Roommates; Lifelong friends or horrible disasters?

May 8, 2001 (Updated Jun 28, 2001)

The Bottom Line If you decide to get a roommate, or move into a dorm, it could very well be a horrible experience unless you identify the problems up front.

Although this category says “college” roommates, the advice and experiences I am about to share can be applied to any roommate situation. Part of the people I am about to talk about were college roommates, and part just roommates helping to pay the rent.

When I first started packing my things to move out of my parent’s house and into the “dorms”, I was excited. All you ever hear about is how your college roommate will be your best and closest friend and the ties will last forever. When you get married she will be your maid-of-honor, when you have your first child she will be there beside you, and whatever problems you may face, you’ll always will be friends. Then I met her…

Roommate #1: Janel

When I met Janel I just knew we’d be friends. She seemed to be just like me. We liked the same things, the same music, and had the same goals. Problem was is when you are sharing a room that is no bigger than a large closet, things change.

I’ll try to describe the room for you (yes, it has to do with the story):

A square room, maybe 15 feet by 15 feet. Two twin beds, Two dressers, Two closets with mirrors, One small refrigerator, One Microwave, One small TV/VCR combo, Two desks, and Two 18 year old girls belongings. We were packed like sardines!

When you live this close to someone you discover that your initial assessment of your friendship was off. I discovered how fake she really was and I couldn’t stand it. Her phone rang at 1:30 am every morning, which gave me just enough time to go back to sleep before the fire alarm was pulled at 2am, and then her arrival at 3am to be waken up to see her and one (or more) men having sex on every surface in our room. Nope, there were no walls to hide; I had to endure it all. It was cool that she was having fun and all. I have no problem with that. I DO however have a problem with the respect issue. This was all at the beginning of the year. The problems progressed to where I’d come home, and have to kick people out of MY own bed, have strangers filling my rooms, with her nowhere in site, and having to go to “AA” meetings because she kept getting caught with alcohol, so our room would get “ticketed”. I got punished over and over again for her stupidity.

There is nothing really that can be done in this situation though. She was not “roommate” material. She only cared about herself, and since most of the stuff she was doing was “legal” in the dorms, I had to put up with it, seriously injure her (JUST KIDDING), or find another place and lose the money I already paid for the dorms. Lets just say that I was happy when it was all over… Don’t get me wrong, we had some great experiences together, but when we weren’t going out dancing and partying, the friendship was too high-maintenance. Needless to say, we have never talked or contacted each other after that year.

Roommate #2: Carlo

Fast-forward a year-and-a-half. I was recently divorced, had a newborn, and couldn’t pay my mortgage payment. I put an ad in the paper to get a roommate and had at least 200 people call. I picked Carlo because of his secure job and excellent references. He was almost 11 years older than me, going to college to be a police officer, a volunteer fire fighter, and the cable guy (free cable.. yay).

He was the “perfect” roommate for the first year or so. Rent was always paid in full and on time, and we could talk and hang out like friends. He was a slob, but he kept his mess to his room, his bathroom, and a chair, so I couldn’t complain too much. He was like a part of the family, and I honestly thought he would be my roommate for a very long time.

The problems started when I finally became single. I broke up with my boyfriend, and all of a sudden Carlo tried moving up the ranks. I tried politely telling him I wasn’t interested. I explained to him that we were friends, he was my roommate, and that wasn’t even to mention that he was 11 years older than me. He, like most me, was too stubborn and after getting drunk and showing up at places where my friends and me were, I kicked him out. I was really bummed. He was a great roommate, business speaking. I didn’t have to worry about my things, the rent money, or even my child and my own safety.

I honestly wish that things could have worked out for the two of us (roommate wise), but there wasn’t much I could do about the situation. If he would have backed off after I told him that there was no chance for “us” we could have worked past it, but I gave him 4 months of putting up with this crud before I finally kicked him out.

Roommate #3: Chuck

I know what went wrong with Chuck and I will admit that it was all my fault…

NEVER, I repeat NEVER have a boyfriend or girlfriend move in as a paying roommate, unless of course you don’t really need the money. Chuck had been living with me as a mooching boyfriend. When we broke up, he still wanted to be around because him and my infant had a father/daughter type relationship. I moved him into Carlo’s room thinking that we could be a big happy family. Boy, was I wrong.

I soon realized that if he had lived with me for almost a year and never contributed a penny before, that he would never live up to his promises of being a reliable roommate. Rent was short and nonexistent till one day a few months later, he came home told me that he hated me and my daughter and that he never wanted to see us again. (Yup, he got a new girlfriend). Fine by me…

Roommate #4: Judith

I was getting tired of the roommate game by the time I met Judith . She walked in, told me this sad story about her horrible ex-husband, and after verifying that she had a job and talking to her pervious roommate, I let her move in. She was weird. I kid you not. She would stay in her room for days. Not once leaving, then she would disappear for a while. I went in her room once because I thought she was dead. She lined the whole room with newspapers on the ground, and had all her things in small stacks. It was eerie. She never paid rent. I guess that her last roommate raved about how good she was just to get her out. I do not even think she ever intended on paying rent. I honestly think that she went around scamming people. She told my boyfriend at the time stories about how she goes church to church getting free meals and money. This irritated me because she was taking advantage of something that was designed to help people. She was single, had only rent ($350.00) and a $200.00 per month car payment as her bills. She was making $9.00 per hour working 6 days a week, with over-time every day. She wore only designer clothes and Estee Lauder makeup, and yet she was ripping off community resources.

One day I came home to an open door. I went to see what was going on and she had completely moved out. At first I was mad about her living with me for so long without paying rent, but eventually saw it as a blessing. I hate confronting people, and I didn’t have to kick her out. I guess what goes around comes around though, because last I heard she’s living in her car.

Ok, I had to edit some of this information out of here due to someone seeing it and going a bit wierd about it. It is only temporary and the story WILL be back...

The Moral of these stories….

I know this was long, but I wanted to show you that you never know what to expect with roommates. I do know that you need to make rules and stick with them when it comes down to the person who will be living with you. If it is bad, kick them out, or if you cannot, talk to your dorm “leader”. A year or longer is a really long time to have to be unhappy.

I’ve came up with some criteria that I think is needed to pick a great roommate:

A Checklist for finding a roommate: {Your house or apartment}

* Always take your time. You don’t have to give them an answer the same day they come over. If they push you right then and there to let them move in, don’t give in. Do your homework and things will be much easier *

* Always check references. Make a form up for potential roommates. Ask for contact information for last residence, their work, and somebody that knows them that can tell you what to expect. Call everyone on the form, you can never be too careful. Most people will doubt that you will really call so be prepared for potential fake information *

* Set down the rules and put them in writing. Have your roommate and yourself sign it. Make sure to include details such as date rent is due and how much notice that they have to give you before moving out *

* Consider a deposit. If you are worried about their behavior, or you are living somewhere that you had to provide one yourself, it might be a good idea. This will also ensure that you a better crowd of roommates, ones that are serious about finding a place to stay (and pay rent) *

* Do not be afraid to enforce your rules and beliefs. Do not let them take advantage of you, because if you let it happen once, it will always happen *

* Have some place to go to have your own space. If you are in a dorm room it is a bit harder, but it is important! *

* Know when to give them their notice to move out, and stick to your guns. Do it BEFORE the environment gets dangerous, unhealthy, or extremely uncomfortable*

* I do not recommend getting “involved” with your roommate. Breakup’s make everyone uncomfortable, and it will also make your house uncomfortable*

A Checklist for living with a roommate: {Dorm Rooms}

* Realize that both you and your roommate are going to have to change. You both are living in that room, and you both will have to find a mid point where everyone can be happy. Be flexible and expect your roommate to be also *

* Respect your roommate(s) and their property no matter what. You are no better a person than they are if you go down to their level *

* Sit down within the first few days of school and discuss your thoughts and feelings with your roommate. If everyone cannot come up with reasonable rules and agreements, then ask to change rooms. It is easier to change rooms at the beginning then half way through the semester *

* Do not agree or do things that you are not comfortable with. Peer pressure has no place in the dorm room. You need and deserve to feel comfortable in your room *

* Communicate with your roommate. If something is bugging you, bring it up. Chances are that your roommate does not know that you do not like it if you are being shy and keeping quiet *

* Try to develop a friendship, but don’t force it*

* If you see something that needs to be reported (serious depression, serious drug or alcohol abuse, etc.), report it. You might lose a friend, a roommate, and even your reputation, but it is your duty as a good person to do so. *

* Expect disagreements. Living that close to someone is not going to be easy, and no one is perfect*

All in all, what ever you do or don’t do, you have a chance of meeting a horrible roommate and having some major problems, BUT if you take your time, and consider the above advice, you have a better chance of finding a roommate that could go on to be a life long friend.

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Member: Stephanie B
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About Me: I'm *25* (gasp.. another year older!!) year old mom of two little girls