The State of the Roommate (and How to Live with One)

By Billy J. Clanton| January 31, 2018

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Some people are a joy to live with. Others, not so much. One thing is true, regardless of your personality type, is that it can become a desperate state to live with someone who is not a good match to your needs and wants.

If the state of your roommate is making life miserable, here are some strategies to identify the personality types and how to survive living with them.

Reminder: it’s temporary, it too shall pass.

  • Start off on the right foot: Lay down a few ground rules for the big things as soon as you move in.
  • At the very first sign of uh-oh, this isn’t going to work, say something. Don’t wait until it festers and you get mad. That’s the worst time to talk to them.

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Here’s how to present your needs so they will hear you:

  • Never make it about them doing something wrong. Assume they may not be aware of it and that it isn’t working for you. You are just bringing it to their attention.
  • Then, you need to offer a solution.
  • Do not leave passive-aggressive little notes around the room. Speak about the problem directly. And firmly ask for what you want. If they are doing this to you, ask them what’s wrong.
  • Be prepared to compromise a little. Your roommate may not be the quicker picker upper you are. Find another way they can help share the load in ways they are more skillful.

The Partyer

You know the one. The partyer is that person who keeps you up at all hours because they invite their friends (and their friends’ friends) over. They are loud, make a mess, drink a lot, sleep late the next day and wake up crabby. Interning is a tough job, and if you’re into getting to bed early or having some quiet time, this is not the ideal roommate. Set boundaries. If you need to work, compromise and go to the library for a few hours.

What to say:

I know you love to spend time with your friends and have fun. But I get up super early and sometimes take work home. I need some quiet time to focus. How about we have a couple of quiet hours in the evening and send people home after 11?

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The Irresponsible /Entitled one

Irresponsible people are everywhere, but when it comes to having one as a roommate, things can get a little tricky. Having a roommate who feels “entitled” looks something like this: they don’t want to share in household duties and expect you to pick up the slack. But you don’t have to play the surrogate parent, picking up after another adult, being a nag or always being the one to take out the trash.

What to say:

Sorry, I may not have told you that stacks of dirty dishes in the sink totally creeps me out. How about we agree to each do our own dishes right away? Or, I would like to use the couch, and with all the stuff on it I can’t sit down. Do you think you can keep the space free?

The Thief

Okay, let’s give sticky fingers the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re just borrowing; maybe they don’t realize that it is actually called stealing when they take something without asking. Whatever the case, this is a really difficult personality to live with.

You’d be surprised by how common this is and there’s usually no limit to the madness. Your space, your favorite shoes, your food in the fridge… if it has a name and it’s yours, they’ve probably taken it for a spin.

Begin here:

I ‘m sure I left a full bottle of orange juice in the fridge. Any idea what happened to it? Or, I just bought a new scarf, and can’t find it. Did you borrow it by mistake? If this is chronic, lock things up.

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The Slob

This is the mess-maker who drops their coat, purse, shoes, and leftovers right where they’re standing. They may not expect you to pick up after them, but the issue is that they don’t have any expectations at all (at least, where tidiness is concerned). So, if you don’t pick up behind them, you’ll be living in their mess right along with them.

Is this really a deal-breaker? Probably not, but it’s sure to be the topic of several heated discussions down the line. Save yourself – and your roomie – the stress. Deal with it on the front end, and hopefully, it won’t come back to bite you later.

What to say:

Hey, I know you work hard all day too, and are super tired and stressed when you get home. But for me, coming home to a messy room and tripping over stuff stresses me out too. Can we work out a way to organize things better?

Living with roommates can be a challenge; there’s no doubt about that. The key is communication, of course and finding the right way to get what you want.

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