10 Lessons From Having The Worst Possible Roommates In The World

by Michael Becker
Elizabeth Meriwether Pictures

With all the wacky ways to find potential roommates these days, it’s never a surefire bet you’ll end up getting along with the people you live with.

Being a good friend, as I learned, does not always correlate to being a good roommate.

In my four years of undergrad, I lived in six different locations.

It’s not that I was indecisive, I just moved out of twice due to roommate issues that were so severe, my livelihood took a major hit.

Here are 10 things you haven’t thought about, but definitely should before you move in with a new person:

1. Don't trust people who go through your things.

One day, when I returned from class, I noticed my roommates moved my furniture and other personal items around the room.

Here’s what I learned: Never leave anything of real value unattended until you completely trust your roommate.

Moved furniture or displaced personal items might annoy you, but it's easily correctable with a firm discussion.

Sometimes things happen that are simply out of our control. Often, these things anger us, frustrate us or leave us wondering why someone else might decide to intrude on us in a certain way.

We may disagree or we may feel resentment, but keeping a calm head in these situations that make us feel violated will ultimately behoove us.

2. No matter how social you are, you don't want to live in the middle of a constant party.

I’ll never forget one night when my roommate brought the party back to our dorm at 3 am... on a weekday. Here’s what I learned: I wasn’t into partying as much as I thought.

Sure, I loved to go out, and even stay out late. But there was a fine line where the party stopped, and I assumed it was drawn at our door.

When I laid down, I expected others to respect that. As ludicrous as I thought it was, they thought it was acceptable to bring friends back, turn the light back on and continue to socialize as I tried to sleep.

3. A small living space is a recipe for disaster.

Living with three other guys in a hot and congested supply closet turned dorm room wasn’t ideal from the start, but combine that with roommates who stayed up late watching TV, doing homework and listening to music, and you have a melting pot that will boil over.

Here’s what I learned: Not everybody likes to operate on the same schedule.

Ninety percent of the time, if you ask a roommate to quiet down, a reasonable person will likely attempt to accommodate you.

Though my roommates were not reasonable in the least, I learned that sleep was quite high on my hierarchy of needs.

Determine your priorities and decide whether you’ll be able to achieve those in the living situation you’re thinking of committing to.

4. When you look at your roommate and see the devil staring back at you, you have a problem.

Perhaps this was brought on by roommates who talked back, you know, in that tone that just screams, “I don’t really give a sh*t whether you’re happy… I’m going to do what I want.

I almost couldn’t believe it. When I asked a roommate to make a simple adjustment to the angle of his desk light or to turn down the TV volume a few notches, my request was met with undue hostility and a refusal.

I learned I never want to be that kind of a person. If someone else in my company is uncomfortable, why wouldn’t I defer to the Golden Rule?

Part of our purpose in living is to help and enrich others’ lives.

I learned that considering others and ensuring everyone is comfortable is a pretty important thing.

And, you know, not wanting to tear off your roommate’s head.

5. There's nothing worse than living in a pigsty.

There’s truly nothing worse than looking at your kitchen or dining room in your college house, then looking outside at your trash pile in the driveway and realizing they look the same.

I think my senior house was actually messier than the trash dump out by the curb the majority of the time.

That’s because my roommates often left stuff — dishes, beer cans and other garbage — all over the place.

They had no regard for the concept of cleanliness. Sure, I may have left the occasional unwashed dish in the sink for a day or two, but I’m talking gunk so thick lining our kitchen floor, it felt like walking on glue.

I’m talking a mattress in our basement covered in unknown fluids, clothing and dirt. I’m talking fleas in the kitchen and in the garbage.

I learned that I’m a cleaner person than I thought, and I finally understood why my mother went to such lengths to keep our family’s home so spick-and-span.

There’s nothing worse than living in a dump. Make sure you have roommates who respect the sanctity of a fairly clean house if that’s something you want.

6. Living with terrible roommates will reflect poorly on you.

Striving daily to better myself in every aspect wasn’t easy when I was constantly surrounded by grime and stink and crap.

If I invited over other guy friends to hang out, or perhaps women I was trying to impress, the last thing I needed was a trashed place to hang. Ideally, you want your living space to be an extension and reflection of you.

I learned that I wanted others to have a singular, classy, respectable view of myself. I learned appearances are important, especially when they’re God-awful.

What self-respecting girl or down-to-earth guy would want to be surrounded by a bunch of assh*les living in a sewer? Uhh... well, I know I sure wouldn’t!

7. Money will always be a touchy subject when living with others, even if you're already friends and agreed on the terms of your rent and utilities.

How will you handle it when that friend, who is also your roommate, can’t get you or the landlord his or her rent?

What about a roommate who refuses to pitch in for a new table, food or other items?

What will you do when roommates tell you they “don’t have time” to go down in person to the power plant to drop off a deposit?

Worse, what if this person is you? Don’t let it be.

Unfortunately, financial discrepancies are a quick way to lose friends and quickly build a wall of tension. I learned to strive for clarity on these issues.

Email works best. If you can, try to avoid being the point-person for any of the bills, but always pay your share on time, and offer to help meet your expenses.

8. Make no assumptions, and rule out nothing.

I remember when I was desperate to find roommates senior year; I would have have lived with anyone who wasn’t a serial killer.

Thus, the guys I ended up living with represented basically four complete different ends of a four-pronged spectrum. We just didn’t mesh.

I was so busy thinking about finding guys to live with, I never stopped for a second and thought about whether I really wanted to live with these guys.

And here’s what happened: I assumed these guys would respect my space, be clean and wouldn’t disregard the landlord’s policies by smoking weed or cigarettes in the house.

I really should have explored other living options that I hadn’t considered, like renting an off-campus apartment and living alone (which I ended up doing, while eating the rent I owed on my house).

Never rule anything out, and never assume that just because you’d do something one way, another person will also.

Interviewing a future roommate, even if it’s a best friend, will help to get some of these issues out in the open before anyone signs the dotted line.

9. If you start to feel physically, mentally and emotionally unhappy, your life won't be livable.

This is how you know a change must be made. Sleep, a roof over a clean house, good people, respect and happiness are some of the most important things for me to lead a productive life.

When I felt so lost, and when these things were taken from me, I was pushed to the point of desperation.

I would have chosen a broom closet rather than spend another night in that dreaded dorm room or that hellhole of a house.

If you feel sick in this same way, you know you simply must put all of your cards on the table and make a change. Of course, the best way to avoid this is to make really good choices about how you’re going to live.

10. My crappy roommates did not even see the above issues as problems.

It’s impossible to sit down and have a civil conversation about an issue when the person you’re attempting to reason with disagrees that a problem exists at all.

My ex-roommates did whatever they wanted, with blatant disregard for others’ sanity.

To me, this is no way to live life. I wish for others to enjoy being in my presence, not despise it.

I highly encourage you to do your absolute due diligence in exhausting every possible living scenario for yourself so you can avoid the heartache I’ve described.

After all, home really should be where the heart is.