Top 5 Roommate Relationship Landmines…and How to Avoid Them

Our guest blogger Sabrina has distilled her 20+ roommate experiences into the top five areas that can explode with serious damage to the roommate relationship.  And we have added some tried-and-true MFA tips for avoiding the danger zones.


Roommates can be a fairy tale of exciting events and life-long friendships. However, some fairy tales involve a big bad wolf of trouble, so let’s count down the top five causes of heated explosions between people sharing a space.

5. Cleanliness

We all adopt our own routines. For example, I cook meals throughout the day, so it makes sense to wash dishes before bed. I once lived with a roommate who was the opposite. She rarely cooked and considered dirty dishes a sign of the apocalypse. You can see how fireworks sparked, and there is nothing more frustrating than having someone role play as my mother. I am an adult–don’t tell me what to do. However, REAL adults understand the art of compromise. I can understand how bothersome it is to see a pile of dishes every day. It disrupts the kitchen’s Feng Shui. The best solution for a harmonious common area is to be mindful of our mess, and use cleaning schedules.

MFA Tip. And when your roommate “forgets” to clean, check out our advice on how to make your roommates clean when it’s their turn.

4. Possessions

Do you hate it when someone eats your food or uses your toothpaste without asking? It’s enough to drive you to an insane asylum. With that said, it’s 100 percent understandable to share certain items like toilet paper. It would be ridiculous to have five rolls piled up on the toilet lid.  Pick one, and save the rest. However, we all need to establish what’s ours and only ours. We work hard for our money to buy the things we need. Those around us must respect our possessions. Everyone should buy their own shi…I mean shitake.

MFA Tip. Katherine’s rule-of-thumb is to buy big stuff separately and split small stuff. Sam recommends buying food staples jointly and cooking together. (He’s a student at the CIA, so no surprise!) Both suggest labeling anything that you don’t want to share.

3. Incompatible Habits

We are reflections of our upbringing. Some people are used to peace and quiet. Others are born into a party. Some people love waking up with the chickens. Others have to sleep with the bats. These differences make us unique, which make roommates a valuable learning experience. Just like the cleaning situation however, habits sometimes clash. The solution remains the same. Be empathic! It’s hard changing aspects of ourselves.

MFA Tip. Be considerate of others, if you have any unusual habits. Also, see MFA Tip on #1 below.

2. Unwanted Visitors

I am not talking about any old visitor. I am specifically referring to the dreaded boyfriend (or girlfriend) who hangs around ALL THE TIME. These parasites can test your patience because they don’t pay rent, yet they invade your territory. We don’t want to see you kiss, or cuddle, or make babies. Go away! If this problem persists, then it’s time to throw out the Marry Poppins act. Rally up the team, and kick that freeloader out the door.   

MFA Tip. Katherine has 3 simple rules for managing visitors, especially BFs and GFs, and MFA’s readers give a piece of their mind on the topic in the comments to this post. .

1. Incompatible Personalities

Why did I put personality at number one? Well, personality determines the outcome of each problem listed above. Some people just have fire and ice personalities, and compromise becomes impossible. This can cause a war. What‘s worst; the war leads to other meaningless fights, which can make living together exhausting. I’ve had a few roommate situations where disagreement was our form of communication. Thank God for house meetings. These Oprah-like healing sessions always closed the argument…well, until the next one arrived.

MFA Tip. The single best way to handle any and all of the roommate relationship landmines is to use a “mine–sweeper” approach, that is, even before you move in together draft a written roommate agreement, or at least have a frank discussion covering all the potential danger zones.

Have you noticed a pattern? All five of these issues are based on misunderstandings. You are now in a new world that drags you out of your comfort zone, but you are not alone. Your roommate may feel the same way, which goes back to the art of compromise. An exchange of words can prevent most eruptions. As I mentioned, there are rare cases where talk is cheap. Oh, this reminds me. Here’s another cause to add to the list…

Number 0. Psychos

If you realize your roommate is a psycho, RUN!!!!!!

Our guest blogger Sabrina Pettis has had over 20 roommates in the past seven years, in college and after landing her first full-time job. During this time, she have lived it all: from the long-lasting friendships, to the exhausting squabbles, to the annoying love birds, to the dark-minded canons. Each roommate experience has contributed to her memories and expanded her outlook on the world around.

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Comments (3)

  1. Avatar alessandro

    Non mi capita mai di fare commenti sui blog che leggo, ma in questo caso faccio un’eccezione, perché il blog merita davvero e voglio scriverlo a chiare lettere.

  2. Avatar Whitney

    Omgg…this is like so wicked crazy, my best friend and I are totally thinking of going to grad school together and getting an apartment out of state. She has only ever lived with her family and I have had roommates since I started my undergrad to my study abroad with a friend and four guy roommmates (which wasn’t too bad).