How to Succeed with Unruly Roommates:

When roommates clash, a bombogenesis threatens the balance between friend and parent that governs this delicate relationship. Frustration brews when you have to remind your roomie that dirty dishes should not remain in the sink for weeks. The world is hectic enough without life at home being insufferable and stressful. There are ways to improve every situation and establish the tranquil, sanctuary that every home should be. Here are some tips to create an HGTV renovation on your roommate relationships:

  1. Be a desirable roommate yourself.
    • When you are the one with the spare pen, Pinterest worthy dishes, and printer access, your roommate will find value in keeping you happy. So long as you make it clear that they need to ask before using they will sweeten you up before borrowing your belongings.
  2. When your roommate asks you for something reasonable, help them with a positive attitude while casually hinting that is what good roommates do.
    • It can be frustrating to be the better person, but it can also pay off.
  3. When your roommate is grateful for your help, take advantage of it by reminding them of some things you would like from them.
    • “I owe you big time.” – Great can you do your chores for me?
  4. Always set the example for how you want them to perform.
    • The Golden Rule has reigned over centuries of civilizations because it works. Besides showing your roommate and your guests how you like to live, it can support your cause if you get in a disagreement later.
  5. Ideally you would select your roommates ahead of time based on merits you value, such as cleanliness, respect for property, and common activities or beliefs.
    • Although history is not an omnipotent representation of future behavior, it is the best we have. I chose my current roommate for her morals, as well as she was the ideal roommate when I knew her living with former friends. I thought it was a positive sign that she became so frustrated with her old roommate leaving dishes in the sink, that she put the dirty dishes in her bed. If someone was willing to go that far, she must care about cleanliness, or so I thought. Sometimes it takes the right circumstances to change their behavior. My advice is to anticipate your candidate to decrescendo rather than to improve in their domestic attributes. If they are already at a point unacceptable to you, try going a different route. When desperate times call for undesirable choices, make your expectations clear before they accept and put them on trial at first.

While there can be greater differences, usually outside of your control, between you and your roommate it is best to keep an open mind and take everything as a learning experience. This might sound cheesy, but when well implemented, you will not regret it afterwards. Being aware of distinctions in yourself and others can lessen the frustration when differences in opinion seem inexplainable. Understanding can be a solution.

  1. International Roommates.
    • Often times if you study abroad in college, or are open to a roommate from a different culture than your own, you will find many challenges the both of you will have to work through. Hopefully, if you find yourself with an international roommate (or if you are the international roommate) then you willingly imposed this situation upon yourself and are eager for the culture shock. Be prepared for Europeans to complain about American food portions, Asians to keep their shoes by the door, and Hispanics to be late. Everyone has room for improvement, including you. Before I studied abroad in Austria I had not met an Austrian and worried about my roommate situation. Fortunately, I was paired with a Texan who is now my best friend. Texas, I came to learn, while still in America is more a country of its own than I could have known. She opened me up to new ideas, foods, lifestyle, so that when I returned to Georgia, everyone I knew noticed a positive difference in me, that I had not noticed myself.
  2. Interests.
    • So you like classical music and your roommate rocks out to Slipknot, that’s okay, you can still be friends. A poor roommate pair-up can often be improved through establishing the different interest and embracing them. Either learn to appreciate the art of punk or internally plan the disastrous downfall of the other person living with you. The last thing you want to do is bottle up your frustrations. Confrontation can be stressful, but the biggest regret you can have later is not saying something sooner. My freshmen roommate in college dreaded telling me that something I did bothered her, but I had absolutely no clue. You have to communicate when the time is right. And no, this isn’t the week before you move out. After you have established a trend and you are certain this behavior is not going to change, then ACT! Set up a time to meet just the two of you and talk through any issues you have, but also allow the other person to voice their concerns and problems with you. Be receptive and apologize no matter what the issue is. Try to find the best solutions for both of you. If your roommate continues to be obstinate or does not really solve the problem, seek advice or arbitration from friends who have been in similar situations, approach them again when the activity occurs (i.e. while they are leaving the dishes in the sink), or take the objects and hide them if they are common property. But try to avoid sounding too critical and nit-picky.
  3. Valuation of property.
    • This is probably the biggest issue with roommates in some way and more so when they are friends. Going back to setting rules upfront for borrowing personal items (e.g. clothes, scissors, money), make sure strict usage guidelines are established upfront and enforced. You will struggle through greater problems later if your roommate borrows your things without asking or telling, especially when those items need replacing (e.g. tape, food, etc). It is surprising how differently two people can value another’s property. For some, usually those on a budget

Everyone is different, no one is perfect, but friends can be challenging roommates just as strangers can become best friends. There is a special bond created when spending intimate time with another person, even just when sharing living quarters. Set aside time to build your friendship and to have fun. When you have common ground and familiarity, respect blossoms.

Always wishing your home a happy one,