Learning to Live with People (again)

I do not want this pile of dishes, sister!

A little over 6 weeks ago my little sister came to live with me.

Things have been going fine aside from the whole “I want to drop out of school and move in with my boyfriend” fiasco.

You see, before she moved in I was living by myself. I lived alone for 3 years. I got used to living alone.

I knew when I saw a mess that it was mine. I could leave the clothes in the drier as long as I wanted because I knew that I would be the next who needed to use it. I could listen to whatever music I wanted, have whomever I wanted over whenever I wanted, I could make food for myself and have it just be for myself. And as lonely as that may sound, I enjoyed living alone. Nay, I loved living alone.

I knew there would be some adjustments having my sister living with me. But there are a lot of things I also didn’t think about.

For instance, I’m WAY more clean than her (btw, anyone who has ever step foot in my apartment will tell you, I’m not an exceptionally tidy person). When I make dinner, I pick up the dishes before I start eating so that when I’m nice and full I don’t have to worry about cleaning. She’ll clean up her dishes… one… two… days later. I like to clean up the kitchen counter every time I cook. I don’t think the kitchen counter has seen a wash rag moved by her hand.

Now, I ask her to pick up a little bit more, and try to do it in a non-passive aggressive way. But I know that if she’s adjusting to my levels of cleanliness, I also need to be understanding of hers and find a middle ground.

Her mom is also a major anal-retentive OCD clean person who would just do things for her if she didn’t do them, so I’m trying to avoid doing that without resorting to living in a pig sty.

I like just doing a quick pick up of my stuff before the end of the day to make sure that everything is nice when I come out the next morning. Since she’s been here Jack (the dog) has eaten her trig homework, her communications book, and started on her chemistry homework before I stopped him. I’m not sure how many of her school things he’s going to have to eat before she learns to keep her stuff in her room.

Oh, and have I mentioned that she takes absolutely no initiative of her own to take out the trash? It just sits there unless I say “Hey, um, would you mind taking that out next time you go work out? Thanks!”

But, I’d have to say that the thing that bothers me the most is that she uses my stuff. She was using my hair brush the other day. She hangs her jacket over my towel when she showers. She eats my food without asking (even though I buy her food, she hasn’t quite gotten the concept that I’m not a parent, I’m a roommate and there is a “mine” and a “yours”). It isn’t your stuff sister, so stop using it!

I’m trying really hard to not get angry about little things. I know that in the grand scheme it really isn’t a big deal if she uses my toothpaste. But it still aggrevates me because she didn’t pay for it. She didn’t pay for any of it. And somehow she expects me to think she’s “grown up” enough to live on her own?

I’m realizing more and more how important it is for teenagers to go to college –ย  if nothing else than to learn to respectfully live with another person. The dorm experience or a shared apartment off campus with other students is such an important part of development. Also, isn’t that why they say you should never room with your best friend when you go to college? They should amend that to include your big sister, too.

I’m trying to keep my cool and be reasonable. And our plan is to sit down monthly and discuss any issues. I also don’t want that to be just a bitch session so I need to find a way to do it that isn’t like I’m a huge stick in the mud. Any suggestions are welcome.

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17 Responses to Learning to Live with People (again)

  1. Red says:

    Wow… I don’t know if I could handle all that! I mean, looking at it from the outside, I can say, “Yeah, you’re being a little crazy about the toothpaste…” Even though you’re roommates, you’re also family. What’s the big deal with sharing a tube of toothpaste? (Assuming you take turns buying toothpaste, or whatever.)

    Like you said, the dorm part of college is really important to your development. She hasn’t been through anything like that. She’s gone from living with her mother to living with her sister, so she probably doesn’t realize that there needs to be a distinction.

    As far as cleanliness goes though, that’s just a respect thing. Thinking it’s okay to use your sister’s toothpaste is one thing, but dirtying up someone’s home when they’ve been gracious enough to let you live with them? Not cool. Maybe you guys need a chore wheel or something. Do you think she’d actually do chores if they were split between you?

    • SS4BC says:

      Oh for sure, the toothpaste thing is really no big deal. It is one of those things that each little thing is “no big deal” – but when all combined together it makes me want to scream. Yanno what I mean?

      I think setting down a chore schedule is definitely the next order of business. That will keep BOTH of us accountable. I think I’ll get a magnetic fridge whiteboard to help us keep track.

      And yes, I do think that she’ll keep us with the chores if there is a chart that we split. The “big chores” I know she’ll do, I’m more concerned about her stuff just constantly being everywhere all the time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Rachel says:

    I like Red’s chore wheel idea, but I would couple it with a kitchen timer–often, people don’t do chores because they think it takes forever (at least this used to be my excuse). If you time it, like, “We’re both going to clean–I’ll clean the bathroom and you do the dishes and wipe off the counter. We have 15 minutes–go!!” then there’s an end in sight and it can get someone who rarely musters the energy to get their butt moving. It really helped me in college; I used a kitchen timer to stay on task with reading and assignments, too. Good luck!

  3. seenonflickr says:

    I would suggest a clear deliniation of chores/responsibilities and who does what. And when/how often they are done.

    Good luck.

    • SS4BC says:

      That’s a great suggestion, I definitely think that is what we’ll have to do.

      I was giving it a go without any sort of clearly marked out chores, but it isn’t really working. So I guess it is time for a change. =)

  4. Barbara says:

    Brutal! How frustrating! Her behaviour is pretty self-centered, I would say.

    Also, I think you mean ‘nay’ (a denial or refusal) not ‘neigh’ (what horses say).

  5. I agree with you! I learned a lot about what it meant to be responsible for myself when I went to college. I’m going through the same thing right now. The bf and his brother live with me and they are not tidy. It’s very frustrating but we are trying to find a middle ground.

  6. When we were RAs we had a form that we gave to roommates to fill out… they had to come to levels of agreement across like 10 different major items (the most important one being conjugal relations, but sleep, noise, cleaning, and food sharing were also covered). It was good for them to discuss and get those expectations out front. Maybe you could steal a “roommate agreement form” from the internets and sit down with it before things become too entrenched. We had way fewer problems than the floor below us whose RA let them skip that orientation exercise.

    • SS4BC says:

      The funny thing being that we DID do this before she moved in. We have an agreement form about doing our part with chores and having people over and everything like that.

      We talked about cleaning up after ourselves and sharing chores, but it didn’t seem to help too much. I think she’s just used to having a mom who does it anyway. So that has got to change. =)

  7. Omg, you are reminding me of my brother when he comes back home from school. I love living alone and because of that, I’m willing to pay a little extra to have a space all to myself when I move out of the basement. Honestly, I haven’t had a roomate since 2005 and I think I’ll keep it that way for a while.

    • SS4BC says:

      Hahaha trust me, if I didn’t have to have one I wouldn’t.

      But MAN is this good practice for when I have to move in with a boy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Carly says:

    I understand how frustrating these issues with your sis have been for you. . . But on a separate note from the advice regarding how to deal with it. . . Is there any way she could stumble across your blog because that could be detrimental to your relationship.

  9. spiffi says:

    First off – I feel your pain, and you’re totally justified in feeling upset.

    But, reading some of your phrasings – it sounds like you two may have different viewpoints on the situation? If she’s always lived with family, and lived in the house she grew up in, it sounds like she’s moved in with you and has immediately made herself at home.

    Your words, though, “Iโ€™m not sure how many of her school things heโ€™s going to have to eat before she learns to keep her stuff in her room” – it sounds like you’re expecting her to take on more the role of a guest (albeit long term) or tenant who is renting a bedroom – rather than someone who has full use of the shared living spaces.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that you are trying to keep her from living in the place – but it’s easy, when someone moves in, especially into a space that has always been just yours – to see that every piece of paper, every jacket hung up in your spot – is an intrusion and an annoyance.

    Your sister is clearly immature and doesn’t know how to be a roommate – she’s still living like she’s at home, and the parents are the responsible ones who either do the dishes, or tell her when to do them – that’s probably not going to be easy to change, since you are family. She’d definitely do better moving in with a stranger – as you say – dorms are a really good idea for people first moving out ๐Ÿ˜€

    Best of luck to you!

  10. It’s a hard situation because she doesn’t know what living with a roommate really means. She’s onlly lived with a parent which is totally different. Maybe she views you more as a parent than roomie? It’s a tough line to walk.

  11. Christa says:

    I love this story — it sounds exactly like the catastrophe I lived through with my sister! She moved in with me in college, and we struggled a bit. I would say the icing on the cake was the many times I came home to find the chicken I sut up for my salads eaten — and she was a vegetarian :))

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