Settle in or get out fast? Roommate Troubles 101

Sierra Cymes

All roommates (including you) can probably fit into one or more of these categories: the overly nice one, the clean freak, the aloof one, the talkative/emotional one and the one whose parent cleaned their room all the way through high school.

Living with another person is never what you expect. It’s the little things like how toothpaste is glued to the side of the sink each morning, or how they wake up and make every noise possible to disturb your slumber. Most roommate problems can be solved — or at least forgiven — with a little communication. Other problems are harder to bring up in everyday conversation. Here’s a guide to tell you when to let it go and when (and how) to let your roommate know:


Stress scale: 1-3

Your roommate cleans meticulously. You know it shouldn’t bug you, but it does a little. Let this one go. If your roommate cleans your things or seems annoyed that you aren’t cleaning, too, it may be time to talk. Try complimenting them and admitting your own cleaning issues, and see if you can find a happy medium.

Stress scale: 4-6

Hygiene issues. A cup of … something — you don’t remember what now — is still sitting on the counter. A putrid smell that was not there at the beginning of the semester is now emanating from their belongings. You rule out scent possibilities and decide on “dead rat.”

It’s time to let your roommate know what’s bothering you. Try bringing it up in casual conversation. “What is that, a dead rat in your closet? Haha!” (Really, is it?) Depending on the type of roommate you have, your level of directness should be enough to call the problem to their attention, but not enough to insult or offend them.

Stress scale: 7-9

Something is missing or broken. You know they did it, but they lie about it. If this is a first time occurrence, try telling them directly. Use a no-nonsense approach, telling them exactly what happened and ask them to not repeat the action. Some roommates will pass this off, saying they were “just borrowing,” But if they consistently are taking your things without your consent, that is stealing. Try talking to a hall RA or residence director to see if they can resolve the problem diplomatically. If not, see stress scale 10.

Stress scale:  10

Your roommate is a member of an international terrorist organization. Get out as fast as you can, and consider changing your name “Breaking Bad”-style.

Seriously, if an issue has been talked about but still festers over a couple of months, give them a notice of your leaving, and tell them why. Sometimes this is enough to fix the problem. Sometimes not.


Make sure you’ve tried to talk to your roommate before giving them this ultimatum, though. Many problems can be solved with a couple of sentences. They are probably unconscious of how their actions are affecting you.

Little things can be let go or quickly fixed, but if you dread coming home to your roommate everyday, know you have the power to change your living situation.

Collegian A&E Writer Sierra Cymes can be reached at or on Twitter @sierra_cymes.