How to enjoy group living and
avoid going to war against your roommates
By Megan Lisonbee
March 10, 2006 | It is a battle that all college students
must fight year after year. There is the drudgery of
classes, books and studying that weigh on the mind of
every college student. But these well-known trials don't
hold a candle to the difficulty that comes with having
a new roommate.
Everyone has either heard or can share personal stories
that would make your skin crawl about the horrible roommates
they have had. There is no way around the fact that
no matter who you live with there will be problems,
but what many people don't realize is that there is
hope. It is not as difficult as one might assume to
have a successful roommate experience. With only a few
simple roomie survival skills you can pull through the
year, and who knows, you just might even enjoy yourself.
Skill 1: Just Talk About It
The first and most important step to surviving life
with your roommate comes down to communication. You
will be living with someone who has a completely different
set of ideas and beliefs on the right way to do everything
from sleeping, cleaning and unfortunately even hygiene.
At the start of each school year, sit down with your
new roommates and discuss how your home is going to
be run. Cover details such as when quiet hours are,
and how often and who will do what cleaning. Discuss
personal habits and beliefs and decide who you best
get along with, then share a room with that person.
It is a good idea to make a roommate contract or agreement
where you document all your decisions from your conversation.
For a great example of such an agreement click here.
Communicating with your roomies does not stop here!
It is important to keep this type of communication running
throughout the whole year. Talk frequently and tell
each other what is going well in your apartment and
what could be improved. When your roomie decides to
do something like rummage through your food and eat
whatever they find, your first reaction will probably
be less than kind.
Heather Harlson, a junior at Utah State University
said that her solution to roommates stealing her food
was to "clearly label your peanut butter with your name
and a threat to kill the person eating it."
While the easiest solution to a roommate you are mad
at may appear to be to treat them like crap, and do
horrible things to their room, clothes or food, there
may be a more appropriate way to handle the problem.
People respond to sarcasm and anger with sarcasm and
anger. It is amazing how quickly a small issue can escalate
into a monstrous one. Small pet peeves or annoyances
when kept inside will bubble and brew until finally
you can't take it anymore and a huge explosion occurs
all because your roommate wore your shirt. All it takes
to solve your problem is to simply tell the person how
upset it makes you. Now this is easier said than done.
Open communication takes practice and often maturity
to be able to face a frustrating situation and discuss
it. But if you can learn to communicate, your roommate
happiness will skyrocket. A web page by Kristin Feenstra
discusses way to resolve roommate
"My roommate had no idea how upset it made me when
she left her school stuff all over the living room.
It drove me crazy! But when I finally got up the guts
to talk to her about it I realized she had no idea it
was upsetting me and she stopped the next day," says
Caitlin Maxfield, a sophomore at Utah State University.
It can be scary to confront your roommate about your
frustrations, but it always yields positive results.
Don't hesitate to work through problems!
Skill 2: R-E-S-P-E-C-T
The next step for survival is respect. Never heard
that before, right? Just as mentioned before, these
are simple steps. Remember that you are sharing living
space now. Keep your school work and clothes out of
the living area. Your room is your personal space but
everywhere else is not. You have to respect other people
and their space. Also understand that everyone has a
different lifestyle. Some people prefer to do their
homework between the hours of one and four in the morning,
while others may choose to sleep during this time. Some
people may want a clean kitchen to cook in. No matter
how bizarre these things might be, you have to learn
to work with it.
"My freshman roommates were the definition of pigs!
Our guy neighbors even stopped coming over because it
smelled so bad," said Kim Addison. "I hated my roommates
because they were so messy and my roommates hated me
for always getting on their case."
As much as one might hate to admit it, the old adage
"treat others how you want to be treated," is an excellent
rule of thumb when dealing with roomies new or old.
If you treat your roommate with respect and consideration,
chances are that they will return the favor. Although
it may not be the easiest way out, it is certainly the
right way. No matter how upsetting something your roommate
does, you have to remember to treat them like they are
people too. It is easy to forget that their way of life
is not wrong, it is just different.
Skill 3: Chill Out
The final step to roommate success is to be willing
to bend. No one can get their way all of the time. The
idea of "my way or the highway" does not work with roommates.
Everyone has to learn to relax a little. Dirty dishes
in the sink does not require a screaming explosive fight.
"The roommates I loved the most were the ones who
knew how to be chill! You have to remember that your
roommate is not leaving her homework out because she
hates you. Don't take things so personally!" said Andrea
Wilson a graduate in interpersonal communication from
the University of Utah.
You learn a lot about yourself when you live with
others. The way you treat a roommate is a great reflection
of the way you treat everyone, including the people
you care about. By practicing communication, exercising
respect and being a little flexible, you are sure to
have wonderful roommates, and you will be one in return.
For more tips to survive your roommates and yourself
Now it is one thing to know what to do for a great
roommate experience, but what about what NOT to do?
For some humorous but not so good ideas try out this