House of Horrors: Establishing Rules for the Roommate from Hell


By Sarah Danielson

Every year, the young adults among us head off to their first year of college with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, or more likely, visions of a new best friend waiting to share a dorm room and life filled with mixers and midnight study sessions.  Unfortunately, most college students have been living with their parents their whole life and haven’t the slightest inclination towards the conscientious behavior that is required to coexist with another individual.  So if you want to live with this person for the next year without going postal, you’d be well advised to set a few ground rules that everyone can live with.

1. Nix the booty calls. There’s nothing worse than turning in early to get all the rest you sorely need for a 7:00am exam only to be rudely awoken at midnight by your drunken roommate and his/her flavor of the month getting hot and heavy not ten feet away.  While it is certainly acceptable to set up some sort of sign when this behavior is happening in your absence (i.e., the towel or hangar on the doorknob routine), you should agree from the get-go that nocturnal activities of adult nature should never occur when both roommates are present (especially if one is trying to sleep).

2. Clearly delineate individual space. Sharing a room is one thing, but the first time you find your textbook in your roommate’s backpack or his/her underwear carelessly flung on your pillow, you’re bound to wish you had set some boundaries (both figurative and physical).  See if you can’t both keep a neat space as long as possible.  But if you find that you’re often dealing with overflow, you may have to resort to a tape-line to keep your stuff separate.

3. Substance abuse. Whether your roomie is downing NoDoz and 5-Hour Energy, puffing a bit of Alice B. Toklas, or trafficking in controlled substances (or all of the above), you need to ensure that nothing happening in your living space makes you uncomfortable or involves you in illegal activity (if you know about it and do nothing, you could be looking at expulsion or worse if your roommate gets caught).  Even if it’s all on the up and up, you might not be too keen on dealing with someone who’s alternately bouncing off the walls and then crashing out at all hours of the day.  So make it clear that you expect to live in a drug-free zone for your tenure as roommates and any such activities will have to occur elsewhere.

4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Aretha Franklin knew a thing or two about living with someone who was all take and no give.  You’re going to have to carry on a relationship with this person whether either of you like it or not, so it behooves you both to make an effort to get along.  A large part of living with another person is respect, so make an effort to discuss personal space issues, sleeping preferences, the possibility of guests, and hot-button topics (like religion, family, etc.) that might set the other person off (and are therefore best avoided).  Mutual respect can go a long way towards making a situation more livable for everyone.

5. Sign a contract. There is a common phrase that states, “Something written is something remembered.”  If you find that your roomie is reneging on promises made at the beginning of the term, simply type up the agreed upon conditions of coexistence and have her sign.  Then, if she breaks the rules, you can easily remind her of her intentions.

Author Information

Sarah Danielson writes for Online Schools where you can find the top ranked online colleges and a variety of online education programs to fit your needs.

Photo Credit: Peter Gustafson

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Categories: Personal Advice