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Roommate Problems And How To Resolve Them
Aug 31st, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

Help!  My Roommate Is Driving Me Crazy!

It’s hard to live with someone else in a tiny space, especially a dorm room.  Many find themselves facing one of these problems at one point or another.  This is a long post, so feel free to scan down for your particular issue.  Feel free to share your own if you don’t see it on the list.  I will be happy to help you resolve an issue and/or post it anonymously, too.  If you have creative solutions or ideas, please share them.

General comments: 

  1. Avoid problems by setting clear boundaries with your roommates first. 
  2. Don’t let problems fester.  Discuss them as quickly and calmly as possible.
  3. Avoid name-calling, vicious sarcasm, and accusations.  Be kind.
  4. Look to see how you may have contributed to the problem. 
  5. Always try and resolve an issue first before you involve others, including an RA, unless it is life threatening or dangerous.
  6. If you’re venting, need space, in a bad mood, make sure you communicate!  Your roommate isn’t a mind reader!  Be upfront, be honest.

Problem: Turning on main overhead light while you’re sleeping or trying to sleep.

Solution:  Put a note on your door that you’re sleeping.  Can even be one of those hotel styles that hang on the knob.  Buy small lamp that can be turned on instead of overhead light.  Light bulb should be low wattage.  If one roommate wants to read while others are sleeping, purchase clip on reading lights.  They come in various sizes and can be purchased online through Amazon, at bookstores, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Problem:  Food issues – either roommate takes your food without permission or does not replacing what she takes.

Solution:  Keep a list next to your refrigerator of all your food items.  Cross out what you eat/drink.  Keep a list of IOUs and replace what you owe.  Label your food and drinks – buy and use Sharpies.  Keep a separate shelf for each roommate’s food/drinks.

Problem:  Dirty – clothes everywhere.  Leaves used plates, bowls, take-out containers and doesn’t wash them or throw them out.  Throws their stuff everywhere.  Doesn’t bathe.

Solution:  This is a tough one.  The key is to be upfront and deal with this issue right away.  Explain that you understand that your roommate may have been in a rush, but that you are embarrassed to bring in guests and have them see the person’s underwear or filth.  Leave a note.  Please clean up mess – we’re having guests.  Please clean up your stuff.  I’ve noticed a horrible odor in our room.  Please help me figure out what it is and let’s resolve it.  

Problem:  Gossips or talks about you to others.

Solution:  Best to be honest and confront the issue right away.  Speak in private outside your dorm.  Maybe go out for breakfast or take a walk, but talk it out. 

Problem:  Roommate doesn’t pay his or her portion for cleaning supplies or other shared items like toilet paper.

Solution:  Keep a checklist:  Item:  who made the purchase with the date and the cost.  Either agree to alternate or split the cost between roommates immediately or every two weeks.  

Problem:  Roommate turns music on while you’re studying or invites guests in while you’re trying to get work done.

Solution:  Ask roommate to use headphones.  If you’re tired, ask roommate and guests to go to someone else’s room.  Be upfront and honest. 

Problem:  Roommate snores.

Solution:  Buy a fan for background noise, buy and wear earplugs (Walgreens, CVS stores carry them), buy a CD that plays wave sounds that will block out snoring.

Problem:  Roommate’s alarm wakes you up too.

Solution:  If your roommate doesn’t wake up to “normal” beeps or light music, ask him or her to buy a wristwatch that has an alarm.  That way, it will buzz or beep on his body and reduce noise. 

Problem:  Roommate binge drinks and vomits in your room.

Solution:  This is a hot topic and difficult problem.  Binge drinkers can suffocate on vomit and need to be watched carefully.  Keep a bowl or a garbage can readily available. 

Problem:  Roommate gives you the silent treatment after arguments.

Solution:  See if you can break the silence between you by starting out with simple phrases like “Good morning” or “Have a good day” or “See you later.”  Communicate using notes.  Let cooler heads prevail – let a day or two pass and start the conversation.

Problem:  Roommate lies, and then lies that she lied.

Solution:  If confrontation doesn’t work, then write a note spelling it out clearly for the person.  He may not change, but at least he knows you’re not being fooled.

Problem:  Roommate doesn’t do his fair share of the work.

Solution:  Discuss it first.  If it doesn’t help, leave a note.  

Problem:  Roommate pushes their religious perspective on you.

Solution:  Be blunt.  Ask the person to stop.  Say I am not interested.  There should be mutual respect and no one should push his faith on another.  One person told me that she would sing every time her roommate brought up religion.  Eventually, the roommate got the message.  In one extreme case a girl told me that her roommate was constantly leaving literature or telling her she was going to hell.  They ended up switching rooms.    

Problem:  One roommate has sex while the other is supposedly sleeping.

Solution:  Private business should always be private.  Leave your roommate a note and say that you had trouble sleeping and ask them to take his/her private business elsewhere.

Creative Solutions:

From a senior who was fighting a lot with her roommates:  “I went out and bought a card and some of my roommates’ favorite things like soda, soaps, things for their hair.  I put the gift together and wrote a note thanking them for being awesome roommates, even through tough times.  It helped smooth things over.

From a senior who had one roommate without a boyfriend:  We had four girls living in one small room.  Three of us had boyfriends and the one who didn’t always felt left out.  Our solution was to plan special girls only activities.  It made a difference and eased tensions.

Online services to help your find a compatible roommate:  Through Facebook: http://www.roombug.net/ or URoomSurf: http://www.uroomsurf.com/

Don’t see your roommate often, but need to communicate?  Maybe this notepad can help express what needs to be said – as long as you both agree to use it!  Some of the things to check off can be harsh!  http://www.shakespearesden.com/notepad-magnetic-roommate-fyi.html 

Some roommate nightmare stories I’ve heard:

Jane told me a story about her roommate, Alisa, who refused to take out their garbage.  The solution was to get separate cans.  One day Jane wasn’t thinking and threw some of her garbage in her Alisa’s can.  Alisa had a hissy fit and retaliated by dumping out garbage! 

Beth walked into her dorm room and found dirty dishes in the sink, on the floor, and on her bed – all belonging to her roommate, Sara.  She asked Sara to clean them up and Sara threw the dishes at Beth. 

Ben’s roommate, Jeremy, confronted Ben and said he owed her money for cleaning supplies.  They had been arguing about other things, too.  Ben paid Jeremy the three dollars he owed him.  Jeremy said he needed space, and asked Ben to get lost for an hour.  When Ben returned, Jeremy was gone.  He left Ben a present on his bed.  Jeremy had cut up the dollar bills and spelled the word “TRUCE” with the destroyed money.

Be careful with whom you confide in about your roommate and any problems you may have with him.  I heard several stories from people who discussed their roommate problems with dorm neighbors, mutual friends, even openly on Facebook.  In each of these situations, the roommate found out.  D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R!  Don’t do it.  If you absolutely need to confide in someone, make sure the person is trustworthy and helps you to resolve the problem by allowing you to take care of it without his intervention.  Start with a friend who doesn’t go to the same school, a parent, or a sibling, or perhaps your RA.

College Students, Are You Thinking About Renting An Apartment? Good things to know…
Jul 22nd, 2009 by Liza Wiemer

Tired of dorm living?  Take the plunge and rent an apartment or duplex.  Duplex

Ask the following questions:

1.  How much is the rent?  2.  Do you allow pets? (if you have one) Note:  If the landlord allows pets, expect that your security deposit will be at least 1.5 to 2 times the amount of your monthly payment! 3.  When is rent due?  4.  Do I need a co-signer?  (usually a parent)  5.  What is the parking situation?  Or is there a bus/transportation line? 6.  Is there laundry available? 7.  How much is the security deposit? 8.  What utilities are included? 9. Is there Internet/cable TV hook-up? 10.  Is the lease a month-to-month, or a year lease?  11.  Do I have to give notice before we vacate the premises in WRITING?  How much time is needed?  12.  May I sublease the apartment to someone if I need to leave?  13.  What charges will I incur if my rent is late?  14.  Who do I call in case of an emergency or problem with the apartment?

Always: 1) Pay your rent on time.  2)  If you have any issues, including financial difficulties and may not be able to pay the rent on the due date – contact your landlord.  3)  Pay your utilities on time.  4)  Purchase renters’ insurance – it covers loss and/or damage and is relatively inexpensive.  5) Be respectful to other tenants in the building – loud music/parties at all hours of the night are not okay.  6)  Keep shared space clean and clutter free.  7)   Keep doors locked.  8) Be careful who has copies of your keys.  9)  Be thorough and honest on your application – if you’re not truthful, the landlord will find out!  Better to be up front if you were late on payments in the past and if you have civil or criminal records etc.  10) If your landlord calls you, return his/her call promptly.  11)  Choose your roommates carefully.  Will s/he pay on time?  Remember – their (rental) history can affect your history!

Your credit history WILL BE CHECKED

Public Records, including civil and criminal cases WILL BE CHECKED

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