Make It Stop: “My Roommate Keeps Borrowing My Stuff Without Asking”

Make It Stop is a new weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and Shlooby Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.

First up, a woman whose roommate keeps “borrowing” her shit and a boyfriend who does not appreciate the finer things in life, like the “Real Housewives” series:

My roommate keeps “borrowing” my stuff without asking, like using my not-cheap shampoo and conditioner or helping herself to my snacks. If she was really just borrowing my things I would not mind. But she uses things that need to be replaced! She’s a friend from college, so I don’t want to ruin the friendship with an ugly confrontation, yet I’m sick of replacing my stuff so frequently. What do I say to get her to stop mooching?

The obvious thing to do it to tell her to not use your shit. But unless you install a Nanny Cam next to your loofah, you have to trust that she’ll respect your stuff when you’re not around.

Here’s how to deal with your bathroom menace:

  1. The Home Alone: Take a page from Kevin McAllister’s book and resort to trickery. Pour your Bumble & Bumble shampoo into a Prell bottle then put the Prell shampoo in the Bumble & Bumble bottle. Fill an empty hairspray bottle with vinegar and leave it out for her. Get creative!
  2. The Full-On Revolt: Keep everything — your makeup, haircare, and lotions — in your room. Is it extreme? Yes. Is it ideal? No, but it’s the best way to have control over the situation. You can’t spend your life monitoring your leave-in conditioner levels so take the temptation away from her and just bring what you need to the bathroom with you when you need it.
  3. The Decoy: Trot over to TJ Maxx or Marshall’s and buy products for general use. Toss a heavily-discounted Bliss shower gel in the corner of the shower stall and call it a day. Trader Joe’s also makes good, cheap crowd-pleasing products. Leave those out for anyone who wants them; your roommate, guests, one-night stands, whatever. (Keep the good stuff to yourself, safely tucked away in your underwear drawer.)

As for the food, you can’t horde brie in your room without attracting mice or flies, so the kitchen solution is a different approach even though it’s the same issue. What I’d normally do — because I’m afraid of confrontation — is get extremely drunk and blurt out, “Stop eating all of my granola, you horrible, horrible person! It’s from a farmer’s market! It’s expensive!” Then I’d run to my room, slam the door, and cry. But, I want better for you. Let’s aim for civility here.

Make a blame-free suggestion to her: “We need house snacks. That way I won’t nibble on your stuff and you won’t nibble on mine.” (Blame-free!) Suggest a box of Triscuits, pretzels, or nuts that you alternate purchasing for the apartment. See what she says. If she presses you on why you’re suggesting that you two purchase house snacks all of a sudden out of the blue, just made a joke of it. “Honestly, I think you were a taster for a royal court in a past life. You’re just naturally gifted at sampling food.”

You won’t live with this roommate forever. Does it suck to have a moocher? Yes. But there’s always something when you are living with someone. She may never stop sampling your swag, but that’s the price you pay for splitting half your rent. On the plus side, now you understand why people like living alone so much.

My boyfriend of one and a half years and I talk about moving in together. The thing is (and I realize this sounds kind of silly) I’m kinda hesitant to move in with him because of how much he complains about the TV that I watch. I enjoy having a glass of wine and watching reality shows, like the trashy stuff on Lifetime and Bravo. It’s not brilliant television, but that’s not the point. My boyfriend makes fun of it and of me, making me really defensive (and sometimes pissy). So I now just watch my dumb shows on TiVo when he’s not around. We’ve been talking about moving in for a few months, but I’ve realized that I have some reluctance because I still want to enjoy my free time doing what I want. (To be clear: he’s otherwise sweet and caring and awesome.)

As a fellow lover of Bravo and Lifetime programming, I sympathize. Reality TV is trashy, but it’s also supremely entertaining. It’s Twizzlers in TV-form. But, oh man, nothing ruins the fun like a wet blanket who not only interrupts your show, but also harangues you while he’s interrupting the action. It zaps the fun out of what should be a relaxing way to unwind. Can I just say that people who rag on reality TV are my least-favorite kind of people? They’re snobs, that’s all there is to it.

Clearly, the issue is about respect. Your boyfriend needs to respect your taste and how you choose to spend your time. You’re absolutely right to think that his crappy attitude towards your TV habits will negatively impact your living situation. Could you imagine living with a guy who feels the need to crack mean-spirited sarcastic comments whenever Abby Lee is on screen? That sounds like it’s own version of hell.

I would make a joke of it at first. Insist that you need a TV show shame-free environment. You can laugh while you say it, but make it clear: you will not accept TV-shaming in your presence. Next time he mocks your “Real Housewives Of Orange County” marathon say, “You’re TV-shaming me! Enough!” Then throw a couch cushion at him playfully.

If he still makes fun of you while you’re watching “Little Women: LA,” it’s time for a serious talk with your man: “I love you but I’m not willing to live with someone who makes me feel bad about something I enjoy.” The lightbulb should go off in his head that his playful ribbing has become a serious problem. If he were as good of a mensch as you insist he is, he’ll apologize and change his behavior immediately. If he doesn’t, then I would keep your options open. He’s not mature enough to move the relationship forward yet.

And, if and when you two decide to shack up, insist on getting two TVs for the house.

Anna Goldfarb is the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and the author of Clearly I Didn’t Think This Through: The Story Of One Tall Girl’s Impulsive, Ill-Conceived And Borderline Irresponsible Life Decisions. (She is, however, thinking through the responses to these questions very seriously.) Follow her on Twitter!