Living With Roommates: The Harsh Realities You Can Expect

Living with roommates is a reality for lots of folks these days. It’s simply not affordable to get your own loft in uptown, nor is it commonplace to tie the knot and move into a house in the suburbs right after college. So, what’s a person to do in a world of skyrocketing real estate prices? Bunk with a roommate, that’s what.

The only problem is, you’ll need to consider the pros and cons before jumping into a roommate situation. Does the good outweigh the bad? Sure, living with someone may help you put some money in the bank, but it may also drive you to pull your hair out. And then you’ll be using all that cash for a therapist rather than a down payment later on.

So, whether you’re a recovering roommate addict or you’re currently in the throws of a communal living situation, you’re no stranger to roommate warfare. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all fair game when it comes to shared spaces. Unless you’re already a renegade to the roommate lifestyle, you know all too well there are some realities you just can’t deny.

1. You argue over bills

trash can with money

Fighting over bills is never fun. |

Money situations can be sticky. In any relationship, finances can really be the dollar bill that rips two people apart. And when you factor in platonic roommates who are bound by house bills? Well, that’s potentially a recipe for disaster. Whose name will the bills be in? When is the electric due? Does your roommate get paid after the rent is due every month? Yes, these are all questions you’ll need to discuss before sealing the deal.

Tip: Put it in writing

person writing on paper

Put all bills in writing. |

Maybe you’re best friends with the person you’re about to sign a lease with. You’ve never fought before, so what could go wrong? Well, as mentioned, there are lots of things that have the potential of blowing up in your face. One way to avoid financial issues and arguments over who owes what and when is to put it all in writing. This will help set you up for a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact plan for paying bills.

2. You got more (or less) than you bargained for

Rachel Bloom in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Your roommate may not be who they said they were. | The CW

Your roommate wasn’t anything like they said when responding to your ad. In fact, he or she ended up being the polar opposite. “Has full-time job with steady income. Not home often. Doesn’t like to party. Clean and respectful,” their reply email read.

Now that you’ve started a lease with them, however, said roommate never pays his portion of the rent on time (see the first point), sits around on the living room couch smoking weed all day, and eats fried chicken out of a bucket. Sadly, not even The Colonel himself can help you now. You’ve gotten yourself into this mess, so good luck getting out.

Tip: Vet the person

young man with mobile phone in the street.

Make sure you call their references. |

Not all people are as honest as they sound in their Craigslist’s ads. If someone’s offended at your request for a background check, run. There’s a good chance they don’t want you finding their skeletons. This process, however, is key. If you forego it, those skeletons just may end up in the hall closet the two of you will be sharing.

And don’t stop there. Do a little digging to make sure their job is legit. Furthermore, require this potential roommate provides references who can speak to their rental history. In this situation, it’s imperative you do some leg work before saying yes to someone you don’t really know.

3. They have a revolving door of guests

group of friends at dinner party

Give your roommate a heads-up if you’re planning on having company. |

If you and your roommate are lucky enough to share the same group of friends, that definitely makes things easy. If the two of you are in completely different circles, though, there may be trouble on the horizon.

Your roommate has zero concept of basic etiquette and thinks nothing of having a bunch of people over on a Wednesday night. And on top of that, they leave their mess of dirty dishes (more on that in a minute). You, however, are forced to sleep with earbuds in and a noisemaker on. Even your strongest coffee is no match for your fatigue the next morning.

Tip: Put a calendar or dry erase board on the fridge


Keep dates on a calendar in a common area. |

If you have a set spot for a calendar where everyone in the house will see it, try adding in plans so your roommate knows what’s going on. Of course, writing in dinner dates at home doesn’t totally take the place of actual verbal communication, but it’s a start. It may help you avoid any disastrous party nights out of the blue.

For instance, if you plan on hosting your significant other for dinner, write it on the calendar so your roommate has a heads-up. Or, if you’ll be out of town for a week, toss the dates on the dry erase board rather than just disappearing with no notice

4. They never clean up after themselves

man washing dishes in sink

Nobody likes a roommate who leave dishes in the sink. |

You know that messy roommate we were just talking about? The one who makes a mess of dinner, then leaves it until the following day? Well, we’re not quite sure who this mystical cleaning fairy is, but surely, your roommate believes in it.

Maybe they grew up with a maid, or perhaps they failed elementary science and never quite grasped the concept of stuck-on grease and grime. Who knows. On second thought, let’s forget about all that. More likely than not, they’re lazy. And inconsiderate. And oblivious. But now, this little piggy is living with you, so things are about to change.

Establish a chore schedule

man loading dishes in dishwasher

An adult should be able to load their own dishes. |

First off, the mere fact you’re bringing up the idea should tip them off. This inevitable cleaning conversation should serve as a fairly transparent indicator that they need to shape up, or ship out. And sharing household responsibilities isn’t only beneficial for those in romantic relationships. If your roommate is a less than shining example of cleanliness, it’s time to be frank. Any roommate that’s stickier than Aunt Jemima needs a serious deep cleaning lesson.

5. They eat all your food

man looking in the fridge late at night

Your roommate shouldn’t be digging through your food. |

You go out of your way to buy organic fruits and veggies. Your whole paycheck goes to Whole Foods, but you’re OK with that, because you’re committed to spending a little more money on what you put into your body. And it’s a mighty fine thing that you’re fueling your body with the best, because you’ll need to be on your A-game when the time comes to confront your roomie. Sharing a home can be difficult. Sharing a fridge can be impossible. Short of getting yourself a pint-size cooler like the one you had in college, splitting space evenly can be aggravating.

Tip: Use labels and divvy up shelves

leftovers in fridge

Label your food if necessary. |

Shelf space can be problematic, but if you both decide upon designated shelves, you won’t run into issues. You’ll know exactly who bought what. Our other suggestion? Label that gallon of milk if your roommate is really having trouble grasping this concept. Childish?  Yes. Sometimes necessary? Absolutely. But hey, you’ll be happier when your food lasts longer, won’t you?