How to deal with roommate tension?

There is no particular situation, per se, but currently I am living with two people in my academic program (for another three weeks), and at certain moments, things can get a little… tense. There are three of us: I share a room with the other girl, and there is a guy who has his own room.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky: the guy has never lived on his own before, and is four years younger than I am (my roommate is two years older). It’s not a big difference in age, but there’s a gap in maturity that no amount of wine can hide. Believe me—we’re in France, I’ve tried.

We try to go easy on him, but he makes no effort to keep things clean, other than putting things in the sink—and even then we have to remind him; he leaves the toilet seat up; he doesn’t seem to know what to do for dinner unless we tell him what’s going on (we take turns cooking, although he doesn’t really know how to cook). He’s very high energy, and my roomie and I are definitely not. We’re content to sit in silence while we work, or take a walk around somewhere without talking, but he’s always talking about anything and everything. He’s also very anxious and always needs to know what’s going on, asking questions left and right.

So, do you guys have any tips on how to handle this? We’ve talked to him about housekeeping and cooking, but there are some times I get so frustrated I have to physically remove myself from the room so I don’t snap at him, or I’ll just go down the street to sit in a café for a while, but I don’t necessarily think that’s fair. And it’s really annoying to have to answer all these questions that are basic knowledge or at least answerable online. Maybe we’re just spending way too much time together with classes on top of living together? I just feel like he’s expecting our other roommate and me to mother him, which is not going to happen.

Any tips on how to handle this situation so the next three weeks are spent in beautiful Parisian cohabitational bliss? Or any advice in general for how to live with multiple people at the same time?

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11 thoughts on “How to deal with roommate tension?

  1. Dennis Hong says:

    [What if you make a detailed checklist of all the chores that need to be done, and exactly when they need to be done, then split them up between the three of you? This way, he sees what he needs to do, but also that the tasks are evenly divided, so he has no excuses for not pulling his fair share.

  2. karlos says:

    [I had a roommate whom I disliked once, he never cleaned up and was generally just an unlikeable ass.

    I walked around in my underwear for a few days, cooking, cleaning, watching TV, I did it all in a state of undress. Eventually he asked me to stop doing it because it was weird and made him uncomfortable, we came to a compromise that I’d stop doing it if he tidied up, he did.

    Although this may have only worked because I’m built like a stick insect who let himself go. Also my underwear looks like skittles threw up on me.

  3. theattack says:

    [I’m with Dennis about lists and charts. I love chore charts. He might be more willing to chip in if he can pick what he does. Maybe he likes vacuuming but hates doing the dishes? I know that sounds overly hopeful, but it’s worth a shot. Either way, you’re going to have to confront him again. There’s no use in trying to be nice about it to maintain the happiness, because you’re not happy now anyway.

  4. Jasmine says:

    [Roommates are a bear. You have 3 personalities living in one place. You are going to have to deal with his personality for 3 more weeks. Nothing can change that. And you are in Paris for crying out loud- you should only be home to sleep!!
    Chore wheel or list is the only way to go. You are not being his mom, this is what roommates do. Either that or you all chip in to have someone clean the house once a week and then everyone wins. If only, right?
    Make a list of what needs to be done, have everyone pick what they want to do and hold yourself to that. Whoever cooks/provides dinner doesn’t have to clean and the other two work together to get the kitchen spotless before anyone goes to bed.
    And tell him he has to pee sitting down.

  5. Happy Pants says:

    [Just as an update, in case anyone is interested… We had a little apartment meeting and discussed some things, but my female roommate and I just kind of threw our hands up and decided we’re just going to have to deal with it for a couple more weeks. He agreed to certain chores, but he did them all incorrectly, and neither of us thinks it’s worth it to get mad at him about it because we’d at least like our last two weeks to be somewhat pleasant.

    Thanks for the advice, everyone. It looks like the “just suck it up” folk win on this one.

  6. MargieCharles says:

    [I’m kind of with res. And since I’ve had my fair share of roommate horror stories, the one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t make people change. No amount of harassing them and talking to them is going to reach them if they’re just immature and incapable of looking after themselves. My advice would be to talk to him again, and just tell him that he’s not pulling his own weight and it’s not fair the two of you have to pick up the slack. It sounds very I Love Lucy-ish, but maybe just split the apartment up somewhat. He can leave any mess in his own room, and if he can’t be bothered to wash his own dishes then he should be eating on paper plates. If he’s not going to cook when it’s his turn, then he can either get take out for you guys or you will only be cooking for two from here on out. Any mess that is in the common areas for more than X amount of time will be moved to his room, where he can deal with it on his own time.

    This doesn’t have to be said in a mean tone, but you can make it sound like you’re trying to compromise with him and say it in an agreeable tone.

  7. Maracuya says:

    [If he doesn’t care about being fined, or having you complain it sounds like he’s one of THOSE roommates. Since he doesn’t know how to cook, I would just cook with him/for him if he promises to clean up. Or, because you two would be making the dinners he MUST wash all the dishes, immediately after dinner.

    What I tend to find is people who are really bad at cleaning up will not respond to any sort of prodding because they’re okay with that level of incredibly messy.

  8. resullins says:

    [Stop doing things for him. Don’t cook for him anymore, if he leaves dishes in the sink, put them in his room, go to Le Depot de Home and get a spring, attach it to the toilet seat so it won’t stay up. Seriously, you need to make this guy put on his big girl panties and leave the nest. You’ve already talked to him, that didn’t work. It’s time for some boots to go up his ass.

  9. Shelly says:

    [How cute is this guy? If he’s in the “totally adorabe” to “hot” range, I think I can free up my time for the next three weeks and come to France to personally deal with your problem. Not only can I clean up for him, I have a few ideas on how to channel his high energy and non-stop talking, so he’s no longer a nuisance to you.

    If he’s “not cute…at all”, then sorry, you’re on your own. Maybe someone else has some advice that might work, but you’re likely not going to make a big impact on his behavior. Fortunately, it’s only for another three weeks.

  10. Eleanor Roosevelt says:

    [I know it’s not ideal, but if he doesn’t know/realize things that need to get done, and you want him to do them, you’re going to have to tell him. I go through this with my own roommate – I have to remind her when it’s her turn to do certain household chores – “please do _____ today,” “don’t forget to _____.” Yes, it makes me feel like her mother, and I shouldn’t have to remind her of these things, but if I want them done and I don’t want to do the every time, it’s what I have to do.

    I also think a chart for the next few weeks could help.

    And I REALLY like Res’s idea about putting his dirty dishes on his bed.

  11. Claudia says:

    [Being passive aggressive is the wrong way to go. It won’t actually do anything and the tension will get worse. Being an adult about the situation is having a discussion and coming up with solutions. Calmly and without blame.

    1. Write down a list of all the issues. Both you and the other lady together or separate.

    2. Look at each one and decide which wouldn’t be so bad if that’s all there is. When I’ve been in nightmare roommate situations every little annoying thing they do is exacerbated by the handful of really bad things. Is leaving the toilet seat up really that terrible or could you live with it if that’s the only issue?

    3. Remove those milder annoyances off the list.

    4. Have a sit down with the 3 of you. Explain to him that it isn’t working for you and list the parts that aren’t. He may have a few of his own.

    5. Together work out solutions. Lists for chores. If he can’t cook, he should do the clean up after the meal. If he won’t do that, then he doesn’t get to share your dinner.

    Understand he may not change. He may not listen. He may get angry. Nothing you can do about it. If he won’t listen again, then stop doing anything for him. He asks a question? Tell him to google it. He won’t stop talking? Tell him you would like a quiet space and leave the room if need be.

    You do only have 3 weeks left. You may just have to put up with it.

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