Snow white and the seven male roommates
May 31, 2009 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I am a female college student who has decided to live with 7 males around the same age. Help me cope with this radical change and make it through the year without flipping my lid or regretting my decision!

I have lived in this 'college house' for the past two years, with mostly females and occasionally one or two guys. Due to strange [and rude] circumstances, my roommates interviewed people to move in and sign a new lease without asking if I wanted to re-sign.

Luckily, the 7 guys they showed the house to said if I wanted to stay and keep my room, they would turn one of their bedrooms into a double.

The majority of them seem like nice guys, though a few have confessed that one or two of their group are hard partiers and troublemakers. Two days in, and only 3 of them having moved in, I'm already balking a bit.

They are noisy, rambunctious and seem like they want to hold parties every other night. How do I set ground rules without coming off like a bitch? Will I likely adjust to the noise level?

I should note that I am generally less girly than my female friends and I have always wanted to live with more guys than girls, so I'm willing to give and take a bit.

Guys, any tips on how to work with this? Girls, have you ever been in this situation? Thanks, all!
posted by rachaelfaith to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try your best not to be their mom, for your own sanity. You're not there to wash their clothes and cook their meals and feed them chicken soup when they're sick.
posted by netbros at 5:48 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can't really "set ground rules" since you don't have any control over what they do... usually roommate stuff works on a combination of courtesy and consensus and since seven friends rented a house with the intention of having a Party House - I don't think that you, the surprise new roommate, can reasonably expect to change the character of the house. Luckily, they sound like nice guys so far... maybe it'll be fun to live in a Party House...? And if it isn't, you can move with no problem since you aren't on the lease.
posted by moxiedoll at 5:48 PM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

You don't sent ground rules, the group sets ground rules. At the point they offered to let you stay, you lost any sort of seniority you may have had in the house.
posted by Loto at 5:50 PM on May 31, 2009

So, let me get two things straight:

1) these guys already know each other, and
2) you don't have a contract but live there on their favour?

If that's true, you don't stand much of a chance in setting ground rules. As for the noise and general disturbance they might cause, I can only say that one woman in my flat doing this is enough to piss me off. Seven guys? Wow. Remember it's not just one night every now and again you can escape from, but this is your personal space day in and day out. It can tire pretty quick.
posted by Sova at 5:54 PM on May 31, 2009

The times I've seen co-ed roomate situations work is when there are seperate bathrooms for men and women. The rest is regular roomate B.S. you are going to have to deal with.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:54 PM on May 31, 2009

Move out.

If you stay, don't sleep with any of them or any of their friends.
posted by Lukenlogs at 5:56 PM on May 31, 2009

Let me get this straight. These guys are seven total strangers who taking over the lease and letting you stay, including self-described hard partiers and troublemakers?

Run. Run far and fast. Unless you like hard parties and trouble, no good can possibly come of this.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:57 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 7 to 1, it's going to be miserable if you go around trying to enforce rules -- especially since you're all equally on the lease. That said, it's totally appropriate to ask them to keep the noise down for when you're studying / trying to sleep.

I had a friend who was in this situation (she was the extra living in the house - I was the girlfriend coming by to visit). It drove me nuts sometimes, but mostly it was OK -- they were really cool guys, and it was a lot of fun to always have someone around, watching the Daily Show or playing video games or building shit in the living room. I think my friend liked it a lot -- she got to hang out with the guys when she wanted to, and otherwise, people pretty much left her alone.

For my part, it was really important to be able to retreat into the room away from the noise. My partner was on the top floor, so it was a little bit removed from the action. I'd talk to them and see if you can work out a limit on weeknight parties -- asking them to have it be quiet, say Monday through Wednesday seems like a totally reasonable thing to request.

If someone offered to double up, it sounds like you've wound up with a couple of really decent people in your house. Try not to stress out about it too much, and have fun!
posted by puckish at 5:58 PM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

Most people have a strong sense of what constitutes a nice place to live. The specific formula varies from person to person, but generally covers similar areas -- things like noise level, sleep hours, privacy requirements, cleanliness, etc. You can compromise a little bit on these, and maybe (with extreme effort) you can reprogram yourself in one or two of these areas, but you can't just ignore your formula. In other words, I'm pretty sure you will not "adjust to" your roommates' lifestyle. Instead, it will irritate you more and more as time goes on. You will have nowhere to retreat to -- nowhere to recover -- your home will become a place that you avoid.

Fundamentally, this situation doesn't have much to do with gender. This has to do with you being overwhelmingly outnumbered by a group which (however well-intentioned) does not agree with you about what constitutes a nice place to live. Thought experiment: let's pretend you're in the same situation, but instead of guys, this is the women's rugby team. They've rented this house together so they can party, drink hard all semester long, and have loud late nights with the bong and the X-Box. Would you stay? Would you have agreed to it in the first place?

I think you may be worried that, if you move out now, everyone will think you're wimping out or being too girly or bitchy. Please just take those concerns out of the equation. Believe me: you can find a bunch of very nice male roommates that you will get along well with. The important factor will not be their gender, but whether they agree with you about the basic roommate issues. I know this is not the answer you want to hear, but I think you should cut your losses and move out now. I'm sure there are still plenty of apartments available and plenty of lovely people looking for roommates.
posted by ourobouros at 6:10 PM on May 31, 2009 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think that you need to run, necessarily, but you need to figure out what you need and what will drive you crazy. In my experiences you can set "ground rules" if there are a few specific things that are relatively easy to change, but not if you want to affect the general tone of the house. It's way more successful for small things that just wouldn't occur to them to do differently, not major lifestyle stuff.

Having lived in a couple of big group houses, including one that briefly had an occupancy of 16 people, 13 of whom were guys, I think you have to change the way you think about the house.

If this is going to work, you need to be happy only controlling your room. If you're going to be bothered by stuff that happens in the rest of the house, you should consider moving out. Living with 15 other people worked ok, when I didn't care if the common rooms were messy, I wore flip-flops in the bathroom, and never used the kitchen.

I'm not saying this is the same scale, but you do have to divorce yourself from needing stuff in the common areas to be done your way. If it's going to bother you if these guys don't do dishes, for, and you'll feel the need to either clean up after them or nag, then you should pick somewhere else to live. (I know that doing you own dishes is reasonable, but in situations like this, being objectively right about what's civilized behavior doesn't get you anywhere).

Other than that, if you decide to stay, I highly recommend earplugs. You can sleep through a lot with them.

(and, for what it's worth, i'd way rather share a bathroom than a kitchen. The 16 person house had one bathroom, and it didn't end up being that big of a deal.)
posted by mercredi at 6:12 PM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

I lived with five guys during school. I didn't know any of them when I moved in, but I came to regard them as good guys. That being said, they were filthy. In addition to a general distaste for cleaning, they had regular poker nights where they had even more guys over to chain smoke, drink, be loud and cook meat on not one but two George foreman grills that were absolutely never cleaned. Think meat, cigarette, and stale beer smells all mixed together on a regular basis.

I attacked the house a few times-- fridge, bathroom, floors, dishes - everything. But the boys never helped in more than a half-assed way (and only if I was there to see their efforts). Eventually, I decided that I could NEVER win the chore fight and that I was not happy being a naggy roommate. I found much more peace in resignation. I kept my own cup, plate, bowl and silverware (and sometimes food!) in my room. I wore flip flops around the house and in the shower. I kept my own room clean and decided to let my stress over the seriously disgusting house roll off my back.

This allowed me to prevent any seething resentment and passive aggression I would have developed being their maid-- instead I was able to enjoy my time with the boys.

As far as noise goes - they were pretty loud, but respectful of me and my requests to keep it down on week nights. Like I said, they were good guys. I hope yours will be too...
posted by jenmakes at 6:28 PM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

There is no way in hell I would stay in a situation like that. It's just that these are seven guys you don't know very well... it's that they will have friends coming and going, and you have no control over who may be in your space. This is a situation that at best will make you crazy... at worst, put you and your belongings in danger. Run, run away.
posted by kimdog at 6:30 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was the only way I made it through college with a decent night's sleep. Even an all-girl's floor is noisy.
posted by chiefthe at 6:50 PM on May 31, 2009

Response by poster: Okay, just wanted to throw it in there that 1. I am most definitely on the lease with them and 2. I'm not trying to be naggy/make harsh rules or anything.

That said, I am concerned about what happens in the common area of the house and I understand that I either have to let that go, or if it drives me insane, find a way out.

Also, my room is a nice retreat except for the fact that the roof [which is a big hangout area] is right above my bed and my room is next to the stairs.

I shall invest in a solid pair of headphones and earplugs!
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:00 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've lived in a couple of different household situations where I was either the only female or where there were two females and a bunch of guys. It actually was not too bad any of the times, but I had to let go of some of my ideas about cleanliness and quietness!

-Don't try and clean up after anyone but yourself. Seriously.
-Unless you have your own bathroom,keep all your bathroom stuff (shampoo & body wash) in a basket in your room. Do not ever leave your towels or washcloths in the bathroom.
-Noise canceling headphones!
-If you have nice kitchen stuff (pans or knives), you might want to consider storing them in your room.
-Depending on the situation, you might want to have a lock on your door so the dudes can't come in and borrow your stuff when you aren't home. This also is a good idea if your room-mates are bad about remembering to lock the front door.
-Get renters insurance. It is only a few dollars a month and will cover your ass if someone accidentally sets the couch on fire or there is a break-in.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:31 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Further to the "don't try to clean up after anyone but yourself" rule, become comfortable with messiness and realize that if there's no upfront agreement about chores, chores aren't going to get done. I've lived in many houses where everyone agreed that we were all adults and a chore schedule wasn't needed. Every single one turned into a shithole.
posted by electroboy at 7:42 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

The other commenters who've lived with a bunch of guys: were they all strangers, or did you know a few of them well?

The reason I ask is that safety would concern me, OP, if I were you. If none of these guys are your friends, and maybe a couple of them -- or some friend they bring over -- is a bad dude... I'd just worry that the bad dude would get the sense that you're all alone up there, and no one's looking out for you. Maybe I'm too suspicious. But I'd at least get the lock on your bedroom door.

I hope this doesn't seem like fear-mongering; I'm really not trying to induce panic or anything, but if you start to feel unsafe, pay attention to that.
posted by palliser at 7:44 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't think of it as 7 vs 1. It sounds like there is a range of attitudes towards partying, and the fact they'll double up to give you space is a good sign. Maybe inquire about their usual study hours, and some guys might mention they'd like some nights of relative quiet. There's a chance you'll find yourself agreeing with some of the guys on setting limits to partying.

As for chores and keeping the house orderly, you could see how they feel about chore wheels, labeling personal property, and all that jazz. Maybe some of them like to cook for others (and are decent to good about it), then you could all go in on food and help out cleaning up.

Also, is school in session now? If so, never mind. If not, they might be enjoying their days of freedom before homework and studying starts up again.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:44 PM on May 31, 2009

Especially if they're having raging parties downstairs and you're up there asleep with your earplugs in.
posted by palliser at 7:45 PM on May 31, 2009

And a lock for your door, just a little latch thing for when you're inside it. Not that I regard a situation involving guys as dangerous (I'm also more of a male-friend type of girl), but if they're partiers, there will be partying, and drunk people who in the best circumstances will open your door by accident and barge in on you. Just have a way to make your space accidental-entry-safe.
posted by Billegible at 7:50 PM on May 31, 2009

If you have nice kitchen stuff (pans or knives), you might want to consider storing them in your room.

If you have nice anything you might want to store that in your room as well. You're going to be living with SEVEN noisy and rambunctious males of college age. Like others have suggested, you will go insane if you try to keep the place tidy. I looked at an apartment with my roommate a few years ago and we nearly died from the smell of BO, beer, nasty sex, smokes and weed. They were in a band, duuuude...

Your "ground rules" will mean SFA. Oh, and one or more of them will sleep with one or more of your friends. You have two options: Find a better place to live or embrace the party lifestyle.

Either option could be good.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:59 PM on May 31, 2009

Something you might want to consider on the cleaning front. Would the guys be interested in splitting the cost of cleaners coming in? It wouldn't cost that much if you split it. It would make everyone's life better and infinitely more tolerable for you.
posted by typewriter at 8:07 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

All of the boys were strangers to me (though they were fellow students, which gives some common ground) & I was a stranger in a new city. But I tend towards purposefully challenging my (hopefully) irrational fears about safety, and rely on my intuition to keep me out of danger. In this case, I met the boys and quickly decided they were decent people. I developed a friendship with them and they looked out for me like I was their sister. In retrospect, the living situation helped me develop self-confidence and was an overall adventure of sorts.

Of course, every situation like this will be different depending on the your comfort level and the individual roommates. Any uneasiness or nagging fear on your part should be taken seriously.

I did once have a friend of a roommate walk in on me, but had no other problems. Nonetheless, a lock or latch is not a bad idea.
posted by jenmakes at 8:21 PM on May 31, 2009

I lived with six guys for a while during college, and while it often drove me crazy at the time, looking back it was one of the best roommate situations I've ever had (the best was several years later when I got to live with one of the same guys, in a two-person house). The thing that made it work was that we all genuinely really liked each other and made an effort to not be assholes.

That said, it was filthy and loud and I can't tell you how much pee I stepped in on my way to the shower that year. Apparently, it can be really hard to hit the toilet properly when you're drunk and it's dark because the light in the bathroom has been out for a week.

Things that helped:

1. the aforementioned not being assholes. we were mostly close friends, so if someone in the house was unhappy about stuff, it was obvious pretty quickly and we all tried to pitch in and help.

2. occasional cleaning parties. even if it was a mess most of the time, we'd take a day every once in a while (especially after throwing an actual party!) and do nothing but clean. at the end of the day, we'd sit around exhausted in our not-quite-spotless-but-totally-reasonable home and eat cheap pizza and drink crappy beer and watch a bad movie. this is pretty much the best feeling in the world, and will ensure that you become friends quickly, even if you don't start that way.

3. remembering that all it takes to clean the shower is dousing it with bleach.

4. everyone being considerate about where and when they have sex and how loudly they do so. i'm pretty sure this is the only actual ground rule you need.

5. making merciless fun of anyone who fails to remember about #4.
posted by dizziest at 9:34 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you choose to stay (not sure I would!):

Get a fan for your room. Turn it on when you go to sleep (doesn't need to be pointed at you). The white noise will buffer any housemate noises.

Earplugs. Hang something soft on the back of your door or any thin walls. A thick blanket or drapey thing will help muffle any noise from the hallway. A rug on the floor will help deaden the sound, too.

Your own dishes; maybe also a tiny cutting board, tiny saucepan, cups, and knife (dollar store) that you keep clean. Keep them in your room, maybe. That way your ability to have a snack is not contingent on someone else's cleanliness.

If there's any tension ever, deal with it, preferably by doing something fun to bond, like beer or cupcakes. Don't assume it'll dissipate on its own.

Sharpie marker tied to the fridge with a long string. Label stuff that's not for sharing.

You might need to put a chart in the kitchen with cleaning and trash schedules and a space for people to sign it. My boyfriend's old place had one in the bathroom, too, with "Clean tub, sink, floor, toilet. Buy 8 rolls of toilet paper." - this had a place for the roomie to sign and a pen attached, to try to keep it fair.

You can also add a few bucks each to a fund to buy cleaning supplies or pay for a cleaning service to come in after a party ($8 each should be enough to get your place mopped and wiped after a hard weekend).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:49 PM on May 31, 2009

Best answer: You can pad the stairs. Get rugs (rag rugs are OK for this) and some cheap foam underpadding and carpet stair rods. Might cost $60 all told, but will make your life a lot better. Consider it $6/month for the year to have some quiet- worth it, huh?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:53 PM on May 31, 2009

Earplugs do a lot, but they don't do everything. Here's an important bit of advice -- use the earplugs, but don't broadcast to the guys that you use them. Because once they internalize that fact, they'll worry far less about disturbing you -- they'll assume you can't hear them on the roof and so forth, and your whole bed will be shaking.

Also, if it comes to this, do a demonstration. Get one of them to sit in your room on your bed with earplugs in while you and a couple of guys tromp around and shout on the roof. Once they really understand what it's like, they'll be FAR more likely to be sensitive about their noise. Until they sense it with their own ears, it's purely theoretical to them.
posted by hermitosis at 10:23 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Really great suggestions coming through! I will definitely look into carpeting the stairs- they are particularly noisy.

I'm going to give it the best effort I've got because some of the guys seem genuinely cool. Oh, and one of the serious partiers? He's only a summer sublet. Awesome!
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:13 PM on May 31, 2009

I think you either have to dive right in or get out. It could be really fun to live in a party house for a semester or two, party it up, meet lots of more people and have more fun than you normally would. If you do this, you have to accept that the place is going to be messier and louder than you might normally tolerate. If you choose this route than the maid service/group cleanups (I find that group cleanup sessions has worked really well when I've lived with these types of guys) and noise cancelling headphones will work well for you.

Be honest with yourself, and if you don't feel like more socializing/partying than usual than I would get out, because the tradeoff is going to be increased mess and loudness.

If they're really great awesome people who would be fun to party with, I'd give it a semester. Do most of your studying at the library, so you can relax when you get home. Big groups are also good to cook together with.

But yeah, I think you either have to fully embrace it or get the hell out of there!
posted by Flying Squirrel at 2:33 AM on June 1, 2009

Best answer: Just to put out some anectdotal experience for you. I was one of the seven guys in a very similar situation (7 dudes, 1 female). The house was what you could call a party house, certainly, but everyone was as respectful of each other as we could be. We all had a great deal of fun, and the lone female of the house confided in me that she rarely felt ostracized or uncomfortable and that she still thinks of it as one of the more enjoyable experiences she had in her college years.

My advice would be limited to these few things: don't sleep with anyone that lives there, don't take anything personally (this one is very important), get yourself some activities outside of the house from time to time, try to be part of the group when you are socializing with them, remember that young single guys are generally filthy, and also remember that you may never be in a situation this 'crazy' again. Take advantage and have some fun. Good luck!
posted by nameless.k at 9:01 AM on June 1, 2009

I have to disagree with the "get all your own utensils and dishes and keep them in your room". I think a reasonable person would be insulted if their roommate decided they were too unclean to share dishes with, unless there was a religious or some other compelling reason. A nice knife or something I could see, but your new roomies are going to be put off if you're going to great lengths to avoid sharing dishes.
posted by electroboy at 7:48 AM on June 2, 2009

Response by poster: If anyone comes back to see this question, the roommates turned out to be pretty terrible. They've destroyed a good portion of the house, and right now I can't stomach cooking in the gross kitchen. On the upside, I take some awful joy in knowing that they won't be getting their security back...
posted by rachaelfaith at 4:27 PM on April 30, 2010

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