“Dear Abby” is an advice column written by Abby Stiefel. If you have any Stern-related questions for Abby (funny ones are encouraged), please direct them to email@example.com.
I really don’t know what to do. My roommate and I are not getting along and are on opposite schedules. I go to sleep early and start most of my classes at 9; she stays up really late and sleeps late. She’s so loud at night that it’s hard to fall asleep. I try to be as quiet as I can in the morning, but she keeps telling me that I’m waking her up. We fight about stupid things like taking out the garbage or opening and closing the window. I want us to be friends and good roommates, but I really don’t know what to do! Please help!!!
Baffled in Brookdale
Dear Baffled in Brookdale,
Thank you for reaching out! Okay, first, take a deep breath. These types of conflict happen between roommates all the time so you should know that you are not alone and there is plenty of advice to give! I have heard some crazy stories about a roommate who sleeps on the kitchen floor, has a personal shower curtain that she does not share, or uses another roommate’s toothbrush. It is such a relief that you do not have any of those problems! It is normal that a roommate situation may not have turned out the way you imagined. Many things in life do not always turn out the way we plan. As I offer some options, make sure to keep in mind that working through a tough roommate situation builds character and helps you learn conflict resolution, so that’s good! 🙂
The very first thing you should do is try to talk it out with your roommate. Approach the situation as calmly as possible and try not to seem angry or aggressive during the conversation. Describe to your roommate what your problem is, and suggest a solution that may help fix what is going on. It is essential that you keep an open mind about your roommate’s perspective as well. Make sure you listen to what she has to say, even if it might be uncomfortable to hear.
If this first approach does not work out, you can always get advice from a friend or family member who you trust. Another person you can turn to is your R.A., since R.A.s are there to help you. Remember that they are students too, so they can understand what you are going through and think of ways to help.
Your very last option would be to contact the Office of University Housing & Residence Life. They are there to help create a college experience that is pleasant and rewarding. If you feel your rooming situation is not improving even after you put effort into fixing it and have exhausted your options, you can request to switch your living situation. It is very common for students in college to switch rooms, or even buildings, between semesters. Being comfortable with where you live, and with whom you live, is really important. If you don’t feel comfortable where you are, it can add to the stresses of your college experience, and we do not want that! Hopefully, one day you will look back on your bad roommate days and laugh.
P.S: Here are some funny and key roommate “Do’s and Don’ts” that may help!
- Take out the garbage before it overflows
- Always give a PSA to other roommates before you eat something smelly. Make sure that when you throw it away, you immediately take out the garbage so it does not stink up your room
- Make sure that you and your roommates contribute to the cost of toilet paper and cleaning supplies
- Always ask before you turn the light on or off 💡
- Always introduce a guest to your roommates and let them know you are having someone over in advance
- Always ask before changing the heat, air conditioning, or opening and closing a window
- Your room is not a library so if you need a quiet study space and your room is loud, you should go to the library, instead of telling your roommates that they are not allowed to talk
- Always give a warning if the bathroom smells before someone else uses it 🚽
- Agree upon a Febreeze scent before spraying it everywhere
- Designate whose closet space is whose
- Ask if you need to borrow a hanger or closet space, or anything else
- Always make sure to contribute to cleaning! And clean up after yourself!
- You lose nothing by asking permission to use stuff so why not ask, ya know?
- If someone goes to sleep early, try to keep the volume at a low
- Always be polite and greet your roommates warmly when you see them 😊
- Say goodbye when you leave the room
- Start a long conversation with a roommate who woke up just to use the bathroom
- Hang your towel on top of someone else’s towel
- Put up room decor in public spaces without asking your roommates beforehand 🎐
- Let your mess creep into someone else’s space
- Keep around a dead plant (once it is dead it no longer qualifies as room decor) 🎍
- Keep around rotting food (throw it away)
- Use up the toilet paper and not refill it for the next person (aka refill it)
- Leave your hair in the shower drain 🚿
- Eat another roommate’s food before asking
Important questions to ask in specific situations:
- Can I have some of your (insert food item here)?
- Can I borrow (insert clothes or shoes here)?
- Can I use the bathroom at this time in the morning?
- Can I shower or does anyone need the bathroom first? 🛀
- Can we shut off the light at (insert time here)?
- Can I play music or would you like me to put in headphones? 🎶
- Can I show you this funny video/ picture/ meme or are you busy? (before shoving it in her face)
- Are you doing work or can I ask you a million questions that I need your opinion on?
- Can I hang up (insert room decoration) in (insert name of public/ shared space in your room)? 🎏
- Communication is key!
- It is always nice to share food