I am a 35 year old professional female. I am just launching myself into my career and beginning to pay off my student loan debt. Because I have these student loans I currently share my apartment with a young non-professional female student, one of my younger sister’s friends. We grew up together and I love her to pieces but her young lifestyle is driving me crazy. On top of that she is so messy! I feel like her mother more than her friend. I have to constantly tell her to pick up and clean up, and it is really starting to grind on my nerves. And now to top things off she has a boyfriend that stays over all the time. I have a boyfriend too but we are rarely at my place when we are together, we are mostly at his. I understand it is her house too and he should be able to come by, but he is practically a third roommate and sloppy too! What do I do, Olivia?
Dear Fed Up,
I can imagine that the inner conflict you are having regarding your roommates irresponsible behavior is really hard to deal with. Not knowing all of the circumstances, I wonder if you have had a sit down, heart to heart, come to Jesus discussion with her. Where you lay down, or create the rules of your house. Because we all come from different backgrounds, and you can’t make anyone suddenly grow up and see the error of their immature ways. Maturity takes time.
We all have our pet peeves. Who gets to park in the front spot? What is the AC thermostat going to be set at? Which one of you takes out the trash and so on? These are all the little things that don’t come to mind when we start cohabitating with friends. But the saying “Good fences make good neighbors” has a lot of truth to it. Boundaries. It’s all about communication and boundaries.
You are obviously at different points in your lives and it’s good that you take that into account, but it does not excuse the behavior. If you want to live like an adult, you have to act like one, both outside and the inside your home.
It’s also about The Golden Rule, which I refer to often, because if everyone really did treat others the way they want to be treated, I don’t think we would have so many terrible conflicts in the world in general.
Shared territory is each persons responsibility to keep clean. Do the right thing, and don’t walk by something wrong. You make a mess, you clean it up, and if you see something that needs attention, take care of it. Don’t ignore a dripping faucet, a dying plant, a broken vase, a spilled drink, an abandoned burning candle. Just take care of it.
Maybe there needs to be a conversation now that could go a little like this: “I am glad to have you here as a friend and a roommate. It’s important that we don’t let our living together hurt our friendship. I need for you to do better at helping me take care of this home. There are two of us, and I think we should develop a schedule or routine of shared responsibility to keep things on track. On top of that, I need you to take responsibility for the things you do. IE: Leaving messes behind. (Insert the issues here). I hope you understand how I feel and out of respect for our history and friendship you can be more aware of how this situation affects me.”
As far as the boyfriend, I would suggest she stay at his place, or if you are ok with the company, decide how many nights a week is acceptable for staying over. Additional people adds to your dilemma whether it’s extra dishes, more water use for hot showers, or just taking up extra space on the couch, in the driveway, or waiting for the bathroom.
In the end you want your friendship, but you also want your home to be clean, calm, safe place. What is the cost to have that?
If she does not agree, I would suggest raising her rent, and making it a business arrangement, so the financial aspect covers the emotional toll you are paying. If you cannot come to an agreement, there is always the option to find a new roommate.
I hope this helps!
Do you have a question? Ask Olivia for advice about anything: live, love, work, school, and she will give you her honest advice on her Ask Olivia column.