Having a Roommate: Advantages and Disadvantages

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

I’ve never had a roommate from hell.

The closest I came to having a hellish roommate was during my freshman year of college, when I lived with my best friend and her boyfriend. This other girl moved in with us for a few months…and she and I didn’t get along very well. Other than that, I’ve been very lucky.

I lived with my older sister for about five years, and then my younger sister and I had a place together for a while. The thing about living with my sisters is that we already knew in advance how to coexist. We definitely got annoyed with each other from time to time, but we also knew the best way to get over it — avoid the other person until we cooled off.

Even though I love my sisters, I was looking forward to living by myself when I moved to northern Virginia in the fall of 2006 (oh, my God, I’ve been here for a year and a half…). But even though I enjoyed the advantages of living alone (complete privacy, the ability to decorate however I wanted), there were disadvantages as well.

For one thing, the apartment I’d moved into was…well…not in the most desirable area (this is one of the biggest things you have to contend with when you’re dealing with a single salary). And the bills? All mine. But another thing was just trying to get motivated — to go out and meet new people in an unfamiliar city — when I was working a late schedule. Without anyone there to spur me on, I was finding it easier and easier to spend time by myself.

I’ve done a lot better about getting out in the past year, and one of the things that helped me (in addition to slowly meeting more people) is that a few months ago I gained a new roommate. Right around the time the lease on my first apartment was up, a girl I’d worked with at the first job I had when I moved to Alexandria asked if I’d consider moving in with her (we’d stayed in touch and continued to hang out after we left to take different jobs last summer).

Now? I still live in Alexandria, but in a much nicer neighborhood. Since we’re in a two-bedroom place, I’m actually paying less than I was when I was living by myself. There are no more excuses to sit at home alone (we went to a modern dance performance at the Kennedy Center a few weeks ago, and that’s solely because she found out about it and suggested it). We go out on the town together. We only have one bathroom, but she gets up earlier than I do during the week and is already showered and out of the way before my alarm goes of. It’s working out quite nicely. And it’s nice having someone to talk to.

(Two Additional Reasons Why My Roommate is Awesome: 1) As I was running out the door one night, I accidentally spilled bright red wax on the beige carpet. She got back before I did and cleaned it all up before I got home. 2) We both drink soy milk, so if I run out before I’m able to get to the store, I can always take some of hers.)

Dr. Beth’s roommate left last year, and she recently wrote a list of 24 things she misses about her. Here’s a sampling:

1. Her wicked sense of humour
3. Our 8 p.m. cookie bakes
4. Impromptu parties where we invite random people over for dinner
9. The way she makes you homemade cards, just because.
21. The time she was petting my hair in her sleep
22. Our rule about the hooker shoes and the housecoat
23. Late night trips to Shoppers Drug Mart in our PJs!

Katrina recalls her worst roommate.

My worst roommate made rice every day for dinner. Oh, but how did she make rice? She put rice and water in a saucepan, and put it on the highest setting. When the water boiled over, coating the burner with a starchy, slimy mess, she turned down the heat until the mess was baked onto the burner and the rice was cooked. After eating, she rinsed her dishes and the saucepan in cold water (no soap), and put them in the cupboard. And that was the ONLY cleaning she ever did. EVER.

Ask me if she ever (even once) cleaned the burned-on rice scum. Go ahead, ask!

Stephanie wrote a letter to her roommate on her blog, detailing the things she doesn’t like.

Dear Roommate,

I do not like it when you:

1. Make soup that smells like garbage/urine.
2. Proceed to slurp said soup for forty minutes while I am sitting next to you on the couch.
3. Burst into the apartment at 9:01, scream “Heroes is on! Are you watching this?!” and grab the remote to change the channel. [I WAS watching I Love New York 2].
4. Yelp, bounce on the couch and literally run around the apartment during Heroes because you just can’t take the suspense [I use the term "suspense" loosely because I think that show is corny and seriously SUCKS].

Have you ever had a roommate from hell? Or one that you really adored?


  1. My roommate stories are not so bad. No roommates from hell. But I certainly find that I am much neater than the majority of people I’ve lived with, and it always grates on me. Right now, I feel like I am almost continuously picking up after my current roommate. I wouldn’t mind it so much if she’d just thank me for what I do, but it doesn’t appear that she even notices. Yesterday, I even folded her clothes for her! (she left her clothes drying on my drying rack for the weekend, and I needed to do laundry. Instead of throwing clothes on her bed, I neatly folded them.) So I hope you thanked your roommate for the wax :-)

    Conversely, I have had fabulous roommates. My senior year of college, I lived with a few friends, and we actually did stuff together. We cooked together most nights of the week, had movie nights, and played board games. We still had some strife (over little stuff, mostly), but we typically got along well. I’d be much less hesitant to live with roommates if I knew every experience would be like that.

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 10:13 am #
  2. Ooooh ooooh I love this topic ;) I had a roommate from hell that contributed to me lasting all of one quarter (yep, I said quarter!) at Auburn my freshman year.

    She was let’s say not the brightest bulb in the box. My original roommate no-showed and the gem that replaced her (AKA dim bulb) went door to door “checking out” all rooms with an empty bed. Cha-ching, I won the lottery here.

    She would leave out glasses of soda everywhere, and wondered why we had a roach problem. She insisted the hair in the drain was not hers, although she had carrot red hair and no one in our suite did.

    My favorite was that she was so proud to have a cordless phone so she would be able to not keep me up and could instead sit outside for late night calls. But she would procede to talk on the phone in our room after making her proud proclamation.

    We shared one class (different sections) and she would always skip it. I loved how each week she would ask “did I miss anything?”. My standard answer was “no”. To which she would say “good!”. Hmmmm, no wonder I looked shortly thereafter and she was not to be found in the directory. I do believe she flunked out.

    I was in her sorority’s dorm, and her sorority sisters would come and borrow things from “her” – which turned out to be MY things. My last month or so there, I locked basically all of my belongings in my closet so that they would stop helping themselves to my things.

    When I moved out, I gave her no warning. She came back one day, and my half of the room was completely stark naked. She airheadedly bopped in and I told her I was heading out. Her bright retort was that she was leaving too in the next day or so. I said, “um, no – I’m leaving and I’m **not** coming back”. All of the sudden the light bulb tried to spark. “Ohhhh,” she said. “My goodness I’m going to miss you!”. Oh yes – I am sure big fat elephant tears followed my departure.

    Needless to say, I never heard from her again. And I am not too sad, I must admit ;)

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 11:19 am #
  3. Oh shoot I forgot to say when she arrived to the dorm room, her parents were with her. They took one look at my TV and hers which they had with her and said “yours has to go”. I was like, “excuse me – who ARE you people?”

    And that was how I first met my carrot-headed disaster of a freshman year roommate!

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 11:21 am #
  4. I must say, I’m one of those people with the roommates from hell stories. I really do wish I had positive roommate stories, but I don’t. I went to two different colleges my freshman year, and I had two different roommates. The second was worse (and I didn’t think that was possible) than the first.

    Roommate #1 – Crazy nut. She was so weird, and moody, and weird. She was so jealous of me that it drove her insane. She wrote about me on her IM away messages, even though I had her IM name. She was in love with a guy I was friends with, and she would get so pissed off if I was anywhere near him. She used to talk crap about me to another guy friend, and of course, he would come to me and tell me everything she said. One time, she punched her dresser because she was so mad at something I did. That something was me walking to class with one of my friends. And, the thing that drove me really crazy…she put her alarm on the loudest setting and would let it go off for an hour before she needed to get up. I contemplated throwing it at her head a few times.

    Roommate #2 – An even crazier nut. She was a super Goth chick. She and her friends smelled like something terrible. Whenever they came into the room, I would have to air it out after they left. She walked around in her bra and underwear all.the.time. Even in the common area. She was a cutter and had razor blades and bloody towels all over the place. Her boyfriend wore women’s pants and white platform boots. She was a complete slob. She was from a well off family, but acted and dressed like she was homeless. She would go to the food court or local restaurants and get handfuls of ketchup and mayo packages and eat them. Yes, she would suck them out of the packages. And, the topper…she had a screen saver that said, “I drink pee.”

    Yep. Now, it’s laughable, but at the time I felt like I was in Hell. So, these experiences made me realize I would rather be responsible for everything, than deal with this again.

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 11:30 am #
  5. I’ve never really had a room mate, but I did have someone living in my basement for a couple of months. She was my boss and truly non-existant! I saw her more at work.

    Lived my sister and her 4 kids/cat/dog and my 2 kids/cat for a couple of months. All I can say is, NEVER AGAIN! It was chaos

    BTW, was up in Alexandria on Sat night, ate at the Fish Market, can’t say I’d eat there again. My EX and I LOVED that place, wonder what happened? The food was down right AWFUL, tasteless!!!

    been there, done that
    Posted March 10, 2008 at 12:15 pm #
  6. The best roommate I ever had was also the worst. A very cute boy moved into my house a couple of years ago. Casual roommate relationship led to flirting, which led to a deep friendship with more flirting, which led to things roommates should never do with one another, which led to drama, which led to him finding a real girlfriend and moving in with her. He and I do not communicate anymore and really, it’s quite sad.

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 12:17 pm #
  7. It’s funny that you write this today. I just finished a recommendation for a roomate that we had last summer. I was thinking about the roommates that we have now and thinking that one of them is the best. She’s approachable, friendly, fun and now a great friend. The other one, well, I cannot even begin to explain my frustration but I will tell you that, he smokes (outdoors) even though we asked for a non-smoker in our add, he’s not approachable at all, he has paid rent on time ONCE, bounced a check or two, monopolizes my tv and couch and I have a countdown until he leaves. I think that after April 19th (Final rent payment) it’s going to be hard to tolerate him since I won’t have any more money to look forward to but he’ll still occupy a place in my home for another month.

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 1:22 pm #
  8. I’ve had many hellish roommates, and some good ones. Too many stories to tell in a little comment. Even though I miss the companionship sometimes, I much prefer to live by myself. The Tivo is ALL MINE! :)

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 1:32 pm #
  9. My worst roommate once got it into her head that it would be a good idea to bring a homeless dude to our apartment. (I was asleep at the time.) She let him shower in my shower (not hers, of course), and the residue was… unspeakable. When I woke up in the morning, I found that he had (1) taken every bottle of alcohol–including cooking sherry–in the house; (2) drank the juice out of our olives and pickles (?!?!?!); (3) stolen my CD walkman; and (4) and this is the best part, urinated all over her couch.

    I lived alone for four years after that.

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 2:15 pm #
  10. I never ever ever ever had or will have a roommate, unless he had married me before.
    No kidding, I really find it hard to share my place for 2 reasons:
    - I have to deal with someone else’stuff and habits
    - I have to take care of my stuff so that it does not get in the way and pay attention to my own habits not to bother the other
    Really, only the idea of a roommate is freaking me out! I am lucky I can afford to live alone.

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 2:44 pm #
  11. I also had a roommate like Dr. Beth’s: a woman I loved dearly and missed very much when we swapped things around. I still keep in touch with her. It’s a nice balance for the roommate from hell.

    Thanks for the link! And the entry. This was fun to read.

    Posted March 10, 2008 at 4:01 pm #
  12. In my 20′s I loved having roommates because I don’t have sisters. But, into my 30′s my patience with the roommate thing started to dwindle, and I like living on my own or with a boyfriend, although, I’ve only lived with 2 BF’s in my life.

    I’ve had a mix of both great roomies and ones from Hell, and really I wouldn’t change any of those experiences as they helped me grow and learn in so many ways. Yeah, even the bad ones.

    Posted March 11, 2008 at 6:09 am #
  13. I have had BOTH and adored living alone when I finally made enough cash to do it (no matter now one-sink-and-it-was-in-the-BATHROOM) meagerly.

    getting married for ME meant I met someone worth :) giving up my solo-arrangements!


    Posted March 11, 2008 at 6:32 am #
  14. Just a little late for my roommate post. My roommate brings the horrible stench of weed into the house. I am completely disgusted and embarrassed.

    Posted March 12, 2008 at 2:18 am #
  15. I had a roommate from hell in college. I’ve written about him at great lengths. It was terrible.

    Posted March 12, 2008 at 10:22 am #