Roommate From Hell

roommate-hellAs the saying goes, “You can choose your friends but not your family.” This also holds true for dorm roommates. They are selected by the housing department of your college, which tries to link people with similar tastes and interests. But they can’t always find good matches. And sometimes you’re left wondering if they simply shuffled the rooming applications and stuck people together.

Everyone has a roommate from hell story:

  • I was the only one who ever emptied the trash can.
  • She got a stain on the rug I had brought from home.
  • She stayed up all night. I had to leave for work at seven.
  • She ate my food.
  • He leaves food lying around…even in MY bed!
  • She started playing the trombone at two in the morning.
  • I was constantly getting sexiled.
  • He snores… talks in his sleep… sleep walks!
  • He turns our room into party central every night.

If you were lucky, sharing a room with such a bad match was short-term. But for most mismatched roommates the reality is this: You’re stuck together. For the entire school year.

Here are some tips for making sharing facilities more comfortable:

Before the school year begins, give your new roommate a call. Get to know him or her and arrive at some basic ground rules. Decide who is bringing what. Dorms are too small for duplication on items like fridges, video game stations, microwaves, and TVs.

As calls, texts and emails continue to go back and forth, explore questions like:

  • How do you envision sharing your room?
  • When do you expect to go to sleep and get up?
  • How neat do you like things?
  • How many hours a day do you plan on studying in the room?
  • How often do you like to have people over?
  • Are you okay with sharing things like computer, clothes, food, books?

You and your roommate probably both have reservations about sharing a room. This may be a first-time experience for you both. Keep an open mind! You may not share the same political, social, or religious views. Look upon this as a mind-expanding experience.

You and your roommate are probably not going to share classes, meals, or clothes. You probably won’t go on double dates. Don’t expect a best-friend relationship. Lower your expectations from “friends” to “peaceful cohabitants” before you arrive. Otherwise you are likely to be disappointed. If you end up being friends? Great! But let it happen naturally. Don’t pressure or rush your roommate.
Get your agreement in writing! Lots of colleges provide a template for this. Outline things like:

  • How often do you plan on cleaning the room? Who’s going to do it?
  • What are the room’s quiet hours?
  • How will you handle visitors? How many? How often? Can they stay overnight?
  • What is the roommate policy with sharing things?
  • How will food be dealt with?

Because you are living in close quarters, there will be plenty of compromising. You will both have to make concessions. Don’t play mind games. Don’t air your grievances to others. Don’t take to the social media to complain. Address issues directly.

If you need a third party mediator, talk to your floor don, RA, or go to the housing supervisor. They have experience in settling issues. Before you do that, though, try talking one-on-one with your roommate. Also, document and date issues so you have evidence should you need a third party mediator.

If something is an issue, speak up. Maturely and calmly. If your roommate is doing something that you don’t like or that violates your contract, say so. Don’t let the issue fester. But don’t speak in the heat of the moment either! Whether the issue is trash not taken out, clothes borrowed and not returned, half-eaten food left around, or a roommate coming home in the wee hours and disturbing your sleep–pick a good time and discuss the issue clearly and quietly. Explain what the issue is and why it’s a problem. Avoid making accusations and lecturing. Seek your roommate’s help in finding a solution.

Pick your battles. Constant nagging, whining, and complaining will mean that, like the boy who cried wolf, when you have an important concern, your roommate is apt to treat it as just another in a litany of complaints. Learn when to let things go. Know what you can and can’t live with. Be prepared to let some of the other things slide. You might be surprised to discover that your roommate is probably letting some or your irritating behaviors slide too!


photo credit: fivedollarones via photopin cc

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