The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Ask Gabby: How do I deal with my messy roommate?

4 min read

Talking to your roommate might be difficult, but it's important to communicate your feelings. Noémi Macavei-Katócz


Senior Writer

Q: “Dear Gabby, One of my suitemates always does little things that get on my nerves. She leaves her dishes in the sink, lets her boyfriend stay overnight and never takes out the trash. My other roommates and I don’t want to live with her next year, but we don’t know how to tell her that. Got any advice?”

A: Roommate issues are totally normal, but that doesn’t mean that they’re fun. Different people have varying levels of cleanliness, so it’s important to set expectations with each other as soon as possible. This sounds like an issue that can be resolved by creating house rules and possibly a roommate agreement, but I understand that not everything can be fixed by talking it out.

I don’t know if you had a conversation with all your roommates when you moved in, but if you did, then I would recommend that you revisit it. Establish who is going to be taking out the trash, as well as the rules for bringing guests over and keeping your living space clean. Also, refer to your roommate agreement if you made one. Now would be a great time to create a roommate agreement if you haven’t already. Since you are all sharing a living space, you need to have respect for each other’s wishes.

If you haven’t had this kind of discussion, it might be a good time to bring it up. Just ask your roommates if you can all get together for a meeting and talk about what you expect out of each other. Don’t target your roommate; you don’t want her to feel like the conversation is about her, even though it is. Just be casual about it.

If you’ve already been over this, a good way to casually bring it up could be, “Hey can you please wash your dishes or at least put them in the sink?” or “Please let us know when your boyfriend is going to be sleeping over so we know.” Another thing to consider is that this semester, there are still COVID policies in place, including a rule stating you cannot have overnight guests. If she is still having people over, then you can remind her of the policy and how you all could face repercussions. If it doesn’t work out, then it is completely valid for you and your roommates to ask her to find another living situation for next year.

With the boyfriend situation, if you’re living off-campus and he is sleeping over all the time and eating your food, you can ask him to pay a part of the rent. That’s not a rude thing to ask for or an overstep if he is over 24/7. And if you guys live in Eagle Landing or one of the other dorms, maybe your roommate can spend the night at his place. It’s your room, too, not just hers, and you have the right to stand up for yourself.

While I know it’s annoying to walk in and see a mess in your dorm, I can also understand your roommate’s perspective. Sometimes you are so tired that you can’t do the dishes or maybe you even just forget about them. Everyone has their own form of being organized. My room can be a complete mess, but I know where everything is. Once I clean it up, I spend ten minutes looking for my glasses. Just try to get to know your roommate and see where they are coming from. Maybe they don’t even realize they are being messy and disorganized.

If you all try to work things out and you’re still facing the same issues, it’s totally understandable to seek out a new roommate group for next year. However, because this issue affects your roommate’s living situation, you need to be upfront if you really don’t want to room with her. It’s not fair to blindside her right before housing selection so that she has no roommate group and no plan for housing.

If you decide against living with her next year, tell her as soon as possible and approach the topic carefully. This is not a conversation you all should be having over text. Call a roommate meeting in your dorm and, as calmly and kindly as possible, air out all of your grievances. Tell her you still want to be friends (if you do), but you’re just not compatible roommates.

It might be difficult, but telling someone the truth is the best thing to do. It’s a very tricky situation, especially if you were friends before you were roommates, but I would rather have someone tell me how they feel about me than hear it from someone else, or even have them hate me secretly forever. They might be standoffish at first, but it would feel a lot better hearing it now rather than later and being blindsided.

In the end, it’s about you. This might sound selfish, but you don’t want to be miserable all of next year. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes because your roommate situation might affect your mental health and study habits. No matter what you decide, I hope it goes well. If not, I’m always here for advice! You can direct message @theblueandgraypress on Instagram to submit any questions or topics you’d like me to cover.

Jess Kirby contributed to reporting for this article.

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