Are you leaving home for the first time? Are you starting college? Moving into your first apartment? Going into dorm life? Chances are you'll be living with roommates. Maybe one day, the time will come to live on your own, but today is not that day.
I've had roommates I've chosen, random roommates, and even tried living with a best friend. If you've ever been my roommate, please know that I'm not trying to @ you. I'm lucky to have overall good roomies because we all tried to act with common sense and respect. Follow these simple tips for your best chance at harmony in your new home.
1. For the love of all things good, do your dishes.
If there's anything I've learned from my mom, it's that dirty dishes go in the left sink and sometimes you just gotta let a gross pan soak for a while. Take care of your dishes when you're done with them or at least within the same day. It's okay to let that gross pan soak for a while, but it won't need longer than overnight. A whole week is excessive. If you have a dishwasher, contribute to unloading it regularly. Consistency is key here. If you show that you are responsible for your own dishes consistently, it won't be as big of a deal if you do forget for a couple days. (But don't take advantage of this mindset either.)
2. Contribute to cleaning tasks regularly.
Figure out the vacuum and get cleaning. Now I've had roomies who are cleaning machines and it's always such a blessing to discover this fact about someone. But you never know how neat your roomie will be so air on the side of caution and establish some standards. Make a cleaning schedule if you need to! Take out the trash when it's full. Keep in control of your clutter as well.
3. Keep the noise levels to a minimum after 9pm.
Your roomie might be going to bed or working on a paper due the next day. If you get the luxury of having a night in watching Netflix with some ice cream, keep that volume at a reasonable level. Try silent screaming at your video games. Headphones are your friend. Your friends there hanging out with you can be respectful and talk at normal volumes.
4. Give a heads up when you're having people over.
Don't waltz in with a party or welcome your roomie home to a rave they weren't expecting. You shouldn't have to ask permission to live your life, but a simple text to let your roomie know there will be other people in your place will be appreciated. This also gives them the chance to say, "hey, I'm cramming for an exam that night, is there any way you can hang out somewhere else?" It also gives you the chance to say, "hey, I'm having a game night with some friends and you can join us if you're free!"
Communication. Is. Key. If you take nothing else from this list, hear me say that. If you have more than one roommate, set up a group chat. Don't be shy about what you want to say. If you find yourself thinking, "should I let my roommates know?" you probably should let them know. You may have expectations for your roomies that they don't realize because you never communicated this to them. Maybe they have expectations for you and you need some clarification. It's okay to be laid back—please, don't be too high maintenance. But healthy communication is the secret to any relationship, including with your roommates.
6. Keep the noise levels to a minimum before 7am.
Just like number 3, be respectful if you or your roomie has a different schedule. Maybe you get up for work before the sun, but try to set up things you need the night before to minimize noise on the way out. And if you're leaving for work at 5am, don't shake one of those blender bottles for your protein shake until you're in the car and on your way.
7. Help get rid of the spider.
Whether you kill it or let it outside, just help get it away. It's a team effort and bonding experience. You can do this. I believe in you.
8. Give each other space if you need it.
Sometimes it can be tough to come home after a long day and still have to deal with human interaction (especially for introverts). Reading people's moods or emotions is a good skill to have, but especially when you live with other people. You wouldn't want someone to invade your personal space when you just want to be a couch potato, so don't intrude on your roomie's well being. Well, maybe just let them know there's extra ice cream in the freezer.
9. Clean out the fridge every couple months.
Food left alone for too long starts to smell bad. The trick is to not let the smell get out of hand by throwing out all the old stuff you forgot about and definitely don't want to eat now. If things do start to get a little rank, mix some water with tomato paste and use it to sponge the inside of the fridge. You can also put lemon extract on cotton balls and scatter them on the shelves or leave an open box of baking soda in there indefinitely.
10. Split costs when you can.
Living is expensive. Figure out what household items you need—vacuum, pots and pans, cleaning supplies—and if none of you have them, try and split the cost to buy them. Just make sure you communicate who gets to keep the at the end of the lease if any of you move out. If you really like the vacuum you guys decide to buy, offer to pay back the other shares at the end of the lease so you can keep it.
11. Don't be a weirdo.
I may not have dealt with the craziest of roomies over my college years, but that doesn't mean they aren't out there. This doesn't have to be you! Be yourself, but be normal where it counts. Say hi and bye. Don't give each other unrealistic expectations. And use common sense.
No matter the situation, your roommates will never be perfect. But you're not off the hook either. You will never be the perfect roommate because there really is no such thing. All we can do is try our best and maybe make some friends along the way.