Here are six of the most classic roommates you could stumble across in college and some tools for peaceful coexistence.
The first roommate you might have is The Neat Freak. The Neat Freak is known for obsessively cleaning their part of the dorm. Not only is every item of their space organized and categorized, but they expect their super cleaning powers to rub off on you! Your half of the room will always seem messy in comparison, and that “mess” is sure to bother your roommate. Likely, you won’t stop hearing about that one stray sock or the jacket you didn’t hang up.
What to do: living with a Neat Freak is going to require some patience if you are a generally messier and a more laid back person. You are going to have to compromise, which means doing your best to tidy up your space, or at least confine your mess. Take this as an opportunity to work on being a little more organized. However, you also have to understand that no amount of tidiness will ever make your roommate completely happy. Therefore, you have to sit down and talk with your roommate and explain to them that you can’t be as neat as they want. Try to come to a mutual agreement about a few things that bother them the most, such as leaving food out, and then avoid doing these things. If you avoid these, ask the roommate to in turn try to refrain from making comments about your mess. Hopefully, this will make the living environment a little less tense.
The next roommate is the polar opposite. This is The Slob. While some mess is okay, The Slob takes messy to a whole other level. Common characteristics of The Slob’s part of the room are dirty clothes piled high, empty takeout containers littered across the room, and a floor that is so covered that it can no longer be seen.
What to do: this is a time when your roommate is going to have to take some responsibility for their actions. Explain to your roommate that you are not a Neat Freak, but that you are going to have to set some boundaries. Tell them your main objective and be generous: you simply want a living space that you are not reluctant to bring friends and dates to. Ask them to avoid a few key things that bother you, such as smelly food remnants being left out. If they can compromise, then do your best to stop pestering them, which may only encourage their bad habits. If necessary, tidy up some of their things while the are out (but make sure not to violate their privacy). Throw out the garbage they left out and always keep some Febreze on hand. Just make sure you’re not doing too much of their work for them–they could take advantage of your kindness.
The Party Animal is another roommate to look out for. If you want to go out, then this roommate can be helpful. They can get you into the best frat parties and know all the best places to go. However, this roommate can also be annoying and disruptive. They come home extremely late, sometimes with other people, and are noisy when you’re trying to sleep. You might find yourself having to wake up to help them out and take care of them.
What to do: Confront your roommate about their tendencies, in a respectful and understanding way. Do not wait for your anger to build up and then for you to explode. Simply explain to them that you sometimes need your sleep and request that they try to be a little more quiet and respectful when they get home late. Let them know especially if you have an early class in the morning or if you need rest for an important test or presentation. Otherwise, try to focus on the benefits of the Party Animal and take the opportunity to be social and meet some new people.
Also look for The Studious Roommate. This roommate understands that college is a time in which you are working to build a foundation for your career and the rest of your life. They get that the school portion of college is extremely important, and this can be helpful to you if you need someone to help motivate you or help you to build some better study habits. However, this roommate gets annoying when they do not ever relax and when you cannot live comfortably in your dorm because they always expect silence while they are working (which is always). They never seem to have fun, which makes you want to bring them out of their shell, but they never seem to let you have fun either. You feel like you’re tip-toeing around your room and walking on eggshells.
What to do: If you have The Studious Roommate, it is likely that you won’t be having many friends in your room. Respect their space by having social events somewhere else. You may have to be patient and subtle when trying to bring this roommate out of their shell, by inviting them out with you or offering to get some food and take a study break. They may still insist on staying in, or even get defensive, but explain to them, without any anger, that you are trying to take advantage of all the new experiences that college has to offer, both socially and academically. If you agree to keep the dorm a quiet place, they will hopefully appreciate your sacrifice and be more likely to listen to you. The Studious Roommate is just someone you are going to have to be patient with and try to put up with while you are living together.
The Couple: This roommate is in a very serious and committed relationship. While you are happy for them, you also don’t want their relationship shoved in your face. However, that’s exactly what you’re dealing with. The Couple are always hanging out together and doing relationship-y things, and you find yourself with two roommates instead of one!
What to do: Ask your roommate to be reasonable and try to switch off whose dorm they hang out at. Give them a heads up if you know you need some space to study for a big test or write an important paper. Ask them to give you a heads up when they are doing anything you don’t want to be around for. Beyond that, try to make peace with your roommate’s significant other, and you might have to find some good hang out and study spots outside of your dorm.
The Mooch: This roommate borrows all of your things and constantly finds his or herself in need of some extra money or other items. They abuse your friendly generosity and even get to the point of borrow your items without asking.
What to do: First of all, be clear that they have to ask before borrowing your stuff. That is a very reasonable demand, and mention that you will usually be generous if they merely comply with this. The key here is to confront the Mooch and confront them early. Do not wait for your anger to build up, or you might become irrational and crazy. You do not want to stop being generous altogether, but rather you want to set some guidelines, such as asking the roommate to buy the groceries every other week.
The Passive Aggressive Roommate: This roommate is controlling, but won’t come right out and say it. Instead, the calling card of this roommate is a passive aggressive sticky note left for you. Instead of asking you to clean the dishes, for example, they may leave an annoying note about how often they’ve had to clean the dishes.
What to do: While it might be enticing to engage in a sticky note war with your roommate, this is usually not the best option. It’s important to understand that the reason behind their annoyance is often valid (in the example with the dirty dishes, it makes sense that they might be annoyed over always having to clean the dishes), and that they are merely having trouble expressing their concerns. Do for them what they are not doing for you: be upfront. Tell them that the notes, comments, or whatever else, bothers you. Say that you are happy to take more responsibility for the upkeep of the dorm, or whatever else they are being passive aggressive about, but that you won’t know what they want unless they say it. You are going to be trying to force them out of their passive aggressive mode and into honesty, which might not be an easy feat, but the best way to deal is by being honest yourself and trying to be the bigger person by meeting or compromising on their demands, if reasonable. Bring up the talks they should have brought up, and set rules about each of your responsibilities.
Just remember that you and your roommate are likely to disagree on some aspect of your living style and space. After all, this is the first time both of you are away from home are you have both built up a lifetime of habits. You are both trying to navigate your way through the scary, new, and exciting terrain that is college. It is important to find a way to work things out, usually through communication (rather than letting anger build up) and to some extent patience. If you identify your roommate as one of these roommates, try to use some of the tips above and try to be understanding. Your roommate likely does not know that they embody one of these stereotypes, and for all you know, you could be annoying them in one of these ways without your knowledge. The best thing to do is try to be a good roommate yourself and talk to your roommate about what is bothering you rather than letting it fester. Working through a problem is necessary when the two of you are going to be living together for a year.