If you’ve just moved into a shared dorm or apartment, chances are you’re going to need to deal with a roommate. In a perfect world, you already have at least a basic relationship with your roommate, but in case you don’t, here are 5 surefire strategies to ensure your stay goes smoothly and your relationship with your roommate is a positive one.
Poor communication kills. Okay, maybe not literally in this case, but a comfortable level of communication is needed if you’re going to be sharing a living space with someone. You don’t need to be their new best friend, and they don’t need to become your new best friend, but you need to at least make sure that you both are comfortable enough communicating with one another to work out any issues that may arise quickly and easily. If you and your roommate aren’t able to communicate well and can’t get on the same page, then there will be a lot of problems. This is true for basically any relationship of any kind. Establishing a comfortable line of communication with your roommate is basically a requirement for most if not all of the other strategies on this list. If you are only going to follow one of the strategies here, good god, make it be this one.
This is another key part of any functional relationship. Make sure you and your roommate know each other’s boundaries, and make sure to respect them. The earlier you have this conversation and sooner you get these boundaries established, the better. Trial and error is one of the absolute worst ways to find out what someone’s limits are, and I really, really hope things never get that bad. Even if your boundaries are very different and there ends up being a little friction between you, have this conversation so you know. It’ll lead to a much smoother relationship if your roommate has even the bare minimum of human decency. Once the boundaries have been established, or even before they have, make sure you don’t push them too hard. Don’t go hosting parties and stuff if you haven’t cleared it with your roommate. Figure out when it is and isn’t okay to be making noise, and be willing to adapt to the boundaries they set. If both of you communicate well and can be civil when laying out what is and isn’t okay, you’ll be in a good place.
Once boundaries and communication are established with your roommate, you can start to think about making your shared living space as nice as it can be. If you and your roommate are going to buy things for the shared spaces, if you have them, make sure that it’s something both of you are okay with. Big purchases or utilities bills can be split with your roommate as a general rule. Individual purchases of furniture or decorations should be done if they’re not intrusive or overbearing. If you do split purchases of things like appliances or furniture, you and your roommate should work out who actually owns the object during the initial buying. You’re probably not going to be roommates forever, and clearing up who owns what in advance will save you a lot of headache during the inevitable move-out. It’s also a good idea to clear any redecorating plans with your roommate, because moving around their stuff without permission is not really “good roommate” behavior. Resources you both use, such as soap, paper towels, and cleaning supplies can be alternated, but generally, if you use it up, you should replace it.
In order to avoid awkwardness or confusion down the line, try to make sure your roommate at least knows of your friends and/or family members. They don’t need to build deep and meaningful relationships with them, just be generally aware of who they are and what they look like. This will ensure there aren’t any awkward moments during a party or other social gathering where your roommate wonders why the fresh hell there’s a bunch of strangers in their living space. This goes both ways, so you should at least try to become acquaintances with your roommate’s social circle, so you aren’t the one asking who the strangers are. If your friends and your roommate don’t get along, that’s fine. You made an attempt and that’s good enough. If you and your friends do end up forming a lasting friendship, so much the better, but don’t overdo it. Let things develop organically after the basics have been dealt with. Don’t try to force a friendship, because that kinda has the opposite effect. I guess that goes for any relationship.
This is a bit obvious, but your roommate isn’t obligated to clean up your messes. Make sure that if you use any of the shared space, to clean up afterwards. By the same token you should clarify who has to do what chores in the shared space, because if you don’t, you’ll both end up expecting the other person to do them, and while such awkward conversations are in theory amusing, real life isn’t a sitcom, and it just ends up being awful and exhausting. If you’re having a party or meetup at your place, make sure either get your friends to help clean up afterwards, or only host as many as you’re willing to clean up after. Clean up your stuff, and try to get your roommate to clean up theirs. If you’re lucky enough to have separate bedrooms, you can keep that as clean or as messy as you want, provided it doesn’t end up attracting bugs or anything like that. You and your roommate are sharing the place, so generally try to act like it. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but some people do forget it, so making sure it gets mentioned is important.
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