A mountain of dishes in the sink, 6 a.m. alarms on your one day to sleep in, dirty clothes line the hallway — utter frustration. In the beginning, it was rainbows and sunshine. Before you know it, the person you share a living space with is an inconsiderate slob.
The sloppiness inches closer and closer to your room, your things. There’s a weird smell that no amount of candles or air freshener can mask. You consider your roommate a friend, and you don’t want to overreact about a little messiness. Still, all you can think to yourself is, who raised you?
Whether you’re a second-semester freshman or a fifth-year senior, you’ve had a roommate or two. No matter if they’re a complete stranger or a close friend, roommates are tricky. And it isn’t always mess-related.
Sometimes it’s a simple misunderstanding, or a difference in expectations. “Some people want their roommate to be their best friend, some people want their roommate to be just somebody that they live with,” says Kirsten Andrews, leadership, learning and assessment coordinator for KU Housing.
If they’re trashing your apartment or just want more from a roommate relationship than you do, here are some tips on how to deal with a difficult roommate situation.
1. Address problems early on
What was once a small annoyance can snowball real quick. If something bothers you, have a conversation about it.
“We’re grown, so you should be able to just tell them [what’s wrong] and they should be able to just deal with it,” says Ian Rogers, a biochemistry pre-med track sophomore from Reedsburg, Wisconsin.
Talking through the issue sooner rather than later means there is more opportunity for resolution. “If you address that early on, it allows your roommate or another person to try to correct the issue or correct the behavior,” Andrews says.
2. Set some rules
Let your roommate know about your pet peeves — as well as your personal boundaries.
“Set some ground rules, and if those rules are broken, then that’s not okay and you need to go back and reevaluate,” says Avery Poindexter, a pre-med track freshman from Overland Park.
Another factor: decide what you are and are not willing to share with your roommate. “What are we comfortable sharing with each other? What is, you know, for everybody in a space,” Andrews says.
3. Consider the other person
While there might be a number of things your roommate does that annoy you, chances are you annoy them just as much. Plus, you’re not the only one living in close quarters with someone. “I think that you kind of all need to be on the same page,” said Jordan Arnold, a senior from Shawnee majoring in journalism.
Consider what they need to be able to study, feel comfortable and live in the same space as you.
“Respect the person that you’re living with,” Poindexter said. “Don’t do something to them that you wouldn’t want them to do to you.”
1. Avoid the issue
Especially if the issue is you. If you’ve been avoiding telling your roommate that you’re frustrated, or avoiding confrontation that looks bad on your end, it’s time to suck it up.
Take it from someone who avoided the issue: it is not the way to go. Arnold’s roommate constantly woke her up in the middle of the night and didn’t think saying something was necessary. “I kept thinking, ‘Oh maybe we’ll just kind of move past it,’ but I feel like it just kept getting worse,” Arnold said. “I feel like if you have an issue, try to bring it up to them.”
2. Compromise your needs
While you should consider the other person’s needs, don’t agree to something that would make your life an actual living hell. It’s all about balance, after all.
“Roommate situations are kind of a give and take, so you do want to consider, you know, what you need in that scenario to be successful,” Andrews said.
3. Change yourself
If you’ve got a roommate who wants you to experience new things, great. If they’re pushing you to get rid of something you need in order to be happy, shut it down. Remember, living with another person involves adjustments on both ends.
“If there are certain things that are really important to you or certain things you know you need in order to feel comfortable and safe in your space, don’t make exceptions,” Andrews said.