After all the scrambling to get in deposits and paperwork and an agonizing two days waiting to hear back from the landlord, we were pretty relieved to get a text from our realtor sharing the good news. For a split second, it really felt like the hard part was over.
Reality will always swing back around to smack you in the face. The initial financial and legal stuff was hardly the most trying part of this process. Now, we actually have to live together. And with living together comes arguments, annoyances, and aggression.
People always warn you not to live with friends, and with good reason. Living with other people is difficult, no matter how much you love each other or how patient you are. When you are sharing your personal and private living space with someone else, their flaws (and yours!) quickly come to the surface.
Since we want our transition into this new home to go as smoothly as possible, my friends and I have done a few things to prepare ourselves for sharing a living space.
First, and maybe most importantly, set boundaries with your roommates. If you need an hour of alone time in the mornings, be upfront about that. Don't just expect your friends to know that about you, and then get mad when they're trying to have a conversation over your 8 AM coffee. You need to communicate your needs if you expect them to be met.
You also need to learn how to compromise. Maybe you need that alone time in the morning but your roommate needs to make smoothies before they leave early for work. Maybe you both have a show that airs Wednesday nights at 7 and you only have one TV. Compromise: wear headphones in the morning or keep the doors closed, switch off on weekly TV dibs. Learn to be flexible and accommodating of other people and they will do the same for you.
Another key element of a healthy roommate situation is laying down general expectations. You should all have an idea of who is going to handle what responsibilities. Do you want to divide up household chores by type, do you want to rotate them, or do you expect everyone to clean up their own messes in a timely manner? What about shared spaces like the bathroom?
I don't necessarily recommend a strict chore schedule unless that has worked for all of you in the past, only because life is unpredictable, and schedules or personal issues can interfere. Instead, I've found it's most helpful to dictate which common areas are shared responsibilities and to figure out a system of division that works best for you. Whether that means everyone pitching in once a week to scrub down the apartment, or just trusting everyone to take initiative and do a chore that they feel has been neglected, find what works best for you and those you live with.
Another difficult but important thing is sitting down with your roommates to establish guidelines. Again, strict rules aren't usually useful. Instead, try to come to general agreements about noise, guests, and behavior. Common courtesy is a good rule of thumb for these types of expectations. Give your roommates a heads up about guests, turn down your music if you're asked to, be conscious of how long you used shared appliances for (shower, oven, tv). It's really as simple as being considerate of one another.
Finally, try your best to figure out how you want to divvy up bills and expenses before you move in. Are you dividing bills equally each month? If not, on what basis are you splitting them up? Will you be paying rent separately or all together? What about shared goods like toilet paper or paper towels? Settle these things before you move in so you're not scrambling at the end of the month to come up with the money you need.
It would also be helpful to divide up the costs of shared furniture so that no one person is responsible for furnishing the entire living room while everyone else brings a few cups and a wastebasket. It's wise to have everyone buy an equitable amount of bigger pieces (shelving, tables, chairs) so that you're all contributing equally, and so that everyone has their own things to keep once they eventually move out.
The key to living with friends is being honest with one another. Speak up if you are upset by how one of your roommates is acting, and also be open to feedback on your own behavior. Clear, calm, and non-accusatory communication will be key in settling disputes and finding solutions. There will be bumps in the road for sure, but the chance to make great memories living with people you love makes it all worth it.