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How to Solve Problems with Your Roommate

 
By Mary Smith. Updated: June 3, 2018
How to Solve Problems with Your Roommate

Whether you are moving out on your own for the first time or on the lookout for the umpteenth roommate after another falling out, living with others isn't always easy. With recession, high unemployment and increasing rents, unfortunately it's a necessity for many. It can be great moving in with friends, but where a friendship works with spaces between your visits, being cooped up behind the same 4 walls might negatively affect the dynamic. Living with strangers can bring its own problems, the first meeting going well because everyone is on best behavior, slowly turning into deep resentment when their true colors are shown. Here at oneHOWTO we highlight and discuss how to solve problems with your roommate.

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Prevention

More often than not problems will arise after people have settled in to a living space as most reasonable people will want to make it work, if only to make their own lives easier. Whether you are living with only one other person or are in a multi-roomed apartment, vetting potential roommates should be a priority.

Friends and recommendations from friends can work well as you should have some common ground to start off with. However, even if you like someone as a friend, but are confident they would not gel with you as a roommate, it is better to be honest and risk hurting someone's feelings once than going with it, building up resentment and then losing a friendship altogether. It is something which happens a lot.

Be honest yourself with a potential roommate. Let them know what kind of person you are (be positive, but own up to any possible issues) and give them an opportunity to be forthright with you. There is no point in telling someone you don't like to party in the house when you actually do because the other person will feel lied to when it happens.

If it's someone you don't know, ask them if yo can be friends on social media first or try to find out a little about their circumstance. This should be something you do with anyone moving in to your home to reduce the risk of living with a maniac.

Cleanliness

Possibly the biggest problem roommates face concerns cleanliness. Often friendships work because opposites attract and one person's relaxed nature might compliment someone else who is perhaps a little more temperamental. However, this can be a big problem when transferred to a living scenario as those little things which you once enjoyed as adorable foibles are now egregious personality flaws which gnaw away at you even when they're not around.

If you like the house or apartment to be in a certain order and level of cleanness, then seeing someone flounce about without a care in the world leaving a mess in their wake can be incredibly annoying. The same goes for the other way round if you think that dishes only need washed when the mold has turned a certain shade of green, but you roommate disagrees, this can cause problems.

The first step in solving this is for both (or all) parties to admit to what they expect and acknowledge that it is OK to have different personalities. It is not OK to lack mutual respect, so take each others concerns at face value and talk about them. Don't let the resentment build up until you have a fight, but engage with the problems in a friendly respectful manner. The other person is more likely to listen to you that way. Making a reasonable cleaning rota which will fit in with each other's lives is a good way to start. Agree on a compromise if necessary and meet in the middle. If someone doesn't hold up their end of the agreement then you can give a friendly reminder with the knowledge that you should all be on the same page. If nothing changes you know the other person is not likely to come around and you can think about moving out.

A good general rule is if you make a mess, you clean it up.

How to Solve Problems with Your Roommate - Cleanliness

Food

Another contentious issue with roommates is food. If you make a big dinner and plan to eat it over the rest of the week only to find out that your roommate has come back home with some friends and eaten it all as a midnight snack, you might be understandably irked. Same goes for someone being more sneaky and taking special treats or expensive items you might keep for special occasions.

When moving in, it is good to set an agreement over what is fair game and what is off-limits. Cheaper more regularly used foods like milk and bread might be fine to share, especially as they might often go off before one person can use it all. Meat and confectionery might be best left to the individual. Have separate cupboard and refrigerator spaces both helps people keep to their own food and also see if someone has been taking yours.

The best advice for having food problems with roommates is to be generous. Don't be petty with your things and create a relationship where you can share with each other. It will help forge a better friendship and also make the other person feel more guilty if they are stealing from an otherwise giving person. Although, if someone is taking advantage of your generosity, that's a different story.

How to Solve Problems with Your Roommate - Food

Shared Utilities

Being clean and not stealing food aren't the only considerations people who share a space need to make. There are also a lot of shared elements which need to be taken into consideration. People who are newly out on their own may have become used to their parents or guardian providing everything they need, but when the toilet paper runs out a new batch of rolls doesn't just magic itself out of nowhere. If you find that you haven't been paying for much round the flat lately for things like cleaning supplies or laundry expenses, then you should probably consider reimbursing your roommates. If it's the other way round, kindly point out that you have been paying for a lot and are now out of pocket, so a reasonable payment should be made.

Reasonable is an important word. Buying some new washing up liquid and expecting some money is reasonable. Buying a new flatscreen TV with accompanying Xbox and expecting a roommate to pay half is not.

Also, bear in mind that reading Tolstoy on the toilet might be relaxing for you, but there might be others who are needing to go as well. Likewise for using the all the hot water, few people not training for the Iron Man race like a cold shower.

If there is only one clothes rack, then make sure to take your clothes off when they have dried and don't leave old moldy washing in the machine.

Also, if you have a pet, first determine that the others are OK having it around, Just because you think they are the cutey-wutey-iest critter on the planet, your roommate might prefer having shoes which don't have holes chewed through them. Secondly, make sure everyone knows whose responsibility it is and don't expect others to take on your responsibility without them knowing it.

How to Solve Problems with Your Roommate - Shared Utilities

Socializing

Two or more introverts living together can work really well, each person respecting the other persons space and giving each other privacy. Similarly outgoing people living together can find friends for life as you explore a collective social scene and combine friendship groups. One living with the other can cause great friction.

Firstly, the place you live is a home to all of you, so there are some basic rights which need to be respected. Peace to sleep, freedom from intrusion and respect for personal space are three main ones. If you are going to have people over for a party or even just loud chatting, then you should make sure it is respectful to the other people in the house, especially those who work early the next day. Learn each other's routines and habits and be considerate of times when you might be causing a disturbance.

Equally, a rich and rewarding social life is a healthy thing for all people to have, so you need to allow people to have some fun in their own home. If anything above a low clamor gives you heart palpitations then maybe you just weren't mean to share a living space. If you have good reason for some peace and the other person doesn't respect it, then it is time to talk because it means there is a problem.

How to Solve Problems with Your Roommate - Socializing

Room Share

In the US a roommate usually means someone with whom you share a living space with, whereas in other countries this might be described as a housemate or flatmate. A roommate, however, can also be more literal and you may find yourself in a situation where there are two (or more!) beds in the same room which you have to share communally. This is particularly common for people moving to a new school or college where shared dorms or rooms are the norm.

These circumstances might bring up issues which are difficult to solve as there may be a lot of unintentional habits which cause conflict, apart from the problems with cleanliness or food we have already discussed. Snoring for example can be a big problem, especially with someone who doesn't know they are doing it. Tactfully bring up the issue and suggest some remedies such as changing sleeping positions or wearing nose strips to help with the noise. Being accusatory will only put the other person on their guard.

Starting a friendship with the other person is very effective. You are more likely to forgive someone's flaws if you actually like the person, so often finding ways to make the friendship better may solve the other minor problems which you tend to focus on. Acknowledging that you are in it together and keeping each other's annoying habits at bay is best. This is particularly true when it comes to noise and smells, both of which are pollutants and can cause division.

Partners

Whether you are sharing a room or a larger space, having a partner can really be the death of an otherwise happy living dynamic. Some people will move in to a space where a couple already lives and if you do this, you will need to make sure that all parties will be happy with the arrangement.

If you are a person in the couple, then you need to make sure you are both easy going enough to allow people to share space. This means that you can't get annoyed when you want to snuggle up on the sofa, but your flatmate wants to use the living room too. It is their flat as well. It also means if you are having problems in the relationship you don't let that spill out into the rest of the apartment. You may be happy living in an unfulfilled state of romantic stalemate and mutual enmity, but your roommate has the right to live somewhere non-toxic.

When the shoe is on the other foot and you are living with a couple, you need to make sure you don't have your own reasons for resentment. Unfortunately human beings can be petty beasts, this goes for single people in particular, so don't hate on your roommates just because they are fulfilled in a way you (at that moment) are not.

This goes both ways when sex is involved. A couple has a right to a fulfilling sex life whereas the other people in the flat have the right to not be affronted by inappropriate noise making. Try to keep it to times when the house is empty or maintain a respectful level of noise. Also remember that it is natural and don't get too uptight about it.

Finally, best to always stay away from hooking up with a roommate. It often ends badly and if you really like someone, then finding separate places to live at the start of a relationship is a good way to let it develop more naturally. Same goes when a roommate asks if their partner can move in, even if "only for a while". That "while" might end up being months of rent free mooching and dossing, so watch out.

How to Solve Problems with Your Roommate - Partners

Aggression and Passive Aggression

It is possible people who are being passive aggressive in a roommate scenario don't know they're doing it, so be wary. You might think leaving a note saying "clean dishes" is a gentle reminder, but the other person may read it as a personal attack. Be open and confront issues when they arise, otherwise you'll foster (here this word comes again) resentment and end up creating bigger problems. You can tell when a flat has an emotionally charged atmosphere, so try not to let it develop into something uncomfortable and be honest with yourself and others.

If there is a problem, don't fly off the handle about it because it is less likely to help anyone. Being reasonable and treating the other person like a human being goes a long way. If you do this and there is still a problem, then it's likely that it's insurmountable and you'll need to consider alternative living arrangements.

When passive aggression turns into out and out aggression, then there is trouble. You should never be scared of living in your own house, so if someone you live with starts to become intimidating consider your options. This is especially the case if you don't know them very well. Find out from mutual friends if there is something going on and if all else fails, it might be best to move out or find some form of intervention (in extreme and unlikely cases this may be the police). Your safety is more important than potentially hurting someone's feelings.

Who's the Problem?

If you feel like you have tried to get on with someone and still you have made no progress, then perhaps it is time you looked at all the possibilities. If you share a place and find that there is a high turnover of people leaving, you should consider who is actually the problem. Is it more likely that all the crazies in the world just happen to respond to your ad or is maybe the problem yours and you need to make some considerations? Treat your roommates as you would wish to be treated and it should go a long way.

How to Solve Problems with Your Roommate - Who's the Problem?

Do you have any stories about nightmare roommates you'd like to share or have you had any success wit these tips? Leave us a comment below and share with the community.

If you are having some other issues with neighbors, perhaps you'd like to check out these articles on How to Get Someone to Move Out or How to Identify a Fake Friend.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Solve Problems with Your Roommate, we recommend you visit our Friendship category.

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