Roommates have been arguing for hundreds of years. Even America’s Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin and John Adams had a little spat in 1776 when they were forced to share a room together.
The two were traveling from Philadelphia to a peace conference in Staten Island where they stopped for the night only to find that the inn had one bed left. Adams, who fortunately captured the evening in his journal, wrote that he was “afraid of the air in the night,” so he closed the one small window they had before going to bed.
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“Oh!” said Franklin. “Don’t shut the window. We shall be suffocated. Open the window and come to bed, and I will convince you: I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds.”
Adams wrote that he was “so amused” with Franklin’s theory that he quickly fell asleep.
Fortunately, their disagreement came to a peaceful resolution, but some roomies aren’t so lucky. Without a little mindfulness and consideration, having a roommate can be a nightmare.
Conversely, having a roommate can also be one of the best experiences of college life. Your roomie could become a lifelong friend and confidant—someone you could trust your life with.
So ask yourself: how can YOU be a better roommate? Nobody’s perfect, and chances are you have a few annoying habits yourself that we need to address before you give your roommate a hard time.
1. You don’t pick up after yourself.
It’s one thing to leave your shoes and socks on your bedroom floor—that is your own private space after all. But don’t be a slob in shared spaces like the kitchen or living room.
If you make a mess, don’t tell yourself, “I’ll pick it up later.” Be courteous and pick up messes as you make them. If you absolutely do not have time to clean up after yourself (say you’re eating breakfast in a rush and didn’t wash the dishes), then leave a note or text your roommate to assure them you’ll take care of it ASAP.
A few of the most common messes to be conscious of include:
- Leaving dishes in the sink
- Leaving shoes in shared living spaces
- Leaving dirty pots and pans on the stove
- Not putting away leftovers
- Dirty clothes or towels in the bathroom
- Toothpaste splatter in the sink or on the bathroom mirror (if you share a bathroom; although hopefully you’d clean this up in your own bathroom!)
2. You never clean the bathroom or change the toilet paper roll.
Ideally, you and your roommate should take time to divvy up the responsibilities upon move-in. Maybe the bathroom will fall under your name. Maybe they’ll do it. Or maybe you’ll alternate weeks.
No matter how it’s divided, though, there will inevitably come a time when you’ll finish the toilet paper roll—and when it does, you will be faced with an important decision: either be an awesome roommate and add a new roll, or be a terrible person and leave it empty.
Considering it only takes 30 seconds tops to change the roll, I’d say change it. (And don’t just set the new roll haphazardly on top of the empty roll; that’s almost as annoying as not changing it.)
3. You’re not considerate of your roommate’s schedule.
Chances are, you and your roommate will have different class and work schedules. That means if your roommate has an 8 am class, don’t come barging into the dorm at 2 am. Or, if you have an 8 am class and your roommate worked late the previous night, keep the noise to a minimum as you get ready.
A huge part of any roommate situation is exercising mindfulness and selflessness. Sure, it might be kind of annoying to watch what you’re doing all the time, but your roommate will appreciate it—and more than likely will take steps to be more thoughtful of your schedule as well.
4. You don’t check in on them.
Did your roommate say they’d be home at a certain time? Did they seem upset about something? Text them to check in and ask if everything is OK. Even if you’re not close friends, it’s nice to show your fellow humans that you care. In most cases, people genuinely appreciate the gesture.
5. You don’t invite them anywhere.
Just because you live together doesn’t mean you have to hang out all the time—but it doesn’t mean you can’t hang out at all! If you and a friend are going out to eat or see a movie, ask them if they want to come along. Some people are more introverted or shy and need a little prodding to meet new people.
If possible, ask them at least 24 hours in advance. A last-minute invite seems disingenuous and will make it look like you’re doing it out of obligation.
Are you distracting your roommate?
Here are two top common distractions, according to the
New York Times:
Playing video games
Research has shown that college students who have a roommate with a video game system study, on average, 30 minutes less than students with non-gamer roommates. If your roommate needs to study, keep the volume down and venture the virtual world by yourself.
Bugging them to party with you
According to a Harvard study, non-drinkers rooming with drinkers scored a quarter-point lower on their GPA than if two non-drinking roommates lived together. The results were even worse when both roommates drank: two-thirds of a point lower on their GPA. So while it’s nice to let loose every once in awhile, don’t make your roommate feel bad if they don’t want to paint the town red with you.
6. You’re not mindful of their sensitivities.
That new scented candle you bought for the living room may smell like fresh mountain air to you, but it might smell like a splitting headache to your roommate.
Keep in mind that everyone’s sense of smell varies. Talk to your roommate before you buy any incense or scented candles for shared living spaces. And if they do have a sensitivity to fragrance, go light on the perfume or cologne (or add it after you leave the house).
7. You put down their views and opinions.
If you ever find yourself in a debate with your roommate on a controversial topic like politics, race, or religion, always ALWAYS respect what they’re saying. Let them say what they want to say and don’t belittle them for having an opinion. That doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with them. It just means you’re mature enough to understand we all come from different backgrounds and therefore have differing views of the world.
Exposure to diversity is an important part of the college experience and can open your eyes on subjects that maybe you hadn’t thought about. Don’t be afraid to listen, even if you don’t agree. Be polite, stick to facts (from authoritative sources, not social media), and don’t make personal attacks.
8. You try to distract them from studying.
People have enough distractions in their day. Don’t be an enabler or another cause of distraction. If your roommate has a big test coming up the next day, don’t put them down for not wanting to hang out with you. Let them study!