Dealing with the Roommate from Hell

Although I have been very lucky in terms of my college roommates (my closest college friends are my freshman year roommates), it is unlikely that you will become best friends with every person you share a dorm or apartment with. Despite having awesome roomies for much of my college career, my living situation during the summer following my freshman year was a rough awakening to the reality of having a less than ideal roommate.

My roommate, who I will call Polly for this article, though not a terrible person, proved to be the worst roommate I have ever had. Although my initial impression of Polly was positive, she proved to be extremely inconsiderate. To begin with, she couldn’t be bothered to clean anything. She would cook full meals (using my pots, pans, dishes, and utensils that I allowed her to borrow) and then leave the sink filled with dishes and food remnants, which she would proceed to leave for days until I eventually gave up and set them to wash in the dishwasher. She also wouldn’t bother to wipe up any spills that occurred during the course of cooking a meal.

Though I could go on and on listing Polly’s faults, the thing that really stuck with me was her attitude towards the garbage. During the time we both lived in that apartment, she never once took out the garbage. Not once. Rather than take the short walk to the dumpster in the parking lot when the garbage became full, Polly would simply create a second garbage bag NEXT to our garbage can. I once conducted a scientific experiment to see if there was a point where she would take the garbage out if I didn’t do it. Days passed, garbage was squashed into the garbage can to an improbable degree, a new garbage bag was created and was filled. Garbage began to haunt my dreams, and three days after I began my experiment I couldn’t take it anymore and resigned myself to being solely responsible for keeping the apartment from being swallowed by a sea of garbage, dirty dishes, and half-eaten food.

I did not handle my negative roommate experience very well; spending most of my time stewing in resentment, trying to spend as much time out of the apartment as possible, and endlessly complaining to friends and family members. Pro tip: this is not the way you want to deal with a bad roommate. Just like any relationship, the key to a healthy roommate relationship is communication. While it is common sense to have a conversation about what each party is comfortable with when first moving in with an unfamiliar person, this is often the place that communication ends. You have to be comfortable and assertive enough to address problems as they come up. For example, if your roommate never takes out the trash, it might be a good idea to bring this up before resentment becomes the main player in your relationship. Most people will not be deeply offended if issues are brought up in a calm, non-confrontational manner; it is very possible that your roommate did not realize that their actions were bothering you.

While communication is deeply important to healthy roommate relationships, there are times when two people are simply not compatible as roommates. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to begin acting as soon as possible. If you live on campus it is sometimes possible to change rooms if there are large enough issues. Start the process by talking with your roommate and your RA. If you live in an actual apartment, the process of leaving a bad roommate the process is much more complicated. However, it is still good to begin by speaking with your roommate to begin putting together a plan. Finally, although this is not ideal, you can also try to find ways to lessen the amount of time you spend around your roommate; perhaps this bad roommate is an opportunity to reconnect with some friends that you haven’t seen lately!

While you cannot always guarantee that you and your roommate will be a good match, you can control how you react to a less than ideal situation. Just remember that communication is key (and to not create a second trash bag, when the garbage gets full) and you will be able to survive your terrible roommate!

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