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Background

My brother and I, we share a room, have not had a good track record of keeping it clean. Usually he gets a cup of water before bed and leaves it somewhere in the room half full. He also never makes his bed. He's also very sentimental, so anything my parents intend to throw out that he deems worthy enough, he stocks it in our small room. This leaves our room cluttered, and hard to maintain. I have other issues. I usually leave plates because we don't have a bin and forget about it. I also sit on his bed a lot (doing homework or on the laptop), since mine doesn't have a comforter as mine slides out from under his to save space. Anywho, when it comes to cleaning the room usually it's me who steps up (after a fair bit of procrastination) and I do it when I have the motivation. This makes me super efficient, and I deep clean the room and straighten everything the best I can.

Problem

I have straightened out my recent lack of motivation in keeping the room clean and other aspects of my life. I acknowledge my problems and past experiences with this issue. I recently cleaned the entire room, and intend on keeping it entirely clean. The cleanliness has sparked productivity within me, but my brother's issues are still prevailing. I come home from school everyday to his bed unmade, his blanket on the floor, and wake up to a cup on the windowsill. I'm worried if I don't account for his issues in keeping up with the room that it will return to the pigsty it previously was. I have tried to address this issue to him but every time I do, he doesn't take me seriously, switches the subject, or says "But you make the room dirty with all the gross stuff!".

Question

What are some things I can say to him? I don't want to come off completely assertive to him because he won't take it seriously if I start off like that. I want to segway into this at an oppurtunity I will find, but I just don't know how to express myself without him finding a way to ignore it. But if there's no other option I would like some things to say, where I am assertive. Just some things I can say to him at varying levels of intensity while not being rude or ignorable. Thank you so much!

3

Honesty, self-commitment, straight-forwardness, and co-operation.

You should try approaching him again, but this time, admit your own problems first, and make a promise of trying your best to keep the room nice and tidy. This would eliminate his excuse of "not cleaning up because the other person makes a mess as well". And you can encourage your brother to remind you when you forget to take out the plates or doing something that might affect the cleanliness of his part of the room, or the room overall.

Now is your brother's half of the deal. When you have clearly stated your commitment to keeping the room in good condition, you can work out things with your brother as well. You can try dividing the cleaning between the two, and switch roles in cycles so that one does not have to take out the dishes year-round. Material incentives might help, but remember, for best effect, they should work both ways (if you do something wrong, you have to take the consequences as well).

There is also the "hoarding" problem that seems to pose a significant difficulty in keeping your room dust-free. It is really hard to get other people to part with things they decide to keep (especially if they are emotionally attached to them), but try convincing him to go through his stuff to see if there is anything he does not value anymore. Then, together, find a way to either stock it in the tidiest manner possible, or integrate the things he have into the overall decoration of the room.

I would love to have updates on this, if you please.

  • +1 for co-operation - finding ways to turn these things into a team effort tends to be the most effective and makes all parties feel good about it too! – Jesse Nov 3 '17 at 3:57
  • I agree! Plus, it is their room anyways, right? – Tri Le Nov 3 '17 at 4:10
  • ...unless he is introvert and hates team efforts. – Ivan Skalauh Nov 3 '17 at 11:07
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I was in a similar situation, where my brother and I kept the whole house a real mess all the time. Then suddenly one day, my brother found the motivation to not only clean the entire house, but also to keep it clean afterwards. I on the other hand did not share that motivation at that time. Some weeks passed and my brother still was doing all the cleaning. This made me feel guilty, but it still was not enough for me to actually help him. But in this time I could see the advantages of a clean house.

It was only after we had a talk about it that I came to my senses. He told me how he got the new motivation (girlfriend) and how he felt about having a messy house. That he understands my laziness (he was like me before) but that he really likes it when the house is clean, and explained why. We created a cleaning plan and I did my part from then on.

I think you can apply the same tactic as my brother did:

For a limited time, just bite the bullet and keep your shared room as clean as possible. Don't try to shame him if he leaves his glass on the windowsill, just remove it.

He will see the positive aspects of a clean room and feel guilty that you have to clean after him. Eventually, he will do those things on his own. If not, have a conversation with him and tell him your motivations for a clean room. ask him if he can understand that or even let him think himself into your situation, whatever your newly found motivation might be.

Then try to make a deal where you two agree on who does what or when.

You could start your conversation with something like this:

"You may have noticed that for a while now I have been trying to keep our room cleaner than usual. This is because {your motivation}. I understand that you do not necessarily share my motivation, but surely you like it too when our room is clean? Maybe we can agree on {your plan for cleaning in the future}? If we work together on this, it will be almost no effort at all I'm sure."

You also mention that your brother hoardes stuff that your parents would've thrown out. Do not remove those things without him, it will only lead to an angry brother. Instead, try to ask him for each item, why he does not want it to be thrown out and whether he intends to use them in the future. If it is only sentimental as you say, maybe take pictures of them and hang them up or make an album.

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I do like Tri Le's approach, but let me offer an approach which has worked in my household...

Establish "Action Time", which is the same time (say 9pm just to get a number out there). At Action Time, you and bro go in and clean up everything which needs it. The first time, it may be a bit rough, because there's a backlog of uncleaned items, but as the habit kicks in -- this is key, what makes it work is that you're trying to establish a habit -- it'll be easier, with only 1 day's worth of awfulness.

Once you have the habit going, you can build on it. Start focusing on putting things away the very moment you're done with them.

More I could say, but let's start with this. Good luck!

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As a "messy" person myself, I'd suggest to explain to him why this mess bothers you. Simply stating the fact that he didn't make his bed will not help you, neither will trying to get him into doing something he doesn't want to do by manipulative tricks described in the other answers.

Talk about your feelings, why a clean room is important for you, for your productivity as you mentioned. Ask him to help you. Men and women in general have considerably different cleanliness standards, and it is not his obligation to raise his up to yours. He didn't choose you as a roommate. But if you ask him directly and explain everything honestly and respectfully, I'm sure even the worst type of a messy brother will help you.

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