Bad Roommate Series: The “What’s Mine Is Yours” Roommate
When I have a bad day, I go through two rituals to ward off negative vibes. First, I change into as many purple items of clothing as I can and, when it’s a severe bad day, I’ll even break out the purple eyeliner. Second and most importantly, I’ll prepare my favorite meal or snack until I have stress-eaten away the pain. (Some people have comfort foods, but I have comfort colors AND comfort foods. It’s a thing.)
For some people with roommates, knowing their comfort food or clothing will be there when they return from a bad day is questionable. I sympathize with these people, for they are living with a specific type of bad roommate who just assumes they can eat their roommates’ food and wear their roommates’ clothes just because they live in close proximity to each other.
Before I continue, I want to clarify that some roommates are completely OK with this laissez-faire arrangement of sharing with their roommate. This arrangement might even be considered beneficial to both roommates. Think about it — you’d get double the closet space, and you could always guarantee that at least one of you and your roommates had bought groceries in the past month.
The problem comes when one roommate does not know that the other roommate has adopted this “What’s mine is yours” philosophy.
Your first exposure to this type of bad roommate could be traumatic.
Imagine yourself desperately, frantically searching through your cabinets and under your bed for your S’mores Pop Tarts, the one high-calorie snack/breakfast food that can help you feel better after failing a math quiz, forgetting your advising session, and/or pulling extra shifts at work. After searching for well over 30 minutes, you see the corner of a metallic wrapper poking out of the kitchen trash can.
“Could it be? No. Not my Pop Tarts,” you think, as you inch closer to the trash can.
You look into the trash and see mangled, crumpled Pop Tart wrappers.
Your roommate has no idea that you have just been on an emotional roller coaster over a few crumbs, but it happened all right. Your heart feels as empty as the Pop Tart box as you pick up the wrappers and watch the loose crumbs of flaky pastry fall back into the trash can, slowly, and then all at once. (Can you tell I’ve been reading too much John Green lately?)
Don’t let this happen to you. There are several steps you can take to ensure that you never get into a situation where you are standing at the trash can, crying over Pop Tart crumbs.
- Designate a communal snack food cabinet or bin that both you and your roommate will supply with snack food. This designated space for sharing food gives your roommate the message that you are willing to share certain items, but everything else is off limits.
- Buy some masking tape and Sharpies to label your food. While I typically advise roommates to avoid writing notes that may be interpreted as passive aggressive, the method of marking food is universal and common enough to not be considered rude. On that note, you should probably avoid using verbiage like “Rachel’s Pop Tarts DON’T TOUCH!” A simple name is enough for your roommate to know that you have claimed your territory.
- If you have a kitchenette area like in Texan Hall, make sure on move-in weekend that you talk to your roommate about what cabinets he or she can use, and what cabinets you will use. The same goes for your closets.
- Use direct language with your roommate when discussing shared clothes. Say this: “I am OK with you borrowing the clothes in this portion of my closet, but I need them back by Monday when I do laundry.” Not this: “Oh yeah, of course you can borrow my clothes! Just, you know, let me know, I guess.”
- From my experience, sharing clothes never goes well. Humans are too accident-prone and forgetful to be trusted, even if they have the best intentions. Your roommate may completely believe that he or she will get that shirt back to you in the same condition and in a reasonable time, but then a month will pass, and you will find that shirt crumpled in a pile of dirty clothes with a mustard stain on the sleeve. Make sure you know your roommate well before you set up a “What’s mine is yours” philosophy with clothes that you paid for with your hard-earned money.
On an unrelated note, I probably need to find a healthier, more professional comfort food than S’mores Pop Tarts, like Fiber One bars or something. Growing up is hard, kids.