Roommate Survival Guide

by Alyssa Reeves
As published in Fall 2008 issue of STATEments magazine

“Who Used My Toothbrush!?”

Your Complete Roommate Survival Guide

 

Written by Alyssa Reeves

Photographs by Laura Hansen

 

Nearly every unmarried young adult will spend a few years living with a roommate. Sure, maybe your parents made you share a room with your annoying little sibling, but nothing could prepare you for the ups and downs of living with someone outside of your family. Even if you’re living with your best friend, sharing a house or bedroom is nothing like just hanging out. We’ve compiled some valuable advice to getting along with the person who eats all of your food and refuses to clean the hair out of the shower.

 

Here’s your Complete Roommate Survival Guide.

 

“What happened to all my Oreos?”

As a Kansas State University Residence Life Coordinator for Moore Hall, Rick Rudnick manages numerous situations concerning resident behavior, poor decisions and roommate anxieties. He frequently meets with students who don’t see eye-to-eye with their roommates.

 

Part of being in college is learning how to live with other people and learning how to go through the world and not have your life turn into a total crisis every time something doesn’t go your way,” Rudnick says.

 

Property disputes can leave roommates in a bind. Your mother has been teaching you how to share since you were three, but you don’t see the fun in sharing your snacks every week—especially when the cost is coming out of your pocket. Let your roommate know what they can borrow or use. One effective way of making this clear is to put small colored dot stickers on your property. Green dots could symbolize: items your roommate can use, while yellow could symbolize: “Ask me first,” and red: “Don’t ask. The answer is no.”

 

You snooze, you lose

What’s more annoying than hearing your roommate’s alarm go off sixteen times in the morning because he or she refuses to get up for that 8 a.m. class? Even if trying to sleep with a light on might come in a close second for some, when it comes to sleeping habits, it’s best to compromise.

 

Understand that compromise is present and that you’re not going to get everything that you want,” says Rudnick. If you’re the one needing to stay up until 2 a.m. to study for your test, use a small desk lamp or work in a lobby or study room. Roommates who have trouble sleeping while their roommates turn pages and rustle papers can pick up a pair of inexpensive earplugs to block the noise.

Unwelcome guests

You could deal with the five or six unexpected guests last weekend when you were trying to study for a test—but this weekend, your roommate brings home 40 friends for a beer pong tournament.

 

Clearly they don’t remember your parents are coming to visit tomorrow.

 

Social issues are a prominent problem for roommates and it’s essential to talk to your roommate about limits. Residence hall contracts say students are allowed to privacy in their room. If your roommate just happens to be the most popular student on campus, speak up and voice your suggestions.

 

Caitlin Schneider, Lenexa sophomore majoring in art, has experienced unwelcome guests. Her advice is: “Give me some warning so I don’t come in naked.” Hotels have the right idea: a simple doorknob hanger can let your roommate know when you don’t want to be disturbed.

 

Paying up

If you’re not living in the residence halls, you’re probably are paying a monthly rent. McCullough Development Inc., a management company overseeing residential units in four states including Manhattan, Kansas, the company requires its residents to sign a Joint & Several Lease, which holds all of the roommates responsible for the terms of the lease. If your roommate decides to spend his rent money in Aggieville, you are all still responsible for paying rent.

 

As far as Odd Couples go, the Felix Unger students who find themselves living with an Oscar Madison roommate, sometimes see no other option but to move out. Apartment leases are legally binding contracts, so breaking the lease usually comes with consequences. Penalties include continuing payment of the rent until another tenant is found, possibly losing your security deposit or both. McCullough Development, Inc. allows tenants to sublet their apartments, but there is a fee and the prospect must be approved by the company. The original renter is still responsible if the new occupant defaults on payments. Be sure to stick with the terms of the lease or the landlord could file a lawsuit against you.

 

Blind move in
Communication is key. Natalie Scott, Hutchinson junior, knew her roommate from high school, and although they were just acquaintances, the thought of going potluck in the residence halls was too scary for them both.

 

After a couple of months together, the roommates’ differences became apparent.

 

“I am very much a person who needs personal space,” says Scott. “My roommate loves to share everything, and she isn’t really concerned with having her own space.” Scott’s shy personality prevented her from speaking up. When she returned one weekend to find one of her chairs filthy, she was furious.

 

“Our solution was to just not talk about it,” Scott admits. The two stuck it out the rest of the semester but Scott realizes the problems could have been fixed. “I think the fact that I was too scared to ask her to stop using my things without asking is what contributed most to the problem. If I ever would have said something, she would have been more than willing to stop if she knew it was bothering me.”

 

Setting ground rules
Caitlin Schneider, Lenexa sophomore went potluck when she applied to live in Moore Hall. Though the roommates grew up only 15 minutes apart they had never met and their unique interests made communication difficult.

 

“We didn’t talk at all,” says Schneider. “We pretty much shared air. It wasn’t just in courtesy; it was sort of just indifference to the other’s existence. And it kind of went both ways because whenever I talked about things I was interested in, she’d get a glazed-over look. And whenever she talked about things she was interested in, I would get a glazed-over look.”

 

One situation Schneider ran into was a lack of common space. “The only thing that really bugged me was that she always kept her things on her side of the room, but her side of the room was like three-fourths of the room. She had lots of very large furniture and she never cleaned up her stuff, so her side of the room was always just chaos and clutter, and my side of the room was always really orderly,” she says.

 

This fall, Schneider is living with a high school acquaintance. Schneider’s advice for people experiencing roommates for the first time is straightforward, “Talk to them. Even if you don’t like them very much, even if you don’t think you’ll ever be best friends, at least talk to them.”


The most important advice to take as you encounter a roommate is to maintain communication.

 

Take the time to get to know who you’re living with. Understand who they are, where they’re from, what their experiences have been; learn about their culture and their family,” says Rudnick. “If you know those things, you will be better able to live with someone and to build a meaningful friendship with them.”