Roommate Relations

Keeping things happy on the homefront
by Dan Tang 

After hours of sitting through lectures, trying not to fall asleep, I head back to my room to study for a test… only to find my roommate “having fun” with his girlfriend. He asks me to give him some time. Being a considerate roommate, I decide to grab a cup of coffeeand study in the living room, but the coffee I made this morning is gone. Eventually beaten by the Sandman, I fall asleep on the couch, which ultimately leads to a bad test score the next day.

Sound familiar? What can you do when your life is messed up by a bad roommate? Here are some common roommate issues and how to deal with them.

1. Cleanliness is a concept lost on your roommate. Your roommate’s personal area looks like a jungle, with clothes and junk everywhere. The botany department stopped by last week to take samples.

Advice: Set the standard and provide a model. Clean your part of the room in front of your roommate, putting things in order and moving his stuff out of your own space. Strategic sighs and subtle head-shaking can go a long way here. Chances are, he’s simply oblivious; make it clear that you appreciate a clean environment, and that his slovenly ways annoy you.

2.  “Can I borrow everything?” You come home to find your mountain bike covered in mud, your best shirt missing, and your razor covered in hair. 

Advice: Make a point of asking to borrow something of your roommate’s, again to set the standard. Make it clear that permission is required, not optional. If needed, create a “sharing list” that defines what’s okay to borrow and what’s not. If that doesn’t work, electrify your hangers.

3. “Do you mind if my friends come over for a while (read: forever)?” Your roommate seems to think you like hanging out with her spastic friend Muffy as much as she does.

Advice: Be as accommodating as possible in this area, especially if you want to have your own friends over once in a while. If it becomes an issue, the best course of action is to establish visitors’ hours – evenings, weekends, etc. If your roommate violates them or is abusing the system, speak up – silence is consent. In extreme cases, consider a small party the night before she has a big test. She’ll get the picture.

4. The bathroom is your roommate’s second bedroom. You often wonder if your roommate is drowning or sleeping in the tub. You also fear that you’re doing permanent damage to your bladder by holding it so long.

Advice: Communicate your needs and coordinate schedules. Your roommate obviously enjoys his private time and doesn’t want to be disturbed; chances are he’ll choose a time to linger when he knows you won’t be banging on the door. A rubber snake dropped into the shower works great, too.

Remember that communication is key, and that the best way to deal with all types of situations is to discuss the situation and negotiate. As the old saying goes, honey attracts more flies than vinegar – be nice, not confrontational, and things will usually work out. If not, you can always get a real snake.
Life is great when you have good roommates.