How To Navigate A Successful Roommate Situation
Living with other people is awkward at best, and horrific at worst. Moving out is a huge change as it is, but to then have to consider an entire other person (or multiple other people) is a situation most of us have never encountered before. For many of us entering the “real world,” we’re used to having laundry washed and folded, food just appearing in the cupboards, and never considering a “water” bill (doesn’t it just come out of the taps?).
I moved into my first apartment at age 17, breaking the cardinal rule of “never live with friends.” My best friend and I shared a one-bedroom apartment, which created a pretty small living space. Still, we stayed roommates (moving on to three different places after that) for five years, because we made it work. A few months ago, I moved into a place with two different friends, and have been navigating a whole new situation. As a fairly seasoned roommate, here are my tips on successfully sharing space!
1. Be Upfront About What You Want and What You’re Like
I am a messy roommate. This sucks, but it’s true. And to be honest, you are likely a shitty roommate in some way, too. It’s like group projects or driving – everyone thinks that everyone else sucks. Most likely, you suck too. And that’s okay, recognize it and move on.
My roommates knew in advance that I am not a super tidy person, so they had the decision to either accept that or not live with me. I didn’t pretend to be a neat freak and then surprise them with towels on the floor. Before agreeing to move in together, talk about what is important to you and what isn’t. Some people like to share food, some people don’t. Some people need a super quiet environment, some people don’t. There are friends that I love to death that I would never live with, because I know it’d be horrible. Be realistic about the fact that you would be sharing a space with this person ALL THE TIME.
2. Make Chore Lists – and Then Realize They Won’t Work
In theory, a chore list is great – and it’s awesome to have an idea of who will do what and when. But they rarely last, because life doesn’t always allow for it – some weeks, I can absolutely stay on top of my chores, but other times are just too busy. Recognize that this will happen to your roommates, too. Dishes don’t always get done immediately after eating, sometimes vacuuming falls to the wayside. Relaxing a little bit and trying not to get bent out of shape about the small stuff can really help.
3. Help Each Other Out
If you’re doing laundry, and your load isn’t full, ask if they need anything washed. Do their dishes every once in a while. Make meals together. If you know your roommate is swamped with homework, and you have time, do some extra chores. Friendly acts like that keep the house light and if your roommate is a decent person, will likely be reciprocated when you need it.
4. Pay Your Rent On Time
Nothing turns a roommate situation sour faster than money issues. If your roommate is in charge of paying the bills, don’t make them ask for money. Set up an auto-transfer, or write it in your calendar, or something. Just don’t make them beg for money they’re entitled to, and don’t mess up their finances by making them cover you for stuff. If you’re close friends and they understand you’re short, maybe they’ll be able to help out – but never expect it or put them in the situation of having to hunt you down for cash.
Communication is the root of so many roommate problems. Not telling your roommate that you love to practice the drums at midnight, or that your boyfriend sleeps over five nights a week, or that the rent cheque you wrote bounced… most roommates are reasonable, accommodating people. If you want to have houseguests for a week or want them to start doing their own dishes, TELL THEM. So many roommate issues spur out of passive-aggressiveness, and while that can be satisfying, it can also be useless and petty. Renting your own place is a signifier of being an adult, so act like one. If your roommate can’t do the same, get a new roommate. Life is too short to deal with overgrown children.
6. Have Fun
Living with other people, despite the many warnings, can be awesome. It’s comforting to know that somebody’s home when you’re up late. My roommates and I have tons of fun, watching movies or making dinner together or hanging out in the backyard. I am so grateful to live with friends as I have built-in social time whenever I leave my room. If you get along, make plans to hang out every once in a while – not only is it fun, but it will make it easier to deal with any problems that arise.
How do you make things work with your roommates? Do you prefer living with friends, or strangers? Share with us in the comments below!
Written by Emma Tarver