You’re a grown-ass woman, and you live with a few others, maybe even with one or two grown-ass men (they exist) (They are in their 30s, or gay. Sorry, straight men in your 20s.) Co-habitating can be the best a household of family you choose yourself and whose clothes and food you can borrow and who are totally down to spend Saturday night watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch on DVD under twelve duvets instead of that thing at that gallery that you know lots of people in sheer tops will be at or it can be the worst a passive aggressive collection of spouses you don’t even want to have sex with who are constantly eating your yogurt and leaving their shoes in the living room, which is supposed to be common space and therefore tidier than that.
I have lived at 11 different addresses in 3 different countries (#nomadbrag), so I’ve seen most of it, if not “it all”, roommates-wise, and I have an okay idea of how to make it work no matter who you’re living with. So, whether you’re moving in with your best friends from high school and it’s your first university house and it feels like life will NEVER be better or you’ve been through four shitty apartments in the past two years and you’re about to move into a shared basement with some strangers off of craigslist, let’s talk it out. Starting now:
Do the boring talk thing, immediately
Save the uptight one the trouble of constantly having to point out whose turn it is to buy garbage bags, and yourself from having to launch a full-scale inquiry into who exactly is taking your milk one tea-sized serving at a time by talking all the house expectations out at one big, welcome-to-the-house meeting. It’s not a fun time, but you can do group bonding exercises after business has been tended to. If you’ve been living together for a while and things are not working out, a meeting like this can really nip any brewing tensions in the bud.
Decide what kind of roommate you are anal retentive, laissez-faire, always bringin’ boys home and be aware of the pros/cons of it. If you’re always bringin’ boys home, you pretty much can never complain if someone has a raucous night of passion while you’re trying to study… you’re always bringin’ boys home! If you’re extremely anal retentive you are basically not allowed to be messy, ever. How annoying would you be then? The most annoying, is the answer.
Do not cut up someone’s loofah and strew it among their bedsheets without saying anything just because the person whose bed it is threw out your gross old washcloth that had been festering in a corner of the shower forever and ever and they were trying to do something nice by cleaning the bathroom FOR ONCE.
F’real. Don’t do that
Clean more than you would if you lived on your own
So you know how the Friends all lived together and it was generally pretty fine or like the problems were that someone bought a duck? They never showed Chandler and Joey sharing vacuum duties, or Monica leaving Rachel a series of increasingly passive aggressive notes re: crumbs. Maybe they did, I’m not overly-familiar with Friends outside of the phrase Mrs. Chanandler Bong which is perfect, the end, good job TV you can go to sleep now, but there is no such thing as too clean when you’re living with other people. 98% of domestic problems are dish-based. It works like this: 1 person’s dish x 5 = a sink full of gross old dishes, and then the laziest housemate pretends they “can’t even remember” whose dishes are whose, and then they never get done, and you all starve to death and your house becomes a crypt. Avoid this problem by being careful about cleaning.
Someone’s bad habits might be different to yours but you probably do something you don’t even know about that makes your housemates want to shave your head in your sleep. You can’t freak out if someone says “I don’t like tea bags, can you not leave them in the sink,” because then they’ll freak out when you say “I don’t like you borrowing my shirts without asking and then putting them back like you never wore them in the first place.” Part of living with people is letting go of your individual living style and finding a new, group style that works for this particular collection of individuals. Move past your need to take five hour baths and you can bet your flatmate will find it easier to turn down their music when it’s vibrating the whole house, clean out the fridge when all their food’s gone off, or not bring their drug friends around anymore because that guy with the face tattoo makes you uncomfortable.
If your boyfriend is over all the time and your roomies seem cool with it, why not just ask them for suresies to make sure they really are? Because you guys have all read this guide and are following the above “chill out” tip, it will be easy for Roommate A to tell you that she and Roommate B would prefer if he contributed to the utilities bill since he is constantly showering/doing laundry/having sex with the lights on in your house. Even if you know something like having an out of town friend sleep on the couch or cooking a big meal for your work buds is going to be fine with your flatmates, it’s never a bad idea to shoot them a quick text or email before you make those plans, so that they feel consulted and everyone is on the same page.
Do not leave a used pad in a container of old poutine and then move out of the house secretly in the night to live with your boyfriend, leaving the pad/poutine mixture to mould for a few weeks before being discovered by the rest of your housemates in your now-deserted bedroom.
I told you I’ve seen it all.
No BFF No Problem
You don’t have to be best best friends with your roomies. In fact, you don’t even have to like them (it’s recommended that you do, though). You just have to respect each other’s deals and personal space/needs. Don’t stress if you and your housemates aren’t partying together every weekend or cooking cute family dinners like your next door neighbours. If you’ve worked out a co-habitant equilibrium that involves rarely hanging out or only having life catch ups once in a while, that’s totally fine and you could do worse. (See above loofah/poutine stories.)
This entire list boils down basically to: be considerate, communicate with each other and divide responsibilities evenly and fairly. You can do that, right? Of course you can. Usually. And if you fuck up, baking something delicious never hurts. Happy home-making!
Follow Monica on twitter: @monicaheisey
Read more of Monica’s Grown-Ass Woman guides on having big cans, working from home, appearing wealthy, dealing with rude-os, being sick, getting other people’s parents to like you, getting shit done, your face, sneak-cercise saying no, twitter, talking about your body anxieties, hangover maintenance, vintage clothes, how to have a long-distance relationship, sounding smart at cocktail parties, and packing to disappear.