Resolve Your 5 Most Common Roommate Problems

By Madison White on August 27, 2016

You may seem to have everything in common with your roommate, but that doesn’t mean that conflict will never arise. Knowing how to live comfortably and happily with someone else means learning how to diagnose situations and act in a progressive and helpful manner.

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To prepare for future roommates, or resolve some issues with the one you’re with, read these possible situations and how to deal with them.

1. Cleaning

Possible conflict: My roommate and I have different ideas of cleanliness. So far I have been cleaning up after them, but now I’m getting tired of it. What should I do?

Sharing a space with anyone can be difficult and especially so when the way you keep your space differs. Sometimes apartments can go in and out of cleanliness due to busyness.

If they’re having a rough time, try and understand for a while longer. If this is a prolonged issue, tell them ahead of time when you’re going to clean and ask for their help. If this still won’t persuade them to do some of the cleaning, kindly ask that they respect the space you share and they should try confining their mess to their bedroom.

Whatever you do, do not become more and more passive aggressive about the issue. Leaving sticky notes will often just anger the other person whereas talking in person can actually begin to solve the issue. You may have to ask them to start small, just by taking out the trash. Over time, this will hopefully lead to a more equal distribution of responsibilities.

2. Dishes

Possible conflict: My roommate leaves dirty dishes in the sink and we run out of clean ones constantly. They say they’ll do them, but they never do. What should I do?

Similar to the cleaning situation, you’re just going to have to communicate. Talk to them about why they say they’ll do their dishes but nothing seems to be happening. Ask them if they could try to have a 24-hour turnaround on dirty dishes. If this doesn’t work, try and compromise with them on some other chore that may be more manageable for them.

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If this still doesn’t work, divide the dishes so that you’re responsible for half and so are they. If they don’t have access to clean dishes, this might persuade them to clean theirs.

3. Rent and bills

Possible conflict: My roommate is constantly late on paying me back on bills and rent. I used to be fine but now my funds have dropped pretty low. What should I do?

Bills and rent can be difficult, especially because they’re usually under just one person’s name. This means getting their half can be tricky. If possible, try and split the utilities so that they are responsible for half as are you.

Ask the landlord if your rent can be paid separately so that they’re responsible for theirs. If their lateness on bills is cutting off your water or electricity, try reminding them well ahead of time when the bills are due. Offer to pay your half up front so the cost is less jarring for them.

Be careful though when talking money with anybody, it can be a touchy subject especially when earnings aren’t high. Make sure you don’t seem accusatory, but open and willing to compromise and understand.

4. Quiet time

Possible conflict: My roommate and I seem to have opposite schedules. Whenever I try to sleep, they’re still up watching TV or having friends over. I’m losing out on precious hours. What should I do?

Life can be pretty tough when you’re an early bird and your roommate is a night owl. Yet it is possible for both of you to be satisfied and happy. If you have a normal bedtime, talk with them about being quiet after that time. It doesn’t mean that they have to stop their normal behaviors, but try and keep the volume low.

If they like hanging out with friends, suggest that they organize them at other locations or on weekends. Explain your reason for doing so — if you have work or class early in the mornings, they may be more apt to understand.

5. Food

Possible conflict: My roommate and I don’t share food, but I constantly find the things I buy disappearing or running low. What should I do?

It is possible that if this happens with most foods, you should ask if they’ll go shopping with you and split the cost. If they don’t want to, make clear parameters about what foods can be shared (condiments, pantry items) and what can’t (snacks, meals).

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By setting up boundaries, you’ll have less confusion about what is on and off limits. It could be that they didn’t know what wasn’t allowed to be shared. Don’t jump right into hiding or labelling your food; try talking first.

Living happily doesn’t mean never having disagreements, it means addressing them in a productive way. Learning to do this may just be one of the best skills you learn.

Madison graduated with her Master's degree in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester (UK), and holds Bachelor's degrees in English and Creative Writing from Wichita State University. She currently teaches English at Wichita State University and works as a freelance writer and blogger on her website Madison White Writes and elsewhere.

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