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Once upon a time, sharing a dorm room with a stranger was a part of college life that many students looked forward to leaving behind after graduation. However, the housing crunch means nearly a third of households now contain at least one adult who isn’t a spouse, primary romantic partner or college student. Roommates — and their associated disadvantages — are here to stay.
Don’t get us wrong. There are some impressive benefits of living with others. For example, you’re less likely to be lonely and have someone on hand to toss you a spare roll of TP when you forget to check before using the facilities.
However, “peace and harmony” aren’t terms many people use to describe their co-living relationships. How can you make yours as pleasant as possible? Educate yourself about these five disadvantages of living with a roommate — and how to solve them.
1. The Noise
Do you sometimes feel like The Grinch lamenting Christmas morning — all the noise, noise, noise, NOISE? Tempers can sometimes flare if you’re into Bach, and they prefer Slipknot. Even sharing the same musical tastes is no guarantee you’ll want to rock out at the same time as your flatmate.
Communication is critical to solving nearly every disadvantage of living with a roommate, and noise is no exception. If you need certain quiet hours to attend class via Zoom or get some much-needed slumber before finals, politely let those you live with know. You can’t expect your housemates to be mind-readers, and a simple, “Hey, I have a big exam tomorrow and need some rest,” goes a long way with all but the most insensitive.
For everything else, there are noise-canceling headphones. After all, you can’t expect your roommate to take a permanent vow of silence. It’s one thing to insist on quiet hours by 3 a.m., but they have an equal right to rock out for a bit in the afternoon.
2. The Lack of Privacy
Families have different expectations around privacy, sometimes resulting in uncomfortable roommate confrontations. You might shriek in terror if your roomie casually strolls into the bathroom when you’re undressed, while for them, nudity might be no big deal.
Some things should always remain off limits, like your roommate’s diary or prescription medications. Otherwise, communication is again paramount. If you prefer that your roommate knocks before entering your bedroom, politely tell them so instead of getting angry by assuming everyone follows the same privacy ground rules.
3. The Aromas
If you have migraine disease, you may have identified certain smells that trigger you. Other health conditions, such as the following, can also make you scent-sensitive:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Lyme disease
- Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis
- Certain prescriptions
This problem becomes most acute if you share a dorm and can’t escape to a private room with an open window to flee the offensive odor. What do you do when your roommate reheats fish? If possible, ask if they can use a microwave or stove in a common area — many dorms contain public kitchenettes. If you share a residence, keep your door closed and consider an aromatherapy mister.
4. The Messy Common Areas
Sharing a home usually means sharing kitchen space and, sometimes, a bathroom. Common courtesy demands keeping these areas reasonably cleaned. Here is a quick example of what’s okay and what’s not:
- It’s okay to leave dishes in the sink overnight when you have a late-night snack and don’t want to wake up your roommates by washing them.
- It’s not cool to let those same plates linger in the sink, growing mold, for a week or more.
Likewise, it’s polite to clean up any immediate messes you make, like that exploded ravioli in the microwave. Even no-cook meals like crunchy tuna wraps can leave blobs of mustard on the counter — it takes two seconds to grab a wipe and prevent germs.
Here, too, communication is key to overcoming this disadvantage of living with a roommate. What are your expectations? The other person might have far different standards than yours. Decide on ground rules and if need be, make a chores chart to hang on your fridge. That way, you can keep track of who does what to keep your shared spaces tidy.
5. The Visitor Traffic
You signed up to live with one other person, not their entire family and posse. Another common disadvantage of living with a roommate often occurs when your flatmate gets a significant other who spends a disproportionate amount of time at your place.
Your best bet is to discuss these scenarios before they occur and agree on ground rules for how many people you invite and when. Otherwise, wait for a quiet moment alone to discuss your concerns instead of bringing them up in front of your roommate’s friend or partner.
If you can’t come to an agreement or relocate, take measures to protect your safety. For example, a solid-core door costs between $70 and $250 and a keyless entry lock $150 to $450. You might end up paying close to $1,000 for someone to install a new bedroom entry system, but it’s far cheaper than a semester of lost sleep and the accompanying failing grades. Your landlord will appreciate the upgrade, though you should clear it with them and save the old door.
However, if economic factors render it impossible to create a private space, take cues from frequent globetrotters. Invest in an inexpensive secondary door lock and door stop screecher if you have your own bedroom or a portable travel safe to protect your grandma’s necklace in the dorms.
Disadvantages of Living With a Roommate
Living with other people isn’t all bad. You always have a way to beat loneliness with an instant study buddy or workout pal.
However, there are some disadvantages of living with a roommate. Fortunately, you can overcome them with these tips and enjoy your college or young adult living situation.