hile many people do opt to live with a roommate while they're working toward a degree, more and more people are living with a roommate (or roommates!) after college as well. Whatever your reason for finding a roomies -- whether you're moving in with a friend just for fun, trying to cut down on the cost of renting an apartment, or taking the next step with a romantic partner -- there are a few things you can do to make sure living together goes well. Check out our guide for navigating the potentially challenging parts of living with other people as an adult.
Get to Know Each Other Before You Move in Together
There can be something thrilling about moving to a new place where you don’t know a single soul. If you are moving to a new place, however, and you’re planning on moving in with a roommate you’ve never met before, you should probably try to get to know them a bit before you fully make the decision to move in together.
No matter how nice a person looks on paper, sometimes your personalities just don’t mesh well enough to make for a satisfying living situation. You might just be trying to save on money by moving into a new place in an area you already live, but even so, you’ll want to make sure that whoever you make your new roommate--whether they’re a complete stranger or a good friend--is someone you’ll be able to get along with in close quarters.
You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate, but you should be able to be amicable when you’re in the same room, and to hold a conversation for more than two minutes. If you have the opportunity, try to meet up with your prospective roommate in person. Oftentimes, you can learn more about a person by sitting down with them and seeing their mannerisms than you can by just communicating via text.
If you’re moving to a completely new area, however, and you really don’t know anyone, do whatever it is you can to get to know your prospective roommate before you move in with them. Whether that be getting to know about them through texts or, even better, Skyping, try to learn as much as you can about them before you move in and find out that your personalities just don’t mesh.
Talk About Your Boundaries Early On
When you move in--or even before you move in--establishing any boundaries that you and your roommate are going to have while you live together early on will help to nip any future conflicts in the bud before they can occur.
Talk about your rules for having guests over. Are you both okay with guests coming in and out as either of you pleases, or would you rather be given a heads up beforehand? How far in advance should you announce your guests? How long can your guests stay? Knowing your answers to these questions and learning your roommate’s will give you the opportunity to compromise and come to an agreement about the guests that are going to be coming in and out of your shared space.
Maybe you and your roommate will be perfectly fine with sharing food and just splitting the grocery bill in half, but don’t assume that this will be the case without even talking about it. How much--if any--of your food are you going to share? Similarly, will you be open to sharing any meals you make together? Discuss your boundaries about food, and definitely don’t take anything without asking first unless you establish that it’s okay.
Clean Up After Yourself
Whenever you’re living with another person, it’s important to remember that some spaces are going to be shared. The kitchen, the main living room, and in most cases the bathroom are all spaces that you’re going to be sharing, so make sure that you’re doing your part to keep those shared spaces clean.
If you don’t establish a set of rules when it comes to doing dishes, you and your roommate might find yourself in some heated arguments. Not many people really enjoy doing the dishes, but they’re still necessary, regardless. Usually the best way to make sure everyone stays happy when it comes to doing any household chores is to make sure that everyone truly cleans up after themselves--which means you’ll all be in charge of washing your own dishes.
That being said, another satisfactory option might be to set up a schedule for each of you to do all the dishes in the sink. Maybe one of you does Mondays and the other does Thursdays. Whatever you decide on just make sure that the dishes are being done and that no one is consistently pulling more weight than the other person unless you’ve divied up other chores so that it balances out. You don’t want a roommate who resents you.
Especially when you’re living in an apartment, bathrooms tend to run on the small side--and if you’re sharing one with another person, this might mean you have even less room for clutter than you’d like. Shampoo bottles, soap, contact cases and solution, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and various medicine cabinet items can begin to add up. And when there are two or more of you, it can make for a particularly cluttered space. Making sure you do your part to keep all of your things organized will help to lower everyone’s stress levels.
Respect Your Roommate’s Time and Space
You and your roommate are bound to need some time alone or apart every now and then. No matter how well you get along, you’ll both probably find times when you’ll want--and sometimes even need--your own time and space. If you both respect this, you’ll be happier overall.
Designated Quiet Hours
When there are two or more people living in the same space, it can be difficult to manage simple things like the sound and activity going on around you. Oddly enough, people--as living, autonomous beings--make noise. If you are a student or you work from home, however, it might be a good idea to set up a block of designated quiet hours, however, so that you can feel comfortable and focused doing work in your own home.
You could also be operating on different schedules--to the point of having completely opposite sleep schedules. Knowing when to be respectful of your roommate’s biological need to sleep will prevent any 2a.m. screaming matches that set off the neighbor’s dog. Ahem.
Designated Personal Spaces
You should both also make sure you establish certain areas where you can spend time alone and away from each other. Your bedrooms are usually the best place for this, but you can also work out a schedule of times to be in the shared rooms of the house if you’d like to. The bath, for instance, is a great time to spend some time alone, but make sure you’ve worked out when you’re going to be using the bath so you aren’t locking them out of the bathroom for three hour blocks of time.
You might find that uncontrollable life forces come at your roommate over the course of the time you live together. Sometimes, life gets hard, and it can leave people feeling at a loss and make it difficult for them to do some things that would normally be easy for them. If this happens to your roommate, try to have some empathy for them.
A number of factors have the potential to affect how easy it is to get along with your roommate. If they’re a student, for instance, exam season might make it difficult for them to keep up on chores; if they’re working on a big project at work, they might be especially stressed and not as willing to talk as they usually are. The end of a relationship, bad news about an old friend, a sad song playing on the radio on their way home--the list goes on and on.
Having empathy for the reasons your roommate could be more distant or uncooperative than usual will help your relationship overall. Try to place yourself in their shoes for a minute. How would you want them to react if you were going through a difficult time? In most areas related to roommates, the Golden Rule is the best policy: treat others the way you want to be treated.
Above all, it’s important that you continue to communicate as you live together. Laying ground rules is important, but you can only uphold those ground rules if you continue to talk about things when issues come up--whether those are issues you hadn’t even thought of before or issues that break the ground rules you’ve laid out. If you want to make sure you’re living as peaceably as you can with another person, you’re going to have to talk to them, at the very least, when things go awry.
Especially with the state of the economy being the way it is for many Millennials right now, the chances that you might have to live with roommates just to make ends meet are growing exponentially. As long as you and your roommate talk things over and try to be as courteous as you can towards each other, living with someone else won’t be nearly as difficult as we sometimes make it out to be in our minds.