The RA Maid

Tonight I spent an unfair amount of time and energy washing a pile of someone else’s disgusting dirty dishes in my kitchen that’s not air-conditioned (in the middle of a major heatwave)–just so I could cook my own meal. After sweating in that stifling room for hours, I moved onto the tiny bathroom that also does not have AC in order to scrub the stained tub so I could take a shower without being grossed-out. Furiously cleaning the tub then turned into a futile attempt to scrape off more tile grime and mold that’s probably been accumulating for the last decade (I’ve already done my fair share of tile scrubbing since the beginning of June when I moved in). So much scrubbing! Muscle-building! This could be a great exercise hobby if I didn’t already have swollen painful wrists and fingers from my RA right now. So why am I doing all of this apartment cleaning? Apparently I’m the “maid” in this NYC apartment, where the fight against dirt seems to be a constant daily battle. And my new unexpected “roommate” is causing me extra pain and suffering by not doing his share of the work. What do I do?

Here’s the situation:

I’ve been subletting a bedroom for an insanely high amount of rent since the beginning of June in Brooklyn, New York, which is located on the top 3rd floor of an old house (the attic converted into a two-bedroom apartment). My roommate is/was supposed to be an early-30s woman who has lived here for seven years with her college best friend (whose room I’m subletting). When I first moved in, I barely saw my roommate, which was good in some respects because she wasn’t causing noise or leaving messes or anything like that. And I wasn’t digging in the kitchen sink drain to fish out old slimy food to throw into the garbage so that cockroaches wouldn’t invade the apartment like I am now, for example. That was nice.

But then things changed.

My roommate tells me right before I’m set to go back to Minneapolis for a visit that her 18 year-old nephew will be staying in her room for weeks while she’s out of town. Um…okay. I was then assured by the other roommate (whose room I’m renting) that this kid is a great, sweet guy and everything will be fine. Um…okay. Well, I don’t have much of a say about this so I go out of town myself and spend two weeks back home in Minnesota visiting family and friends and having a great time.

But then I came back to Brooklyn.

I returned to find the teenager, as expected, and we exchanged polite hellos and smalltalk. Fine. But what I didn’t expect was a messy kitchen, the sink full of dirty dishes, and all of my food eaten! Thankfully I soon discovered that it was an understandable mistake on his part–he thought my food was his aunt’s. But it was an awkward conversation and I only requested he pay me a portion back of what I had spent on the food because I didn’t want to be a jerk about it. But food is expensive here!

Moving on.

Luckily there haven’t been any more “stolen” food incidents, so I’m happy about that. What I’m not happy about, however, is that my roommate is apparently a cooking enthusiast who likes to make big elaborate dishes to take to work and then save for leftovers. It’s impressive that a college freshman boy knows how to cook so well (I hope I don’t sound sexist saying that), but I’m not impressed with his clean-up skills–or lack of them, I should say. More often than not I find myself washing his dishes and scrubbing and cleaning out the old sink after he’s spilled coffee all over it and has clogged the drain with stinky mushy food. Gross! He may be fine living with a sink that looks and smells like someone’s been murdered in it, but I’m not. I might sound a bit “crazy” and picky about this, but leaving food-splattered dishes out and food scraps in the sink in NYC can very easily attract bugs. And not just any bugs–COCKROACHES. So yeah, I’m a bit paranoid about keeping things clean–especially in the kitchen.

Not only have I been cleaning up my roommate’s messes in the kitchen, which requires extra physical work and pain for me, but I’m also the only one here who cares about keeping the bathroom clean, apparently. I love cleaning toilets, of course, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Seriously though, all of this extra scrubbing and washing and hauling garbage down several flights of stairs makes me and my joints angry. I’ve already talked to him once about the dishes so I’m hesitant to do it again. I really don’t want to be a mean old crabby lady because he is a nice kid, but I don’t think the situation is fair, especially with the amount of rent I’m paying (I’m not sure if he’s even paying any rent while he’s staying here). It’s hard enough for me to do my own cleaning and housework, never mind someone else’s share. I suppose I could just throw my (swollen) hands up in the air and let the apartment turn into a roach-infested pig sty (ok, I’m exaggerating a bit), but that would make me even more upset and uncomfortable.

My options are: 1. Continue doing all of the cleaning and say nothing, which will cause no awkwardness or weirdness with him or my real roommate, 2. Say something to him again about the dishes and the dirty sink, 3. Ask for a rent reduction in exchange for all of the cleaning I’ve been doing (and buying kitchen and bathroom supplies). Right now I’m leaning towards #2, because I’d rather have him mad at me than the person from whom I’m subletting. But honestly, I’m not thrilled with any of these options. What would you do? I think I’ve breathed in too much bleach and Lysol and my brain is having trouble coming to a good decision. Or maybe my swollen hands and feet should decide for me.

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