Roommate Survival Guide
I’ll never forget my first roommate. I’d spent months imaging us staying up late gossiping and going out for coffee together on the weekends. We were going to be best friends, of course, I just knew it. This did not go as planned. I quickly learned my new roommate already had a set of close friends, and she didn’t really want anything to do with me. There might as well have been an invisible line across the room which we never, ever crossed.
I’ve come a long way since my first roommate days. I’d like to say it got better after my first match, but I’d be lying. It definitely got worse before it got better, but 5 roommates later and I finally feel like some kind of roommate expert. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the completely outrageous (AKA the time my roommate kept smelly spices under her bed for months). Living with a roommate isn’t easy. Actually, if you’re an only child like me, I’d say it’s sometimes the worst. But if you’re smart and follow this roommate guide, you’ll survive your year together and might even make new friends in the process!
The Curse of Friends
In almost every area of your life, it pays to have close friends. This is not true for roommates. After having 3 randomly assigned roommates, I decided to move in with my best friend in my second year of college. We were so close! What could go wrong?
Everything went wrong. I no longer have that friend, and while our split wasn’t entirely due to our roommate-ship, it definitely made everything worse. I’m not saying you shouldn’t room with your friends, but I am saying to do so cautiously. Living with someone is hard enough already. The closer you are to a person, the more likely they’ll get on your nerves. Do you really want to risk your friendship?
It’s best to choose a roommate who matches your living preferences. If you’re a late riser, you probably don’t want to live with someone who gets up at the crack of dawn and makes loud smoothies every day. Similarly, if you know you need a clean space, you don’t want to room with someone who’s never done their own laundry. When searching for a roommate, keep these things in mind to be off to a better start from day one!
Talk Finances First
My first dramatic roommate split was over finances. We had agreed on paying a certain amount each, but things changed and it didn’t work out that way. Finances are hard enough when you’re living in your first student apartment or house, but it’s even harder when you have to split things like bills and rent.
Nobody likes to talk about finances. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but you’ve got to do it. Save yourself a future headache and have that financial talk with your roommate or roommates early on. Talk about how much you’ll each pay every month, and who is responsible for paying each bill. You might not always split things equally, but make sure you’re all in agreement. Even better, get it in writing and keep a bill schedule in a common area so you all have a reminder of your agreement.
Choose Your Battles
You’re going to have disagreements with your roommate. No matter how much you get along or how great you are together, things will come up. Prepare for these moments by choosing your battles wisely. Is it really worth getting upset over every little thing? Is it really a huge problem that your roommate leaves her shoes by the doors sometimes after work? Does it really bother you that much that your roommate doesn’t clean her dishes until the morning?
You’ll quickly learn that not everything is worth the hassle. When you live together, it’s pretty hard to hide from your roommate. Save the confrontation for things that you really think are important. Having a roommate means learning to not sweat the small stuff. These little things aren’t as big as you think, and odds are you have some habits that annoy your roommates just as much.
Agree on Chores
If this is your first time living away from home like it is for most students, you might find some chores are new to you. Nobody wants to do chores, but someone has to. Odds are you want to share these with your roommates. Sit down when you first move in together and agree on who’s responsible for what and when. Create a list of everything that has to be done each week like washing the dishes, taking out the trash, or vacuuming the floor. Divide these up equally so everyone has something they’re responsible for in the space.
Work together to keep the place in good shape. That means cleaning up after yourself and maintaining the common areas. Nobody likes coming home to someone else’s mess. If you’re a messy person, keep the chaos to your own private space. When you share a living space, everyone has to pull their own weight or the whole environment suffers.
Respect Each Other
Basically, all roommate conflicts come down to respect. If you respect your roommate, you’ll probably get respect back. If you don’t, you’ll want to reconsider your living situation. Some examples of being respectful mean keeping your music turned down when you know your roommate is sleeping or asking before you use your roommate’s last cup of milk. A little bit of respect goes a long way when sharing a living space!
Make the Most of Your Living Situation
Living with roommates isn’t always ideal, especially if you’re used to having your own space. Sharing student housing or a local apartment is a good way to save money and meet new people, but it can also be frustrating. Learning how to make the most of your life with roommates while in university is key to becoming an adult! It might not come easy, but with some effort, you might find your new best friend!