from ‘Quick Tips for Roommate Survival’

“Fishes and visitors smell after three days.”  – Ben Franklin

illust-roommateSo, all of that preceding chapter was about planning for the worst and hoping for the best.  Here’s a ‘quick tips’ approach to living well with your roomie for more than three days:

Avoid Alarm Annoyances.

The surest way to create roommate tension is a lack of alarm clock management.  If you tend to sleep through your alarm or incessantly slap the snooze button, you may be in for some trouble with your roommate.  The surest way to make enemies is to ‘wake the bear’, and if you keep doing it, eventually the bear will turn on you.

One solution might be to use your cell phone alarm and plug earphones into it, so when you awake, it doesn’t wake anyone else.  Another solution is to simply shut off your alarm the FIRST time it rings.  While both of these are REASONABLE solutions for most REASONABLE people, they may not be successful for you if you’re the kind of person who falls back asleep right after turning off your alarm.  For that, you’ll need another strategy.

The best way to avoid falling back to asleep is to get to your feet as soon as possible.  The best way to get to your feet as soon as possible is to place your alarm far away from your bed.  This way, you’ll feel compelled to shut it off, so it doesn’t bother your roommate (who will kick you out – or kick your ass – if you don’t).  You’ll jump out of bed, and by the time the alarm is off, you’re on your feet and ready to head off to the shower.  If, on the other hand, you simply jump back into bed, then you might as well stay there and enjoy the ride.  You’ll probably flunk out, but you’ll get plenty of beauty rest in the process.

T-shirt Trivia. (If  you want to skip right to the t-shirt hack video, click HERE)

Alarms buzzing, slivers of sunlight at 6am, a roommate’s tardy typing at 2am, or a snoring suitemate can all become the most annoying and grating sounds in the world if you’re trying to sleep.  Of course, they typically inject themselves when you least expect them and most need your sleep.  There is, however, a cheap and effective fix:  the t-shirt.  That’s right!  All college kids have ‘em, but not all know how to use ‘em.  They can become your best friend, a ‘sensory silencer’, when you most need it.  Here’s how:

Lay any t-shirt out flat on your bed.  Fold in the arms across the torso, so that the cloth becomes a rectangle.  Beginning at either the left or right side of the shirt, roll it into a loose ‘log’.  You now have God’s greatest gift to humankind… if you’re trying to sleep, that is.  Lie down with your head on your pillow, take your new ‘sensory silencer’ and lay it across both eyes with the extra cloth hanging down the sides of your face.  Take these sides and cover your ears, tucking any excess in behind your ears between your head and pillow.  That’s it.  You’ll notice all the sensory deprivation (or at least the muffling of all sights and sounds) right away!  Try it this summer before you head off to campus.  If you aren’t satisfied with the results, you may not return this book, and you will not receive a full refund.  You can figure out your own damn strategy.

(Hey!  Maybe I should have some ‘Carpe College!” t-shirts made up, and you could use those.  Then, if not satisfied, you’d have another nice, colorful, non-refundable item you could not return, not ever.)

NOTE:  I recently confirmed this t-shirt thing really works!  I was in a hotel in LA recently, sleeping with my ‘sensory silencer’ over my eyes and ears.  At 3am flashing strobe lights on every alarm in the hotel suite went off, but the alarms remained silent.  I did not wake up until I heard my wife on the phone with the front desk, trying to figure out what the heck was going on.  So, yes, I did hear my wife through the muffling of the shirt, but I did not see all those strobe lights.  Apparently, my ‘silencer’ method blocks light better than sound, but I contend that it’s way more comfortable than any eye mask. Try it for yourself.

Stock-up on Supplies. 

Ear plugs, eye masks, earphones (and extras because they tend to wear out), your mp3 player, the aforementioned ‘sensory silencer’ t-shirt roll, and an extra pillow are all great supplies to have when it comes to avoiding things that go bump in the night (or morning).  If your roomie is an early riser, needs a bit of light to get dressed or, God forbid, blow dries her hair at 6am, then you may need some sensory protection.  Have this stuff at the ready for those manic mornings (or late nights) when you want to sleep but your roommate doesn’t.

Of course, the BEST strategies and solutions involve communicating with your roommate and getting healthy, consistent sleep and exercise so you can wake refreshed (with no alarm ‘snoozing’).  If both of you are doing that, all will be right with the world.

No Sweat? 

College kids these days are working out and staying more physically fit than ever before.  It may be because they want to look healthy or simply be healthy, or because many campuses have nice fitness facilities.  Whatever the reason, it’s probably a good thing.  But those sweaty clothes need to go somewhere.

In our household, with both our kids in high school athletics and working out on their own, our laundry room got pretty darn stinky.  It got to the point where we put a hamper in the garage and threw all the sweaty stuff in there until we could do a load of wash during our busy week.  When our son went off to college, his fitness lifestyle didn’t change; however, his dorm room living quarters were about as small as our laundry room, so those wonderful aromas had much less space in which to waft away.

As we discussed how to handle sweaty clothes in dorm rooms, my wife and I couldn’t remember how we did it in college, other than to simply throw them in our closets.  We did remember, however, that our rooms did NOT smell, which, my wife assures me, is NOT the case with my son’s dorm room (as of this writing, I have not yet been allowed in my son’s dorm room.  My wife talked her way in when picking him up for winter break because he needed an extra set of hands to carry dirty laundry).  So, we tossed out some ideas for managing this olfactory obstacle, and here are my thoughts:

1.  Have three (3) laundry bags, one that’s mesh for the ‘sweaty-smellies’ to air out, one that’s nylon and doesn’t breathe (or a plastic garbage bag will do), and one that’s cloth or anything else to carry your stuff down to the laundry facility.  When empty, put the first two bags inside the third and keep it under your bed or in your closet.

2. After working out, when you come home dripping with sweat, remove your ‘sweaty-smellies’ and turn them all right-side out (do not leave socks or anything else rolled up in a ball).  Clip it all to a hanger, a makeshift clothesline, or your mesh bag AND HANG THAT WET STUFF OUTSIDE YOUR DORM WINDOW TO AIR OUT!  Now, depending on your windows, your residence hall policies, or the weather, you may have to get creative.  If you’re on the fourth floor, maybe you can tie the drawstring onto your desk leg with a bungee cord or something.  If dorm policies prevent hanging stuff out your window (a STRONG possibility), maybe you can hang your clothes in your open window with a fan on them until they’re dried out.  If it’s raining, or you’re worried about your wet clothes freezing and then melting and reeking once back safe and sound in your room, then, obviously, you’ll need to dry them indoors over a chair or your bed rail.

The key is, whatever you do, you must get them dry!  Although I’m an old-school cotton kind of guy, you may wish to start with synthetic sweat-wicking clothing, which will dry much quicker.

3. Once your ‘sweaty-smellies’ are dry and aired out, throw them into a nylon bag (or plastic garbage bag) that doesn’t breathe.  Scrunch down the bag, so there’s very little air in it, and seal it tight.  That way, all that nastiness can’t waft throughout your small dorm room.  (If the clothes only reek a little after drying, then toss ‘em into that mesh bag with a fabric softener sheet to mask the odor a bit.)  If you continue to work out and have new ‘sweaty-smellies’, just repeat the process, again and again, until laundry day.

NOTE:  My sister-in-law contends that if there’s even a little bit of moisture, the clothes will mildew, smell, and continue to smell every time they get wet again.  She may be right, but she’s also a little overly sensitive.  She thinks it’s a bad idea to eat stuff out of the fridge without checking expiration dates, too.  But we all know that the smell test works better.  If food smells, don’t eat it.  If clothes smell, don’t wear ‘em.  Or, better yet, just clean ‘em.

4. On laundry day, throw the nylon bag of ‘sweaty-smellies’ into your main laundry bag, and head down to the machines.  Separate your clothes as you see fit, and enjoy the results.  It’s as simple as that!

Of course, I’m still waiting for some innovative and entrepreneurial spirit to develop a better system.  Maybe your campus fitness facility could implement a system where you toss your ‘sweaty-smellies’ into a mesh wash bag with a number on it, bring that bag to the locker room check out desk, they do the wash for you, and you pick up your workout clothes the next time you stop in.   The same way you check out a basketball or badminton racquet, you’d check in and out your workout clothes.

Maybe not…..   We’re just spitballin’ here….

(NOTE:  Yes, I know we already had a section on laundry, but that wasn’t really about laundry the way this was).

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness? 

Invite people into your dorm room at least once a month.  That way, you and your roommate(s) will clean your room at least that often. If you have no idea how to do this, ask your folks, ask your roommate’s folks, or walk up and down the dorm hall until you find someone who can help. Or, maybe there’s a YouTube tutorial or app for that!!  Hadn’t even thought about that until just now because this is stuff you should already know (look it up)!

If you need more motivational help, visit, a website acknowledging that we all have busy lives, or are just lazy, and need a little push.  So they offer “terrifying motivation for lazy people with messy homes.”  Oh, and they even have an app for that.

Any way you choose, figure it out, and clean your damn room!

Don’t Touch It or Borrow It Without Asking!  Not her snacks.  Not his laptop.  Not her favorite top.  Not his Frisbee.  No, no, no…..   Again, this is stuff you should already know.

Stay Gold, Ponyboy.  To survive and thrive in a college dorm room, just follow The Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (or anything close to that). Nuff said….

Or, if that’s not enough said, then take a peek at P.M.Forni’s Choosing Civility:  The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct.  It has everything from “Listen” to “Don’t shift responsibility and blame,” and plenty in between.



David Foster Wallace was a great author who died too young.  Before he left us, he gave a commencement speech that gets at the heart of what it means to live with other people and how we can CHOOSE to hate it or celebrate it (Hey, that rhymes… I should be a rapper!)  Wallace called his speech “This is Water,” and a few people have made short films to accompany it.  (Look it up!)