September is that time of year when a lot of things change. You might be starting school. You might be going back to school after a summer of pop-up parties and sunny picnics. AND…you might be moving out of the love-cradle that is your parents home.
Living with friends/strangers/Craigslist randoms who aren’t your sister/brother/parentals can be a frighteningly new experience. You’ll encounter things you could never have predicted. You will definitely learn more about it over time, and will possibly live with many many roomies, too. Sometimes you’ll have those moments where a $800 basement bachelor (i.e. tiny dank cube) seems more appealing than having to shoo your roommate’s fermenting dishes out of the way before buttering your toast. But living with people can also be a fun, enlightening experience full of friendly hang-times and support. Here are some tips for success from a veteran roommate co-habitator.
– Take a moment of introspection and think about some important factors when living with others. You are really just trying to share a space, and compromise what you can about your living style so everyone can be happy. I’ve found over the years that we are all such unique creatures, there aren’t any common rules you can ever assume someone will agree with. Make a list about:
-What is most important to you in your home (party house vs. no party house)?
-When you come home, what do you want your place to do for you?
-Whats your biggest pet peeve when it comes to your personal space or possessions?
-On a ‘clean’ scale of 1-10, how would you honestly rate yourself?
These things, among others, are important to know about yourself and are also great questions to ask potential roomies.
– Clean vs messy vs clean! Sometimes there’s just a fundamental difference between two people’s opinions of what is “clean” and what is “messy.” Figuring out where you’re at with all this domestic stuff and chatting about it beforehand can really help to find a better-suited bunch to live with. Don’t bother lying, you’ll just end up resenting your roommates or having them resent you. Better to ask now and find out it’s not a good match beforehand, rather then when all hell breaks loose and one day your kitchen is covered with passive-aggressive post-it notes.
– Communication! Good communication is everything. Things will never be perfect and you will encounter problems. I’ve found whats more important is how you deal with them. Respect and honesty are very important. And in this digital age, finding the right method can be its own task. When you have opposite class or work schedules, some roomies prefer text, others hate it. Not being able to hear tone of voice when reminding someone its their turn to clean the bathroom can cause way more trouble than needed. When in doubt, find a way to talk in person.
– Sometimes, waiting can be a very important factor. As hard as it is, try not to act on anything right away when you’re fuming. Your anger may be perfectly valid, but confronting someone in the heat of the moment can often not solve the problem, and it may damage the relationship beyond repair. If you feel really pissed about something and need to talk to your roomy, try a few things first to chill out, like go for a walk or run, take a yoga class, write in your journal, call your mom, or simply sleep on it. You can always bring it up with them tomorrow, but if you get lost in the heat of the moment and mistakenly bring up all kinds of mean things, it can bite you in the bum at a later date i.e. this city is not as big as you think.
– Bringing things up after the first or second time they bugged you can be soooo much better than waiting many months until this once-small annoyance has snowballed inside your head. Don’t wait until the day you curse to yourself everytime you come across your roomies Facebook status update.
– Sometimes it can just be best to keep things with roomies business casual. You’re not rude to them, but you’re not engaging in daily heart-to-hearts either. Do you really need to become BFFs with every roommate? You may be eager too, but it can create messy situations down the road. When you develop a strong friendsie bond with someone but still share a living space, it can make it all-the-more delicate to bring up things that are annoying you, without offending them personally. It’s effed up my friend circle before yo, that’s all I’m saying.
– If there have been unkind words over time, disagreements or just general tension building up, sometimes it can help to just put it all aside, let it all go and organize a friendly potluck dinner at your place (with other friends invited if you want) or go out all together for beers every once in awhile.
Good luck to all, and to all a clean kitchen!