Navigate Roommate Conflict
Although roomies can set rules to follow, roommate conflicts may not be avoidable.
Here are a few common roommate conflicts and tips on how to sort them out.
It may feel childish but sharing can still lead to arguments as an adult. And we’re not just talking about sharing the the remote control, it’s the don’t touch my stuff dilemma too...
”Borrowing” anything of roommates - clothes, tools, toiletries, etc. - can cause issues, especially if they don’t ask before taking it. Food can be a bigger trigger when “sharing”, especially when things are eaten and not replaced. As a result, roommates may end up in a tense environment with the temptation to get the passive aggressive with sticky notes out…
- Clarify what is communal in your shared spaces and fridge as soon as possible. For things that aren’t shared — always ask before taking from your roommates (unless they’ve told you to help yourself). .
- If a roommate is generous enough to share their food, respect the fact they bought it it and leave the last piece for them.
- Label any food that’s exclusively yours, but try not to be passive aggressive with it. Gently tell your roommate you’re trying to prevent any macaroni mix-ups, and not accusing them of stealing your snack stash…
Clean vs messy homes
You don’t have to be a neat freak or slob to get annoyed with your roommate’s cleaning habits. But even these polar opposites can eventually find common ground.
A mess that creates a funky smell and attracts pests should be addressed by the whole house. Don’t let them brush off your gentle suggestions to clean — a mumbled “okay” doesn’t mean they’ll actually follow through. But it’s not much better when the “cleaner” roommate constantly comments on someone else’s cleaning habits because they don’t meet their “standards.” And sure, chores can be a way to meet in the middle but no one really wants to do them. All this tension can create , an uncomfortable living situation for everyone, and a messy house too.
- Establish a routine. It can be as simple as agreeing to blitz the place home once a week, or everyone consistently cleaning up their mess as they go.
- Call out the mess as you see it. Be direct, but try to use use “I feel statements” not “You did” or “You didn’t” statements, to avoid placing blame.
- Make a chore wheel for direct action and hold everyone accountable. Consider who wants to do what, or a shifting rotation of jobs. Do you hate taking out the trash but your roomie doesn’t mind it? Trade off and get them to take a task you dislike.
Bonus tip: Specific areas/occupation
The bathroom and the kitchen are arguably the most important places to keep clean. Everyone uses these spaces and should do their part to keep them decent. Problems arise not only from the state of cleanliness but also the occupation of these areas — ignoring bathroom schedules is one of the best ways to annoy roommates. .
Sometimes roommates forget they have roommates and take up A LOT of space when hosting guests. While entertaining is fun, it can cause tension in an apartment share when communal spaces are crowded, or a roommate feels excluded in their own home.
When a roommate comes home to find someone’s friends over with no prior warning they may have one reaction: “who are you people?!” Some people aren’t comfortable having strangers in their house. Having the significant other over may be worse. Their constant presence might lead them to become an unofficial roommate that no one else agreed on. And be considerate about PDA too – even the lovey-dovey PG version of a couple’s PDA can make the best of us sick.
- Give your roomie a heads up if you’re having guests over, and maybe include them too on occasion.
- If the frequency of guests is bothering you, mention it to your roommate and offer a compromise.
- Don’t do PDA in front of your roommates if it makes them uncomfortable – this is one to keep in your room…
Two words: Thin Walls. Whether you’re with your partner, blasting music, or watching a movie, be considerate of the volume. Your roommate – and neighbors – can most likely hear you.
- Ask them to turn the volume down if it bothers you and be considerate of your own volume yourself. It can be tempting to fight fire with fire and have a volume match... but it’s not the best way to get through to them.
- Think about the time of day – loud noises in the morning and middle of the night aren’t usually welcomed. Afternoons and evenings are fair game.
- If needed: establish quiet hours for times when you’d like everyone to lower the volume.
Planning the Talk
You’ve determined the issue that needs to be addressed — now it’s time to address it. When dealing with conflict in your share, try to have a conversation and not treat it like an intervention.
- Timing is important. Consider your roommate’s schedule i.e. not when they’re in a rush, busy, or sick – ask to talk at a time that works for them.
- Don’t try to resolve things when you’re worked up and angry.
- Reflect if you’re doing something to instigate the problem (annoying roommate, creating a tense cycle) and take steps to address this yourself.
Unable to find common ground?
It’s not on you to be the only one trying to fix things – sometimes things can’t be worked out. Handle the rest of your time as roommates gracefully, and move on to a better apartment share…
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