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Nightmare Roommates and How to Handle Them

Updated on November 13, 2019

Oh, roommates, your best friend or worst enemy. Glorified and horrified by Hollywood’s endless portrayals. I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret. College is not like the movies. If you are living in a confined space with someone, you will decide very quickly whether or not you like this person. Or in some cases, LOATH them. Every little thing that bugs you will be amplified.

Let's be honest, we’ve all had bad roommates. We typically don’t talk about it when sending kids off to college, because we don’t want to scare them away from a good education. But I don’t think anyone who has had roommates has gotten along with all of them. Even the most agreeable person will be pushed to their limits.

First off, let’s start with the stereotypes of roommates you will encounter. Stereotypes are there for a reason. Before you slam me for this statement, just think about it. Though not everyone falls into a stereotypical category, most people do. We all know people that embody a particular stereotype. That's why stereotypes exist.

So, here’s how to handle some of the not so fun roommate stereotypes that you will inevitably meet in college.

1 | The Sloppy Susan

Chances are, you’ll meet at least one of these in your roommate career. I’ve had many roommates, many of them sloppy. Let me specify. Sloppy and nasty are two separate stereotypes. We will handle the nasty roommate later. The messy roommate is one that isn’t really dirty per se, but leaves their stuff EVERYWHERE! Their clothes are all over the apartment and their books strewn down the hallway. Like you’re gonna need to shovel a path to your bedroom.

My Advice:

The best way to solve this one is to stand up and set some boundaries. I’ve found the easiest way to deal with a sloppy susan is to use a drop bucket. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a drop bucket, it's just a container where they can drop their stuff when they walk into the apartment. The size of the container will depend on the person. I find a laundry basket is the perfect size for most people. It can fit shoes, coats, and backpacks. Simply have them throw their stuff in the basket instead of the floor. Sometimes this doesn’t work, so I just throw all their stuff in the basket myself. When the basket is full, simply dump it out on their bed and place the basket back in the common area. Now you’ve “cleaned” your apartment. Congratulations! Kick back and relax. Your apartment will now stay clean for approximately 5 minutes. Enjoy it while it lasts!

2 | The Queen of Nasty

You will recognize this one by the throne of McDonald's wrappers and cockroach army guarding the door.

My Advice:

With this one, your best option is to run the other way. Seriously, RUN!!! But if you have no choice in who is your roommate, invest in some good cleaning gear, bug spray, and possibly a hazmat suit. You’re gonna have to keep your area extra clean in attempts to keep the bugs and critters away. The icky critters like the messy areas. Keep your stuff CLEAN! Make sure all food is sealed up so you aren’t feeding creepy crawlies and pesky critters.

3 | The Big Stink

Have you ever met someone that you swore had wavy, cartoon, stink lines coming off them? Ok, so not everyone seems to realize that personal hygiene is important. Let me tell you, IT IS! Not only does personal hygiene make it so people don’t scrunch up their noses from the smell, it keeps your body healthy. Being away from home for the first time, some young people (and less young people) put less emphasis on showering, brushing teeth, washing their clothes, etc. With bad hygiene, it doesn’t take long for those not so pleasant smells to waft their way throughout the common areas to assault your nostrils and have you reaching for the clothespins.

My Advice:

This one is a bit harder to tackle. I definitely could have used some advice on how to handle this situation more tactfully the first time around. I made the mistake of buying some soap, giving it to my roommate, and telling her she needed to use it immediately. Needless to say, I got called some choice words and thoroughly embarrassed a nice (but smelly) person. A bit brutal I realize now. So don’t make the same mistake as me.

Febreeze is now your best friend because you’re gonna have to ease into this one to do it nicely. Ask about scent preferences. Chances are, they’ll actually like some sort of scent i.e. lavender. Buy some soap for “communal use.” Provide the soap to start with, then offer to go shopping with them. Help them pick out a soap that smells good. Then, make sure they buy soap! Compliment them when they do smell good (or at least not smelly.) This will encourage them to practice personal hygiene without embarrassing them. If you’re sly enough, you can do this while they remain oblivious to your meddling and they’ll just pick up the good hygiene habits.

4 | The Klepto

Ugh… the dreaded kleptomaniac. This one is the roommate that thinks that everything belongs to them. If they want it, they now believe it belongs to them. This often includes your clothes, electronics, vehicle, and money. This one can really hurt your wallet.

My Advice:

Lock your door and get a portable safe. Keep your bedroom door locked when possible and keep valuables and paperwork locked in a safe. There are many affordable under bed safe options. That's really all you can do. They aren’t going to change their ways, so you’ll need to keep your stuff out of reach. Remove the temptation and hope for the best. *Also make sure they don’t have access to your mail. If they’ll steal your stuff, they may take out credit cards in your name. This happened to a friend of mine and she is still dealing with the legal and financial mess created by a former roommate.

5 | The Hoarder

Ahh yes, you will find this one quickly. They will immediately ask to put stuff in your closet, on your shelves, etc. I get it. Apartments are tiny and have no space. You’re gonna need that space to put your own crap. Even if you say no, their stuff will start to migrate into your space because they can’t get rid of that piece of trash for sentimental reasons. Yes, I have had a roommate use that excuse in attempts to use my closet for stuff that should go in the trash. Common areas will quickly collect crap that no one else wants around the apartment.

My Advice:

6 | The Horndog

A sock on the doorknob is a thing for a reason. Some people just don't understand that their roommates don't care to see their sex life played out in front of them. If you share an actual room with this person, it can be difficult to have your roommate and their significant other hanging out at your apartment. It's pretty awkward to be with friends and open the door to your roommate and some dude getting busy on the couch in front of everyone.

My Advice:

If you can, just close the door. Set some boundaries when it comes to common areas. If nothing else, ice water seems to work pretty well... you know, or a hose...

7 | The Delusional Goddess

This is the roommate that believes that they are God and that you should worship the ground they walk on. They try to boss you around all the time while they sit around doing nothing. These roommates are a magnet for the negative and it's not worth your time to attempt to please them. I'll let you in on a secret. You will never keep them happy and they will just belittle you. Those people have already set themselves up for disappointment.

My Advice:

Guess what, they aren’t a god. They are not the emperor of the world. And they don’t have to rule your life, though they will try. Stand up for yourself and don't be a doormat. And don't let them belittle you for not living up to their unrealistic standards. Your own sanity is more important, so just take care of yourself.

8 | The Overly Offended

Have you ever had a roommate that is offended by EVERYTHING?!?! Like I don’t mean offended by a crude joke or off-putting comments. I mean offended by breathing in their general direction.

My Advice:

Just ignore them. If they are offended that easily, chances are, they’re just offended that someone else exists in their space. They aren’t going to like anyone, so don’t take it personally. But, if you do decide to be a snot, like me, and purposely offend them, make sure to lock your door at night so they can’t smother you in your sleep.

9 | The Spotter

Also known as the borrower. “Can you spot me $50? I swear I’ll pay you back.” Does this phrase sound familiar? Don’t fall for it. They’re always going to come up with some sob story. If you lend them money, it ain't coming back.

My Advice:

The best solution here is to just not lend people money. Chances are, you’re a super poor college student living on ramen and ketchup. You need to keep your hard-earned cash to pay your own bills, not their playtime. Any money you "lend" them, consider a gift and just be pleasantly surprised if they actually do pay you back.

10 | The Party Animal

Also known as the Frat Bro, this one you will probably never see sober... or even in the daylight. They're always off to the next party and probably say "bro" a lot. They'll stumble in around 5 am like a bull in a china shop. At first, you may find this crashing and banging troublesome since it sounds like someone breaking into your apartment, but you'll quickly get used to it. Hopefully?

My Advice:

Get yourself some noise-canceling headphones and an eye mask. Seriously, you’re gonna need them. And possibly a mini carpet cleaner, you know, for the 4 am vomit puddle on the rug. Oh and don't be surprised if some random naked dude is passed out in your living room.

Ultimately, you will find these kinds of people no matter where you go. If you haven't encountered these types of roommates, either you are the luckiest person alive, or you’re one of them. Don’t be one of these horrible roommates.

To all the roommates that have made us cry out in frustration. May we know them. May we hate them. And hopefully not kill them.

Have you ever had a Nightmare Roommate?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Elle


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