one normally interacts with the neighbors and how they prefer to be interacted with. Where I live now, I talk to my neighbors in person. At a previous place, the way schedules aligned meant I hardly ever saw some of them, and they preferred asynchronous communication channels (signs, notes, e-mails, etc.) because it didn't reduce schedule flexibility and it let folks quickly move mental energies on from one subject without having to frequently remember e.g. "I've got to tell Jack this- is he around?"
    – WBT
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 0:00
  • A paper form seems able to be more directly connected with the specific location relevant to this issue. "Help them realize it's a shared responsibility & ease coordination that's needed to take care of it" is the main point of this answer. That could be done in a synchronous channel, but it presents the risk that OP or neighbors might cause/raise conflict by coming off as more confrontational than intended, and that's not strictly necessary for accomplishing the main points of "help them realize it's a shared responsibility & ease coordination that's needed to take care of it."
    – WBT
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 0:01
  • Also, the neighbors may be disappointed/frustrated (or at least not thrilled) to learn that they will sometimes have to take out the trash. Do you suppose OP would prefer those negative reactions and associations be directed at him for being the messenger? OP might prefer that initial negative reactions be directed at the situation or its actual causes, including the growing pile of trash they're all generating.
    – WBT
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 0:19

You could propose having a building committee

The residents in your building could meet once a month (or even less often than that) to discuss various problems they've noticed, or things they'd like to change. In this kind of setting it wouldn't at all be rude for you to remind them to take the bins out, or, to be more organized, for each apartment to take turns in doing so. So if the garbage isn't taken on Tuesday the building knows exactly which apartment didn't take it out.

Even after the problem is gone the committee could meet up to plan building activities or get to know each other more.


I had the same problem once, only 2 or 3 people from a block of 14 were doing this, so we put up a schedule, where each studio had a week assigned. We also created a Facebook group where things like this could be discussed without it feeling too formal. If someone was then not present in their week, they could kindly ask if they could switch weeks with someone. The system wasn't perfect, but people knew there was a system, and mostly adhered to it.

By creating something like the Facebook group, you are making it a group thing, whereas if you walk up to their doors, they might think of it as you vs them. Not saying that FB is the best platform for this, but it's lighthearted and easy to use. And it can be used for other things as well, like letting the neighbors know if you're having people over late or something. I guess WhatsApp or other tools are just as good for the job. E-mails might be too formal for some people.

When telling someone it's their week to put out the trash via an informal platform, emoji's can work miracles. Consider:

Dave, don't forget the trash. It's your week


Dave, don't forget the trash. It's your week ;-)

Still get the feeling you're nagging too much? Add a GIF! Add a GIF

Always stay friendly to your neighbors. I've seen some petty harassment going back and forth and it's not worth it. Letting them know you appreciate them doing it, and keeping things light is the way to go IMHO.


I assuming that this is not a roommate type of shared living but something like a building with three apartments and a single shared garbage bin. So with that said, what you can do is a gentle subterfuge. Let's say the refuse is picked up on Friday. On Tuesday, you knock on your neighbors door and say, "hi, sorry to bother you but I'm going to be away on Friday. Would you mind taking the bin out? I did it the last few weeks but can't do it this time, and I don't want rats in our building because I'm away". They either say yes at this point or "but what about Tenant 3?". In the latter case you can say you haven't asked but you agree that it needs to become a shared responsibility and ask what system they suggest for the long term. Then you take out the trash the week after, and have the same conversation with tenant 3 for the third week. The result is that everyone sees you helping, and everyone knows that a solution ought to be found. And then you have a much simpler conversation about a rota.


A lot of these answers focus on how to get your three fellows to live up to your standards, or get an authority to force them to do so. However, everyone has different standards for tidiness. As has been noted, your roommates don't seem to notice the trash the way you do, so it seems safe to assume that you're the one with the strictest standard of tidiness in the housing arrangement.

So, find a time where you all happen to be home (dinner time? game night? right after class or work? Is there a shared space in the building?). Don't call a "house meeting" - that will make the issue dramatic and they'll take it less seriously; just find time to chat like you normally would. Ask them how often they like to take out the trash. Do any of them prefer to do it on a schedule (say, bi-weekly, or right before an activity that causes them to pass by the dumpster anyway?), do they have a trigger that causes them to take it out (such as after they cook food, or before a guest comes over), or do they want to handle it as they notice it?

Don't even mention that you're the only one doing the trash right now. The goal is to presuppose that all of you share the duty of taking out the trash, and you're just asking for details on how they'd like to do it. If you skip the part where they have a choice about whether or not to do something, you're avoiding being seen as a drama-queen. You're all peers, trying to hash out a compromise that works for everyone.

The important thing to keep in mind is that what will not happen is some arrangement where the trash is taken out as frequently as you currently do it. Trying to force your peers to please you won't work, it'll just make them resent you - even if they agree to your standards. They will feel like the maids, cleaning a house that isn't dirty just because you wanted it.

The best outcome is that everyone will settle on an equilibrium where the trash gets taken out when enough people are unhappy about it, and have time to do it. It will probably not be as often as you currently do it. It's possible that over time they'll take it out more frequently anyway - just to save themselves the discomfort.

All this stuff doesn't just apply to the trash - it's any common resource that's shared between people. Hot water for showers in the morning, laundry time, dishes, whatever. No matter what it is, it's always better to try to find a casual compromise so that everyone is more or less happy - rather than forcing everyone to live up to the standard of the strictest member.


It seems that they really don't care how the refuse bins have gotten empty and there's someone putting them out in the street.

This happens a lot when living with people you don't know. Something similar happened to me last year. I was living in a building when practically all the tenants were students. Well, we didn't have shared bins, but people there had the (in my opinion) horrible habit of leaving the trash bags outside of their doors. They did this because they had to take out the trash, they didn't want to go to the street on that moment, but they didn't want the trash smelling in their apartment.

Well, I didn't mind this if it was only for the night, but the problem was that there were a case in which one apartment left the bag on their door for almost a week, and even kept leaving bags instead of taking them out. In that time the elevator wasn't working, so we had to take the stairs to reach our apartments, which made inevitable to pass in front of that smelly trash. It was horrible.

How was it solved? Someone left a note on that apartment's door, saying that the door was no place to leave the trash. That same day the bags disappeared.

So in my experience, notes do work. You can leave one on the bin, so everyone can read it, or you can go beyond that and leave one in each of their doors. This will make them feel pointed out and make them do their share.

And if this doesn't work, like other people said, stop doing it. Maybe when the pile of trash is big enough, they will realize that they have to do something to empty the bins.


Leave a polite, non-accusatory note on the inside of the door to the building, requesting that everyone thinks of the bins.

If you are passing the bins on Monday and they are not already out, please consider moving them onto the street ready for collection, as no one is employed to do this.

It's likely that they know you always put the bins out, and consider it not their problem because you always do it. They might think that you are paid to do it, that you do it because you take pride in being organised, that you love helping out, or because you like the bins to be neat and don't trust anyone else to do it...

Considering that they probably know you always do it, you could also consider signing your name or door number so that people don't mark you as a coward for trying to be anonymous when it's obviously you. In that case, you should change the wording to show you're all in the same boat:

as no one is employed to do this for us.

You could also consider having people sign their numbers to show they've read it so you can take it down as soon as everyone has seen it - notes on doors get annoying after a while.

This might not work but at least then you'll know they all know it's a shared responsibility and you can step up your game for the next round because now they're definitely being rude, not just ignorant.

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