Dear Alicia

By on November 14, 2007

“I noticed that there are some very offensive odors in my room that my roommate is responsible for. This person’s laundry is pungent and I believe that the person basically emanates a bad smell too. I’ve tried to air out the room by opening windows and keeping fans on but it’s not helping. How should I approach my roommate about this serious issue without coming across as insulting?”

– From suffocating

Dear suffocating,

You are right, this is a serious problem and there is really only one way to approach this. you need to be honest and yes, not insulting. You need to be careful with your word because you do not want your roommate to feel attacked. You have to make sure you approach this with care.

I have never experienced something like this, but my friend from home had a similar situation with her college roommate. I remember she used to complain everyday about her apartment smelling and everyone who used to come over would complain as well. Her roommate did not even notice that they were talking about her. It was difficult for my friend because she did not want her roommate to feel secluded from everyone else. Obviously no one wants to be the smelly roommate.

Make sure to tell them that you care about them and that is why you are bringing this up. Talk to them on a one-on-one basis so it makes them feel more comfortable and it also makes it more personal.

You can first ask them if they notice it at all. I would explain to them that you have noticed the smell for a while now and so have others. Tell them that you are not trying to embarrass them but it affects the way you live.

Being a college student is hectic and maybe they do not think about cleaning their room, washing their clothes or even showering daily. You can suggest certain things that they could do to help their personal hygiene. You can also suggest helping them clean their room or even your whole apartment together. You can set up a date once a week where you can even do laundry together.

My friend from home decided that talking to her roommate was just too difficult so she opted for a different route; she made a visitor tell them. Maybe you would want to go this route, but I suggest you don’t. I think that being upfront and honest with your roommate is the more respectful way to go.

Your roommate might get very defensive. In this case you need to keep yourself in control and step back for a little while. They now know how you feel and that it is a problem, so even if they get defensive, they will probably still do something about it.

Remember to be honest, respectful and appropriate. If your direct talk does not help the problem, my suggested next step would be to get an RA involved. Your RA will be able to mediate the situation and maybe it will make your roommate understand the seriousness of this issue.


About Alicia Staffa