How To Deal With A Lousy Roommate

While living with a roommate can save you a good chunk of cash, it can definitely drain your mental bank. Even those who've officially entered the grown-up world can be subjected to a mooch, slob, or worse.
To help you keep your sanity and a roof over your head, we've put together the ultimate roommate-survival guide, complete with expert tips from counseling and mental-health pro Michelle Heyden, MAAT, LCPC.
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"Conflict arises when boundaries are crossed, not communicated, or incompatible, explains Heyden. "It's a natural part of relationships and does not have to be stressful or traumatic. We hear that! So, until you choose to live solo, may you live in perfect harmony, dear reader.
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Illustrated by Austin Watts.
The Mooch
After a certain age, the whole "I forgot my wallet" excuse just isn't working anymore — especially if you live with someone. Heyden's advice is to "approach this person very calmly and ask them if they are having some financial issues." Hey, we all know what it's like to be down on our luck, so an upfront conversation about finances is key.

"Money can be a very touchy and shameful topic for people to discuss, so it’s important to approach this sensitively," explains Heyden. At the same time, don't be a sucker. Your roommate knew what they were getting into when they signed the dotted line on that lease. We love this from Heyden: "You may also want to initiate an expectation that everyone buys their own groceries so you don’t get stuck footing the bill." Word.
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Illustrated by Austin Watts.
The Freeloader
Make no mistake. The freeloader is completely different from the mooch — and here's why. You live with the mooch, whereas the freeloader is your roommate's random friend/S.O./casual acquaintance who voluntarily decides to spend as much time at your pad as you do — maybe even more.

Heyden's advice is to "distinguish the line between the expectations that you have for roommates and those you have for guests." Sounds too easy, right? She goes on to say that you need to set the ground rules with your roommate from day one and institute a "guest policy" that covers everything from how often guests are allowed over to "distinguishing the difference between friend guests and parent/family guest expectations." Three's a crowd, friends.
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Illustrated by Austin Watts.
The Party Animal
While we certainly aren't party poopers, having a fete at your pad all the time is just a little too reminiscent of those college days. Even if you're holed up in your own, um, "wing," you've got to "discuss some ground rules for the whole apartment and allow your roommate(s) to add his/her own ideas," says Heyden. "Write them down and be sure that all roommates agree to them."
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Illustrated by Austin Watts.
The Busy Body
Even if you're the socialite of the year, everyone needs their own space. But unfortunately, you have a roommate (or several), so your privacy can be compromised by a nosy Nelly. "This requires that a clear boundary be set," says Heyden. "Clearly communicate what you feel comfortable discussing and don’t give in to any pressure to share things that you don’t want to."

In other words, zip it. No, but seriously, Heyden also suggests guarding your privacy by taking phone calls in your bedroom (or other private area) and logging out of that computer of yours — shared or otherwise.
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Illustrated by Austin Watts.
Lazy Bones
Whether it's the dishes that are piling up (not yours), the overflowing trash can, or the ring around the bathtub, a sloppy roomie not only creates tension, but an unhealthy (and disgusting) living situation. But before flying off the handle, Heyden suggests assessing whether or not this individual is going through something personally.

"If this is a recent and sudden change, this could be a symptom of depression, grief, or trauma," Heyden explains. "If that is not the issue and this is someone who is avoiding household responsibilities, you could implement a chore chart."

Hey, if it worked when mom put that big 'ol poster board on the fridge back in the day, it's worth a try now. No need to overcomplicate it. Simply list the name of the chore, who's assigned, and when it should be completed.
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Illustrated by Austin Watts.
Sticky Fingers
If your roommate is wearing your clothes more than you are, it's time for an intervention — especially if he/she is riffling through your closet without your permission. Of course, the same rules apply to you, too.

"If you both borrow each other’s clothes, you will also need to respect your roommate’s boundaries around this," says Heyden. "If you are okay with the roommate borrowing clothes but you just want him/her to ask for your permission first, clearly state this. If you don’t want them borrowing your clothes at all, say so in a tactful manner." Bottom line: Honesty is the best policy — just be as clear as possible to avoid any confusion.
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Illustrated by Austin Watts.
Casual Encounter
If there are things that go "bump in the night" more often than you want to, um, hear, you probably feel disrespected and (let's be honest) a bit uncomfortable — or do you? Heyden says that one of the first important questions you should ask yourself is "why is this bothering me?" Are you jealous? Concerned about his/her safety and yours?

"After you have understood your reactions, pick a time when both of you are calm and express your concern," advises Heyden. "Be clear about what you would like to happen. Would you be okay with saying that no strangers are allowed in the apartment past a certain time or are you not okay with this behavior at all?"

Are you picking up on a theme here? As with many of these scenarios, communication is key — you don't ask; you don't get.
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