Heavy Meddle: Help! I’m Living In The Apartment From Hell

What happens when your roommates are loud, violent, sloppy deadbeats? (Jonathan Coffey/flickr)
What happens when your roommates are loud, violent, sloppy deadbeats? (Jonathan Coffey/flickr)

Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions. You can use this form, or send them via email. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.


Dear Steve,

As I am writing this, my roommate’s girlfriend, who is illegally subletting from my roommate, is crying because she and my roommate emotionally manipulate and verbally abuse each other every single day. I can hear this through our [incredibly thin] walls, often as I am waking up and falling asleep.

Less frequently, I hear them come to blows or make threats of physical violence. I have tried to gently inquire about their relationship and frequent fighting, but I am usually completely dismissed. I have even considered calling the police several times.

They leave messes around the house for weeks at a time, and I am beginning to feel like a nagging mother. I am tired of living in squalor, and I am exhausted because I cannot pick up after three other people and myself. And a cat. A cat that my roommate only feeds sometimes and otherwise does not play with, pet, clean, get fixed, or take to the vet.

My roommate's girlfriend pays half of her rent and bills, while the rest of us are paying our full portion.

I am really, really struggling here. I feel as though I have exhausted my compassionate options.

My second roommate is an alcoholic. She blacks out nearly every time she drinks, often wakes up not knowing where she is/how she got home. She compromises her work/academics/finances to keep up with her lifestyle, and brings loud strangers back to our apartment after the bars close. She almost never cleans up after herself anymore. I have expressed concern for her on multiple occasions with a dismissive response each time.

My third roommate more or less exploded because of the condition of the house and then moved in with her significant other. She comes around occasionally, but is not really a presence in the apartment.

I am really, really struggling here. I feel as though I have exhausted my compassionate options. This is an incredibly difficult environment for me to live in. It's hard for me to get any work done, it's hard to sleep. I'm embarrassed to have anyone over because the apartment is literally filthy. We've tried to have weekly dinners where we clean, I've tried asking, always respectfully, to please-for-the-love-of-my-sanity do your dishes or take out the bathroom trash that is overflowing with used sanitary supplies, but nothing works.

Being here has become totally deleterious to my mental health. What can I do? My lease ends in May and I go to college in an incredibly small town where everybody hears everybody's business. Please help.

Holding Out for a Studio


Dear HofaS,

My sophomore year in college, I wound up in a bleak one-bedroom apartment with a guy I’ll call Melvin Pivnick. I was something of a slob, but Pivnick was absolutely disgusting. He simply never cleaned up anything. Not the apartment and not himself. He left food sitting out in his room until flies hovered. When he brushed his teeth, for the first time in months, his gums bled. And so on.

I hated living with him but, like you, I was also in college and not in a great position to move out. But at a certain point — right around the time we nearly came to blows over his attempt to touch my food after having used the bathroom — I just said to myself, ‘Nothing is worth having to spend another minute living like this.’

I went to the campus center and scoured the bulletin board for any possible escape route. I spent the next two weeks couch surfing then landed a spot on a semester abroad program. I left the country in such a hurry that my parents received all of two days notice.

No one who has other options should live in a space where you don’t feel at home.

And you know what? It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

No one who has other options should live in a space where you don’t feel at home.

Honestly, you don’t need me to supply you an answer. Your letter makes it perfectly clear what you need to do: get out. Yesterday. The real question here is why you have allowed yourself to live for months amid violence, squalor, anxiety and sleeplessness.

Rather than wasting any more energy on your infantile roommates and their various pathologies and partners, I’d be doing everything in your power to put together an exit strategy. This may take some doing. You may have to rely on the kindness of family and friends. But it beats living as you are now.

I promise you, the moment you no longer have to return to an apartment filled with chaos and filth and emotionally damaged people, you will realize how much your living conditions were dragging you down.

I wish you the best of luck!

Author's note: : I would love to hear from others who have been in apartments from hell. Tell us what it was like and how you got out of it. Please send your thoughts along in the comments section below. And hey, send a letter to Heavy Meddle, too. You can use this form, or send your questions via email. I may not have a helpful response, but the act of writing the letter itself might provide some clarity. — S.A.

Steve Almond is the author of the book "Against Football." He is the co-host, with Cheryl Strayed, of the WBUR podcast, Dear Sugar.


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