For a long time, I lived with a partner and assumed I’d never live with roommates again. The shower politics, the labeling of leftovers, the unspoken tracking of who cleaned the bathroom last — I was thrilled to leave it all behind. But when I decided to move to New York on my own and knew I’d have to re-enter the roommate realm, I found myself inexplicably excited. The group grocery trips, the family hangovers, the what-should-we-do-tomorrow mentality. I kind of missed it!
But when searching for a shared apartment on Craigslist — something I documented in detail — the roommate qualm turned out to be one of the hardest. Because while we all care a lot about who we live with (and have horror stories to prove just how much), the customs around picking city roommates are frighteningly blasé. A quick email, a lie-riddled questionnaire (“clean? fairly!”), an open house meet-n-greet wherein everyone pretends they aren’t in competition with each other. It’s bizarre.
Ultimately, I lucked out. My three roommates and I already feel like family. Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate how non-psychopathic they are considering how hastily we all decided to share our lives. We’re not without our complex dynamics, though. Maybe that’s what makes it kind of fun. The risks, the challenges, the forced intimacy. It can feel like for every positive roommate trait, there is a potential equal and opposite downside. Let’s review the classics.
The one who is friendly, a real angel, but never leaves you the fuck alone.
This roommate is a joy to be around, truly. It’s so nice to have someone who seems genuinely interested in how your day went. But when they linger in your doorway asking you 21 questions when you’re clearly tired and not interested in chit chat, you fantasize about pressing a button that drops them through a small (harmless!) trap door.
The one who’s chill and easygoing but tbh never gets off the freaking couch, always steals your food.
This roommate is so cool. There is no one better to marathon the entire Game of Thrones series with, and they always know where to get the best take out. The only problem is their body is permanently imprinted on the couch and your tortilla chips keep mysteriously disappearing.
The one who is a blast and throws a great party but wakes you up at 2 a.m. at least twice a week.
Love this roommate! When you get home around 10 p.m. a little tipsy from dinner and have the sudden urge to dance, they are always down to make a sudden, last-minute night of it. They’ll turn on some music and start fixing cocktails for all the roommates immediately. They’re so fun. Except for the whole “weeknight” thing, when 10 p.m. feels a little more like bed time. And now you’re listening to them make a sudden, last-minute night of it with someone else.
The one who is quirky and always showing you interesting stuff but never does a single chore.
This roommate is always out doing (and inviting you to) really interesting stuff around town. It’s awesome. And when they’re home, they’re always working on a cool project or cooking up a weird recipe they saw in the New York Times. The problem is, remnants of their projects are always strewn about the common spaces and their dishes sit in the sink for days because they’re out doing interesting stuff around town.
The one who takes care of everyone and is always cleaning up but leaves passive-aggressive notes.
What a great roommate — so helpful and always chipping in. They’re definitely doing more than their fair share! It’s especially sweet when they bake for all the roommates. Less great is the note on the container that says, “Help yourself! And maybe don’t leave your shit scattered everywhere 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 ”
The one who is quiet and tidy but always mysteriously shut in their room.
Such an easy roommate! No annoying lingering, no couch potatoing, no loud partying, no dishes in the sink, no rude notes, no….anything. Wait a minute, what are they doing in there? Is this person a serial killer???? This roommate’s quiet presence is almost worse than the outright flaws.
Please identify yourself in the comments and/or do the important work of creating more archetypes! There is room for plenty more in this mischief.*
*The name for a group of mice. V cute/apropos.
Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt; follow her on Instagram @heysuperstar.
Whether you’re moving into a tiny dorm room or suite-style apartment, chances are you’ll have a roommate or two to share it with. For new students, this may be a major lifestyle shift that is as exhilarating as it is nerve-wrecking.
Though everyone is a little bit different, here’s a field guide to the people you may encounter and how to live with them.
1. The One Who’s Never There
Who they are: Whether they’re constantly going home, staying with their significant other or camping out at the library, they’re always MIA. They said they were going home for the weekend, but when Sunday night rolls around they’re still gone. After you haven’t seen them in five days you start to worry, but then they stroll into the room after class on Thursday like nothing happened.
How to deal: This is actually a blessing. With your roommate gone all the time, you pretty much get all the benefits of a single room for half the price. If you were hoping for them to be your best friend though, this may not be the case. Do your own thing and invite your neighbors over when you get bored.
2. The One Who’s Always There
Who they are: The exact opposite of #1, this roommate never seems to leave your room. They spend Friday night watching Netflix in their loft and Sunday morning eating brunch on the futon. You begin to wonder if they are even enrolled in classes, since they always seem to be sitting in your room.
How to deal: To make sure you get some time to yourself, find a study room in your dorm or apartment and make note of what times they are in class. While it may be frustrating that you’re rarely alone, understand that your roommate might be a homebody type who is more comfortable staying in. Invite them out with you once in a while and introduce them to some friends, since they could just be shy about getting out there.
3. The Sharer
Who they are: You always considered yourself a generous person—until you met this roommate. On the first day you were probably really excited about how friendly and relaxed they were, but it got old when you realized all your peanut butter and conditioner mysteriously disappeared. Yes, sharing is caring. But not when sharing entails watching them drink directly out of your milk carton and finding their tiny hairs on your razor.
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How to deal: From the start, be clear about what is shared and what is yours, and don’t be afraid to label your items in the fridge or shower. It may also help to configure your room in a way that clearly defines what things belong to you, such as having your own side. If they overstep a boundary, kindly call them out on it. Chances are, they are used to living with other people and don’t realize how the “what’s yours is mine” lifestyle isn’t for everyone.
4.The Party Animal
Who they are: It’s a Tuesday night during finals week and it’s pouring rain outside but, like usual, your roommate is still going out. It’s a mystery to you how they are able to creatively put together theme party outfits night after night, but they somehow find a way. You’ve come back to find an all-out rager going on in your room without a word of warning, and they often stumble in at 4 a.m. with people you’ve never met and forget you were sleeping up in your loft.
How to deal: If you tend to focus on academics (even just a little bit), this one can be difficult. Find a good alternate location to get your work done, like the library or a study lounge. If you have an exam coming up, repeatedly hint that you’ll need to get a lot of rest or just come out and ask them to keep it down. It’s also a good idea to make some friends on your hall with futons, since you can crash there when you need to somewhere else to stay. But keep in mind that you can use this to your advantage, since they’d probably love to have you tag along every now and then.
5. The Passive-Aggressive One
Who they are: Sticky notes…sticky notes everywhere. If you forget to turn off the fan once, expect a sign that says “Turn off fan.” Left your towel on the floor? There will be a “Hang towel here please :)” note right above the rack. For some reason, they think putting up little notes is easier than confronting these little issues in person.
How to deal: Understand that, while these notes may seem picky and annoying, your roommate might consider them a gentler way of avoiding a larger issue. Confrontation is key, but be smart when bringing up their macroaggressions. Most likely, if you ask them if you’re doing something wrong, they’ll say they’re fine with it; know that they probably are not fine with it, and try to get through to the deeper issue. If you can’t seem to talk it out, try to comply with the sticky notes when you can, but don’t let your roommate control you.
6. The Clingy One
Who they are: This roommate never seems to put the “apart” in “apartment.” The moment you got your roommate assignment, they sent you multiple emails asking for details on your life and outlining your future plans. It seemed okay at first, until they never left you alone. If you’re getting lunch, they’re getting lunch. If you’re going out, they’ll ask you where exactly you’re going, when you’ll be back and if they can come along too.
RELATED: 7 tips to help you have that awkward conversation with your roommate
How to deal: It’s important to be gentle with this type of roommate. Most likely, they’re afraid of being left out or have always wanted their college roommate to be their best friend. Get them to branch out by introducing them to some other students on your hall. Remember to include them in some of your activities, but don’t be afraid to do your own thing. As the wise band Fleetwood Mac said many times, “You can go your own way.”
7. The Mr. or Ms. Clean
Who they are: The moment you walked into the room on the first day and saw their matching comforter set, coordinating wall canvases and color-coded file folders, you knew their area would always be spotless. You’re astonished that they have the ability to make their bed before 8 a.m. class and constantly feel guilty that your side of the room looks like a garbage truck just unloaded there. It’s nice having things neat, but if they find your hair on the shower floor, you’ll definitely be hearing about it.
How to deal: If you’re a clean person yourself, this is great; keep doing what you’re doing. If you tend to be on the messier side, you have the potential for more issues. Remember to respect their boundaries and contain your mess to your own area, such as your desk or dresser. You’re not obligated to keep your own space spotless but, when it comes to shared spaces, keep it neat. It wouldn’t be so bad if you picked up some of their clean habits, either.
8. The Complete Mess
Who they are: Unidentifiable crumbs. Empty soda cans. Dirty laundry. They’re all there, and they’re everywhere. This roommate always leaves a pile of dishes “soaking” in the sink, and definitely doesn’t own a vacuum. Multiple surfaces in the room are covered in a sticky residue, probably from last week’s orange chicken. They tell you they’re going to clean up after their exam but you know that’s not going to happen.
How to deal: Even if you don’t consider yourself a clean freak, this is aggravating. Remember that your roommate’s allowed to mess up their side of the room as much as they want but, if it’s encroaching on your own space, don’t be afraid to call them out on it. Assertiveness is key here, and understand that they probably won’t take it personally if you confront them on their consistent dirty dishes.
9. The Nocturnal One
Who they are: It’s 3 a.m. and they’re still at their desk tapping away on that paper. They could’ve started it earlier but, as they’re reminded you many times before, they “work better at night.” You’ve got an 8 a.m. lecture the next morning and the night owl act is getting really old really fast.
How to deal: Chances are, there are multiple places outside your room for studying in your dorm or apartment. So, be blunt about your need for shut-eye and ask if your roommate could study there after it gets late. If they need to stay in the room, don’t be afraid to turn off the lights — the desk lamp will work fine. Invest in a sleep mask.
10. The Best Friend
Who they are: After the first conversation with this roommate, you realize that you are practically the same person. There are a suspicious amount of things in common between you two, from your music preferences to your detailed childhood memories. You had a moment identical to when Brennan and Dale recognize that they’re soulmates and “go play karate in the garage” in the movie “Stepbrothers.” If you’re going somewhere, you’re going together.
How to deal: Well, you lucked out on this one. But keep in mind that, though your roommate may seem like your new best friend during the first week, a lot can change over the course of the year. This is why you should avoid shutting yourself off from the rest of the hall and be open the new friendships as they might emerge. Yes, getting a new roommate is a lot like playing the lottery, and you never know who you might end up with. But remember that, no matter what type of roommate you get, you can still make it work and enjoy their company. Chances are, if you expect to dislike your roommate, you will. Be kind, keep an open mind and give them reasons to like you.
Allison Raeck is a student at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a member of the USA TODAY College contributor network.
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