Want to be a good roommate? Just do the damn dishes


Evan Pflugradt

Dirty dishes pile up

It’s loud and boisterous, and your roommate just won’t quiet down. You’ve got a test tomorrow, and you can’t think for a minute because you’re still holding a grudge over whose turn it is to do the dishes.

You know it’s his turn, but if he waits any longer, you’re going to succumb to doing it again. You’ll tally another point, raising the count to a 7-1 lead. In a game of chores, a commanding lead is not what you want.

Under the right circumstances, having a roommate can make life significantly better for the both of you. In other, worse scenarios, it can make returning home a routine nightmare.

I’ve had two roommates since I started at Wichita State. I’ve been the good roommate, the bad roommate, the clean freak, the slob, and the idiot who crams a full Costco load of groceries into a 75-sq. ft. kitchen.

Here are some tips for fighting off disaster and making it through the nine or 12-month lease.


You’ve probably heard this before, but communication is key.

My first roommate and I did not appropriately oblige — and things went south quickly.

Sharing an apartment, for each of us, wasn’t going well, and we didn’t know the right way to go about telling the other person when they or their actions were driving us up the wall. Problems grew. We’d silently race past one another in passing on our way to our separate bedrooms.

Occasionally, we’d exchange text messages, passive aggressively attacking the other’s flaws. We weren’t making progress, just pissing each other off.

Eventually, our communication problems reached a point of total silence. We did not talk with one another, text one another, or engage in any way for the final three months of our nine-month lease. Only shortly after we vacated our apartment did we exchange texts, discussing where to send the other’s share of the security deposit.

Start talking to your roommate before it’s too late — and do it face-to-face.

You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate, but create a regular platform to interact with one another at least once a week. Make them coffee. Sit and chat for 10 minutes. Occasionally go to dinner. Create a platform to say you’re uncomfortable.

Don’t grow silent.

Quit looking at the pile of dishes and telling yourself, “It’s fine.”

It’s not fine.

Confrontations aren’t easy, but they build progress.

Establish guidelines

Time is ticking before you and your roommate have your first argument. Few roommates can go an entire lease without bickering at least once. That doesn’t mean you can’t prevent a few of the scuffles.

Be proactive, not reactive.

What’s the policy for someone spending the night? Don’t just assume they’ll be cool with it.

Discuss some guidelines in advance. Remember, it’s every bit as much their apartment/dorm as it is yours.

Accept lifestyles

Some people are into waking up at the crack of dawn while others might only wake up 10 minutes before an 11 a.m. class starts. Your roommate’s conscious habit of waking up at 6 a.m. is probably going to wake you up more mornings than you’d prefer.

I’ve had a roommate who would set an hour’s worth of different alarms — all playing obscenely loud rock music — and snooze every single one before actually waking up. This lifestyle — albeit an awful one — is a common one that you can’t just rid people of.

Don’t expect someone to change their habits just to please you. It more than likely won’t happen.

Do the damn dishes

With homework, essays, exams and midterms, college is going to be stressful. Don’t let something lame like piles of dishes keep you or your roommate up at night.

Seriously, just do the damn dishes.

Your roommate will see you at your most sleep-deprived and crankiest moments. You’re bound to annoy them. At some point down the line, you won’t see them as an enemy, but as your starving, stressed out counterpart. And even if that doesn’t happen, in the end, these disagreements will fade into the background and you’ll learn life lessons in compromising, responsibility, and friendship.