“Living with you has made me seriously consider living in my car.”
-Said everyone with a bad roommate ever
I grew up in a household of four people; my only “roommates” up until the age of 18 were my mother, father and older brother. Just like any other family, we experienced conflict. Someone was always doing something to incite a riot—more often than not, this meant that someone had eaten the last Zebra Cake and left the empty box for the next hungry soul to find. Fortunately, these disputes would last no more than 10 minutes and peace would eventually prevail.
Living with family means that unconditional love and forgiveness are usually the solution to disputes within your home; family is family, after all. When you live with family, conflict is not taken personally because you love one another. There comes a time in every young adult’s life, however, when they make the transition from living at home to living on their own. During this transition, they are faced with the sometimes harsh reality of living with a stranger.
During my time at Sam Houston State University, I have had four roommates. I can say with confidence that no one can test your patience like a roommate can. A roommate can and will do all the things that send you into a fiery rage; I have had these roommates, and I have been that roommate.
With that being said, I have compiled a list of tips so that you and your roommate may live peacefully. Welcome to Roommate Etiquette 101.
Respect one another’s belongings and space. I had a roommate who often watched her nephew while her sister was at work. One Friday afternoon, I went home for the weekend while my roommate had her nephew stay over in our dorm. When I returned on Sunday, I noticed something was off. The blanket that I had left neatly folded and hanging over the back of my desk chair was no longer neatly folded. A few days later, I found boogers (yes, boogers) smeared on the wall by my bed. I’m still nauseous to this day and my desire to have children (and a roommate for that matter) is lesser.
Though you may share certain areas of your dorm or apartment with your roommate, such as the living room, kitchen, bathroom, etc., there are almost always living areas that are designated to you and you alone; the same goes for your roommate. With that being said, you should avoid invading your roommate’s space. For instance, do not borrow something without asking first or enter your roommate’s bedroom without their knowledge.
Be conscious of noise-levels and aware of one another’s sleep schedules. I had a roommate who was a self-proclaimed procrastinator. She was one of those students who would start a project the night before it was due. With that being said, there were often times that she was awake when I was asleep. One night, I was awoken from my slumber to an incessant popping sound. There was light from the kitchen streaming in under my bedroom door. My roommate had taken a break from her homework to grab a snack at 3 a.m. Unfortunately for me, that snack just so happened to be the loudest microwavable food she could have chosen: popcorn. Rest assured, she didn’t forget to slam her bedroom door before returning to her studies, either.
We all lead different lives. Our coursework varies in difficulty and time consumption, and some of us have part-time or even full-time jobs. With that being said, our schedules won’t all look the same. If your roommate is studying or trying to sleep, keep noise to a minimum.
If you make a mess, clean it up. One of my roommates was too messy to even function. There was not a single instance in which she had made a mess that she did not clean up—she simply existed to produce messes. I recall coming home one Sunday evening to find what seemed like every makeup product she owned lining the bathroom counter, as well as hair ties, her hairbrush and straightener. For as many cosmetic products as she left on that bathroom counter, I assume she looked stunning by the time she left our dorm that evening.
Maintaining the cleanliness of your shared living areas is one of the most crucial ways to keep the peace with your roommate. Most people prefer living in a mess-free environment, so do your roommate a favor and throw away those week-old Chipotle leftovers that are cluttering up the fridge.
Ensure your guests clean up after themselves and respect your roommate. I once had a roommate I was pretty good friends with, and she often had her boyfriend over. During one of his visits, I walked out of my bedroom to find that he had tracked dirt throughout the kitchen and bathroom, and had not even bothered to clean up the mess. Later, he got out of the shower and proceeded to walk around the dorm in nothing but a towel. Saying he “over-stepped” his boundaries is an understatement; he leaped over those boundaries.
It is important for your guests to recognize that you do not live alone. While they may be comfortable enough to do certain things around you, they should not feel comfortable enough to do those same things around your roommate. When your roommate allows you to have guests, it is important that your guests are well-mannered. For instance, if your guest uses a dish, they should clean it and put it away.
Flush the toilet. I never thought I would have to flush the toilet for another human being, but you guessed it. I have had not one, but two roommates who never quite grasped the concept of flushing a toilet.
Seriously, though. Flush the toilet.
Communicate with your roommate when there is an issue. I have shared with you only a few of the issues I have encountered with my college roommates. Ironically, I never once communicated any of these issues to them. When they did something that upset me, I would only allow anger and frustration to build up, which in turn would yield resentment. When resentment is present, living in peace is near impossible.
Communicating with your roommate when there is a problem is the most beneficial thing you could do to maintain the peace. If you put nothing else into practice, this is the one thing you should. Coming to an understanding with your roommate is going to prevent further issues from occurring.