Co-habitating Harmoniously

Living on your own is an exciting first step into adulthood but chances are, you’ve probably got a roommate – and that’s okay! Having a roommate around isn’t such a bad thing when you actually make an effort to make it work. First and foremost, having a roommate helps you save on rent and with rising living costs, that’s a pretty big bonus. Having a roommate also adds an extra sense of security and mostly keep the anxieties of living all by yourself at bay. Did you forget to turn off your straightener before rushing to class? Locked yourself out? Heard a weird noise outside your window? Cultivating a healthy relationship with your roommate can help ease those worries, especially if it’ll be your first endeavor living away from home.

Whether you’re moving into a dorm or moving into your own place, moving in with your best friend, or moving in with a stranger – you’re still going to have to navigate through some pretty common roommate problems. Here are a few tips to help you resolve them and even avoid some of them in the long run!

Set clear expectations from the start. If you already know who you’re rooming or moving in with, that makes this first step a whole lot easier. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your roommate. After all, you two are basically gonna be living your lives within pretty close proximity of each other. Your best friend may already know and understand your quirks and weird habits, but you can’t expect the same from someone you just met.

Maybe you’re a night owl and your roomie’s a morning person, or you prefer study music whereas your roomie needs complete silence. Try asking people who have lived with you, maybe your siblings or even your parents, about little habits you have that you may not even have noticed you had. Talking about these things beforehand eliminates accidentally setting off your roommate and vice versa.

Here are some things you may want to talk about beforehand:

  • Sleeping habits and schedules
  • Bathroom habits (Do you steam up the shower? Take frequent baths? etc.)
  • Definition of what is considered to be clean and organized/dirty and messy
  • Eating habits (Are you a late night snacker? Vegan? Allergic to anything?)
  • Pet peeves

Talk about finances. This doesn’t just apply to rent and utilities if you’re getting your own place – this means talking about groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and just about anything that two people need to purchase in order to live in their own place. If you’re moving into an apartment, maybe you need to talk about buying living room furniture or appliances and how you might wanna break down the cost. Maybe you absolutely want a coffee maker but your roomie doesn’t even drink coffee – it most likely isn’t reasonable to ask them to pitch in for a Keurig. Or conversely, if your roomie thinks it’s a good idea to get a toaster and you know you’re probably gonna use it once in a while – don’t expect them to foot the bill just cause it’s their idea.

Whether you split the bill in half on every communal item or offer to purchase different items with equivalent values, always remember to be fair. Also, keep in mind your roommate’s preferences when it comes to groceries. If it’s your turn to go grocery shopping, don’t ‘forget’ the almond milk when you know they’re lactose intolerant. Or if you know a certain laundry soap irritates their skin, don’t change it up all of a sudden. Be considerate and be mindful and make sure to communicate your needs too. Living with another person and creating a harmonious relationship with them means compromise. 

Here are some things you may want to talk about beforehand:

  • Groceries: will you shop together? is it a rotating schedule? how will you get reimbursed?
  • What are things you’re willing to pay for?
  • What are things you’re not willing to pay for?
  • If you’re splitting cost on certain big ticket items like a couch or a dining table, how do you determine who keeps what at the end of the lease?

Respect their stuff. This ties in with the finances talk you should’ve already had. If you didn’t pay for it, it’s not yours. Or even if you did at least pay for half, it belongs to both of you. Don’t use or ‘borrow’ anything that isn’t yours without asking and if it’s understood that it’s a communal item, don’t hog it. That’s just common courtesy.

Here are some communal items/things you may want to be considerate of:

  • TV time
  • Netflix, Hulu, and other shareable accounts (Just cause your roomie logged into the account on your smart TV, it doesn’t automatically mean you can use it. Ask first and offer to split the cost).
  •  Desk space/study space (Some school projects take up a lot of space, or sometimes you just need your notes sprawled out for reference, be considerate of where you choose to do so, especially if it’s in a communal space like the living room or dining room table).

Be mindful of guests you bring over. Your place is your roommate’s place too; your home is their home. Things can get especially dicey when you’re living in dorms and you’re sharing the same room. As a rule of thumb, always ask your roommate if you can have people over – or at the minimum, give them a heads up. If you know your roommate is feeling under the weather or has to cram for an exam, be considerate. Also, entertain the idea that your roommate doesn’t necessarily want to be around your friends (or significant other) all the time – nor do they necessarily have to like them.

Here are some things you may want to talk about beforehand:

  • How many people at any given time are allowed over?
  • How much notice do you need to give? Day before? Day of? A quick text before right before you and friends show up?
  • Where are your guests allowed? (If you have separate bedrooms, your roomie’s bedroom is a given ‘off-limit’ space but what about if you share the same room?)
  • Are there any days you absolutely don’t want people over? (Maybe you have an 8am class the next day or you have to go to work early the next day.)

Safety first! Again, your home is their home too. Always remember to lock your doors – you’re not just protecting your stuff, you’re protecting theirs too.

Set reasonable expectations regarding household roles and duties. This category includes the dreaded task of chores. But when you look at it from the glass-half-full perspective, if you lived by yourself you’d have to do all the chores yourself. Find a system that works for both of you – and keep in mind that just because you choose to do a task at the beginning, it doesn’t mean you both are locked into it forever. And most people understand that sometimes life gets in the way – times like that is when it’s especially important to remember to communicate and compromise. Being in college sometimes means that your days aren’t all the same; some days you work late, some days you don’t have class, and some days your schedule is all kinds of messed up. That’s okay, just make sure you let your roommate know when you can’t do a certain chore on a certain day but also offer a solution. For example, if Friday is vacuuming day but you’ll be gone from early in the morning to late at night, communicate that to your roomie and maybe offer to do it on Saturday or offer to switch tasks.

Be open to change. A harmonious home requires a lot of commitment from both sides. Most times this means creating a plan and sticking to it and reassessing the plan once in a while to see if it still works. Having a roommate is like being in a platonic relationship with someone – in a perfect world, partnerships are 50/50. But in reality, some days it’s 60/40 or even 80/20.

Own up to your mistakes. It’s one thing to do something you didn’t realize would bother your roommate; it’s another thing to do something you know would bother your roommate and not tell them. If you break something, let them know, offer to fix it, or even offer to replace it.

Fix the small problems before they snowball into big problems. It’s typically the little things that go unchecked that create the perfect conditions for harbored resentment. Roomie doesn’t finish their water bottles before starting a new one? Yeah, it’s mildly annoying, but one day you’ll wake up to a sea of half-finished water bottles in your living room and you won’t know how to cope. Do you choose to get upset over something as frivolous as water-bottles, or do you dump them all in a trash bag seething with resentment? Neither option is ideal, so nip it in the bud before they jump on your last nerve.

Often times, people don’t even realize their habits are slowly picking at you. Let your roomie know, but also be kind about it. How you say things is equally as important as what you say. If you come at your roommate with guns blazing over something that seems so insignificant, you can’t possibly expect them to take you seriously.

Be open to constructive dialogue. Communication is a two-way street. Yeah, you’re detailing all of your expectations and are quick to nip your roommate’s bad habits in the bud, but also give them the space to speak their opinions. If you’re bringing up your roomie’s water bottle habit, allow them to bring up any pet peeves they may have about you – like, say, leaving q-tips on the bathroom counter or wearing dirty shoes on the carpet.

Always remember the Golden Rule: Treat your roommate how you want to be treated. It may seem obvious to you what your needs are, but your roommate isn’t a mind reader. A healthy roommate relationship includes lots of communication, compromise, and commitment to making it work.

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