In less than three years at college, I have had seven different roommates. The three years doesn’t mean I graduated in that amount of time, it means that it took me a while to figure out I preferred living by myself… Don’t get me wrong, living with roommates can be a blast. In fact, most of my old roommates and I are still really close friends. However, no matter how much fun you have living with someone, eventually there are going to be some problems. Some will be small, like not doing the dishes or borrowing clothes without asking, and some will be bigger, like graffiti-ing the dorms and then hiding the spray paint under my bed to frame me, or getting rid of all my food in the freezer to make room for the dead squirrel you found in the street (I went to art school). Hopefully your stories aren’t as horrifying as mine, but either way keep reading for tips of how to get along with your roommate!
The most important rule for how to get along with your roommate:
The biggest rule for living with someone, from family, to friends, to lovers and so on, is to respect one another. Hands down. But here are some other tips to keep in mind for how to get along with your roommate.
1. Respect their alone time.
Fun fact: Some people like to be left alone.
Sounds crazy, I know, but I will admit that I happen to be one of those people! While I would love hanging out with my roommates, I also liked to camp out in my room by myself. Sometimes just for an hour and sometimes I didn’t want to see anyone all day.
If your roommate does this, it doesn’t mean they’re avoiding you or mad at you. I had one roommate who would constantly knock on my door, text me, and slip notes under my door saying things like ‘Are you mad at me?’ No, but if you continue bugging me I will be.
Just because a roommate had been by themselves for a while, doesn’t mean anything other than ‘I want to be by myself.’ This is perfectly normal and totally okay. You need to understand that it’s okay to leave your roommate be for a bit, and on the other side, you should know it’s okay to say ‘You know, I think I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon alone.’
2. Don’t touch their stuff unless they say you can touch their stuff.
This one is so huge and pretty obvious, but is broken CONSTANTLY, and it’s something I don’t get. My fellow human beings, you do NOT go into your roommate’s room or into their stuff when you do not have permission. How would you like it if someone did that to you? If you argue this by saying, ‘I wouldn’t mind that much,’ then you’re a liar and get out of here.
This will create inevitable conflict that we all just want to do without. If your roomie has something you need and they’re not around to get it for you, at least text or call first to see if it’s okay. Otherwise, this is a big no no.
3. Don’t gossip, and treat your roommate the way you’d want to be treated.
In dorms, gossip spreads like…well, gossip (there was a herpes joke in there, but I decided to delete it, and I regret it now). If you don’t want to ruin relationships, keep the gossip to a minimum. This is something to practice everywhere in life, but dorms are even more important because this is where you go to relax after a long day of studying/working.
Don’t introduce unnecessary stress to where you want to sleep. There’s already enough stress keeping up with your roommate’s sex schedule and dirty dishes piling.
(Let me clarify: a sex schedule is something one of my old roomies and I invented. Since the walls between our bedrooms were thin, we’d let each other know when the other wanted to have a gentleman over to do cartwheels on the mattress. That way the other one could make plans at someone else’s place, or pick out a loud action movie with lots of bangs ahead of time. It was the only polite thing to do.)
4. Learn to pick your battles.
One day, you might end up living with a spouse, and this, my lovely readers, will come in handy. Pick your effing battles. Don’t nitpick. Don’t nag. Don’t get into an argument about something that you won’t care about in an hour. Don’t create a tense western movie style stand off about dishes. YES, THE DISHES! Why does this always seem to be an area of confrontation?
I lived with 3 other girls in one dorm and the dishes were never a problem, and then I lived with 3 entirely different girls the next year and the dish situation was to apocalyptic proportions! It was something I brought up politely and while nothing really changed and it did bug me, it just wasn’t something I was going to let ruin my living situation. Two of my other roomies, however, let it ruin their 5 year long friendship. The snide remarks, evil glares, and then all out screaming matches hit a climax of uncomfortable unrest in the apartment. It was the reason I moved out. Isn’t that ridiculous?
Pick your battles, and on another note, do your damn dishes.
5. The communal area is COMMUNAL.
One year, the girls down the hall from me had a terrible roommate, and every evening they would sit in my living room regaling me with tales from what the said roommate had done that day. She would use the living room that was supposed to be shared by four people as her own personal walk-in wardrobe, with clothes tossed everywhere and the arm chair as her designated craft box, where she would keep fake fur, beads, gems and all sorts of shit piled up (Don’t forget…I went to art school.)
The worst offense that I still remember hearing about was that she used…wait for it…the living room garbage…hold on tight….that had no lid…get ready…to dispose of her USED TAMPONS. Are you kidding me? If you didn’t just groan or squeal a little, let me just add in that she did have a bathroom garbage can she could have been using, and that her roommates didn’t know she was doing that until they one day investigated the smell…
Yeah. I just…do you…I can’t.
Although that is an extreme case, if you have a communal area you need to treat it as such. It’s a place for other people to gather too, so don’t be selfish and just use it as if it’s all yours. For most people, that just means using headphones instead of your computer speakers. For others, it means period blood. Potato, potato.
6. Use a third party’s help as a mediator.
Okay, so what happens if there is a conflict, and it maybe isn’t being settled among the roomies? This is where a mediator can come in. A lot of dorms have community assistants, and they have different names on different campuses but essentially their duties are the same; they maintain a part of the dorm and make sure people follow the rules.
If you have such a person assigned to you, use them! They can come in and go through the conflict with you, helping each side hash out their differences and eventually coming to some sort of resolution.
All in all, living with room mates can be trying times for many of us, but it can also reward us in lasting friendships, fond memories and hilarious stories to one day write about on a blog.
And just do your dishes.