Some of us pick the short straw when it comes to ending up with messy, inconsiderate roommates. Maintaining personal space in a shared living environment can be a difficult task when your roommate doesn’t respect boundaries.
Whether your roommate is taking up all the bathroom real estate, hogging fridge space, or expanding their territory into your shared, common area, don’t worry, you can re-gain ground and still keep things civil.
Check out our tips to find out how.
Five Ways to Reclaim Your Personal Space
1. Establish the Ground Rules. ASAP.
Ideally, this should be done at the beginning of your shared living experience, or if someone new enters the picture. If you have been sharing a place for a while and didn’t set up ground rules at the beginning, you can always try now.
Better late than never.
Setting boundaries requires some people skills and you’ll get the best results by being polite but firm with your roommate.
An excellent way to broach the rule-setting conversation is to make it fun. Serve up some appetizers and cocktails to create a relaxed mood and get the business side of things done and over with at the start.
Be sure to record whatever rules you agree on. You could use your phone to create a shared breakdown of common space and cleaning jobs.
This is also a good opportunity to establish any other rules. Things like, having guests over or paying utilities are important issues to get clear on as soon as possible too.
Here’s a nice, quick video on what to discuss.
If you are interviewing for a new roommate, why not put “willingness to set ground rules” right into your ad? If they refuse to agree or won’t discuss boundaries, you may want to seriously consider whether or not you should be roommates at all.
2. Always Speak Your Mind.
No one likes confrontation. Confrontation, however, tends to get worse the longer you leave it.
If or when your roommate violates the ground rules. make sure you point it out. Obviously, you’re not going to create a scene if there is the occasional sweater left on the couch. But, if the mess is in your way or has been there for more than a day, you should say something.
It might be uncomfortable but do it anyway. You don’t have to get aggressive about it but definitely voice your concerns. You’re actually doing them a favor by talking about the problem early on.
Your feelings about boundary violations are not going to change and you will just grow increasingly resentful over time and you may explode on them at some point.
You could try leaving them a note or sending them a text message (plus a pic of their mess) first before confronting them in person. If they don’t get the hint, talking in person is the next step.
3. Offer to Help.
It probably isn’t a good idea to do this more than once or twice, but if your roommate is getting sloppy, offer to help them out. Some people genuinely don’t know how to organize their belongings.
This could be as simple as offering to help them pick up their clothes. They will get a friendly reminder and help with a task they probably feel overwhelmed by.
You could also offer to help organize their share of the common space or even their own room. It might be worth spending $20 at the dollar store to pick them up some bins or dividers. This would be especially good if they are leaving personal items around your shared bathroom. Show them how to organize their stuff.
Check out this video for some inspiration!
4. Hire Outside Help.
Hiring a cleaning person may seem like an extravagance, however, if everyone in the house contributes, it may be an ideal way to maintain boundaries by keeping common areas clean.
Perhaps you could find a student who cleans on the side for extra money and if your place is relatively small, the cost should be very manageable, depending on how many people are living there.
You can instruct your cleaner as to what you would like the place to look like and she/he can place any stray objects into a basket for everyone to put away after the common areas are cleaned.
If you can get your roommates on board with the idea, the small investment will pay off in a cleaner, conflict-free home for everyone.
5. Remove Yourself From the Environment.
If all else fails and your roommate refuses to respect the boundaries of your living situation, you may want to consider parting ways.
Of course this can be easier said than done when there are financial restrictions and leases to deal with, but if you are finding yourself in a home that is unclean and unfair, it may be worth finding a way to break things off.
Our mental and physical health are the most important assets we have and if that is being compromised, it is time to take action. Depending on your situation, you may need to ask your roommate to leave or you may need to find alternative arrangements.
If you have made every effort to make the arrangement work, no need to feel guilty. Move on to bigger and better things.