Bad roommates: I wish I knew then what I know now

Elizabeth Polsdofer

My all-time favorite thing I heard this year was, “Once you hate someone, everything they do is offensive. ‘Look at her, eating those crackers like she owns the place!’”

I say this because I understand what it’s like to have literally every single thing I do be completely offensive. Eating, breathing, sleeping, studying.

In fact, if I saw one of my old roommates now, they would get on every social networking site out there to say how offended they are that I still exist.

College is challenging as is without the extra burden of putting up a strong face at home too. When you’re not happy at home, you’re not happy anywhere — period. Without further ado, I present my list of “I wish I knew then what I knew now,” lessons that were learned the hard way.

1. Set precedent right away.

The most important thing you can do when living with someone new is set ground rules.

If you dislike that they don’t do their dishes right away or play their music too loudly, then it’ll be more difficult to change the habits they’ve already established at home halfway through the lease than right away.

2. Don’t spend every moment with your significant other.

One of my old roommates used to have her boyfriend over a lot, which I didn’t mind because our apartment didn’t usually have boyfriends over. Then I realized it was every single night — literally every single night.

Then my other two roommates started having their significant others over every single night too.

By the time I moved out, seven people slept regularly at my apartment.

Unless your significant other signed the lease with you and are paying the bills, there is no reason they need to live with you too.

3. Discuss drinking/drug habits.

If you’re really into drinking or doing drugs at your place all the time, then it will go over much better if that’s what your roommates are into as well.

If you’re like me and don’t want that happening in your apartment constantly, then the quality of life is much different if your roommate insists on taking part in these activities daily.

It doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing what you’re doing or start doing what your roommates are doing — it just means that you have to learn to respect each other’s limits.

4. Trust doesn’t develop overnight, so don’t be offended if your roommate doesn’t instantly trust you.

In a perfect world we could all trust each other instantly and be great friends, but unfortunately in the real world, trust requires effort and time. Especially if you don’t make the time to get to know and trust one another, look at the signals you’re showing. It’s unrealistic to expect unconditional trust until you really earn it.

5. Find a compromise on the thermostat.

Heating and cooling is expensive, and there are alternatives beside cranking the AC. If someone is in control of the thermostat and not everyone agrees, then that’s enough to cause strife. Living in an apartment isn’t like the dorms — you can’t just crank the AC without thinking about your energy bill at the end of the month. Additionally, not everyone agrees on how much they’re willing to pay to be at the perfect temperature.

6. Respect each other’s stuff and own up when you’ve ruined something.

If you have destroyed something that doesn’t belong to you, then you offer to replace it. No, you don’t offer to replace it, you do replace it.

The final straw for me was when my old roommate completely destroyed a Teflon pan that had been in my family for 20 years by cleaning it out with a metal fork after she almost burnt down the apartment trying to cook steak. I’m not being rude by critiquing the way you clean out a pan; I’m upset because you destroyed something that my family used to cook with since before you were born.

7. “I pay rent too” has its limits.

Most of the time people who use this argument won’t honor it when you use it. From the other side of it, they can see this really isn’t a valid argument.

I’ve also noticed that people who demand the perfect freedom to do whatever they want in their apartment won’t honor the same when on the other side. If you’re going to justify something that’s unjustifiable, then come up with a better argument.

8. “I was drunk,” is never, I repeat, never an excuse to do anything you wouldn’t do while sober.

Being intoxicated does not give you an excuse or a “get out of jail free” card to do or say anything. If you are going to get completely wasted, then be responsible about it.

Designate someone to take care of you while you’re under the influence. Being drunk does not mean you can do anything just because you are drunk.

9. Just because you live in an apartment in no way signifies that you are mature enough to be living on your own.

I say this with all kindness and love, but there is a reason why a majority of freshmen live on campus. I regret not living on campus as a freshman, and I know I drove my brother who was a senior absolutely crazy because I couldn’t navigate living on my own or spending time in college well.

College is a difficult transition for everyone and living in the dorms is helpful because you’re around people who are going through the exact same thing. Living in an apartment as a freshman does give you a lot more freedom than in high school, but it also gives you a lot of new responsibility that most people aren’t ready to handle.

I don’t care how much freedom you want or think you should have, but if you can’t handle the responsibility you do not deserve the freedom of apartment life.

10. There are such things in the world as introverted people and they need alone time.

f your roommate is spending an excess amount of time in their room or not interacting with everyone else, it’s not necessarily because they hate you but because they need a little more alone time than everyone else.

If they aren’t getting this alone time naturally, then they’ll retreat into their rooms or make an effort to be scarce so they are getting that precious alone time.

If you’re living with someone who is introverted, you’ll get much farther giving them their space instead of smothering them with goodwill constantly just to double check they’re not angry.

11. Don’t be that person.

Some of you are agreeing and mentally screaming “Thank God someone understands!” but there’s also a possibility that if you’re reading this, you might also be that person.

That person is the person who makes their roommates win “I have the worst roommate” contests — and this is not something that is flattering.

Roommate relationships are a two-way street and a little reflection goes a long way. Look at things from their perspective and compare them with your own. You don’t have to bend your back trying to be the perfect roommate, but an ounce of prevention is worth less than a pound of aspirin.