Imagine stepping outside one morning with a cup-of-joe in hand, only to see your neighbor watering your grass in his underwear—that’s what living with roommates is like.

Living with people can be stressful, especially if you prefer clean kitchens over roommates that manufacture dirty dishes in their spare time. Nothing is worse than trying to study for a test amidst a black light beer pong challenge conveniently located in your dining room.

My time with roommates was short-lived, and I’ll never forget the unpleasant experience. One of my roommates, John, showered irregularly and slept on a sheetless mattress; he also had a cat named Patrick. His room had a lingering stench.

Then, there was Jason, the party-animal who loved to host social gatherings. Brittany, Jason’s girlfriend, had a poodle named Ramona who was rarely remonstrated for her “accidents” on the carpet.

There was also a couple who lived in the studio apartment in the backyard. They frequently used the house kitchen because their kitchen was “too small.” In addition to my five roommates, we also had a guest room that was a popular attraction among our frequent visitors. 

My roommates and I had a lot of dirty dishes and plenty of disagreements. The household-rules posted in the front hall eventually became a futile wall ornament and opposition fueled a repulsive dissolution. It’s not that we weren’t capable of living together, what drove us apart is that we lost respect for one another. It doesn’t have to be the same for you.

Dealing with vexatious people is an inevitable part of life. Sooner or later someone will test your patience and how you respond could determine your future. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, once said, “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” There’s a chance you might end up working for one of your smelly roommates, so you should be nice to them, too.

I’m not suggesting that you should be fake or deceitful. I’m simply proposing that you should practice self-control because it could come in handy the day your roommate, or anyone for that matter, pushes you to the limit. If my former roommates and I would have practiced self-control we probably wouldn’t have said such hurtful things to each other. All people are entitled to some degree of respect, even if you don’t like them. Plus, disrespecting others is not attractive.

If you want to live peacefully with roommates, you should never disclose your pet-peeves with them because they may eventually use them against you. Beware of free-loaders; they will thrive and survive off of your hard work if you allow them to cajole you.

If you can’t trust your roommates don’t let it keep you up at night, but be mindful about the things you choose to share. You don’t want your roommates to suspect you don’t trust them because it could lead to an awkward conversation.

If you have a set of household-rules expect them to be violated, but continue to reinforce them. Clean up after yourself and always wash your dishes. Be mindful of your roommates even if they are not mindful of you. Never let your roommates take advantage of you, but it’s always good to lend a helping hand. If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s better not to say anything at all. And perhaps most importantly, if you ever come across your roommate watering the grass in his underwear, let it go.

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