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Bad Roommate III: I'd fucking stab myself but she wouldn't ever clean it
July 11, 2014 1:28 PM   Subscribe

The roommate no one likes is both making my life a living hell and making my other roommates blame me for it all. How do I deal with this?

Previously and previously. Some ground statements first, so I don't have to explain them:

- I live in New York. I don't have a formal lease, I just pay my landlord month to month. This has worked out for enough months that I don't think I'm going to get screwed over. However, it does limit my legal options.

- I emphatically do not want to move. My apartment is a rent-stabilized place in a good location in Manhattan. It is easily several hundred dollars per month less than I will realistically find in town, and several hundred more per month than I would realistically find in this location.

- My roommate is not going to move. In fact, she's paid her rent several months in advance. (Which means that she claims she can't afford things like, say, one fucking plate, but we will get to that....)

Everybody hates her, including me. Here are the reasons why:

* My roommate is incapable of washing dishes. The house rule is not to leave dishes in the sink overnight, but she invariably does. My roommate is also incapable of basic household chores like taking out the trash. The trash in our apartment is literally inside the building; you have to walk down a few flights of steps, but it takes two minutes maximum. The trash can is almost always overflowing, and if she empties it at all she just leaves the bag on the floor, sometimes leaking gross liquid. When I tell her to take down the trash, she never does unless I remind her constantly. When I tried to bring this up, my other roommates suggested getting rid of the kitchen trash can or keeping trash in my room, both of which I find insane. I shouldn't have to punish and inconvenience myself - say, by not having a fucking TRASH CAN in the kitchen - because of something someone else did.

* The wi-fi is in my roommate's room but she refuses to either move it out into the common area ("there'll be wires coming out of my room!") or place it somewhere (i.e. not under her bed near a wall). As a result, it goes down constantly. I'm a freelancer, and I need wi-fi in order to do my job. I'm forced to go to coffee shops - sometimes shuttling between different coffee shops if their power doesn't work or if there is no space - or to tether my phone, both of which are very expensive - last month I literally had no phone service because I had used up the entirety of my data plan. She refuses to see this as a problem or do anything productive about it. When I tried to talk to her about it, it turned into an argument.

* The only thing my roommate eats is disgusting Lean Cuisines that stink. She eats these for every meal. As a result, the house constantly smells repulsive -- I can't even go into the kitchen after she has made food without wanting to vomit, and if she opens my door to ask me a question my room will smell disgusting for at least an hour. Opening windows doesn't really help and introduces bugs. I've tried using Febreze but questions like these suggest that this might become an issue on its own.

* She insists on trapping me into talking. I don't want to talk to her. I don't want to deal with her, I don't want to smell her, and I don't want anything to do with her. Unfortunately she is incapable of reading normal human signs.

All of these would be annoying on their own, but the problem is I am being blamed for it all. Invariably, I will wake up to a bitchy text to the entire apartment from one of my other roommates about something she did, that implicates everyone. I will point out -- again -- that they are not my dishes, that I washed my dishes, and that I do not want to have to deal with waking up to angry text messages about things that are not my fault. Around this time my other roommate will sometimes say something about how he's "always cleaning up other people's messages," which is bullshit. If anything, I am the only one in the apartment who makes any effort to clean. I'm around a lot and I have literally never seen anybody else sweep or mop the floor, take down the trash, buy household products or do anything that supports the common livability of the house. I buy most of the household products like dish soap, garbage bags, and the like, up to things like furniture and routers. If I stopped cleaning things would look fucking disgusting, and then I would get blamed. They never tell me exactly WHAT I am doing wrong that I can fix, they just get angry because I can't read their mind. Sometimes my roommates will claim they don't know, say, whose dishes they are, which is bullshit, because A) she's the only one who doesn't wash dishes, and B) her dishes look like her dishes, and if I can figure out whose they are then they damn well can too. Anyway, all of this is making me look like the bitch and the scapegoat, exactly like I predicted in my original question. And from what I know about roommate dynamics, it is far too late in the game to make people not dislike me. (I keep thinking about what my old roommate told me, that she used to respect me until one point where I lost her respect forever, and then she never had to be nice to me again.) Or is it? Is there anything I can do to salvage this situation?
posted by dekathelon to Human Relations (48 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: This isn't going well at all, OP, I think you got enough answers and you're not going to get much more out of three threads about an apartment/roommate issue. -- mathowie

 
Honestly, you should talk to a lawyer about getting a lease, with your name on it. That's really the only thing I can think of that will fix this.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:35 PM on July 11


You have two choices:

1. Move

OR

2. Stop giving a rip about what your roommates think.

If anyone says anything to you, just say, "Not my circus, not my monkey." Walk away.

At some point it's a waiting game, either you wait them all out, or they wait you out.

There is nothing you can do to magically make this all okay. All you can do is live your life now.

As for the wi-fi, you can get your own, buy a hot spot or work at Starbucks.

Either you solve your problems or you can come here and complain a couple times a month because you have made the decision to value money over comfort in your living environment.

When your priorities change your situation can change. For now, stop fixating on how shitty the situation is. You're not stuck there, you choose to stay there. Blow off the texts. Just delete them. If they don't pertain to you, they're not intended for you.

But really, just get your own place. No it won't be as convenient or cheap or as nice. But where you are right now, it's not that nice, is it?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:37 PM on July 11 [24 favorites]


Do the dishes and take out the trash.

Yes, she should. But right now your choices are have a fight and get it done half or quarter assed or do it yourself and be done with it. I'd just do it and save the energy.

Why is the wifi in her room ? Where is the modem ? Get your own service and your won't have to share.

Burn some incense.

Not to make you feel bad or anything, but this isn't even remotely roommate from hell stuff.

I think you will feel better if you learn to accept things you cannot control or change.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:39 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


I can't afford a place of my own. I live in New York. Not having roommates is a luxury. Specifically, a studio generally costs at least $1,000 a month, before utilities, before broker fees and for the shittiest neighborhoods and worst properties, and I cannot remotely afford that. I don't have a full-time job (and don't think I got the job I interviewed for), am unlikely to ever have one, and even if I literally worked 24/7 and hustled 400% more than I was capable of, would not be able to afford a studio. I would love to live in the fantasyland where "not valuing money over ___" is an option, but unfortunately I live in the real world, and I cannot tell a landlord "b-b-but my COMFORT!" when they want the rent.

I would also love to live in the fantasyland where people can yell at me and dislike me and send me angry text messages the first thing in the morning and have me be unaffected by that, but unfortunately I am not a robot, but a human being, who cares about how she comes off.
posted by dekathelon at 1:42 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I would ignore your other roommates' complaints that are clearly about Bad Roommate, or at least force yourself to stop interpreting them as blaming you. If other roommates' complain about the dirty dishes or whatever, I'd be tempted to go over to that roommate and be like "I just saw your message about Bad Roommate's disshes. OMG can you believe Bad Roommate?! She is so dirty!" In other words, blow off some steam with the roommate, which will make it clear you are not the guilty party.

Also, as much as it sounds disgusting to live around someone who microwaves Lean Cuisines all the time, you're going to just have to give this one up. Unfortunately, living with roommates means putting up with their disgusting food smells. When I was younger I lived with roommates who constantly burned shit. Hell, once I pissed off my roommates by making a box of Tuna Helper which stunk sooooo bad. I never lived that one down. It happens.

The wifi thing sucks. I'm not sure what to do about that. Can you band together with your other roommates and figure out something? Surely they would all like internet access.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:44 PM on July 11 [10 favorites]


Around this time my other roommate will sometimes say something about how he's "always cleaning up other people's messages," which is bullshit.

Are your roommates saying this JUST TO YOU, or to the apartment in general? If it's the latter, I'd assume that it's directed at your roommate, not at you.

Can you have a meeting with the other roommates about a common chore chart? Because it sounds like that might help make completion of tasks more transparent. I'm thinking of something where you write everyone's names on one end, all the chores across the top, and literally check off the items as you complete them each week. (Swept, took out trash, whatever. Add a line for "Bought for the apartment this week:" so you can list things like trash bags and TP.) If you have all your items checked off, and you have a long list of bought for the apartment items each week while everyone's else is blank, it will be obvious. (And if they're putting in more effort than you realized, you'll see that too.)

ChoreWars is another option, if you think your roommates would go for it.

If she leaves her dirty dishes in the sink, and you're not willing to do them, then leave them on her bed.

If you don't want to talk to her, use your words and tell her that. "D, I don't have time/don't want to talk to you."

For the smell: Do you have any vent fans (kitchen or bathroom)? If so, use them. They will help. If no, you can buy a screen (to prevent bugs) and a small vent fan for fairly cheap money.

Look into getting your own wifi. It's a lot cheaper than a new apartment, right?
posted by pie ninja at 1:46 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I once had a flat mate much like you described. I felt much like you described. Years later I realised that what the problem was was that I was stressed about other things in my life and was focusing blame on my terrible awful dreadful flat mate. Who was annoying but not a vile malicious pig as I thought at the time.

With time, space and.....maturity, I realised this. And also realised I'm quite difficult to live with, particularly under stress.

I suggest moving or seeing a therapist. Or both, ideally.
posted by taff at 1:47 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry you don't like her Lean Cuisines, but what she eats is her business. I can't imagine what kind of frozen meal would make the smells you are talking about, but you're going to have to find a way to deal with it.

That said, if you don't like talking to her and she doesn't read signals, you're just going to have to tell her plainly that you don't like talking to her.
posted by maryr at 1:48 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


You need to move, and take your chances with new roommates.

Do the math on all the time and money you're wasting on dealing with your roommates, working in coffee shops and running up your data plan.
With new roommates and some newly freed up time you would have the opportunity to look for more work.
Your crazy roommate is not going to change. Move.
posted by Snazzy67 at 1:49 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


When everyone you know seems to be impossible to deal with, you might want to consider that they are not the ones with the problem.
posted by empath at 1:51 PM on July 11 [29 favorites]


I would also love to live in the fantasyland where people can yell at me and dislike me and send me angry text messages the first thing in the morning and have me be unaffected by that,

What exactly is stopping you ? Life is full of annoyances, irritations, difficulties and aggravations. You cannot choose those. You can, however, choose your response to those.

So, make different choices. Be the change you would like to see.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:53 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to change her, because it sounds like you already tried, and it didn't go well. If discussions and notes from your other roommates haven't done anything, then assume you are stuck with this.

So, what do you do? You have to do things you don't want to do, to save on rent. This stinks, but it seems to be the only option. You say above you can't afford anything else - so now you work on coping.

You get your own wifi (does New York have those little usb wifi things that are no-contract and give you a few gbs a month? You might want that as a backup) or have a discussion with roommates. You live with the smells, because you don't get to tell other people what to eat unless you're allergic. You get a rubbermaid tub and put her dirty dishes in them, and label it with her name, or you do her dishes. You do more than your fair share of the chores - because that is the price of not being able to move. You work on saying, "I can't talk - I've got a call/project to do." You clean what you have to to make your home better. And you work on meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises to help with the stress.

Is this fair? No. But, when you can only change yourself, you have to do this.
posted by umwhat at 1:54 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Could you make compromises that would make the apartment more livable and allow you all to do things differently? Like, since you don't work full-time (and think you never will), you could arrange for a rent reduction if you agreed to take on the household chores?

If the wifi isn't in her name, then why not have the provider come to your apartment and move the modem to somewhere more convenient?

Also, you are not the only person in NYC who requires a roommate situation in order to live inside of the city. If you really wanted to move, you could probably find another roommate situation. However, it sounds to me (after having read a number of your complaints here) like you want more to blame this roommate for everything and moan your fate than actually take some positive steps to make your life easier.
posted by xingcat at 1:54 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


I totally understand being so fed up with a roommate that the sight of them makes you want to puke, and moving out is extremely difficult.

But I agree, take out the trash and do the dishes. It sucks, but learning to let go of that anger about being the person who takes out the garbage will probably be beneficial to you in the long run.

Maybe it's passive aggressive, but when I got fed up with being the person who always bought household supplies, I started keeping them in my room, because I wanted to really make the point that the toilet paper hadn't magically appeared for months and I was sick of buying it, and talking wasn't working. Conversely, my roommate once started keeping her pots in her room because she was sick of me using them and not cleaning up. She started buying toilet paper and I stopped being such a slob, and we're still friends.

If you all pay for the internet, and she insists on keeping in her room, that's unacceptable. Either she needs to move it, or you will stop paying for internet service that you can't access.

I don't know if it's feasible at all, but maybe you and your roommate could look into hiring a once a week cleaning service. I know budget is an issue, but if it could restore some sanity, it might be worth it.
posted by inertia at 1:56 PM on July 11


Stop focusing on what is fair and just focus on actual things you can change. Since taking out the garbage is so easy, just do it yourself. Get a wifi hotspot. Buy a plate for your roommate if you think that will actually help (it won't).

You don't want to move. Your roommates don't want to change. All you can change is your own behavior and reactions.
posted by mskyle at 1:57 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Roommates leave dirty dishes in the house. This is a feature of Roommates. If you are lucky, this doesn't happen to you, but this is just a thing that happens in shared housing. Ditto with the food smells.

In regards to cleaning, the only thing that has ever worked for me is having designated chores where everyone gets a job and if it's not done weekly, they get shamed for it. It's great for accountability and no one becomes house mom.

You should also be aware that people are notoriously blind to the efforts of other people and over-estimate their own helpfulness. It is possible that you do more work than everyone else. It's also possible that other people do more work than you realize because you are not following them around all day every day. Probably not Bad Housemate, but give the others the benefit of the doubt. Again, having specific jobs around the house will alleviate this particular argument.

I had a roommate who could not for the life of him read signals and talked too much. I developed a habit of cutting him off and telling him I had other things to do. It worked like a charm.

As for the wifi, if you are paying for it, you are allowed to use it. Get the other roommates on your side and make her do something about this. If your other roommates can't get on your side about something as basic as working wifi, you are also a problem in the apartment and need to think about ways in which you can chill out and be less combative.
posted by ohisee at 1:57 PM on July 11


If by "salvage this situation" you mean "make your housemates stop doing and saying annoying things," the answer is no. The only thing you can actually control in this situation or any other is your own actions and attitudes.

Your choices as I see them are as follows: move out; keep on being miserable and seeing everybody else as the problem; or accept your housemates as they are, set boundaries with the housemate you hate talking to, and take concrete steps to make the place more livable, like taking out the trash and getting your own wifi.

I don't really understand what other answer you are looking for, since over multiple posts now you've been quick to reject potential solutions. Really it seems like you're just venting at this point.

You might want to look at what you're getting out of being in the corner you've painted yourself into. For example, some people enjoy feeling like a misunderstood underdog or get energized by having an adversary. A therapist could probably help with this kind of self-inquiry.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:59 PM on July 11 [12 favorites]


I'd also suggest moving if you can, number one. Given the avoidant tendency evident in your linked questions (no judgement, I'm not dissimilar), if you refuse to move, the only way to get (probably marginal) traction on any of these issues is to work very hard towards more assertive communication with all of your roommates.

Then you can try to jointly approach shared complaints, and maybe get a rota going for chores to make all the expectations and actions taken to fulfill them explicit and measurable.

But even if your main concerns get resolved or managed to 70% satisfaction (optimistically, barring the Lean Cuisine stink, I mean, come on), it will still be uncomfortable, and the emotional atmosphere will never not be unpleasant.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:59 PM on July 11


I'm going to address your update, because frankly, it reeks of victimhood and that attitude is SO unhelpful.

First of all, you don't work full time. You've got to change that. There's no other way. It's a luxury to only work part-time. If you're having trouble finding a full-time job, get two part-time jobs. I worked two jobs when I lived in San Francisco because that's what I had to do. No way around it.

As for the rest of it, again, I reiterate, if for whatever reason you won't move, (real or imagined) then all I can say is stop caring. WHY do you care? None of this affects you really.

You can keep cursing the darkness and feeling sorry for yourself, or you can do something to improve the situation.

You can't make your roommate change. No one here will give you Voo-Doo to make her move, she clearly likes it there so much that she's paid months in advance.

So suck it up buttercup, or change something. But complaining and being aggrivated and upsetting yourself doesn't do a damn thing for your disposition.

Also, jobs and affordable aparments abound, pretty much everywhere except for New York. I don't live in Fantasyland, I live in Atlanta.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:00 PM on July 11 [15 favorites]


It sounds to me like there is one bad roommate, and no one likes her.

I get why it's annoying to get texts that seem to implicate you too, but it sounds like these other roommates basically feel the same way that you do. You should have a meeting with them and figure out a way to get the bad one into line or, failing that, convince her to leave. It might not be the nicest thing ever, but I think it would solve your problems.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:00 PM on July 11


jobs and affordable aparments abound, pretty much everywhere except for New York.

sorry, this just has nothing to do with facts. OP your concerns re employment and apartment-finding are legit in a lot of places.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:02 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


I don't even understand your question. You say the roommates all hate her, but that you are the one who's being blamed for it all. Whose side are the other roommates on here? Do they want your bad roommate out? Or do they want you out? Or are they fine with both of you?

Re wi-fi, I don't understand this part either. Why does it being in her room mean it constantly goes down? Does she not let you go in there and reset the router when it goes down? If it's wi-fi shared by and paid for by the whole apartment, she has to either set up the router in common space or allow you into her room to reset it. If the wi-fi is something she's paying for and you're using, then you kind of have to use it on her terms.

Re Lean Cuisines, I agree with others; this is a normal kind of food and having to smell it is something roommates put up it.

it is far too late in the game to make people not dislike me. (I keep thinking about what my old roommate told me, that she used to respect me until one point where I lost her respect forever, and then she never had to be nice to me again.)

I think you should stop thinking about this memory to the extent you can. It's not normal human behavior. People want to get along with their roommates. It makes life a hell of a lot easier. You have lots of chances for your roommates to like you, unless you've done something really egregious, and it sounds like you just haven't.
posted by escabeche at 2:02 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of issues in your question, and I think it would be helpful to tease them apart a bit.

First of all, about the Lean Cuisine meals: I get that nasty smells are annoying, but it is completely in her right to eat food of her choosing, and there's really nothing that you can do about that. Open some windows, get one of those fans that go in the window to ventilate better, or just deal with it. Until you have money to live on you're own, you'll have to deal with this kind of stuff.

In terms of the dishes and the trash, one thing that's important to keep in mind is the difference between contributing unevenly to shared chores vs having to clean up after someone else. It's a subtle difference, but an important one nonetheless. Yes, your roommate should help take out the trash, but frankly, as someone who lives in situations where I have higher standards of cleanliness than the other people, I usually just go ahead and do it myself.

Where I do personally draw the line is having to actually clean up after someone else. I might do it occasionally, but I'm not going to be someone's personal dishwasher. I would try to talk to her about using disposable plates, although it sounds like she might not go for that. Another thing, and this might be worth running by your other roommates first, is making a rule that if dishes are left in the sink overnight, those dishes will be taken out and left in the other person's room, for them to deal with. Or you could just convince yourself not to care, which is not always that easy to do, but it's the most reliable option.

Now as far as the wifi is concerned, I would tell her that either she needs to move it to the common area, or you're going to get your own and stop contributing to the monthly costs she incurs. You could also discuss this with your other roommates, tell them your plan, and see if they want to be on your wifi instead of hers. You'll want to use some tact so that this doesn't become too hostile, but it's probably your best bet to solve the problem.

Now, onto the interpersonal issues. I'm not so sure that your read on the situation with your other roommates is accurate. Based on your previous question, it seems like everyone is aware of her problems, and it might be worth taking a step back and trying to be more objective about what messages you are actually getting from them. As for her "trapping you into talking," with someone who can't take a hint, you just have to be explicit. Tell her, "I can't talk right now, gotta go do some work" or whatever. You can also walk around with headphones on whenever you're doing stuff in the common areas. Not completely foolproof, but it might at least make you look less available. You can do this with or without something actually playing.

Or you could move, but it sounds like that's not an option you want to consider, and frankly if it's a decent place at a good price, I think you should stick around. Living with roommates sucks, but as you know, that's your only option right now, and if you move out, you could end up stuck with someone as bad or even worse than your current roommate.
posted by litera scripta manet at 2:04 PM on July 11


All of these would be annoying on their own, but the problem is I am being blamed for it all.

I'd work on changing this one first. Do what every you gotta to change your mindset.

You are not being blamed for it all. The morning text is aimed at someone else.

Did you hear me? You are not being blamed for it.

Does it 'feel' like you are? Aha! That's the issue.

Work really really hard at changing this one reaction and things might get a little better.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:07 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


My only suggestion in this situation is to remove yourself from the communal life of the apartment as much as is possible.

Keep a small set of your own utensils and dishes. Keep them in your room. It will then be clear to all that any dishes are not yours since you only use your dishes and clean your utensils.

Keep a trash can in your room, put all your trash in it, empty it as needed.

Next time you get an angry blanket text, respond to everyone, make it clear to your roommates that due to breakdowns in community standards, you are pulling out of these communal responsibilities and handing your business solo. Do this for other areas if you can think of ways to do it.

Maybe try to talk to this disliked roommate? Apparently she wants to talk to you, maybe you can form a pleasant relationship with her, if not a great friendship.

two edit window editions:
1. You say you want to be friends with your roommates, why not try to start with the problem roommate?
2. Complaining about the scent of Lean Cuisine really does hurt your case here. She has every right to prepare herself a perfectly normal meal in the community kitchen, even if you don't like it.
posted by pseudonick at 2:10 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


You sound a lot like me, in that we are both kind of hypersensitive, uptight, and prone to keeping meticulous score of everything and basically shouldn't live with other people but sometimes have to.

It's okay. We're not bad people.

I would just back waaaaaaay the hell off. These people want to leave the trash on the floor, send angry texts and eat gross-smelling diet food? Whatever, people are weird and annoying but your room is cheap. Don't buy household supplies or furnish anything for the apartment anymore. The last thing you should buy is some kind of air freshener like one of those reed diffusers or a Glade plug-in for the kitchen in a neutral scent like "Clean Linen" or "Ocean Beach" so the Eau de Four-Cheese Ravioli doesn't stress you so much. Get your own internet (wifi hot spot? go in with a neighbor? Clear?) and tell your roommates that they should change the password on the wireless because you won't be using or paying for it anymore. When the dish soap runs out, buy your own little bottle and keep it in a bucket in your room when you're not using it. Don't answer any angry texts, just ignore them. Not your dishes, not your problem. Get some scented candles for your room in case smelly lady wants to chat. Practice saying, "I can't talk now, Denise." and "I have to cut you off and get back to work, Denise."

Do take out the trash when it's full or leaking on the floor, because that's gross. Yeah, it's unfair, but you said yourself it's a two minute chore and that's the price you pay for a cheap-o apartment. Your roommates will think you're weird, but you can just say, "I'm sorry, I know I'm a little uptight about this stuff, but it's best for me to [have my own wireless/have my own dish soap/stay in my room/etc] for my own peace of mind."

The key is to embrace your weirdness but at the same time understand that others aren't responsible for it. You're never going to be able to successfully police other people's behavior to your (OUR) standards, even though our ways of doing things are OBVIOUSLY CORRECT, and you will just get miserable trying. It's better to do slightly oddball things to maximize your comfort than to try to get others to change.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:10 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


You can't afford your own place. You refuse to move. You can't make anyone else move.

You can't make anyone else do things when/they way you think they should. You can't control how anyone else feels or behaves, regardless of how wrong you think they are or how reasonable you think you are.

Repeatedly explaining to all and sundry that SHE is the crazy/messy/inconsiderate/unreasonable/clueless/rude one while YOUR behavior is OBVIOUSLY above reproach will only result in everyone believing the reverse. It almost doesn't matter if that's factually correct or not.

You could:

a) let it go and just accept that cleaning up after your roomate(s) is part of the price you pay to live in this cheap apartment in this good location, and do so without casting yourself as the overburdened and unfairly scapegoated victim. This will only work if you're capable of doing this stuff without becoming a simmering mass of resentment and/or expecting other people to praise/appreciate/even notice that you're doing this.

b) continue to rail impotently about how this is unfair and shouldn't be happening and making yourself pointlessly miserable and angry over things that you have absolutely no control over and no way to fix.

c) move out and find new roommates.

If you have problems with other people in your life--especially if they're similar issues-- you should really, seriously, consider that the problem is likely to be at least partially you. If you're expecting other people to 'just read normal human signals' rather than using the much-less ambiguous human communication system of talking clearly and calmly and reasonably about what you want and need and expect, you're going to be frustrated and angry a lot. You may think that your notions about what is reasonable to expect as an adult human being wrt to cleanliness, behavior, consideration, etc are universally understood-- but trust me, they're not. Learning to communicate your expectations is really important for all your relationships, not just with roommates. And being able to determine what you can compromise on without getting resentful and angry is also very important for all interpersonal relationships. Almost everyone could stand to improve on both these skills, including you.
posted by Kpele at 2:11 PM on July 11 [13 favorites]


I've been following your trail of questions, and I really do sympathize.

I used to live in NYC, and one thing I noticed is that living in such close quarters in such a crowded city, things can escalate VERY quickly, even before the people involved even realize it's happening.

This is only speculation, but are you home all. the. time.? That might cause some resentment.

I noticed when looking at roommate ads that no one wanted a roommate who was a freelancer or someone who worked from home, the idea being that the new roommate would always be home and no one could realistically have the place to themselves. It's one thing to share a place, but quite another to know that every time you walked in the door, that same roommate would be right there on the couch, just where you left her.

Barring moving (which, really, seems ideal -- as a freelancer, you have a lot of freedom and I am telling you the truth to say I now have three times the space at half the price of my Brooklyn shoebox studio and I thrill at the wide open spaces and preponderance of choices of where to set up my laptop), I think the thing to do is be generous.

Are you making dinner? Share it with your roommates. Buy a bottle of wine? Share it with your roommates. Going out for a drink? Invite your roommates along. Concede with your troubled roommate that it's a pain to have wires coming out her door, and ask her, gently, what she thinks the best way to handle it might be.

To create peace, you'll need to be more generous, more kind, more patient. Take the garbage out. If you're going to the store, ask for a few bucks for garbage bags and pine sol.

Be the roommate you'd like to live with.
posted by mochapickle at 2:11 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


she throws a fit when anyone so much as touches her stuff - she has a separate set of silverware and everything.

Well, that's too bad. The apartment has to be clean.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:12 PM on July 11


And this might sound weird, but admitting you're not perfect (even if you're secretly awesome, which you probably are) is the best and fastest way to melt a grudge.

It is no skin off your nose to use a tactic of saying, "Hey, I know I haven't been a fun roommate. I've just been really stressed out lately and I want to try this again. I picked up this wine to share." Even, and especially, if you are not at fault. Imagine how bowled over you would feel if someone said that to you, right? So reverse it and charm them into treating you more softly.
posted by mochapickle at 2:20 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the mass text thing is a way of your other roommates avoiding confrontation with the bad roommate, while still voicing their concerns.

I mean, sometimes in work/communal living situations, there's times where you know exactly who it is that is not washing their dishes or whatever, but because it's kind of awkward to scold somebody who should really know better, you put up a general message, like please wash your dishes. That way, everyone has plausible deniability and the offender will hopefully make amends while not having to undergo the embarrassment of being chastised.

Now, if someone is especially oblivious, or just kind of horrid, like your roommate, these general admonishments may grow quite testy. But I don't think you should take it personally at all- your roommates aren't waiting for you to confirm that you have in fact washed your own dishes, they know you are not the problem, they want the bad roommate to wash her own just as much as you do.
posted by Aubergine at 2:21 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


(I'd also like people to answer the question in a way that assumes I am not a shitty person, thanks.)

Your tone is quite defensive and angry. I understand you're venting. Saying "I'm fine; she is the DEVIL" rarely goes over well.

People are responding in general very kindly and offering you valuable suggestions. I'm not sure you're hearing them though, not based on your followup commentary.

Kpele has it nailed, and wrote it very kindly btw.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:21 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


If the wifi gatekeeper jackass refuses to let anyone else use it in any demonstrable way, surprise! Now she's the one who pays the bill in full. You and the rest of the roommates should get a separate password protected hookup for your own use and split that bill equally. You can monitor from the router who is using it on which computers and surely there must be a way to lock it down even further past using just a password.

Really though everything else is just standard roommate bullshit drama that you need to do your best to get over. The fact that you want to vomit around her is a sign that you have internalized this loathing to an unhealthy extent and need to just let it the fuck go before it devours you.
posted by elizardbits at 2:22 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


There are several things going on here, and it seems as if you're not getting any answers that help you--over four AskMe questions that touch on pretty much precisely this same issue.

You are never going to win the battle over her food. Ever. That's off the table. She is an adult and can (and should be able to) eat whatever she chooses. If the smell bothers you, that's a problem on your side, not hers. You cannot control this in any way, so you should just give up on this issue. Seriously. It will always be a losing battle.

The WiFi seems straightforward: If she won't call the cable company, do it yourself. If you're around all the time, you can be there when they arrive. Get them to split the signal and put a router in common space and then do as a commenter above suggested and ask your roommates whose ISP bill they want to share. If she's the person on the bill, you can get your landlord to help demonstrate that you have a legitimate claim to install/split the service.

You need to sit down with your roommates (perhaps including the one causing trouble, perhaps not) and discuss this rationally, so that you can make your points about feeling blamed for things she is doing. If you've done this and are still getting blamed, are you sure you're not contributing somehow to the problems? Is there some indirect way you're making things worse? If not, great. Discuss rationally with the other roommates and ask them not to send texts about the dishes, etc. to anyone but the problem-causer.

As for having them like you, I think this is the hardest. It sounds like your home life is set up and defined by your opposition to this one problematic roommate. If everything you do pivots around your role as her antagonist, that's not likely to make the roommates want to be your friend either.

Frankly, the whole thing sounds unhealthy. Just because you've moved and have had roommate problems in a second location doesn't mean it will happen every time. I'd start looking for a group apartment in an area you like, and start exploring other parts of the city you haven't considered (like Brooklyn, which is wonderful (and I'm a Manhattanite saying that)). If you find something, you can move out with almost no notice--that's a luxury you should exploit. If you don't, well, then you can continue to work on the things you can control.

You just can't control a lot of this, so don't waste so much mental energy trying.
posted by yellowcandy at 2:23 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


If you need WiFi for your job, you really ought to pay for it yourself. Is the issue that the outlet is in your rommate's bedroom?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:24 PM on July 11


- A way for my roommates to stop blaming me when I actually do try, and to blame her instead, considering she is the source of the problems. The way I see it, if you don't want to blame the entire apartment then don't fucking mass-text them, speak directly to the person responsible. I do not want to have my morning ruined by an angry text message at 7 a.m. I don't want to be told that other people are the only people who "clean up after everyone" when that simply isn't true.

I think if I got that text, at 7 in the morning, I would drag the texter and everyone in the apartment out of their beds, march them to the sink, point at the mess, and say "These are Mary Sue's dishes. They are not my dishes. Do not send me texts about Mary Sue or her dishes or her mess. In fact, don't send me texts at all." Then block all of their phone numbers.

- Preferably, a way for my roommates to actually like me. A way to navigate the social dynamics in a way where I don't look like a bitch, while still being assertive and getting it across that it isn't fair to me to blame me for this.
It really sounds like the dynamic is broken beyond repair. The best you can do is get them to leave you alone. This might necessitate acting the bitch.

- Some way - any way - to encourage my roommate to either clean or get the fuck out, which as a bonus will both help with the above two.
I don't think this is possible.
posted by bleep at 2:25 PM on July 11


A way for my roommates to stop blaming me when I actually do try, and to blame her instead,

But they're not blaming you, as people have repeatedly stated. Yes they likely know she's the problem, but they likely can't face the nightmare of confronting her directly, so they choose the slightly passive-aggressive option of sending out a mass text. Perhaps in the hope/knowledge that you'll take on the unpleasant task of confronting roommate from hell. (so don't do that. as someone upthread said, just ignore the texts. they don't concern you since it's not your mess)

The "get your own trash can" suggestion also suggests that the other roommates have likely decided to work around roommate from hell rather than deal with her head on. So you need to do that too. Get a box or sth, pile her dirty dishes in there (she'll wash them when there aren't any left!). If she throws a fit, just walk away. What can she do?

I don't think there's a solution to the smell (that doesn't involve confronting her). You'll just have to live with it. Or move. Or you can kill her of course? (not a serious suggestion! But honestly, there will be no ideal solution to this. Move out of Manhattan, I mean come on!)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:25 PM on July 11


A way for my roommates to stop blaming me when I actually do try, and to blame her instead, considering she is the source of the problems. The way I see it, if you don't want to blame the entire apartment then don't fucking mass-text them, speak directly to the person responsible.

I think you have this all wrong.
You're not being blamed.
Your roommates are sending a mass text because their way of dealing with confrontations is to either a) not directly addressing your problematic roommate, or b) by trying to make their grievances public so that it's clear that everyone is on the same page.

Talk with your other roommates, who presumably feel the same way about things as you do, and sit down with your problem and calmly deal with the things you can deal with - primarily, the router.
posted by suedehead at 2:26 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


To buy:
-Rubbermaid containers with lids (or equivalent) a size that can fit into your sink, one for each roommate.
-Tiny bottles of dish soap, sponges/scrubby thing, one set for each roommate.
-Your own trash can for your room (with lid), and if your other roommates are amenable, trash cans for them too.
-Individual amounts of household stuff like TP, clorox wipes, etc, and a big box with your name on it that you keep them in, in your room. Never ever buy more than for just you, unless someone hands you money for it first and you're already going to the store.

To do:
-Ask everybody to put their container in the sink when they're using the kitchen. If they can't clean their dishes right after using the kitchen, ask them to then pick up the container (with dirty dishes inside) and stick it on the counter/out of the way with the lid on until such time as they have time to do the dishes. If you come in to find someone else's dishes out, everybody is allowed to put the right dishes into the correct container and set it aside. If someone is angry about other people touching their stuff, they have to be responsible for leaving their stuff in their container. (In all honesty this will likely only be relevant for bad!roomie but really this is a good thing if someone needs to soak a pan but wants to keep the sink clear, etc. and it will cut down on bugs and smells.)
-Call the cable company and get your own wifi connection and router. Look into your cheaper options for this, ask people if they want to split it, do not offer your horrible roommate splitsies. Above answers have great ideas for this, and you can always askmefi next week in a more focused way for more complete answers.
-Take out the damn trash.
posted by Mizu at 2:29 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I feel like when I literally want to vomit every time I set foot into the common area, then the smell is a problem. It isn't like this is some weird thing that only I notice; a guy from the Chicago Tribune called it "Gary, Ind., meets the Jolly Green Giant with a touch of TV repair shop," and to that I would add "rotting eggs, rotting onions and a tub of vomit left out on a windowsill overnight for a week." It is that bad, and it is constant. And the question I linked suggested that roommates have grounds to object to something as mild and unobjectionable and helpful as Febreze, so why is it suddenly a horrible imposition for this?

You are not the first person to find that their roommate smells bad. You will not be the last person to find that your roommate smells bad. That doesn't not mean that you get to change what your roommate eats. Period.

Notice that the advice in that Febreze thread is to talk to the roommate. You are allowed to talk to your roommate about the Lean Cuisines. Keep it about the smell. The complaint in the Febreze thread is also about a putative overuse of the product. There's no reason you can't use any air freshener.

(I'd also like people to answer the question in a way that assumes I am not a shitty person, thanks.)

I can see where my earlier response could be read curtly. It was not meant to imply you are a shitty person. It was meant to be direct. I did not want to sugarcoat my opinion. My opinion is very strongly that the only person who gets to decide what I eat is me. Policing other people's meals is an incredibly shitty, undermining, hostile thing to do and it really really bothers me. I find food to be a very emotional topic for reasons I am not even clear on myself. Food theft also makes me angry.

So, again, being upset by the smell of her food is reasonable (although I still don't know what smell you're talking about), but you do not get to change her diet. You can try to work with her to find ways to make the kitchen smell better (clean the microwave, open a window, use air freshener, double bag the leftover Lean Cuisine trash maybe?) but you can't stop her from eating whatever she has decided is best to put in her own body.
posted by maryr at 2:30 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Look, you have to be more assertive. The wifi situation? That does not get to fly. Are you paying your share of the internet bill? Then you get to have a say in that. She is obligated to help you and your other roommates find a place in the house for it where everyone can get reception. You are completely within your rights to make that happen, whether she likes it or not. You simply have to bring it up. It is possible to be assertive without being cruel. This could actually be a good opportunity for you to practice standing up for yourself while still being perfectly reasonable and polite. It's a skill that will only benefit you to practice.

That's why she's still here anyway, to reference your last question. Your roommate said she was leaving? I assume she gave notice. In every sharehouse situation I've been in, there's no coming back from that, regardless of your month to month status. I know that none of the people I've lived with would have been able to pull that shit and show back up with one day notice and have that fly. And from everything I've heard, NYC tenant rights are way better than they are where I live in Orange County, CA. There's no way any of my previous roommates could have decided to leave, and then just show back up on a whim, it just wouldn't have happened. The only reason it happened to you is because you let it happen.

So if you actually want to do something about the wifi, then you actually have to do something about it. That's the only way anything is going to happen. Roommate situations are situations that involve scarcity. If you let people take, then they will take. If you politely but firmly set boundaries, usually (unless the other roommate is a complete asshole, which I'm doubting more and more in your situation as the questions progress) those boundaries will be respected, more or less.

The other thing is, it doesn't sound like your roommates are bitching about you, like, at all. They're trying to shame the roommate in question in front of everyone else. Didn't you say in your last question that after she briefly moved out, everyone agreed with you that she sucks? It sounds like the problem is, really, that somehow all three of you are being cowed by her. Marshall your other two roommates to come together and talk to her. Talk to her, for god's sake! It's just like a relationship, the number one thing is communication. Be polite, but firm, it doesn't have to be a fight or a confrontation, just get the other people on your side, and politely and firmly establish your boundaries.

Also, I know apartments are tiny in NYC, but how small does your apartment have to be that a food as inert as Lean Cuisine is stinking up the place? Also, if your roommate eats them constantly, how is she making so many dirty dishes? They come in plastic trays.
posted by malapropist at 2:30 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Have you actually ever tried sitting down with either a) your entire group of roommates or b) the entire group minus her and talking calmly about these issues? Pick a time when you are not feeling angry, use only "I" statements, try not to blame but think about things in terms of common problems and solutions.

Apart from that, to solve some of your problems by yourself:

1. Do your other roommates have wi-fi problems too -- you're sure it's not your computer? Buy a wi-fi range extender (this is a really good one but you could get something for $40 if need be) -- split the cost with roommates, or buy it yourself and own it.

2. Get a bunch of plastic plates and utensils; buy in bulk. Never have to deal with dishes again.

3. Take the trash out yourself when it bothers you. Get good black trash bags that don't leak.

That gets rid of most of your concrete problems except the smell. That one you'll just have to live with.
posted by shivohum at 2:31 PM on July 11


So the wireless router is in her bedroom and the room mate says she can't afford to buy a new extension cord so it can be outside her room for common use and instead of ACTUALLY SPENDING A FEW DOLLARS AND BUYING ONE YOURSELF SO YOU CAN HAVE INTERNET, WORK AND GET PAID, you won't, risk your income and use a coffeehouse instead... Yeah, this doesn't seem to be about the actual issues. You're really caught up with being a victim here. Most of these things can be solved by you (except her attitude) but instead of finding solutions, you're trapped in this cycle of complaining.

She won't wash her dishes? Stick 'em in a tub, put them outside her bedroom door.
She wants to talk to you and you don't want to? Headphones, or bedroom or tell her you're busy.
She doesn't put the trash out? Um, put it put yourself?
You can't afford to move? Suck it up or get a part time job or move further out.
You can learn to be more zen about (which it kinda sounds like you're incapable of doing, given that you've asked for a way to find your room mates to blame her for everything... seriously..., you can spend less time in the apartment or you can move.

It seems like you are really focused on why you can't change anything and why it's all her fault and how shitty everything is than on actually doing something productive about it, but here's a tip - she has no reason to change, she's not the one whose upset - you are. So you can either change yourself, or the situation (you can't change other people, her of the other people you live with) or you can accept it. Shooting down our suggestions with reasons why it won't work defeats the purpose of AskMe and with three questions on the topic, I'm not sure how much we can help you.

I don't think you're a shitty person but I also don't think you're that interested in improving things, you just want her out and you've already said that won't be happening, so what's your next move? Right now you're just screaming into a void.
posted by Jubey at 2:32 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


Look, ok, i'm going to keep it real very hard here.

I used to live in essentially this place. It had pretty much every problem you've had, including the shitty roommate coming back where you're going "NO, NO, NOT THIS PERSON AGAIN FUCK THIS".

I put up with a lot of the same things. Disgusting kitchen consistently, asshole roomates who wouldn't clean anything and always tried to turn it around on me, garbage, shitty internet and power, lets just say it was basically the same situation. The place was right on the edge of a very desirable area, and hundreds less than anything else i could find while also being way larger and having a lot of other perks. It was, even in the heavy rain, a super short(like ~10min) and non bothersome walk from my work.

Finally, i got COMPLETELY fed up with it and bailed. I ended up finding a place that was a little more(but not a lot!) expensive, not as big/nice and has annoying neighbors... but i lived with normal people! they cleaned things! It wasn't in Super Desirable Core Area of town, but it was in a decent safe neighborhood i could bus to work from. Why do you really have to stay in the middle of manhattan if you're freelancing mostly on your laptop?

I realize you don't want to move. But i'm just saying, i gave a hell of a lot of the same justifications for staying and kept going "if only i could fix/stop XYZ thing this place would be FINE. why can't they stop being fucking stupid and doing things like YZX! UGH".

It felt like i had a car that was otherwise nice, with a couple minor problems and a couple dents... but that i just couldn't get them repaired. It was like, a sunk costs thing that made it seem like this was a worthwhile situation that was worth trying to repair.

When in fact, it wasn't, it was a total sick system. I've moved 3 times since then, and every time i've paid a little bit more. I've never had a place as cheap as that again, and i miss the extra money i had... but i've also never dealt with any of the kind of bullshit you're descirbing again.

This is a "how do i pump water out of the titanic to stop it from sinking" type of question. You get on a lifeboat and leave. The cheap rent/location combo is keeping you in a situation that is completely fucked, and not worth or even capable of being repaired.

I tried the "just have enough things to be self sufficient and camp out in your room" thing. It's miserable, shitty, and doesn't really work. You WILL be pulled back into this shit constantly. Her, the other roommates, and the problems themselves will find a way of becoming your problem.

You need to leave.

Leave before you have a complete fucking meltdown like i did. Leave before you start fucking drinking really hard or something because no amount of trying to separate yourself from this will actually work.

Ask me how i know, ugh. This is one of the most serious posts i've ever written on here.
posted by emptythought at 2:34 PM on July 11 [12 favorites]


Listen, I know it hurts and you're upset, but think about it this way: nobody likes a shrill, blaming, angry person. Take a deep breath and think about whether or not you're storming around the house in a cloud of funk all the time.

Being a positive, upbeat person will #1 make you feel better #2 make people like you. Both of those will lead to better outcomes than talking to them like you're responding to the answers here.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:35 PM on July 11


The impasse right now is that she won't buy extension cords (because she can't afford an extension cord

For Pete's sake. MeMail me an address to send one to, and the length of cord you need, and I'll buy you one myself. We're not talking about the cost of setting up a server farm here!
posted by nacho fries at 2:35 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Sorry to thread-sit, but I feel like people have the wrong idea about how much money I am paying for my apartment. The borough is a red herring - the posts saying "just move to Brooklyn!" are actually kind of funny to me, because I used to live not even in Brooklyn, but Queens. And paid about $100 more than I am paying right now. With the same roommate issues. Trust me, I've spent a lot of time apartment hunting and the price point I am at just doesn't really exist anymore in the city right now, not even in Brooklyn, barely in Queens anymore unless you get really deep off the 7 maybe, not even in parts of New Jersey.
posted by dekathelon at 2:37 PM on July 11


This just addresses one part of your question, but you can go to the New York Public Library Main Branch in midtown for free. It has great free wireless and is a good place to get work done. Plus, it will get you out of the house.
posted by overhauser at 2:39 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


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