Bad roommate wants to do good
December 17, 2006 6:45 PM   Subscribe

BadRoommateFilter: in which I am the bad roommate.

I've heard my two roommates talk about me in the living room late last night from my room. They mentionned I was lazy, didn't do anything all day, stayed in bed late and that I sucked as a roommate.

I was getting along well with one of the roommates (we have been sharing the apartment since August), though we are not friends, do not talk about any personal stuff and only bonded over hockey highlights on late-night TV and going to watch one MLB game. The other roommate came in October, and though there's never been any incident up to now, there's always been an uneasiness between the two of us. The three of us simply have never really geled together.

I always pay the rent on time, the landlord has no problem with us. As far as household work is concerned, I clean up the bathroom and broom the ceiling every once in a while. Household work does not seem to be a concern for anyone, and there is no specific agreement or communication about who should be doing what, and when. Furthermore, I rarely see my roommates doing household work, apart from taking out the garbage and the recycling bin. I'm certainly a bit lazy about cleaning up my dishes, so that's one thing I am going to pick up on. But I don't think this is the real problem.

I'm not the most social person, and I prefer to be private and alone most of the time. I used to hang out in the living room, but now I am a bit more withdrawn and stay in my room. (Total disclosure: I have been occasionally smoking pot at night in my room in the last three weeks. I recognize it is unhealthy for me and I am stopping pot for a while. I am also unemployed, and truthfully my life is not in the best of shape now and I need to get it back on track. However, I don't think this concerns my rommates, and I don't think they are being wronged by this situation, though it may be unpleasant for them.)

When I do venture into the living room, most of the time my roommates will be watching something on TV that doesn't interest me, or will be chatting on MSN on their own laptop. I have been thinking of introducing some sort of game in the living room so we can connect together, but since they don't seem to like me too much, I don;t know if it's a good idea at this time.

One concrete "incident" I am aware of is when I got out of my room to go to the bathroom while a bit stoned, and the roommate I get along less asked me if I was aware the cable TV was out. I mumbled something, quickly went into the bathroom and returned to my room without any further ado and avoiding the roommate's gaze. Not my finest hour to be sure, and I should apologize to my roommate for this (this happened fairly recently), but I don't want to make it embarrassing for me or the roommate.

So apart from stopping pot, cleaning up my dishes faster and being forthcoming with household work, I am not sure if or how I should address the situation (being disliked by my roommates). I wonder if I try too hard to be friendly or social, I might make it more akward for everyone. But I would like the situation to be satifying for all, myself included, and I am not too sure about what to do now.

badroommate.askmefi at gmail d0t com.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Seems to me like you've got bigger problems than what people think of you. Clean up your act, then apologize for seeming odd.
posted by sdrawkcab at 6:53 PM on December 17, 2006

If you're always in your room alone, how would you know if they're doing housework? From what you said, it sounds like you don't do anything all day, so that would be why they think that.

If you really want to know what they meant by it, why don't you ASK them? Communication isn't just for couples ;) Tell them everything you said there, and ask what the three of you can do to get along better.
posted by jesirose at 6:58 PM on December 17, 2006

Stop smoking the damn pot. Everyone can smell it.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:59 PM on December 17, 2006

Ahh, I see that's in your plans. Well, that and the dishes should go a long way.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:00 PM on December 17, 2006

If you're always, *always* there, as in every time they leave you're there and every time they walk in you're there (which seems possible since you're unemployed), you might want to consider finding ways to spend more time outside the apartment. It's nice sometimes to be able to have a crowded place to yourself for a couple of hours. A good roommate is aware of that and finds ways to let other roommates have the place to themselves on occasion.

asked me if I was aware the cable TV was out

Do you pay bills on time? Was the cable out because of something you were responsible for?
posted by mediareport at 7:16 PM on December 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

Pick a day each week to clean something no one else likes to clean. Make a big dinner to share, soon.
posted by cior at 7:19 PM on December 17, 2006

I'm trying to understand you from your post, tryign to match you against personalities I have known, but I can't really put it all together. I think there is some combination of social anxiety and depression going on with you and that seeing a therapist would help you a lot. Or see a lot of older AskMe's about how to open up and make friends. The good news is that if you recognize you are not the person you want to be and you decide you want things to change, things will change. All you have to do is make the decision.

If you want things to change in your house you have to change the person that you appear to be. Imagine it from their eyes. They see a ghost who rarely leaves his room and rarely says anything when he does. It's no wonder there's tension.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:20 PM on December 17, 2006

First: never bring up the fact that you overheard them. This will just make things awkward.

Next: sit down and make a list of 3-5 things that you can do over the next two weeks that will impress your roommates. The key in choosing what goes on the list is that the actions must be extremely obvious and visible. Don't clean between the cracks -- no one will notice, and that's what matters here. Take out the trash, clean a whole room, let them see you sweeping, mopping, doing the dishes, etc. And keep it up for long enough to matter. (Of course, don't over do it -- the key is knowing when enough is enough and you're just pandering.)

Regarding the pot, if this is something your roommates have a big problem with, I would say you are obligated to stop completely in a house you share with other people. To some people, drugs are drugs, period.

Finally, being more social: only change your behavior if it really bothers you that they think you're antisocial, not friendly, not a friend, etc. If you want these guys to be your friends, then go for it, but don't do it because you feel obligated to be friends with your roommates -- that's not part of the deal. If you do really want to get closer to these guys, the key is to understand how hard it is to change someone's mind about what they think of you. Point being: take it slow, real slow. A little each day goes a long way.
posted by JPowers at 7:21 PM on December 17, 2006

How old are you?

I don't know if you're really a bad room mate but you're not really a "mate" at all if you aren't even approximately friends with either of them.

That or they may be pissed that you're smoking weed and not sharing, or at least offering to share, with them.
posted by fenriq at 7:21 PM on December 17, 2006

i don't think smoking pot should be a problem. do your roommates smoke pot? if not, perhaps you should room with similar not-so-uptight people. as a former pot smoker, i would do chores around the house before i got high.
posted by brandz at 7:22 PM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

You could offer to do some extra fix-up project, like painting the kitchen or bathroom, or putting up shelves, (if your lease allows it and the roommates approve) - since you _have_ extra time. This will be a contribution you'll make to the household, in addition to the chores pickup, and could also help you get your energy up to do other things.

If you do tackle painting, read up on how to do it well. If you're like me, you'll feel fabulous once it's done. Let your roommates help pick the color.

Or fix something - a sticky drawer, a loose floorboard, nail holes in the wall, a loose cabinet door. Again, research it first so you can be sure to do a good job.

This stuff is also great practice for later, when you have a place of your own that you want to take care of yourself.
posted by amtho at 7:25 PM on December 17, 2006

Its unreasonable in hindsight, but when I had a roommate who had nothing else to do all day it was especially angering when he didn't do anything extra to help out around the house, so it might be that although you're doing your share, it just seems like you could be doing more since you're home all the time. I don't know whether you'd want to do anything about it, considering it is unfair to think that way (its your time to do whatever you want) but it might help to lessen any resentment in that department if you did a couple of obvious big cleanings or something.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 7:27 PM on December 17, 2006

The fact that you care and want to do better means you're not a bad roommate, really.

Of course I'm only hearing your side of the story, but maybe these guys are just kind of assholes? Maybe it would be best to just move. It sucks to be uncomfortable in your own home. But if you want to stick it out, just talk to them- show your good intentions and like somebody said, don't make it awkward by telling them you overheard them.

As for the pot, I'm not going to say it's the greatest thing in the world, and if you feel like it makes you depressed or isolated you should probably quit. But I dont quite get where the "Just say no" brigade is coming from in this thread. Is there a house rule against pot? It's a pretty normal thing for young guys with roommates to do.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:30 PM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Put yourself in their place. Since you are unemployed, they are probably fearful of what might happen a few months down the line if you run out of money. They also probably resent that they work or go to school and you don't. You don't even use that extra time to add value to the household by doing extra housework or even by being an entertaining roommate that's fun to hang around.

I think you should get a job, because at that point you'd stop being the lazy bum roommate who doesn't have anything going and who hides in his room all the time. At the very least, you should try to look busy when your roommates are around.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:21 PM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with the people who say your shiftlessness and reclusiveness are probably really irritating for your roommates. You can kill two birds with one stone by getting a job and being more of a contributor on the chores---you'll improve your own mood and win respect from your roommates.

But you sound like a decent guy.
posted by jayder at 8:24 PM on December 17, 2006

You sound a bit depressed to me. If you could get out and about a bit more it might help everyone. I wouldn't worry too much about causing awkwardness by trying to be friendly in moderation, it is more likely to help IMO, and at least you'll be being proactive.
posted by Coaticass at 8:35 PM on December 17, 2006

Not having clearly defined roles or rules for clean-up and chores in a shared living area will always lead to problems (unless you're all neat freaks of course) because everyone has different expectations of what's required from them, and different opinions on how much slack they deserve for the occasional forgotten dish in the sink, etc.
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:38 PM on December 17, 2006

I meant to add- it's hardly your fault if they won't tell you to your face that they think there's a problem. Are you supposed to be a mind reader? And Robot Johnny has an excellent point.
posted by Coaticass at 8:40 PM on December 17, 2006

The problem with living with someone who smokes pot on the premises, is that U.S. federal marijuana laws are pretty draconian, particularly if you, as the bad roommate, are holding quantity stash, or growing. Even smoking dope in a shared apartment exposes your roommates to drug charges in a lot of jurisdictions, if somebody narcs you out. And frankly, as Saucy Intruder points out, dope smell is incredibly pungent, particularly to non-smokers. It's seriously stupid and uncool to hold and use at home, in a shared apartment roommate situation, where there are other tenants around, simply on odor grounds. A short term neighbor in a rental house 3 doors and one street away was a regular back porch smoker, and a number of us in the neighborhood I live in figured this out within 10 days of him moving in. What makes you think no one besides your roommate knows you're holding?

At a very, very minimum, you need to move any stash/grow operation you run off premises, immediately, along with all your smoking paraphenalia, and let your roomies know that you've done that. And then, don't toke up there, period. That's just the simple, basic fulfillment of your recognition that they have a vested interest in the quiet enjoyment of the premises for which they are paying shared rent. Sheesh.

After that, be a mensch, not a pig. Check back with them in 2 months.
posted by paulsc at 8:46 PM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with fenriq.... ask them if they want a hit.... ignore panicky paul
posted by matimer at 8:55 PM on December 17, 2006

I lived in a ten-bedroom shared house for three years. About thirty people went through the place in my time there. The ones that caused the most resentment, without exception, were the ones who consistently left foetid crap lying around in the kitchen.

The kitchen is the single most important shared space in a shared household. If you're crapping up the kitchen, you're a bad housemate, period.

If you only change one thing, make it learning to leave the kitchen in a tidier state than you found it, every single time you use it, without exception. That means the refrigerator, too. Don't be that guy whose whole raw chicken sits in there for so long that it melts and starts to drip through the shelf bars.

And don't bogart those joints, my friend.
posted by flabdablet at 8:56 PM on December 17, 2006

Something simple to try; leave your door open when you are in your room. This makes you more accessible and makes your reclusion less mysterious.
posted by iloveit at 9:02 PM on December 17, 2006

As a steady roommate who has lived in a house for 4 years with rotating roommates every 4 months (I'm sort of the constant in a house with students on co-op and international students), having one roommate who doesn't pull their weight can be frustrating. There are a few things that your roommates could have done better, such as bringing up the issue directly with you, but in terms of what you can do, start doing your dishes immediately after you use them. Take an mp3 player with you and listen to music while you do the dishes if you find it tedious, but make sure you do them and eventually it'll become second nature.

To understand it from your roommates' POV, I don't know if it gets to this point, but if the sink fills up with dishes, it sometimes gets to the point where no additional dishes can be done without having to wash the existing dishes in the sink. That, and it's just annoying not having enough plates/utensils to cook with when you need to.

If you're going to smoke pot, do it outside or something, or just stop it completely. As much as people think that smoking stuff in their room shouldn't concern others, even if it's next to the window, the smoke can be smelled all over the apartment and you're really not giving your roommates an option in the matter of whether or not they want that.

Finally, if you're not already, leave your door open if you're home. It goes a long way towards making a house feel more cohesive. I've gone through over 30 roommates in the last 4 years and without a doubt, the open doors have made the biggest difference as to whether or not the house gets along.

If you're heading out to pick up stuff at the grocery store or just going out for a walk, just ask your roommates if they need anything as well. 99% of the time, they'll say no, but thanks for asking, but it never hurts to make that gesture.
posted by perpetualstroll at 9:04 PM on December 17, 2006

"I agree with fenriq.... ask them if they want a hit.... ignore panicky paul
posted by matimer at 11:55 PM EST on December 17

I haven't been in a panic about pot since 1969, matimer. :-)

But, concerning the dope smoking dude in my neighborhood, I and 2 other neighbors with dogs just made a point of each visiting him one Saturday morning, about 15 minutes apart, introducing ourselves, telling him we could smell the dope, and asking if he could set us up, neighborly, you know? I was Neighbor #3, and his bloodshot eyes and the smell of Lysol hanging super heavy in the air when he answered the door were enough to almost make me crack my straight face as I introduced myself.

Dude was gone the following Wednesday. I felt a little bad for the homeowner, whom we all know, who needs a tenant to keep her mortgage going, but hey....

High school kids walk by that place twice a day, 5 days a week. And dope stupid, is, well, stupid.
posted by paulsc at 9:09 PM on December 17, 2006

The pot issue struck a chord with me. There are a number of reasons why this might be a problem with your roommates. (1) The smell is very strong and unpleasant to many people. You might think you're keeping the smell contained or that it's not that bad, but trust me, it is. (2) It perpetuates the impression that you are lazy and a slacker. It's a sterotype, sure, but come on. Don't be that guy. (3) Whether or not it should be, it is illegal, and they could be concerned that you are breaking the law in their home. (4) It probably reinforces their impression that you are antisocial, that you hole up with weed in your room. And that you didn't ask them if it was cool to do so.

Anyway, it doesn't sound like the pot use is the sole reason things aren't going well, so my advice, other than knocking that off, is to make an effort to be social. Keep your door open if you're in your room just using the computer or reading a book, or whatever. Even go into the living room to do these things. If your roommates ask you a question, answer it. They could even be trying to initiate a conversation with you. Take the bait. Ask them questions too.

Definitely try going out of your way to do some straightening up when you can, even if you don't think they notice or care. Do it when they are around so (1) You are in a position to converse with them, and (2) They see you doing it.

Do you have any game consoles? Why not ask your roomies if they mind you setting one up in the living room, letting them know that they're encouraged to use it too. Get games that you guys can play together if so inclined. I have yet to meet people who can resist the lure of Guitar Hero.

Bond over food. Everyone has to eat. Ask them one afternoon if they'd want to go in for Chinese takeout for dinner or some pizza or something.

Also, don't worry about things being awkward by your trying to be nice. I had this concern a lot when I was working on recovering from social anxiety. One thing I have learned is that people VERY RARELY take issue with someone trying to be nice, especially if it is consistent. There isn't even anything wrong with being direct about it, if you get a funny look. "I felt like things were weird, and I was going through a rough time, but I don't want to come off as antisocial or anything."

If your first few tries to be social don't work out as you had planned, DO NOT GIVE UP. Consistently try & be social with them. Maybe even set up a goal to try & initiate a real conversation or shared meal three times a week. Keep in mind that people turn down meals & games & conversations, but it's not always because they dont' want to. They might be tired, busy, already ate, have plans, etc. Do not read into polite turn-downs. Just keep being nice, and eventually things will get better or you will at least know that if the roommate situation isn't working out, it's not for your lack of trying.

If you think you do suffer from social anxiety or shyness, btw, I highly recommend the Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook. In combination with medicine, it did wonders for my near-crippling social anxiety.
posted by tastybrains at 9:29 PM on December 17, 2006 [3 favorites]

What do you do in your room (other than pot)? If it's spend all day on a laptop, or reading, consider doing that stuff out in the living room every other day or so, so you're available, can join in conversations, etc. Not trying to join in conversation, just there and able to say stuff from time to time, become part of the social fabric of the apartment, rather than something that lives there but isn't part of it. Being there and being part of things also means that potential dissatisfactions are a little more likely to be brought to your attention before they sour into complaints behind your back.

Don't let yourself go - make yourself get up at a reasonable hour every day, don't spend all day in a bathrobe or half dressed, stay clean and presentable etc. Making yourself act as together as if you're working is surprisingly helpful at getting life back on track, removes another barrier between you and your roommates, and you start to feel better about yourself too.

There is a difference between being unemployed, and acting unemployed. So long as you're making rent, it's the acting-unemployed stuff that people can have a problem with (the barely coherrant ever-sleepy recluse thing). Stop acting unemployed and being employed or not should cease to be an issue.

Also, there may be an unconscious expectation that because you're unemployed, you have more free time and thus should be doing slightly more around the house than the employed people. That's unfair, but it may be a factor.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:08 PM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

When did this thread become all about his pot usage? Jesus, it's like Nancy Regan had a dance party in this place.

I'll second the whole "regardless of how much we want to beat this dead horse, it's illegal and that's that" thing, but it honestly sounds like you've got a positive outlook on it. The fact that you were even apologetic about using the stuff for as small a time period of three weeks means you're using it for the wrong reasons - to forget about some crap in your life, and you know this. Kudos on recognizing that. I wish more people I've known would put that together about beer.

Secondly, there's been some great advice so far about bonding with your roommates and how to break the ice that's formed. How did you meet these guys? Are you in school? Did you used to be good friends with one of them? If that's the case, try and revive what made you become friends. If you met them cold, try and find a common thread with them if at all possible. You mentioned hockey - try and find something you can do to have a hockey night over at the house. This would prove two things - one, you're social (invite other friends you have...this shows you're not becoming a total recluse) and two, you're reaching out and doing stuff that normal people do.

Lastly, if stuff like this fails, you really may have just gotten together with the wrong group of people. It's not a sin, just something that occurs. Try and be a pleasant as possible, give them nothing to be unhappy with, and go your separate ways when the time comes.

Good luck. I'm sure you'll end up fine.
posted by plaidrabbit at 11:45 PM on December 17, 2006

Wow, I totally know a guy like you—only, I know him through his roommates. He lives off his parents, does a serious amount of drugs and stays in bed all day. His roommates hate that he doesn't clean up after himself, he smokes in the apartment, lives off his parents, and is a total mess because of drugs.

How to fix this? Aside from being a cleaner and more conscientious roommate, get your own life back on track. Forget about socializing with your roommates right now. I know you said it shouldn't concern your roommates, but it's really depressing to see a guy sleep and smoke his life away. Get a job. Anything that will get you out of the house and back into society. While you're looking for a job, act like you already have one. Wake up in the morning, get dressed and actively apply for jobs.

Honestly, your roommates probably hate you as you are right now. Don't try to engage them in social activities. Work on getting your own life together, and they'll warm up to you.

I applaud you on your effort to improve yourself. The guy that I mentioned before has been in a downward spiral for the past few years, and has shown no real signs for getting better or wanting to do something with his future. The fact that you want to something now is a really good sign.
posted by hooray at 1:37 AM on December 18, 2006

I want to add, don't be all dramatic with the "please forgive me, look, I have my shit together, let's be friends, loooooove me" stuff. Don't make announcements to everyone in the house that you've washed some dishes, swept a floor and planned a big hockey night for which you'll be baking cookies and bringing home beer. Pick one thing as a start, do it (if your roomies are home when you do it, fine, if not, don't wait around and start a show when they stick the key in the door) and don't mention it. Then pick another, do it and keep your mouth shut. Then pick another. You get the idea.

The actions, they speak louder than words. And, the talk, it is cheap.

But, do have a conversation with the roomies once the pot is out of the house. Have that conversation today. Because right now, if I had a roomate that smoked pot and didn't share I would be so pissed, regardless of the fact that I don't even, uh, smoke pot. They won't know it's gone just because they don't smell you smoking it, but they may really be bothered by it.
posted by bilabial at 2:32 AM on December 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

When did this thread become all about his pot usage? Jesus, it's like Nancy Regan had a dance party in this place.

Agreed. However, it is common courtesy to step outside for a smoke in a shared living situation, be it pot or tobacco. That and kitchen cleanliness are the only two real concerns I can spot in this question.

I do believe that unemployment has a stigma which may be the cause of your roommates' displeasure. In reality you should be complimented for your ability to save money and maximise your leisure time, but our cultures tend to look down upon those who are not "productive."

Roommates do not have to be friends, but some of yours may not comprehend that and feel alienated by the fact you are not part of their social circle. This isn't your fault, and pretending to want to spend more time with them simply to make them like you is definitely not the answer.
posted by mek at 3:45 AM on December 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

You creep them out. Unemployed + Stoned + Hermit = Creepy as Hell. Work on changing the left side of the equation.
posted by LarryC at 4:15 AM on December 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Get a Wii and let them play it!

Clean something up, maybe the bathroom--make a huge lasagna and share it, yeah, what everybody else said.
posted by bink at 6:22 AM on December 18, 2006

I suppose this has been said before, but I'm hoping to say it in a less judgmental way: either your roommates are okay with pot smoking or they're not. If they're not okay with it, they resent you doing it in the apartment, especially because, as others have noted, you're not fooling anybody (and it might look like you're trying to fool 'em, which in turn makes it look like you think they're idiots). If they're okay with it, they resent that you never offer them any.

You've got a few problems here, and, while they're connected, some of them are higher-priority than others. Get a job, and do whatever else you need to do to get your life on track. Unless you're a one-in-a-million stoner, and you're probably not, quit smoking until you get that job. After you've got the job, you can start worrying about the cleaning. After the place is clean, you can start worrying about the roommates and the smoking.
posted by box at 6:25 AM on December 18, 2006

I'm a little late to the party, but I just wanted to echo a couple of things I think could help you and that may have gotten lost in the pot discussion:

- What flabdablet and perpetualstroll said about the kitchen is so true. Especially if there are any food scraps in the sink left on dishes or in the drain trap: it gets smelly fast (whether you notice it or not -- I had a roommate who seemed immune to dead food smell, but it was there). I know you said this is one of the things you are going to work on, but I can see how it might be a really big part of your roommates' problem. Making sure you don't contribute to or cause any mess in the kitchen will go a really long way to improving things with your roommates.

- Everyone needs to take out the garbage and the recycling, before it gets stinky or overflowing. It's not a particularly pleasant task, so it's not really fair to leave that up to your roommates.

- You mentioned that you clean the bathroom occasionally -- are you sure that is enough? The bathroom is right up there with the kitchen in terms of Things You Must Keep Clean If You Want Your Roommates Not To Hate You. Don't leave used towels festering on the floor (they get stinky fast!) or lots of hairs and/or toothpaste gobs in the sink. If you splatter when you pee, clean it up. Sorry if any of this is insultingly elementary, but I've met more than a few people who seem not to get the bathroom thing. If you do any of this, it probably bugs your roommates more than you realize.

- In general, try to leave as little impact on the common areas as you can. When you make food, leave the kitchen as it was before you made it. If you don't feel like doing the dishes right away, at least make sure that they're free of food scraps and that they're not piled so high that the sink is un-usable, and that they are done within 24 hours.

- mediareport's suggestion to get out a little bit every day or so is a good one. Alone time is valuable when you live with other people, and I'd bet your roommates would appreciate it. But perhaps more importantly, the little things involved in getting yourself outside (getting dressed, etc.) can go a long way towards getting you out of your funk -- whether it's a clinical, depression-type thing or if you're just going through a tough time in your life.

Good luck, and remember your roommates probably don't dislike you, just a few of your habits. Change the habits and you should be fine.
posted by AV at 6:27 AM on December 18, 2006

Another thought I had was that if you *are* looking for a job, you could ask either of them if they are good with resumes & that sort of stuff, and just ask if they'd mind taking a quick look over yours. Don't, like, make it seem like you want them to do real work on it, just ask for an honest opinion. You could do this with a cover letter too.

The benefit of doing this is: (1) You will show them that you are working on improving your life, (2) You value their opinion and put some trust into them (3) You could initiate a conversation, which is always a good thing (4) They might actually have some good advice.

Just a thought.

And I wanted to echo what someone up above had said ... the fact that you are trying to be a better roommate makes you a decent roommate to begin with. Just put your money where your mouth is and take action. You can do it!
posted by tastybrains at 6:31 AM on December 18, 2006

hmm. i say bollocks to them all.

apart from the pot at home - which i think is a massive no-no - i think your room-mates should get over themselves. i've had problems in the past with room-mates who didn't want room-mates - they wanted a ready-made social network/surrogate family.

a flat-share is just that and nothing more, unless all the participants want it to be.
posted by ascullion at 7:22 AM on December 18, 2006

the above said.. good hygiene and general good manners are a must in any house-share
posted by ascullion at 7:32 AM on December 18, 2006

I've lived with people and I've had friends and rarely have the ven diagrams of the two coincided. What I'm trying to get at here is that yes, it's important to get along with your roommates and have a good rapport and a happy living environment, but expecting that the three of you will be the best of chums is... not necessarily reasonable. The people you can live with peacefully and the people you want to go out and grab a beer with are not usually the same people.

Yes, you should definitely put more energy into fixing your roommate situation. Clean up more often, stop smoking pot in your room (your neighbors will appreciate it this too), spend more time out of the house, etc. But as for "breaking the ice" and bonding over takeout and a DVD, well, that might come in time and that might not.

It sounds like your life is in a rut, and I've been there before and it sure as hell makes you a lousy person to live with. If you're looking for a job and you do a lot of your searching online, consider moving to a coffeehouse or other space with WiFi for an hour or two a day - anything to get OUT OF THE HOUSE on a regular basis will give you more energy. It will also make you appear busy and get you out of your roommates' hair for a while, which will help ease the current situation.

And yeah, always leave the kitchen cleaner than when you found it. If you want to score extra bonus points, apply this to the bathroom as well.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:45 AM on December 18, 2006

I'm a little late to the party, but I'll add my 2 cents anyway. First, this isn't about improving your life, it's about improving your living situation. I've lived with many, many roommates, and about the only two things that piss me off are - smoking indoors, and leaving your shit around. If you want to hide in your room, that's your prerogative (and personally, I've been that anti-social roommie in the past as well.) Unless everyone in the house openly smokes, take the weed outside, and keep the paraphernalia out of sight. Also - no matter how much you think the smoke won't escape a hot box or your room or whatever, you are wrong. It gets in the vents, escapes under doors, and just like you have to leave the room eventually, so does the stink. Keep that in check, and generally keep *all* your shit out everybody else's way, and you'll be fine. Out of sight, out of mind.
posted by cgg at 7:48 AM on December 18, 2006

Hah! I've BEEN that "bad roommate."

I lost my job, had dropped out of school, was smoking pot and being depressed, and living off of my savings. I did my share of the housework, but, as wuzandfuzz says, I had a roommate who resented me for not cleaning up while I was at home, since I had extra time. My current roommate still feels like that vaguely, but since he's lived with me before, he knows what he's in for (and doesn't seem to get that since I am in school, and work from home, that I'm not actually just eating bon bons on the couch all day).
Yeah, doing dishes helps. Especially for guys, that's about the most hated chore. Cleaning up around helps too, especially your room. For some reason, if your room is clean, they'll stop assuming that you're the slob. Knocking off the dope is probably a good idea, as it does confirm stereotypes (and isn't good for depression or anxiety).
You might also come to realize, as I kinda did, that the people you live with are dicks. Since I was home all the time, I could tell that those dishes WEREN'T mine, and even after I got into the habit of doing my dishes right after I used them, I'd still get complaints.
Whatever. I did some dickish stuff myself, but when I finally moved out of there, I moved in with the guy I liked out of the house and we had a much better dynamic with a new set of people of which, I was not the most slobby, which helped. Though it did support my wider contention that laziness and disorder are relative, and the guy who's the most dirty in the house will always be resented even if it's a fairly normal level slobbery (noting that I have a pal who was too uptight to live with us now resented by his ultra-anal roommates).
posted by klangklangston at 8:29 AM on December 18, 2006

I think LarryC nailed it: You creep them out. Unemployed + Stoned + Hermit = Creepy as Hell. Work on changing the left side of the equation.

There's an old college adage that goes, "A good roommate is an absent roommate."
When you're in a multi-roommate situation, having one roommate always around feels really weird to the others, like they'll never ever truly be alone. It's nothing personal, it's just the way of roommates.

Try getting out of the house once a day, every day. Take a shower and dress neatly for each daily outing, and make up reasons to go out: food shopping, pick up a paper for job-searching, spend an afternoon reading a book at a coffee shop, get an interview at a temp company, browse the local library's movie selection, etc. This is good advice for ALL unemployed people, but in your case, it will doubly benefit you, as it will also make you more appealing to your roommates when they see you getting out and about and they get some downtime in the apartment without you.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 8:49 AM on December 18, 2006

I suppose this has been said before, but I'm hoping to say it in a less judgmental way: either your roommates are okay with pot smoking or they're not. If they're not okay with it, they resent you doing it in the apartment ... If they're okay with it, they resent that you never offer them any.

The first part is true, I don't agree with the second. My housemates know I smoke and they don't care, because they smoke too. But we don't often hang out or smoke together.

And there's nothing wrong with smoking in your apartment. In most cases it's easy to keep the smell contained in your place. If the neighbors can smell it, that's no good. You could always switch to a vaporizer, though.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:55 AM on December 18, 2006

Other than the smoking, the etiquette of which is now well traveled, it doesn't sound to me like you've done anything wrong as a roommate. Given the details you note, frankly I can imagine just about any roommate might talk about your situation behind your back. But really I'd advocate trying to worry less about what these relative strangers who will mean nothing to you in ten years (and vice versa) think and focus on getting on track in your life.

Fortunately pretty much everything you need to do to will also put your roommates at ease - getting rid of smoking up for the time being (especially in the service of staying up fruitlessly late at night), getting up earlier, employing yourself usefully when you are around the house during the day (i.e. cleaning - I don't know about you, cleaning just makes me feel less useless no matter what), and getting out of the house more. Some of the things I did when I was in your position -

-Got a contract with a temp agency and went to free training while working part time

-Hung out at the library and researched career stuff

-Hung out in the coffee shop and read the want ads. Or worked on that "novel." Good times.

-Hung out at the University library and researched a topic of interest to me. Eventually I used that research as the basis of a presentation that was required to graduate college.

Feeling gainfully employed is vital to self concept for most of us. Most of the angst you're feeling about your roommates, who honestly were just talking shit in the living room late at night, is just displaced anxiety about your life. Get engaged, something will come up.
posted by nanojath at 10:16 AM on December 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was about to say it sounds like you've gotten enough practical advice in this thread, but let me second that leaving food or plates around is totally unacceptable. Old food smells. It is unsanitary. It causes people to get sick. It invites bugs. It creeps out guests. It's completely unfair to people you live with to expect them to deal with your mess. You might as well expect them to flush the toilet for you. You're damn right your roommates are wondering why you get to sit around the house all day and somehow end up making the place look worse for it.

My practical advice to you: Do the dishes every night. Even those that are not yours. It will be a quiet and important way of showing that you are changing your tune, and it will be helpful to you personally to adopt such a daily habit. Other good habits may follow. And in this case, there is no try, there is only do. There should never be a reason this doesn't get done. In lieu of other responsibilities, doing the dishes should be your life's work. Make it happen. Learn what responsibility feels like.

Now, more philosophically: your roommates are your mirror right now. It's clear, from your tone, you don't much like the person you've become. You need not seek their approval in everything, but you're right to wonder what it is about you that so bothers them, and take action to correct it.
posted by raconteur at 1:07 PM on December 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound like there's much of a problem. You're a bit reclusive, but that's just your personality, I assume. I myself am not big on hanging out with other people a lot, but that doesn't mean I'm depressed or have a problem.

The best way to be a good roommate is to clean up after yourself (don't leave a mess around - I do sometimes and usually get flac for it) and keep the lines of communication open (maybe get a message board so your roomies can tell you to "clean your dishes!" without having to knock on your door or something). If they know you smoke pot in your room and they have a problem with it, don't do it. As for stashing it, there, that shouldn't be a problem unless it's a lot and someone might rat you out.

Your job situation shouldn't matter so long as you pay rent and other bills on time, which it sounds like you do. So maybe the problem isn't really with you.

On the other hand, if you only do things which concern you (cleaning, keeping to yourself) and don't take into consideration that you do have other people living under the same roof, you're doing the bare minimum, and people aren't necessarily going to think you're a good friend.

Also, I don't see why you shouldn't let on that you overheard them talking about you. They shouldn't gossip about you behind your back in the first place, and clearly there is a communication problem if they'd rather do that than bring problems straight to you.
posted by pontouf at 2:15 PM on December 18, 2006

It was said previously that you should never mention the fact that you heard them talking about you; this is definitely true. Chances are that they can't help but notice these things about you that you admit need changing, so it is likely that when you do make a few changes - cleaning up a bit more, leaving your door open, (temporarily) giving up the weed - they'll notice. If you can provoke a response from them (something like "What gives BadRoommate, why the sudden 180?") you need to take this opportunity to be honest about yourself with them. Something like, "I've been trying to be more active lately. It just feels better than sitting in my room all day" will go a long way with these guys (hopefully).

Some have said that because you pay your bills on time despite being unemployed, this should not be a concern for the roommates. I disagree. Paying your bills on time is one thing, but do your roommates know that you're always going to be able to pay on time? Without income (or parents/some other type of help) it will be difficult for them to just know that you will always be good for rent/bills/etc.

As for the weed, this depends largely on whether or not they smoke. If they do, they probably don't mind any of the extremely annoying things seemingly minor things that come with living with someone that smokes. From experience, if they don't smoke, your ability to change in this regard alone could mark a noticable difference in how they treat you.
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 3:36 PM on December 18, 2006

Shoot we should be roomates. You stay in your room I'll stay in mine, and we'll have a session in the living room every so often. Perfect.

I know your woes.. I would say you gotta fake the funk for a while, just to make everyone one big happy family again. But then, just be yourself. If you prefer bein in your room, then that's how it should be.
posted by 0217174 at 11:21 PM on December 18, 2006

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