The flat cleaning rota: Why didn’t it work for us?

19 Mar 2018
By Tom S., Student at Sheffield Hallam University

One of the worst things about coming to uni is the sudden realisation that cleaning is actually really important. Worse than that, though, is discovering it’s now your responsibility to do it!

You might have done a fair share of cleaning at home, or you might not even know what a scouring pad looks like.

Cleaning up after yourself as you go is the simplest and best way to keep mess to a minimum.

It’s likely there are people in your flat who fit into both categories, and this can create conflict – especially when you go to use your cereal bowl and find that somebody has left it unwashed in the sink.

So how do you avoid cleaning-related drama?

Tried and tested - and not right for us

Communal cleaning doesn’t just extend to washing up though. Taking out the bins, wiping down the surfaces, and hoovering the carpet all become your responsibility once you’re living independently.

In order to stay on top of things, it’s often suggested that you come up with a cleaning rota as a flat. In theory, this is a perfect solution that means everybody does their fair share to keep the flat clean and liveable.

However, in my experience, the cleaning rota caused nothing but trouble.

The double trouble with cleaning rotas

First, writing somebody’s name next to Monday on the washing-up rota doesn’t mean they’ll actually do it. Some people just don’t want to clean, and you can’t force them to do it.

And having somebody assigned to a task they don’t do ultimately leads to arguments – as we found out last year. It also means the next person on the rota ends up with a huge pile of stuff to do, which isn’t fair.

Second, there will be somebody in your flat who is more than happy to live off a packet of Super Noodles every day. But there might also be a Gordon Ramsay protege who likes to cook themselves a proper meal every night.

There’s no problem with either of these. But, if you’re working to a rota, some people will be cleaning up a lot of mess they simply haven’t made. We found that the more we argued over who’d used what and who hadn’t done their jobs, the less any of us cleaned.

We had to find a different way.

The obvious solution that worked for us

We learned the hard way that, while they’re a great idea, cleaning rotas just weren’t the best way for us to keep our flat clean.

Cleaning up after yourself as you go is the simplest and best way to keep mess to a minimum. Nobody can accuse you of leaving the flat in a state, and nobody has to clean up somebody else’s mess.

Do your washing up when you’ve finished dinner, wipe down the cooker if you spill something, and - if it’s full, take the bin bag out when you next go to lectures.

Cleanliness is next to happiness

At the end of the day, you’re students living in a student flat. Nobody expects you to keep the place to a 5* hygiene standard.

But if you can find a way to work together to keep it clean, you’ll all be much happier for it – rota or no rota.

Cleaning up after yourself as you go is the simplest and best way to keep mess to a minimum.
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Tom is a Geography student at Sheffield Hallam, and is currently on a placement year.