As someone who’s made it through college and is now living in a city where it’s nearly impossible to afford an apartment without a roommate, I’ve certainly learned a lot about living with people. Through several horror stories and some bright successes, I’ve compiled some key tips for living with roommates without killing each other.
1. The “Don’t Live With Friends” Rule Is Wrong
One of the best living experiences I’ve ever had was with my best friend. People say not to live with your best friends because it could potentially end poorly, but setting this rule as a hard guideline is a little silly. You know your best friend probably better than they know themselves; if you see traits in them that you could see being catastrophic in a living situation (they wait a week before washing their dishes, whereas you clean yours immediately), then don’t live with them. If you and your best friend are aligned in cleanliness, lifestyles, and values, there’s no real reason why living together is a bad idea. And if it doesn’t work out, most often you two have a strong enough relationship to be understanding.
2. Set Expectations
No matter who you’re living with, it’s essential to set expectations. If you want a clean kitchen at all times, express that to your roomies so they know. If you hate when people are over after classes or work on the weekdays, communicate that the weekday evenings for you are relaxation time. Without clearly saying what you want in a home, it’s impossible for your roomies to know when they’re making you upset or acting in a way you see as inconsiderate. Encourage an open dialogue between roomies, where each can express their expectations and all of you can work together to compromise on some loose rules for the house to follow. Nothing will be a mystery and it will clear up unknown tension within the house.
3. Speak Up
I never told my roommates when something they did pissed me off in college. I would simmer for weeks, giving them the cold shoulder or exploding to my friends about how terrible they were. Not mature at all and definitely not constructive towards creating a better living situation. Don’t be afraid to ask your roomie to wash their dishes or clean the bathroom if you are the only one doing it. It’s your home too, after all. But keep it casual; say something like “hey! In the future, could you avoid hosting people on Wednesdays? I have a class at 8 am on Thursdays :(” Even if you’re upset, it’s important to speak in a calm way to avoid any feelings of being attacked. Speak up now and avoid an all-out explosion later.
4. Don’t Keep Score
With any relationship, keeping score is the easiest path to destruction. Don’t refuse to take out the trash because you’ve done it the last 5 times. Maybe instead of taking out the trash, your roomie has been doing different chores that equally contribute to a clean household. If you only count what your roommate isn’t doing, you’re bound to hold resentment and anger that makes it impossible to be happy. Instead of keeping score, ask your roomies to help out if they haven’t been pitching in.
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Craigslist
I found a pretty perfect roommate on Craigslist. I know the site has a sketchy connotation, but the roommate game on Craigslist is really a bit like eHarmony. Those looking for roommates post pictures of a house and what they are like, most often requesting the answers to a few questions in a response email. I emailed so many houses with details about who I was, what I liked, my hobbies and interests, and even favorite TV shows to binge watch. Those who thought I would be a good fit for the house invited me to tour, where I met who I would be living with and saw the room I would be occupying. The roommates are interviewing you at the same time you’re interviewing them, and I got lucky enough to find one who mutually thought we would get along. Craigslist is the easiest place to find one bedrooms in a house already occupied by 2 or 3 other people, so if you’re a single person it’s your best bet. But be sure to always meet the roommates before you move in. And it’s usually a good idea to bring a friend along when your tour for safety purposes and a second opinion.
6. Know When To Move Out
Some people just cannot live together, no matter how hard you try to compromise. It’s not worth your happiness and sanity to continue living with someone that makes you consistently unhappy. I’ve been in many situations where coming home was like entering a cave of rage and it absolutely made my life miserable. Home is supposed to be an escape where you feel comfortable and can wear sweatpants and eat cookie dough. You shouldn’t be clenching your fists the second you walk in the door. And don’t be stubborn about moving out either. The “why should I have to be the one to move out” mentality is dumb; you should move out because you’re unhappy. Unless your name is the only one on the lease, trying to kick out a roommate isn’t worth it. Just pack up your things and move on.