Sage & Blunt Advice: Drowning in Dirty Dishes

Sage & Blunt, Contributing Writer

Dear Sage & Blunt,

I recently moved into a dorm with four of my friends. It’s been going pretty well. Everyone likes each other, we respect each other’s space, do chores on rotation, the whole shebang. The only issue has been food. I’m a hungry guy and not a rich man. We agreed to cook dinner together every night and use our meal plans for breakfast and lunch. We discuss meals for the week, two of us cook, two of us clean afterwards, everyone eats, it all works out!

Except for “Jo.” There’s five of us in the dorm and Jo doesn’t do chores or cook. He generally chips in 1/5th of the money for Walmart runs, but other than that? Nothing! I wanted to bring it up to him, but he’s definitely the busiest member of the apartment and there isn’t a strict need for him to contribute outside of fairness. Should I say something or am I being a dictator?


Drowning in Dirty Dishes


Dear Drowning in Dirty Dishes,

Congratulations on what sounds like a mostly harmonious living situation! Living with your friends is not easy, and not everyone finds a group that can communicate well and agree on plans the way you and your roommates have. It seems to me that the issue here is less about whether it is fair or right for Jo to contribute to the work of cooking and cleaning and more about the fact that the five of you agreed to a procedure that Jo is not sticking to.

Before you decide how to approach Jo about the inconsistency, I would consider the likelihood that he is aware of these gaps, and maybe a little stressed out about them too. At the very least, he is stressed out about something, perhaps about whatever is keeping him so busy — it turns out pretty much everyone is, all the time. Maybe Jo is too afraid to admit he can’t cook to save his life, or he keeps promising himself he’ll contribute but can’t find the time. So, to begin with, give him the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn’t expect any less from a friend like you.

Then talk to your friend, preferably one-on-one. What’s going on in his life? How are classes? Who are the campus cuties he’s been eyeing lately? (Tell him to write me about his crushes.) When all that is out of the way, you can let him know that you want to find a household arrangement that works for him as much as it does for the rest of you. He’s much more likely to respond constructively if you ask him how he can dependably contribute rather than focus on where he’s falling short. If he’s able, it might mean that Jo offers a little extra for groceries each week — I don’t know exactly what kind of system the five of you will work out, but I do know this: if you don’t bring it up, the resentment will only build.  Being honest with Jo is the kindest thing you can do, for everyone involved. Good luck! I wish you many happy nights around the dinner table with your little Grinnell family.

With love always,

Sage & Blunt