You be the judge: should my housemate stop making endless to-do lists?

The prosecution: Millie

Abena seems to have appointed herself ‘head tenant’ since our cleaner left. It’s very irritating

I live in a flatshare with friends, and one of them is driving me mad. Abena, who I have known since university, absolutely loves a to-do list. That’s all well and good if you’re diarising and organising your own life, but she won’t leave me out of it.

It started when our cleaner moved away two months ago. She used to come once a month, which was just about enough to keep the flat clean and Abena, me and our other flatmate, Jacob, happy. We haven’t found a new cleaner, so Abena suggested we all do the housework in the interim. I agreed, but the power has gone to her head. She has made us all separate to-do lists, which Jacob and I never get around to doing. I think it’s because we are busy with work, and used to having the cleaning done for us.

So Abena then printed out our to-do lists and put them on the fridge as a “reminder”, highlighting the outstanding tasks in red. She was obviously feeling charged, because then she made a to-do list beyond the cleaning, with another bunch of chores for us all to do. Some tasks involve things I have no interest in doing in a rental, like “Ask landlord if we can paint hallway”. I just don’t see the point in doing that in a rented flat.

Abena also wants to call house meetings all of a sudden. It’s as though she’s just appointed herself head tenant. She has always been a bit like that – she takes control of the bills and has us adding everything we buy for the flat to Splitwise, so it’s fair. But now she says it’s time for a “refresh” of our flat and she wants to get serious about redecorating.

I’d rather just get a new cleaner and move on. I don’t want to worry about the rest and I certainly don’t want to see my tasks highlighted on the fridge if I haven’t done them. Abena’s my mate and she has always been a lot more into organisation than me (she arranges her wardrobe by colour) so I’m kind of used to this. But I don’t need her head-tenant energy in my home. I just can’t be bothered with it.

The defence: Abena

Millie is so against my printed to-do lists but I don’t want to live in a tip and I split the jobs equally

Millie and Jacob laugh at me, but in a shared household, someone has to take control of the important tasks – and that someone has always been me. I have written to the landlord in the past asking for a rent reduction after the bathroom had a serious mould problem all year, and my email did the trick. I’m also the one who sorts out our joint finances on Splitwise and used to arrange the cleaner.

I have stepped things up a bit recently, since our cleaner stopped coming. That means we need to split the chores between the three of us, to stop the flat turning into a pigsty. Millie knows this is reasonable, but for some reason she’s really against the idea of a physical to-do list. It seems to be less offensive when I send her a text or we speak about it.

But the trouble with that is there’s no accountability. You can pretend you forgot, or that it slipped your mind. But a printed to-do list removes that risk. You can see which jobs each of us needs to do, and when to do them by. I love a list and I love putting one up. They make me feel in control of my life and my living situation. I also probably love the power. On my to-do lists there were minor things like “take the bins out” and “unload the dishwasher”. I didn’t give anyone all the bad jobs; I split them equally. But Jacob and Millie largely ignored the first round of requests. I ended up doing most of the things on the list myself, or they didn’t get done.

Until we get a new cleaner, there will be extra chores for us. I don’t want to live in a tip – or do all the housework. Lists make things fair. When the cleaner left I also thought it was a good time for us to review other things in the flat. I want to spruce the place up a bit. I’d like to paint the hallway and get some new pictures up, but that requires speaking to our landlord. If Jacob and Millie aren’t interested, I’ll do that myself too, but obviously it would be nice to have them on board. My lists help us stay organised and I’ll just keep making them until things get done.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should Abena stop trying to enforce her job lists?

I’ve lived in a few house shares, and while there were often grumbles about housework, no one took it this far. I respect Abena’s level of organisation, but the lists are too much. Abena is Millie’s flatmate and friend, not her manager – friendship is more important than an immaculate home.
Sam, 40

Abena should ditch the lists and find a new cleaner ASAP, so they can all get back to normal. I experienced a similar situation, which developed into something so toxic I moved out, and a longstanding friendship was ruined. Redecorating? Do it yourself. I wouldn’t waste money redecorating someone else’s flat.
Joey, 41

I’ve got sympathy; Abena’s an adult, while Millie and Jacob clearly want to carry on living like students. But Abena can’t just force her way of doing things on them. She needs to either accept the situation or get her own place.
Ben, 35

Abena is guilty because of the way she is communicating things. She is no longer just coordinator for the flat but has begun to dictate. She isn’t Millie and Jacob’s mum, but their friend. All three need to find areas of compromise and agree on new terms.
Rachel, 53

Abena admits that she loves the power, but she should resist becoming a despot. Highlighting outstanding tasks in red on the fridge must be enraging. She should put her (admirable) energy into finding a new cleaner. Or a new flat.
Anita, 67

Now you be the judge

In our online poll, tell us: should Abena stop managing her flatmates?

The poll closes at 10am GMT on Thursday 7 December

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Results from our You be the judge grandparents’ special

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‘Should I go travelling or help out with childcare?’ Illustration: Igor Bastidas/The Guardian

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Find out how to get a disagreement settled or become a You be the judge juror

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