Ask the Past: Cleaning etiquette

I live with two flatmates, and we have a roster for the cleaning. One of my flatmates is really good, but the other never does his fair share. He never cleans the bathroom when it's his turn, and he leaves dishes in the sink all the time. The two of us who do clean are starting to get really annoyed with him. What should we do?

Unfortunately, when it comes to confronting people about these sorts of domestic issues, most books of etiquette will say the same thing: don't. In fact, I have a whole book called Don't (first published sometime around 1880, and according to its introduction, "written by an American for Americans of the better class"), which, unsurprisingly, says just that.

Don't trouble people with your domestic mishaps, with accounts of your rebellious servants, or with complaints of any kind.

Australian Etiquette has a section called "Fault-finding and grumbling", and it offers very similar advice.

The oil of civility is required to make the wheels of domestic life run smoothly. The habit of fault-finding and grumbling indulged in by some is an exceedingly vexatious one, and will, in time, ruffle the calmest spirit and the sweetest temper.

That said, of course, you aren't completely without recourse here. It's just rude to come out and say that you're having a problem. You could leave a little note (although, per Don't, if you do that, be sure not to use lined or inferior paper), or for the perfect passive-aggressive touch, you can say it with flowers.

Australian Etiquette has a whole chapter on the language of flowers, and you aren't just limited to roses or carnations or lilies in what you can express. For your situation, you're probably looking at a bouquet of two or three flowers.

Broom - Neatness.
Furze - Anger.
Peony - Anger.

A few bouquets by the sink should make your message clear. And if they don't take the hint the first time, you could include a fourth flower in any subsequent bouquets:

Coltsfoot - Justice shall be done you.

I'm sure that will help.

Subscribe to Happy Family Happy Home

Don't miss out on any of this very helpful advice - get it delivered straight to your inbox instead.