Your roommate stays in the room all day long.
You are desperate to be able to use it without them constantly in it.
You feel uncomfortable because they’re stinking up the place all the time and basically taken over.
You’re on your last sliver of patience with the situation.
Sound like you?
If you’ve got a roommate who stays in the room all day, it can be such a soul-destroying experience.
You may be in college, living in dorms, or you could be sharing a room in an apartment or house if you’re a young working professional.
Maybe you’re studying abroad and sharing a room, or, I don’t know, maybe the roommate is your sister because there aren’t enough bedrooms in your house and you’re like 100% done with the situation.
While there is no magic cure, this guide is going to help you deal with the situation, as well as giving you tips and tricks for how to cope because I’ve so been there and the stories I could tell…
You can use these tips in chronological order, or pick and choose based on the situation.
Best Book for Dealing with Roommates
Check for Signs of Depression or Other Mental Illness in Your Roommate and, if so, Flag to RA or Speak to Them
The first thing we need to address is one of the main reasons someone could be in their room all day, and that relates to serious mental illness, including anxiety, depression, or agoraphobia.
It’s not your job to be a mental health professional, but if anything else seems “off” about your roommate, including an actual fear of leaving the room, increased anxiety about things, sleeping all day, being unhygenic, etc, you should talk to your RA, if you have one, and bring this to their attention.
If you’re on your own and are just sharing a room without anyone to really talk to about it, this is the first place to start when talking to your roommate.
Going in and yelling at them and losing your cool because they are staying in the room all day will be a lot to handle for someone who is depressed or suffering from another condition, and it won’t get you anywhere.
In this instance, you would phrase it as less of a concern for yourself and more of a concern for them.
“Hey, roommate, I noticed that you haven’t really left the room in a few weeks. Is something wrong or is there anything you want to talk about? I know how hard it can be adjusting to life here and I’m worried about you.”
You can kindly offer resources that you’ve heard of, like online therapy like TalkSpace, so they know that they have an ally in finding help if they need it.
If they don’t respond positively or this doesn’t solve the issue (or at least give you an idea of what the problem is), then you are free to move on to the other steps which involve a less soft approach.
Think About Other Reasons Your Roommate Might Be Staying in the Room All Day
Let’s say that you don’t think your roommate is struggling with mental illness, and is staying in the room all day for other reasons.
Trying to deduce what that reason is is going to help you figure out what to do about it and what you’re prepared to sacrifice or do to either help them get out or to move.
Do they have no friends in the area to invite them places, so they naturally stay in more?
Are they struggling with a physical illness or limitation that makes going out hard?
Are they just lazy?
Again, it might not be possible to 100% figure out the answer, especially if you don’t know your roommate well, but try and pin it down (or the number of reasons down) the best you can.
Broach the Subject with a Proposed Schedule (Nothing Vague)
You’ve got to broach the subject, maybe a few times, and while you should start out friendly and conversational, you shouldn’t coddle them because at the end of the day, you are not responsible for them and you have just as much of a right to your room as they do.
When you do bring it up, do it in-person and have a proposed schedule laid out.
Saying “I feel like you’re in the room all the time” gives the other person an out to say “No, I’m not!” or for them to agree to change, and then nothing does.
Instead, try something like, “Hey! This is kind of an awkward conversation because I know you really like our room and stay in a lot, but I’m feeling like I have a lack of alone time and it’s hurting my grades/mental health/whatever.
Could we arrange something so that I can have the room during XYZ hours on XYZ days so we can both have some alone time in the room?”
Obviously, what you say will differ depending on the relationship with the roommate, but you need to put forward some sort of proposition for what you’re actually asking for.
Try and be flexible to their needs instead of just demanding that you want them out of the room on your own schedule, but be firm that you believe you equally have a right to some time in the room by yourselves.
What happens next is based more on their response to the conversation and willingness to go along with what you’re saying.
See if Other People Will Invite Them Out
If the problem is that they haven’t made many new friends in your college or town, you can try and play matchmaker a little if you know people who might get along with them.
Maybe your friend’s roommate also likes whatever video games your roommate likes.
Put the bug in their ear to see if they will invite your roommate to do some things.
Again, it’s not your job to help someone make friends, but it is a nice thing to do if you feel like that’s the problem and your roommate is lacking confidence.
Plus, if you succeed, you get the room back more often, so win win.
Find a Coffee Shop, Library, or Quiet Area to Start Making Your “Own”
When you’ve exhausted other options or your roommate isn’t cooperating, it’s time to figure out how you can plan your own life despite what their choices are.
For some people, this means finding your own place outside of the room, including a nook in the library, a seat in a coffee shop, or somewhere else that you can start to see as an extension of your room, even if it’s in public.
You might have to try a few places before you find the one that works best for you, but just keep exploring and soon you may have a few spots you can go to when you need to escape, but can’t go back to your room.
Live Your Life without Worrying that They are There
You’re entitled to be in your room as well, and while it’s annoying to not have alone time in your room, you shouldn’t tiptoe around them during normal waking hours.
They don’t get to make all the rules, and if you have a class at 9am, you’re perfectly entitled to make your oatmeal in the microwave if they’re sleeping or turn the lights on.
Put a podcast or music in your headphones and try and forget that they’re there, and just do what you need to do whether it’s studying, talking on the phone, or something else.
If you were feeling particularly…mischievous, you might try staying in your room all the time for a period of days to see if that encourages them to see what it’s like and actually want to escape you for a bit!
Make an Extra Effort to Make Friends so You Have Other Places to Go
When I had this problem in college, I made an extra effort to make my own friends who would then let me come into their rooms to hang out or even let me use their room for quiet study while they were out or to just have some alone time.
Sure, it’s not as comfortable as your room with all of your stuff, but the larger your network is, the more places you’ll be able to go to escape.
Move Out or See if Possible to Move Rooms
If you’ve tried all of these options and are still finding it unbearable with your roommate who never leaves the room, it’s time to talk to your RA or other leader about moving, and if you don’t have that set-up, then to make plans to move out and go rent or live somewhere else.
Typically, you will have to be the one to move rather than getting your roommate to move out, but if it is starting to have a negative impact on your life and you have addressed the situation to the roommate multiple times with no success, it’s time for more drastic action and you shouldn’t feel sorry about it.