Alice Ladrick

This is my senior year of college, and almost everyone I know is still living with roommates.

In most cases this means living with the friends you’ve made over the past few years. The thing is, the problems caused by living with people never really go away.

When you’re a new student, you move into a room with a complete stranger and have to find a way to live with them for the next year. As you go along, you find out if they like to keep their dirty clothes on the floor or in a hamper, like to wake up early, sleep in, stay up late or hit the hay at 9 p.m.

You find out what kind of music they like, how to deal with them when they have a problem and how to keep things from turning into a huge fight when the issue isn’t really a big deal … hopefully. Hey, maybe you even become friends. No matter what you do, they probably still get on your nerves sometimes.

My first-year roommate (and now best friend) and I had some problems that mainly involved just being sick of each other. We were always in our tiny room together and did pretty much everything like we were attached at the hip. Neither of us really got involved in anything on campus, so we didn’t have anything to do other than classes.

Over-exposure, in my opinion, is one of the biggest problem-causers for roommates. If you come home every day to find your roommate there, it can start to feel like you are never alone, and people need their alone time. College can be hard and everyone has different things they are going through at any given time.

We need that alone time to process things, recharge and just plain relax. When it came time to decide who to live with sophomore year, we wanted to stick together and try to stay out of each other’s hair a bit more. We both got involved with different clubs on campus and started hanging out with people other than each other a bit more. The vibe of our room got a lot less tense as a result.

Sometimes you just have to remember to give people their own space and let them be alone if they want to be. There isn’t much privacy in a dorm setting, and being around one other person the entire time can just be too much.

Fast forward to senior year. You’re living with friends you have known for your entire time at college and you’re supposed to be having a great time and living it up. For the most part, you are. But have the problems that come from living with people gone away? No, and they probably never will.

No matter how long you’ve known someone, and even if you’ve lived with them before, each new setting and year is different and will involve different challenges. For example, moving to a house will involve sharing a kitchen, a pantry, pots and pans, figuring out who will clean the living room, working out sharing bathrooms and other sundry spaces.

If you’re lucky enough to have your own bedroom, some of the problems will be less evident, but others will always arise.

The important thing to remember is that everyone is different and you can’t make your roommates think the same way that you do.

What you think is dirty might not bother somebody else, and that’s just something you have to accept. If something is only a problem for you, then it makes sense that you be the one to take care of it, or at least ask your roommates to try to keep it in mind.

An article on LiveStrong.com titled “How To Deal With Roommates” discusses just that. The article advises being polite and thinking about how you would want someone to approach you with a problem — “bring up the problem in a straightforward but non-defensive manner” — and to steer clear of two of the “most inconsiderate ways of trying to resolve a problem: talking about it behind her back and leaving her passive-aggressive sticky notes.”

No, it’s not fun to have to talk to your friend and say, “Hey, this is really bothering me, is there a way we could work it out?” but it is a lot better than the alternative, which is prolonged tension and passive-aggressive behavior leading to an eventual blow out.

There are some things we can ask people to change and some we just have to accept.

Either way, living with people is difficult, but the way you handle a problem is more important than the problem itself and can prevent you from losing friends over silly things like a box of Cheerios or a mess left in the kitchen.

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