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Roommate Relations, Pt 1: Tips for Getting Along

by Adriana Lee | August 19, 2011August 19, 2011 4:30 pm PDT

Ideally you’ll go off to school, meet a fantastic roommate or two and live in happy bestie-hood forever, watching each other’s backs. Unfortunately things don’t always go down like that. It’s bound to happen when you stuff people from all walks of life into one big dormitory. Everyone has different habits and proclivities, and that’s part of the reason you’re there — to learn how to deal with that.

Often times the best solution to problems is prevention, so my best advice here is to nip issues in the bud before irritations become epic. So give these tips a shot, to help you get off on the right foot:

(1) Describe your studying styles: Do you study better with blaring music when he needs total quiet, or do you think better when you can bounce ideas off someone — perhaps someone who’s trying to tune you out? You need to talk about these things before someone loses their cool. Studying is the reason you’re here (remember?), so this moves to the top of the list. Once you get a sense of how he rolls, you won’t yammer on the phone when he needs to concentrate, or forget those earbuds when you need some background music. And above all, you won’t be afraid to ask your roomie to do the same, if that’s what you need.

(2) Talk about your gear, and what you will or won’t share: Not everyone likes to share their stuff, whether it’s your computer and camera, or his tablet and stereo, so figure out what’s available and what’s off-limits, and whether you need to ask permission each time. This alone will prevent a lot of problems.

(3) Set some cleaning rules: Mom isn’t there anymore, so figure out who’s doing what and when. Think about putting regular duties in a shared Google Cal or to-do list, complete with auto-alerts. (Nagging is best done by a service, and not by one of you.) Maybe you can even turn it into a game, with whoever finishes first being taken out for drinks by the other two. At the very least, agree to keep each side of your rooms tame. Nothing’s worse than losing your phone in a pile of someone else’s dirty socks or dishes. (Gross.)

(4) Establish “visitation rules”: Maybe you’re in a relationship or your roommate has a habit of hitting on anything that moves. Whatever the case, there will be times when one of you needs the room. However awkward, it can help if you talk about it ahead of time, agree about how you’ll both handle it and respect each other’s privacy. And thanks to that mobile phone, it’s pretty easy to send out the “all clear” signal when the room’s open again.

(5) Handle your morning alarm: I speak from experience here — I don’t wake up very easily in the morning, and this one thing has made my family, previous roommates, my husband all want to smash my alarm to bits. Don’t let it happen to you. Shut it off completely (and not just accidentally snooze it a dozen times) once you’re awake. Also recognize if your alarm just isn’t doing the trick and consider alternatives. Believe it or not, my husband got a me Shake Awake alarm clock — that’s right, the type used by the hearing-impaired or late-night, third-shift workers, so they won’t wake up their spouses. This gizmo literally shakes you awake, and it’s flat-out awesome. If nothing else works and you’re desperate, consider getting one (or giving one).

(6) Get rid of that annoying ringtone!: Annoying ringtones can be similar to the alarm situation, except that it can go off all day. If your roomie cannot stand Justin Bieber, or their Kanye West ringtone drives you up a wall, it can set those nerves on edge. You need to bring this up, and soon. If it bugs you now, by the end of the semester, you’ll want to hurl the handset at your roommate’s head. And that would suck to be disciplined during finals, no?

(7) Invest in a good pair of headphones: You’ll notice that a lot of the tips have to do with noise, and that’s for one simple reason. You can close your eyes and shut out light, but you can’t turn your ears off. So if you’ve got a noisy roommate, I just can’t recommend a good set of headphones enough. It will save your sanity and your roommate relations, so if you’ve got the extra scratch to get a pair of Bose QuietComforts or Etymotic in-ear buds, get them. If you don’t, then save up for them. Granted, neither are cheap, but nothing’s better for drowning out an offending racket, and a good pair will take you all the way through school in your room, on the quad or on a flight back home for the holidays. Chalk it up to school supplies, if you have to.

There are many more things that will come up as you live together, but these guidelines are the big ones that can stop many of the typical conflicts before they start or escalate. What’s most important here is that you communicate and not let any bad blood fester.

Of course, having said that, sometimes there’s nothing you can do, particularly if the other person refuses to try. And in those cases, you might need to let off some steam… and maybe, possibly even concoct a revenge scenario? So toward that end, I’m lining up Part 2 for you shortly, so be sure to look out for it!


Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...

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