COLUMN: Follow the Golden Rule with roommates

Angela Oliver

I’m no neat freak. I tend to toss clothes all over my room when I hastily get dressed every morning. There are stacks of highlighted and scribbled-on papers strewn across my desk and dresser. And I find it hard to part with my magazines, so they have a comfy (and likely dusty) place on my shelves.

I can stand a little contained, organized chaos. But I cannot deal with raging filth. My apartment, unfortunately, is “like a jungle sometimes; it makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under.”

You’d think that in a space full of women, cleanliness would be no issue. But nearly every time I walk through my front door, I find myself thinking of Grandmaster Flash’s infamous tune, “The Message.”

The dangerous alleys and violent fights the pioneer rapper mentions aside, I too often relate to the feeling of non-comfort in the very place I’m supposed to feel most at ease. My apartment is only temporary, though, so I chalk it up as one of those inevitable things students deal with during their college years.

I was lucky enough to have good roommate relationships the two years I lived on campus. Freshman year, my roomie went home every weekend, giving me some much-needed alone time. And my sophomore roommate was engaged, so about 99 percent of her time was spent with her honey.

We never got in each other’s way. We never crossed privacy boundaries. We lived harmoniously.

As soon as junior year hit, I was sure getting an apartment would solve all of my dorm dwelling woes: I’d have more space, my own bathroom and freedom to invite friends over without all the limitations.

It ran smoothly in the beginning, especially since one of my best fiends moved in with me. But one roommate and her live-in boyfriend randomly decided our cordial interactions were over. That ultimately lead to her reporting my adorable puppy (that I got one Valentine’s Day), and me reluctantly giving her away. (I still miss you, Rocki.)

When the leases were up and the new shift moved in, it happened the same as the first time. Except this go ’round, despite several house meetings, I suffer the actions of all three.

Either I’m dodging the seven bags of trash by the door that would make you think I live in a landfill, tuning out the 3 a.m. party crowd (am I the only one who needs rest for classes?), ventilating my room to avoid choking on the constant stream of smoke seeping under my door, or choosing my use of the common space wisely to avoid seeing my other roommate’s live-in boyfriend in his boxers. Let’s just say it’s a rarity that I walk in and breathe easily. And that’s why I’m there so little.       

You might wonder why I don’t clean it all up myself. And I admit, living together should be a team effort. But it’s only fair that if one doesn’t create the mess, they shouldn’t have to make it disappear.

Perhaps I’m complaining or being negative. But I’m sure you can all relate and might even have roommate horror stories that trump mine. Besides, we all deserve a good rant here and there.

I simply wanted to encourage everyone to be considerate of those you must share space with. If they need silence, quiet down. If they prefer that their hair and entire wardrobe not reek of cigarette smoke, make your smoking habit an outside activity. And if they are concerned about their safety and the insurance of their valuables, then for heaven’s sake, lock the doors.

It all boils down to such a simple concept: respect.

I hope I live to see the day that no college roommate will have to write their name on their food or file a noise complaint — a day when all roommates live happily ever after.

But until then, I urge you to exercise the Golden Rule. And I’ll just tough it out, with Flash’s words bouncing through my mind — “I’m close to the edge … I’m trying not to lose my head.”