Signs That You're The Bad Roommate

The other day, I (accidentally!) dropped my phone on my roommate’s face from the top bunk while she was sleeping on the bottom.

Wow, you must be thinking, that’s bad. I agree with you. I was horrified, and though she was wonderfully kind about it, it got me thinking; at what point do I become “the bad roommate”?

Since coming to college I have heard a lot of stories about bad roommate situations, and frankly, it’s not surprising. Throwing together two (or three) strangers in a tiny space and expecting them to proceed thus with no tension between seems like a lot to ask. That being said, I have heard a lot of wonderful roommate stories too, and many people find their best friends in college through their roommates. But that is not what this article is about.

There are the classic roommate horror stories, of course, people who have sex in your bed when you aren’t in your room, people who smell horrible and will do nothing about it, people who steal your stuff, et cetera, et cetera. These are the people who live in the realms of old college stories told later in life and who we villainize to no end, possibly rightfully. Sharing a space with someone means making some concessions so that you are both comfortable and happy, and if they aren’t doing that, it often seems like they are actively trying to be terrible.

I have a theory, though, that at some point, however brief, every single one of us is the bad roommate, and more often than not by accident. So here are five signs to recognize if you are, in fact, the bad roommate:


1.) You have been asked to stop doing something for a long time and you haven’t.

Seems like a pretty basic situation, huh? Your roommate has asked you to stop leaving your wet raincoat on the floor when you come home, but it’s so hard to remember that when you’ve had a long day and she never gets back before you anyway! You’ll have time to clean up the puddle– that is until you forget… again. This is a sign that is easy to let slip away from you, and it’s often easy to justify your actions to yourself, but if your roommate has enough patience and maturity to ask you to stop doing something for the fifth time without going to your RA, you at least owe it to her to try to stop.


2.) You use their stuff (including food!) without asking.

But she said I could have a sip of her Starbucks that one time– why would that change? This one is all about communication. Sure, maybe your roommate offered you some of her vanilla frap one time, but that doesn’t really give you the right to go slurping away every time you see her drink on her desk and her not in the room. Think consent here, folks; saying yes one time doesn’t mean that yes exists eternally from then on. You still have to ask! While it might not seem like a big deal to you, you still do not have a right to use or take someone else’s things without their permission.


3.) You make them leave the room… a lot.

Photo by Alexandre Croussette

I heard a story the other day about a girl who kicked both her roommates out of their room for seven hours without more than thirty minutes notice so she could fool around with a guy. While occasionally asking your roommates to clear out so you can have some “special” moments with someone is fine, don’t be unreasonable about it! If you find your roommate’s face falling when you tell her, for the third time that week, that she needs to leave because your significant other is coming over, then you need to consider what you are asking of her for your benefit.


4.) You don’t give them space.

Photo by John Schnobrich

This one can be particularly difficult for some people who have dreamed their whole lives of becoming best friends with their roommates, and it’s often the hardest to remedy because it’s really hard to tell when you are doing too much. Obviously I don’t know what your relationship with your roommate, but too often I have heard about people who started off as decent friends and the relationship quickly deteriorated because one person wanted to spend more time with their roommate than the other, and the other didn’t really have a choice in the matter because they live together. Starting college is hard, and sometimes it feels like you need to cling to every semblance of a friend you might have in the beginning but try to remember what they are going through also. It’s fine if you want to spend time chatting and being with your roommate, but make sure that is what she wants to too. Some people just like to lie down and chill out when they get home, and if you insist on having a deep meaningful conversation with your roommate every time they walk in the room, they might lose the time they need to recharge. I’m not saying you should jump to the conclusion that your roommate does not want to talk to you ever again, but I am saying you should be conscious of her space and her mental state; sometimes people just need to be alone, and that is ok.


5.) You prevent them from sleeping.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz

Similar to the last one, this is about giving your roommate the space they need to function comfortably in the space you are sharing. Sleep is important, especially now in college when we have so little opportunities to get it. If your roommate gets into bed and closes her eyes, take that as a sign that she is not in the mood for a long conversation. Similarly, if it is three AM and you come crashing into your room with five rowdy, drunk friends in tow, you are not only definitely disturbing your roommate at a time she should be allowed to sleep, but also probably the rest of your hall. I’m not saying don’t have fun, I’m just saying be conscious of when your fun impacts someone else’s sleep cycle.