How to not kill your roommates

Robin McCourt - Sticky Situations (Cara Smith/AQ)

Welcome home! Whether home is a residence room, a shared house, an apartment or a box on the side of the road, you’ve hopefully found your new sanctuary for the next eight months, and I’d like to extend to you my best wishes.

You’re excited to put your independence to use and carve out your own niche and way of life. That’s all good news, but don’t forget you’re most likely going to be sharing that niche with at least one other person.

You and your roommates should talk about your expectations. I’ve found that potential hazard zones can be: bills, guests, cleaning throughout the home (expectations may vary per room), quiet-time vs. louder times, and significant others.

When it comes to bills make sure you know how they are going to be paid for, are you splitting them all 50/50?

Discussing having friends over in advance may seem like a little much, but if you’ve ever come home expecting a nice relaxing evening to find your house full of your roomie’s friends who are ready to party, you know the importance of this topic.

You want to feel comfortable in your own home, and part of that comes from knowing what to expect. When you’re planning on having three or more friends over, your roommate might want a text or warning.

Also talk about when it’s ok to have friends over, and when you both need your quiet time. Quiet time can include the need for peace in the morning for a person who isn’t a fan of early rising, or one quiet afternoon a week when you both know you’ll be able to study at home.

If one person or more have significant others, plan in advance on how often this person will be around.  If they’re going to be there a lot, it’s acceptable to ask them to pitch in on utilities and maybe groceries if you do communal grocery shopping. And set a limit of how many nights in a row any guest is allowed to spend, most landlords actually have rules about this anyways. Remember, when all of you signed up to live together, you weren’t expecting to share your place with a third wheel.

I spent my second year in residence with the same roomie I’d had the year before. My roommate’s S.O. was spending more time with us than I was happy with.  Instead of talking to her about it, I bottled my feelings up and started to feel resentment towards her S.O.
Eventually I talked to her, but I felt really awkward and uncomfortable doing so. She really understood how I was feeling and hadn’t even realized it had been bothering me before I mentioned it to her. We were able to resolve our roomie issue easily after that, but I wish we had planned this sort of thing out in advance to avoid the awkwardness and resentment I felt.

Of course, planning and communicating can’t prepare you and your student-family for every situation, so do what you can on your own to make your house a pleasant place to be.

Take responsibility for your messes, guests and anything you borrow.

Lastly, when situations do come up that are a bit sticky, handle them with tact. Being polite to your roommates even when you’re upset will contribute to open communication and ironing out any wrinkles as you go along. When I talked to my resident roomie about her S.O., I didn’t blame her, I just tried to tell her how I felt. Maybe come up with a strategy in advance such as an agreed upon phrase like, “we need to have a roomie talk,” or,  “I have a roomie issue,” that lets people know you have a topic you want to discuss calmly.

You’re on your own now, but it’s not just your home. Roommates all need to be open to compromise, and be committed to finding solutions that work for everyone who lives together.

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  • Show Comments (1)

  • Justin Brown

    I for one think Robin would make a great off campus representative. Sound advice. Dishes are among some of the main reasons roomies end up hating each other. Communication is key.

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