How to Handle a Bad Roommate Situation

Most young adults will, at some point, live with roommates either in college, post-graduation or both. Living with roommates is a smart way to save money at this stage in life, and living with friends can be a fun, bonding experience, but what happens when you have a bad roommate? From leaving dirty dishes in the sink, to personal belongings mysteriously disappearing, roommate issues can be stressful and have a negative impact on your relationships with your roommates. Here are a few tried-and-true tips for dealing with bad roommates in a productive way.

Create a Roommate Agreement
Proactively creating a roommate agreement is ideal, but when issues arise, it can still be a helpful exercise to allow everyone to discuss issues that have come up. This is especially useful in creating guidelines for how any shared spaces should be maintained. This can include guidelines on cleanliness, guests, times when roommates should minimize noise and much more. The goal is to avoid misunderstandings about what roommates can expect from each other, and gives everyone something to refer to if problems arise and need to be resolved.

Communicate Clearly and Often
It’s possible that your roommate doesn’t realize that their behavior is bothering you. Even though it may feel awkward or aggressive, having an open, honest conversation with your roommate is the best way to initially approach the problem. If your roommate is constantly borrowing your things without asking and you’re not comfortable with this then speak up! They may have had a past roommate who was totally fine with sharing their things, but it’s okay to say no. If you feel it is necessary, schedule regular roommate meetings so that everyone has an opportunity to check in as opposed to dealing with issues in a more reactionary way.

Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries
It’s important to make sure that everyone involved understands what is acceptable, or not acceptable, in the living space. If cleaning is not happening enough organically, creating a rotating set of responsibilities to be divided between all roommates is a fair and easy way to make sure everything is done. Additionally, this makes it easy to see who is not living up to their responsibilities and creates a space to give friendly reminders to those who may not be contributing sufficiently to maintaining a living space that everyone can enjoy.

Most roommate disagreements can be resolved with the tips above, however, sometimes people just don’t live well together. If this is the case, it may be time to look into alternative living arrangements. A truly bad roommate situation can have a negative impact on your mental health and can be a source of unnecessary stress. Even if you are living with friends, a bad living arrangement could damage your friendship beyond repair and cause you to resent people you care about. Moving out of a bad roommate situation doesn’t make you a bad friend, it means that you value your relationships with your roommates as well as your mental wellness in the long run.

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