The Roommate Rut: Rules For Making The Best Of Your Living Situation

Ah, random roommates. Most of us have had the pleasure (or sometimes displeasure…) of forced cohabitation. Admit it, at some point you’ve taken to stalking the social media of your roomie-to-be, attempting to get a feel for what you’re getting yourself into. When you can’t find their profile, be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you automatically assume that something’s up... Oops, you just spelled her name wrong, she has a Facebook; she’s normal. You stumble across a picture of her and her friends having a wine night. Perfect.  It just so happens that you love wine too.

You send a friend request, followed by a tentative message, “Hey, so this is a little awkward, but I’m your roommate lol!” You get to talking and start matching up your list of contributable items; she’s bringing the microwave, you’ve got a toaster. You sign off feeling excited for the year to come, dreaming of girly dinners, Netflix marathons of Scandal and the promise of new friendship and expanded social circles.

Fast forward to move in day, and you’re a little nervous. All of your uneasiness slips away though, as you finally meet, awkwardly hugging and introducing parents. For the first few weeks you tiptoe around each other, cautious to spit out any strong opinions or accidentally let your “crazy” make an appearance. But finally, your guard drops and you feel yourself embracing the blooming friendship that has presented itself.  Yep, you’re in “Roomie love.” That is, until the dishes start piling up in the sink. You go to snack on some Cheez-Its, only to shake an empty box of crumbs. Her boyfriend’s toothbrush has been sitting on the sink for a few weeks now, with no sign of disappearing any time soon. Have you seen your favorite black top? Might want to check her bedroom floor. Should I continue?

I myself do not claim to be a “perfect roommate.” Sometimes I silently borrow a squirt of ketchup when you’re not looking. Sometimes I get really into Friday Night Lights at one o’clock in the morning when I’m avoiding studying, unaware of how loud the TV is. I’m sure that it’s no secret by now, but yeah, living with another person is hard. Maybe you’re on opposite schedules, maybe you have absolutely nothing in common, but the fact is you have to live together, so why make it harder than it has to be? Chances are if you’re fed up with your roommate, she’s probably fed up with some of the stupid stuff you do too. In order to maintain a civil comfortable living environment, consider some of these tips.

  1. Aretha said it best: It’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I’ve had my fair share of roommates, some random, some by choice, and have found no matter the prior relationship, the most important thing to consider when living with another person is respect. I use respect as an all-encompassing term, in regards to cleanliness, guests, personal possessions, etc. Although you might be cool with washing your dishes every few days, or when you literally can’t fit any more in the sink, chances are your roommate doesn’t feel the same way. She might not say anything. Maybe it’s a note on the fridge, maybe she gets frustrated and washes them all herself. Maybe you are the one who leaves the notes, unsure of how to tackle the issue, feeling awkward and unhappy.  The fact of the matter is a shared space is just that, shared.  Be mindful of your actions, and encourage your roommate(s) to be mindful of hers. Before you do something, think about whether or not you would like it if your roommate did the same thing. If the answer is no, then don’t do it. You don’t have to be best friends, but you should respect each other and your living arrangement, simple as that.

2. Help Me, Help You: Communicate

Easier said than done, I know. The key to communicating with your roommate is making sure you start communicating right away. When you live in a dorm, you’re forced into signing a roommate agreement, which is the perfect time to discuss rules for your room.  Living in an apartment is a bit different, but it might be a smart idea to draw up a roommate agreement of your own in order to avoid any miscommunication. Knowing what’s expected of you makes for less awkward and uncomfortable situations in the future. If you still find yourself having problems, make sure you talk to your roommate (and be honest!) about what’s bothering you, don’t let it all pile up. If she doesn’t know how you feel, then the action will continue, and you’ll most likely lose your mind. It never hurts to apologize. Let’s save ourselves some unnecessary stress ladies, and just talk it out.

*Check out this Her Campus Roommate Contract Here

3. “Meet Me Halfway”: Compromise

As Adam Levine once said, “It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, it’s compromise that moves us along” and honestly, truer words have never been spoken. Things aren’t always going to be easy; sometimes you just have to meet in the middle to make things work. Does your roommate have an 8 AM tomorrow? Maybe you should hold off on having guests over tonight. Nobody likes taking the trash out, and nobody especially likes having to take it out every time it gets full.  You can’t study with the TV on, so maybe she should wait to watch Netflix until after you’re done. It’s the little things like that that should be talked about and taken into consideration. You may walk away from the experience with plans to never speak again, but for the time being, things will run a lot smoother if each party carries their own weight, takes the other person’s needs/wants seriously, and can come to a friendly compromise.