How not to alienate a roommate

A few rules to get your roommate groove back. Photo: An important rule: hands off your roommate's milk

SALT LAKE CITY, April 2, 2013 — Remember when you two/three/four first moved in together and you were all BFFs? Those were the good old days: Impromptu dinner parties, late night gossip sessions, and tons of clothes to borrow and share.

Now it’s all too much hair on the bathroom sink, loud inconsiderate phone conversations at 3 a.m., and demands that you answer easily google-able questions while you are trying desperately to watch “The Walking Dead.”


Charles Dickens must have had a roommate when he penned the famous words, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

Just kidding.

Roommates are great, they really are, or at least they can be. One of the hardest things, however, is when things start out going well and then take a very sharp turn for the awful. You might start to dread going home or find that you’re living in a perpetual cycle of the silent treatment. It’s very unpleasant. But not to worry, we’ve been there and we’ve compiled a list that can help you get your roommate groove back:

1. Stop doing everything together: In the beginning it’s fantastic to have this constant roommate companionship. You can cook together, you can go out together, study together, talk about life and relationships etc., but sometimes when tension and disagreements start to occur, it’s because you’re spending too much time together to the point where everything the other person does, is making you sick. So take a break. Reach out to other friends. You’ll notice that just being a little bit absent will make your roommate hearts grow fonder.

2. Don’t drink his/her milk: We’ve all done it, and we all think that our roommates don’t notice, but they do. On a single person’s budget 3/4 gallon of milk vs. a gallon of milk is the difference between having breakfast and not. So don’t mess with your roommate’s budget. Eat your own food, and if you need to borrow butter or something small, replace it ASAP.

An addendum to number 2: Don’t be the roommates that write their name on everything (i.e. “Meghan” written on each individual egg. I’ve seen it done.) If only not to be the most annoying person in the house/world.

3. Talk it out: Lots of times people think because they’re friends that they don’t need to set ground rules, but even if you know someone really well and you can, “talk about anything,” it’s a good idea to anticipate what problems could arise and to lay ground rules to prevent against them. If you notice that you and your roommates are having trouble connecting, try revisiting these ground rules, it could be that one of them is being overlooked and a simple adjustment could fix the problem.

4. Don’t eat in the bathroom: Now you may be thinking, “Who eats in the bathroom?” People do and it’s really weird. This is on the list to illustrate that there may be some super weird things that you do; best to leave those things for when you buy your own place or for the non-shared areas in your apartment. Your roommate might be feeling distant simply because you’re doing something that, to her, is really strange and she doesn’t know how to bring it up. So evaluate your behavior and don’t be afraid to change some things.

5. Do something special: When you live with someone, you can start to take that person for granted, treating your other friends with the dressed up version of yourself while your roommates get the pajama you. It’s great to be comfortable, but if you want to have things be fun like they used to be, make sure your roommate(s) know you care. You might try leaving a little note for them to find or doing someone else’s dishes or bringing a movie home. All of these things show appreciation and usually that’s a huge piece that’s missing when roommates get out of sync.

This list is just a starter list, but it will get you headed in the right direction. Even though sharing living space with roommates can be hard, it has the potential to be a positive and even life changing experience.

Readers: What are some of the most entertaining things you’ve ever done with roommates? Are you glad you chose to share an apartment or if you could go back, would you change it?

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Angela Trusty

Angela Trusty brings her great life observations and advice Communities.  Angela also authors   ‘Ask Angela’ which also appears bi-monthly in the Deseret News. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the lucky sibling of 5 sisters and 1 brother.

She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, but Baltimore will always be her home. 


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