How to Adult: Roommate Edition

College is where many of us experience living with people not directly related to us for the first time. Sometimes, a group of friends from high school moves into a college dorm together. Sometimes, we get paired up with random roommates. In rarer or later circumstances, sometimes we end up living with our significant other. All of these scenarios can be rewarding experiences that lend themselves to fond memories. They also all have the potential to get ugly. From someone that has experienced all three scenarios, take these tips on how to live with other people successfully.


1. Preparedness.

Ron Swanson wants you to be prepared with bacon, which is legitimate, but more importantly, I want you to be prepared about moving in with someone. If you’re moving in with a random roommate, ask the student housing department for their email, and send a message well in advance to introduce yourself. Be sure to discuss with them before you even move in some of the following: what everyone is bringing (so we don’t end up with two microwaves when one will do just fine), what any important allergens are, as well as important daily habits, (examples include, sleeping habits, eating habits, religious restrictions, etc). Doing this will ensure you don’t offend your Muslim roommate by offering them pork, or keep your early-to-bed roommate up late with your loud music. Make sure to do this with your friends or significant others as well. If all your friends party late at night and leave the lights on, but you have an 8 am class, you need to work this out with them. Otherwise, it could lead to resentment.


2. Communication.

If you don’t talk to the people you’re living with about concerns and issues, how will you be able to have great conversations with them, and build healthy friendships and relationships? You won’t. Don’t beat around the bush, be passive aggressive, or be silent and hope that an issue will resolve itself. If your roommate, best friend, or S.O. is drinking your orange juice without permission, tell them. Don’t leave a note, or label the orange juice, just ask them if they’ve been drinking your juice. If they deny it, make sure it isn’t someone else, or you sleepwalking. You need to make sure you’re able to have those tough conversations to ensure a pleasant living experience.


3. Teamwork.

Does rent need to be paid? Everyone pitches in. Apartment covered in a layer of grime? Everyone take a duty and clean up together. One of your roommates going through a bad breakup? Everyone chip in to make her day. Is apartment management treating you unfairly? Everyone make an appointment with the office manager together. Teamwork makes the adult world go round, and if you and your roommates or S.O. all work together to achieve a common goal (bonus points if you utilize everyone’s individual strengths and weaknesses!), you’ll get all sorts of stuff done.


4. Be Assertive.

Sometimes, when it comes to having tough conversations, dealing with mean people, or negotiating your portion of the chores, you have to be assertive. If you go to bed early and your roommates are playing loud music all night, you have to be able to walk out into your common area and tell them to keep it down, please (because there’s no reason you can’t be both polite and assertive). This is especially important in the early stages of living with someone else, because if you let people walk all over you for a year and then start trying to assert yourself, people will peg you as inconsistent and fail to take you seriously.


5. Have a System.

Everyone should know the meaning of a sock or scrunchie on the doorknob by now. So, you have a system for one thing. Maybe you should also have a system for who does which chores when, how long to leave the apartment when one of your roommates has a date over, and maybe even a system for when your S.O. has to have a bodily function that you two are pretending don’t exist. Systems help the less pleasant aspects of life (or the especially pleasant aspects) run smoothly.


College is about learning and trying new things, and if you’re living alone, you run the show. If you can figure out how to compromise and work with other people, those skills will spill over into your academic life and your career.