If you are a twenty-something trying to make it in the world or, if you’re still traumatized from seeing Scream when you were a kid, you’ve probably had or currently have a roommate.
Throughout my five years at college – before you start making jokes, I was working on two degrees – I had 13 different roommates, 14 if you count a roommate’s girlfriend who was basically a squatter.
While I had some good roommates (this came after I gave up on the fantasy of my next random roommate becoming my life-long best friend) most of them were bad. No actually, most of them were fucking awful – dirty, rude, prone to stealing, and lacking all common decency.
As I’ve learned them, the basics of being a good roommate are: paying your rent on time, washing your own dishes, not playing loud music too late at night, and not having sex all over the apartment/ house.
The basics are great, but they’re not everything. Here are four simple tips to avoid being labeled and forever known as an “asshole roommate.” Let me preface these tips by saying that I’m not the best roommate, but I’ve had enough bad ones to have learned some things…
1. Never drink the last beer
I’m all for roommates having a communal beer-fund. For those who like to have a beer or two at home, I think that it’s a fair way to distribute beer-conomics. Quick side-note: This approach probably won’t work for those who choose to binge drink and see a twelve-pack as just a warm-up.
But drinking the last beer in a shared beer-fund can lead to disaster. Everyone thinks they deserve the last beer – my day at work was harder than yours, my classes are so much more difficult than any you’ve ever taken, I’m having relationship problems and you’re single.
Eating their whole box knock-off Cheez-Its or their first-born child might be okay, but touch that beer they’ve been dreaming about all day and you’ll have yourself dealing with your roommate’s nervous break-down.
If you really want that last beer, get to the store and buy the next six-pack.
2. Restock the empty toilet paper roll
We’ve all been there – after a productive and satisfying time in the bathroom, we look over and there’s just half-a-square of toilet paper holding on for dear life, dangling from the roll. Our world crumbles.
The thing about the bathroom is that it’s one of the most vulnerable times of a person’s day – they’re caught with their pants down and defenseless. Panic ensues once they realize there’s not even one full square of TP.
As a good roommate, you should always make sure there’s at-least half a roll before you leave the bathroom. If there isn’t, go to the hall closet and restock. While seemingly altruist, this act will also improve your bathroom karma.
3. Don’t write passive aggressive notes and put them on the refrigerator
Part of living with someone is learning how to keep a house-balance; there’s usually the type-A person whose checking account you transfer rent money into, and they revel in the responsibility. This take-charge person may also feel like they need to regulate every part of the household.
I understand that roommates don’t always have the same schedule, and that writing a note may be, at times, the most effective way to get your point across, but calm down a bit. Scribbling out refrigerator diatribes takes the whole controlling aspect a bit too far.
Notes like “I’m not your mother and will not clean up after you” or “the trash collectors come every Tuesday, just letting you know for the 100th time” don’t do anyone good, and usually just cause a retaliation – you know, like them spitting in your food or “losing” the jacket you let them borrow.
4. Don’t leave your clothes in the washer or dryer for days at a time
The process of washing a load of clothes should not take a whole week. A day, I’m fine with, but more than that is pushing it. I’ve had roommates who have to re-wash their clothes because they left them in the washer so long the garments started to get moldy.
I don’t know if I have a mild case of OCD or what, but I hate touching other peoples’ clothes. Also, moving their clothes from the washer to the dryer gives me anxiety because I’m worried that I’ll mess up their delicates.
If you don’t have the time to go through a whole clothes-cycle, you should just put it off until you do (you’ve already put off doing your laundry for the past month anyway).
Living with other people can be an integral part of becoming an adult; it teaches us to roll with the punches compromise. Roommates get an all-access pass to our lives – the fact that we like bad reality TV and still obsess over an ex – so it’s only fair that we try to make our time with them drama-free. Plus, if we treat them right, they’re more likely to box up our dirty secrets instead of airing them out when the lease is up.