Whether you’re a boarding schooler or an adult living on a budget, navigating the boundaries of roommate relationships is always a tricky task—and one that can get infinitely more complicated when one of you is annoying the other. “Most of the things we do that bother roommates,” says Eric J. Anderson, a life coach, “are those in which we have no consideration for them.”
It’s even trickier if you’re the annoying a roommate and you don’t even know it. So if you’re feeling the relationship with your roommate starting to suffer, you can start to improve matters by putting yourself “[in their] shoes” and “paying attention to what [they] feel,” says Anderson. But equally as important: read through the below checklist and make sure that you’re not guilty of any of these roommate sins. Otherwise, you may just come home one day to find the locks changed and your belongings piled on the sidewalk! And for more ways you may be unknowingly irritating those around you, check out these 50 Annoying Things Everyone Does.
Not Recognizing Your Own Smell.
“Man,” Dostoevsky once wrote, “is a creature that can get accustomed to anything.” Nowhere does this ring truer than when it comes to your own scent. Walking around it with everywhere you go, the rankness of your own pits can often be forgotten. The same isn’t true, however, for your roommate, who is sure to notice the smell of body odor, or your unwashed dog, or that pile of rapidly-molding dishes in the sink, as it kicks them in the nostrils each time they enter the apartment.
So before your roommate orders a pack of industrial-size Febreze and leaves you the bill, it’s time to clean up your act—literally. And for ways to make sure you’re not disturbing others with your scent, check out The 6 Best Foods for Smelling (and Tasting) Like a Million Bucks.
Engaging in Odd Nighttime Habits.
Just because staying up all night or getting up at the crack of dawn works for you doesn’t mean the same will be true of your roommates. If you’ve adopted an abnormal circadian rhythm—say, going to bed at 6:00 p.m. and demanding quiet, or staying up until 5:00 a.m. to work on your violin fingerings—just know that it’s likely to irk your fellow housemates. And if you’re only doing so because you’re employed as one of the museum’s night watchmen, that’s something you should mention before moving in.
Not Following Their Cleaning Schedule.
You might think that the dining room rug doesn’t really need vacuuming until the layer of crumbs on it is a millimeter thick, but that doesn’t mean your roommate agrees. “Clean enough” isn’t the same as “clean.” So before your roommate sweeps you to the curb along with the dust bunnies you’ve ignored for months, discuss where each of you draws the line between a home and a pig sty. And when you want to make that mess more bearable, check out these 20 Products That Make Cleaning So Much Easier.
Leaving Your Stuff Out.
Just because your dirty socks didn’t quite make into the hamper doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. If they didn’t even make it out of the living room, however, that does make you a bad roommate. Clean up your act, or the next thing you know, your living room laundry pile might just be keeping your outgoing garbage company.
Having Partners without Warning.
When you get lucky, your roommate gets unlucky—full stop. After all, few things are more intrusive and utterly maddening than having a stranger in your home you didn’t want there in the first place. If that stranger arrives late at night while you’re peacefully on the couch in your pajamas? Even worse.
So put yourself in your roomie’s shoes, and consider alternative locations for your rendezvous. And if you’re finding it harder and harder to find someone you’d actually like to bring home, it could be helpful to learn these 17 Body Language Mistakes That Will Kill First Impressions.
Bringing the Wrong Friends Over.
If every time your friends come over, your roommate mysteriously disappears into their room for hours at a time, it’s a likely sign that—unlike you—they’re not all that thrilled about the group’s presence. While no one should have to choose between their home and their friends, it’s worth considering getting together outside of the shared apartment space. After all, your roommates agreed to live with you, not your buddy from college who’s still proud of his ability to burp the alphabet.
Having Your Family Around.
Home is where the heart is—but that doesn’t mean that every person who loves you needs to be constantly filtering through it. Besides the general disturbance, not everyone shares the most pleasant familial relations, and seeing your own Brady Bunch tableau while they’re trying to reheat pizza may just leave your roommates with a bitter taste in their mouths. And when you’re ready to move out of a shared space and start your own family, check out The 100 Best Places to Raise a Family.
Leaving Lights On.
It only takes one person to leave the lights on, but electric bills are generally split equally between the members of a household. Before your roommates start treating you with contempt for racking up huge bills (that they have to shoulder an unfair portion of), double check to ensure you’ve flipped the lights off before you leave the room.
Finishing Something and Not Replacing It.
Toilet paper, soap, and paper towels are likely the most-used items in any home, and ones without which a space quickly turns into a mess. If you happen to use the last of any of these essential items, it’s on you to replace it—and not just after your roommates repeatedly berate you for neglecting to.
Eating Their Food.
Sharing a fridge doesn’t mean you share everything in it. While you may think that a bite or two of leftovers will go unnoticed, make no mistake: your sticky fingers will catch up to you at some point. Before your roommates feel forced to start Sharpie-marking and padlocking their Tupperware, it’s time to start acting like an adult and buying your own stuff, or at least asking your roommates before you use theirs.
Not Closing The Door When You Use The Bathroom.
Past roommates (whether that’s significant others or just really close friends) may have accepted the fact that you like keeping the door open while you’re in the bathroom. However, the same shouldn’t be assumed with every crop of roommates; if they wanted to see you in various states of undress, it would have come up. And don’t assume that a lack of complaining on their part means they’re fine with the radical transparency. The truth may be just that they’re at a loss for words at how to deal with something so foreign to their own sensibilities.
Using All The Hot Water.
If you only shower once a day, you may not notice that, after a long, relaxing soak, all that’s left is cold water. However, whomever showers after you—the one who’s left with the freezing cold dregs of your water tank—sure will. And make no mistake: they won’t be happy about it.
If your roommates can tell where you are at any given moment based upon the sound of your footsteps, you’re probably not light enough on your feet. Especially in older buildings or homes with thin walls, hearing someone walk loudly can be enough to rouse you from a deep sleep—something that’s sure to anger your roommate if done with any frequency.
Slamming Doors and Cabinets.
When you’re angry, slamming something—be it a door, a cabinet, or a drawer—can be incredibly satisfying. However, listening to something being slammed in close proximity to you is jarring the first time and maddening on any subsequent occasions. If you’re sharing a space with other people, that means those those cabinets, doors, and drawers are theirs as well, and shouldn’t be treated like your personal punching bags. Oh, and the noise can be frustrating, too.
Watching TV Too Loudly.
If your roommate needs to raise his or her voice to speak to you in the living room, you’re watching your entertainment too loudly. Whenever you can, listen to your TV shows or music on a medium volume—or, better yet, invest in a pair of bluetooth headphones so that your entertainment preferences won’t bother anyone else.
Leaving Dishes in the Sink.
Unsurprisingly, Anderson cites coming home to a sink full of dirty dishes as the classic annoying roommate behavior. Sure, you’re simply leaving those plates in the sink “to soak for a bit.” You’re also preventing anyone else from using what’s supposed to be a communal space.
Making Small Talk At The Wrong Time.
Small talk has its place. When your roommate is rushing out the door is rarely the right time to engage them in a conversation. After all, they’re not beholden to your conversational whims when they’re running late for work (or play), nor should they be.
Not Saying Hello.
You don’t have to pretend that you’re witnessing the resurrection of Lazarus each time your roommates pop up in a common space, but tossing out a simple “hey there” or “how’s it going?” can make them feel acknowledged and appreciated. Conversely, skipping out on the niceties can have the opposite effect.
Leaving Hair in the Drain.
Apart from birth, death, and taxes, discovering hair in the shower is one of mankind’s universally shared fates. Instead of waiting for all that human fur to congeal and clog your pipes, clean it out after each use. Unless you and your roommate share an identical head of hair, they’re sure to notice if you don’t, too.
Hogging The Bathroom Counter.
Unless you’re living in the lap of luxury, odds are the space in your bathroom is at a premium. And if the entirety of your bathroom counter and shelving space is covered solely in your things, that likely isn’t because your roommates acquiesced to the arrangement. The likely scenario: you’ve simply commandeered the space without realizing it.
Eating Smelly Food.
You may think that your fish curry or garlicky soup are practically perfume, but that’s because you’re the one who’s choosing to eat them. Your roommates, on the other hand, are likely to find those foods highly offensive to the olfactory senses. Whenever possible, do your best to mitigate their scent. Crack open a window. Burn a scented candle. Light some incense.
Treating Common Space Like A Second Bedroom.
Rooms have doors for a reason: to keep your stuff in, and other stuff out. If that boundary feels particularly porous to you, you’re bound to displease your roommates. It’s a collectively shared space, not a giant bedroom that you’re kind enough to share with everyone.
Before you retile the bathroom or AirBnB your room to strangers as you galavant around Europe for a month, discuss your plans with your roommates. Big decisions, like revamping entire rooms or adding new people to your living situation, should be addressed before you undertake them.
Hanging Unpopular Décor.
Before covering your common space with pieces you consider aesthetically pleasing, ask your roommates how they feel about the pieces first. Not everyone will appreciate your personal taste, and it’s up to you to make some space for your roommates’ stuff in communal areas, too.
Trying Too Hard to Get Them To Hang Out With You.
Inviting your roommates to join in on the fun—whether it be going to see a movie, getting a drink, or going out dancing—is always a nice gesture. Not leaving them alone when they respectfully decline? Not so much. While you may want to bond with them, you’re not going to earn any points for being overly persistent.
Not Thanking Them for the Things They Do.
When your roommates take it upon themselves to clean the bathroom, a little recognition will go a long way. And that doesn’t just mean orating for five minutes on how sparkling the shower suddenly is. A literal “thank you” will do the trick.
Rearranging Their Stuff without Telling Them.
You may be well-intentioned in trying to clean up after your slovenly roommates, but actually moving their things for them is unlikely to be a well-received gesture. After all, nobody wants to rummage around the cutlery drawer for hours only to find their scissors were put in the cookie jar for safekeeping.
Sometimes, the nicest thing you can do for your roommate is simply leave them alone. Whether you’re asking what they’re doing on their computer, who they’re texting on their phone, or the title of the book they’re currently reading (c’mon: it’s on the spine), constantly cross-examining them will get old fast.
Singing That Song Stuck In Your Head.
Sure, in your head, you’ve got a set of pipes like Mariah Carey. But experts estimate that only one in 10,000 people possesses perfect pitch, meaning that whatever you’re hearing in your head has a roughly 9,999 out of 10,000 chance to sound nothing like what you imagine. Next time you catch yourself repeating a catchy chorus ad nauseam, look around first to make sure nobody else is home.
Leaving Your Alarm Ringing
Everyone’s done it: you hit snooze, and hit it again, and again, until, eventually, you’ve embarked on a journey to dreamland far longer than you intended. All the while, your alarm’s ringing. The disturbance is minimal to you, sleepyhead, but the annoyance to others is tremendous. It’s important to nip this habit in the bud: Use your phone’s alarm, instead of a clock, and set it so it’s only possible to “snooze” once or twice. And for more insight into that trusty do-it-all device, learn the 20 Things You Didn’t Know Your Smartphone Could Do.
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