The true cost of a shared apartment is peace
Welcome to my Bad Roommate Survival Guide, where you might find yourself after sharing a living space with another person you now wish you’d never met. Sometimes the issues start out as something finnicky, like the dishes not being done. After some time, you may find yourself living through something everyone faces in college: surviving a lease with a bad roommate. Let’s try to look at this from a solution-oriented perspective by looking at some of the more common problems and telling you what I did that either worked or didn’t.
They’re crossing my boundaries!
Personal boundaries can apply to a lot of things, and as new mini-adults in college, whether in a dorm or a shared apartment, it can be easy to shrink down when it comes to confrontation or advocating for ourselves. This can lead to miscommunications between ourselves and others about what our true needs are. If we’re not clear about what exactly we’re looking for within our home, your expectations may fall short as you may have set the bar lower to seem more chill. Bad move. It’s important for any set of roommates, whether starting out as friends or strangers, to be very clear with each other at the beginning of moving in about what every needs to go right at home. You don’t have to like someone else’s rules, nor does anyone have to like all of yours, but you need to find compromises where everyone can be pleased. If you feel your boundaries are being crossed or disrespected, you might have not communicated them correctly with each other. Get a roommate meeting going and see where everyone can agree to compromise. You all want to have a nice space to come home to, you all have to work for it.
No one does their chores!
Set up another round table discussion with your roommate(s), and a form of accountability for everyone. When some of my past roommates, we’d use a chore app similar to a chore wheel (with prizes). Set up goals like, “whoever takes the trash out first 7 days in a row gets a pint of ice cream,” or something similar. We would also have a group goal like “if we have x amount of cumulative points, we can go on a fancy spring break trip together.” Believe me, people get competitive when goals are involved, so the apartment might be tidied up completely by the end of a few days. You also must ALL agree to all cleaning together at least once a month to do a deep-clean of the apartment. This is good for holding each other accountable and lessening the amount of things to clean the next week.
They’re stealing my stuff!
This is a rough one to deal with, especially because no one wants to admit they’re the one who stole your ____. You have to look at a situation like this from a case-to-case basis. When my roommate started taking something I owned from the living room and putting it in her bedroom, I would take it and put it back in the living room. When it happened again, I put it back in my room. She likely assumed I would have no issue silently “gifting” her this object because I wasn’t vocal about my feelings at the time. I never brought it up, only took my stuff and the privilege to use it upstairs. She laughed, apologized, and we’re still friends today.
By contrast, one of my other ex-roommates stole my stuff excessively and broke a lot of my things (to say the least). I just moved out. In retrospect, I should’ve at least changed units in my apartment complex before my lease ended to get away from her sooner. So again, case by case basis on how you want to handle this one. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve been thinking about asking to get reassigned. Pay the reassignment fee and just go if the issues are too much. You don’t have to tell them, plenty of people move out of their apartments secretly without their roommates knowing. If you live in a big student complex, you might even have the option to move to a sister property instead.
Don’t be petty (unless it’s a last resort)
Listen, I truly do not recommend this unless you’ve tried everything else you can think of and then some. BUT, if you’re stuck in a lease with the Tasmanian devil and you need to make a point silently, here’s some ideas I wasn’t brave enough to do, but some people do anyway. Before trying any of this, make sure you know what reactions you’ll be getting. You live with them, so you’ll know.
-Bad roommate isn’t doing their dishes? Put them in a plastic bag and give it to them or put it in their room. Now your sink is clean and they know you’ve had it.
-Bad roommate isn’t respecting you? Take your things out of the common area, now they’ve lost the perks that comes with living with you.
-Bad roommate eating your snacks? Get a mini-fridge and a small shelf, now your snacks are only yours. Bonus points if getting a mini-fridge that also has a small freezer, and getting an air-fryer or microwave to add to your room. It’ll be lit, trust me.
There are other methods, and you have probably already thought of a few before getting to this article, but please do try the whole “sing kumbaya around the campfire” thing with your roommates at least a few times first.
Have you considered you might be a bad roommate too?
Okay, seriously, think about this. I’m not coming for your neck, I’m just saying that multiple parties tend to be at fault in roommate squabbles. What are the chances that everyone in your apartment, including you, is a bad roommate and you all need to suck it up, communicate with each other, and actually hold up to your own expectations in addition to each other’s. What are the chances that you’re all bad roommates, so you’re being even worse to each other because you think everyone else is worse than you. It’s most likely that you all suck equally. (The truth hurts, and comes with experience.) True change will come from everyone in the apartment when everyone accept that they, too, contribute to the bad vibes.
Hi! I'm Tina! I was born in Miami, FL, and raised in the Florida Keys before attending Florida State University in 2016. I graduate at the end of July with a degree in Editing, Writing, and Media and a combined minor in English and Film; yay! I've been writing since I was a small child and have worked to hone my craft since then as well. My favorite book in Kindred, by Octavia Butler, and you can often find me cuddling my dog and playing silly iPhone games in my spare time.