Defusing the roommate bomb

By Mackenzie Bush | 10/15/14 11:55pm

We’re quickly approaching the time when roommate situations start to fall apart, when you can walk through campus and hear at least two people gossiping about the weird stuff their roommate does, or their refusal to wash their dishes, even though they’ve started to mold. You’re out of the roommate honeymoon phase, and now you’re starting to notice their annoying tendencies.

If you haven’t gotten there yet yourself, I’m excited for you. But that doesn’t mean you’re safe. Not yet.

I’ve lived in four different roommate situations. They’ve all started out fine, but within a couple of months, the household harmony has taken a turn for the worse. Alliances are formed; food is missing from the fridge; boyfriends decide to move in.

In my last living situation, one of my roommates and I would literally flee the house and walk around Meijer just to avoid hearing her and her boyfriend. And in the one before, I had to deal with the roommates’ insistence that the house thermostat should not be kept above a balmy 55 degrees – even in February.

Before I moved in with my current roommates, I promised myself this time that we’d write up a roommate contract, decide on an elaborate chore chart and live happily ever after, cooking elaborate meals together and buying each other Christmas presents.

But then move-in week was too busy to write the contract. And the chore chart was reduced to dishes and trash, with sporadic, passive aggressive chores being done at random intervals in-between. And people weren’t abiding by the rules that I had in my head but we had never really spelled out on paper.

You’d think you don’t have to tell people not to eat your food. But sometimes, you do.

It’s much easier to go on, passive aggressively, hiding in your room. It also definitely gives you something to rant about when you’re talking to your friends.

But roommate problems drive you insane like almost no other problems do. They’re insidious and they’re constant. They turn what should be your home base into a war zone.

If possible, save yourself some trouble. If you’re having a grand old time with your roommates now, use that trust to set up some good boundaries. If you search for sample roommate contracts online, you’ll find some alright ones. Decide on rules for mundane things like sleepover guests and vacuuming procedure. Give yourself some cover in case stuff starts going south.

And if your roommate is already driving you insane, talk to them before midterms are over. Tell her gently to stop leaving moldy green peppers in the fridge, or leaving hair in the drain, or playing Zelda until 3 a.m. at full volume. They might not even know it’s bothering you.

Having an honest conversation with your roommates will actually probably strengthen your relationship in the long run. You’ll learn some good conflict-resolution skills.

And at the very least, hopefully you’ll be able to get through the rest of the year without completely compromising your sanity.

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