The dirty truth about living with other people

The dirty truth about living with other people
by Branden Hopper

It’s dinner time and you’ve had a long day of classes. You’re tired and all you want to do is make it home in time to indulge your favorite guilty pleasures — Jeopardy and Hot Pockets. There are three cars in front of the house when you arrive. Your heart drops, leaving you with a nasty, topsy-turvy feeling in your stomach, one reserved for the special kind of nausea you associate with your roommates.

Inside you find that someone is absent-mindedly watching something on TV. From the other room, an unbearable smell emanates from the week-old stack of dirty dishes in the sink and the microwave you’d planned on using to prepare your ham and cheese delicacy is caked with re-fried beans that someone apparently detonated for the sole purpose of seeing how long it would take for the mess to stick to the sides, crispy and unmovable.

Living with people is hard. Often, we struggle cohabitating because we have our own routines, schedules and habits. Navigating the milieu and attitudes of one or several other people is enough to test the most patient of individuals, so I’m going to do you a solid. Here are the five best ways to make it through college with roommates.


Just like in your everyday interactions, communication is key to navigating your experiences with roommates. Make sure you’re willing to talk with your roommates about your likes, dislikes, pet peeves and varying schedules.

It’s much easier to have a cordial conversation when you first meet than to end up yelling at each other later about things you, or they, weren’t aware of. A lack of communication can easily breed resentment amongst roommates and resentment is the quickest route to a toxic living space.


Chores! Chores! Everyone loves chores … said no one ever. Here’s the thing, though: it’s of monumental importance that you and your roommate or mates have a discussion about what should be cleaned, when and by whom.

But, “I’m an adult” you say. “Can’t a group of adults just keep a house clean without delegating chores to each other?” you ask.

No, no they cannot. You’ll pat yourself on the back when you and your roomies are enjoying a clean space because you created and stuck to a cleaning schedule that works around everyone’s personal schedule.


Okay, so here’s the deal. Maybe you’ve known your roommate a long time. Maybe they’re someone you met on Craigslist, or maybe they’re one of your best friends. What’s important is that you remember that just like you, they are people with individual schedules, desires and ideas.

Sure, it’s annoying when someone leaves dishes in the sink but unless you never, ever, for the rest of your stay there, leave a dish in the sink — try and let ride. Basically, just be aware that everyone in the house is going through much of the same things you are and that finding a way to relate to that will create a much more harmonious and graceful place to live.


This one seems pretty self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised. Look, people are people and we can’t always choose who we’re attracted to. We can choose, however, not to become romantically or physically involved with the people we live with.

Doing so can cause a laundry list of problems not just for you and the other person, but for anyone else living with you. It’s uncomfortable, it’s hard to talk about and no one wants to feel like they can’t hang out in the living room because someone’s been “studying” for three hours.


Living with people is all about give and take. It’s important that you be reasonable in your expectations and as objective as possible when critiquing your own actions.

Again, communicating is a big part of easing stress and tension in a living space but having reasonable expectations of the situation and your roommates will help keep everyone from blowing things out of proportion and harboring resentments. After all, the goal is to have fun and make some new friends and the best way to do that is to treat everyone in the home as you’d like to be treated.

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