If you need some help choosing a roommate you can live with, you came to the right person. Since moving out of my parents house at 18, I’ve had every type of roommate experience from the dorm room with bunk-beds, to 6 people in an apartment in Oakland, to a bunch of girls in a house in Bloomfield, to my current living situation with one other person. I have lived with boys and girls. Fought over things like, what temperature the thermostat was set to. I’ve slammed doors, strained friendships, shared clothes, and have had some of the best times of my life with my roommates.
Sometimes having roommates was awesome. For instance the 6 of us that lived in Oakland all got matching tattoos of our house number when we moved out. (Yes, we really did, and yes my Mom freaked out.) Other times, like the time our electricity was shut off, or the times I’d spend hours cleaning the kitchen only to come home to find it completely trashed an hour later, was enough to make me swear off living with anyone ever again and reevaluate the process of choosing a roommate. Through all of this though, I’ve learned a lot from having roommates. Specifically, how I like to live and how that should reflect on the process of choosing a roommate.
Living with someone is a unique relationship. Just because you’re great friends, doesn’t mean you will be great roommates. But sometimes, as is the case with my current living situation, those two instances happen simultaneously creating a really incredible living situation.
Chris (my roommate) and I are at a point, where having a roommate is no longer a financial necessity like it was when we were students. However, just because you can live alone, doesn’t necessarily mean you want to. I really like living with another person, and sharing the responsibilities of a space. Here are some general rules for choosing a roommate and living together that I’ve discovered, lead to a great roommate experience.
I hate calling utility companies. Chris doesn’t like talking to our landlord. So, he handles all of our utility bills, and I make sure our rent is paid on time, and negotiate with the landlord when necessary. This way, everything is taken care of, and no one feels overwhelmed by being responsible for everything.
Choosing a roommate who has similar values regarding cleanliness
After living with roommates who have ranged from OCD like cleaning tendencies, to super messy, I have found that you can’t reasonably enforce your standards of cleanliness on other people. And why should you? If a level of messiness doesn’t bother someone, they won’t feel compelled to clean it up, and you will feel like you’re always nagging. Or, vice versa, you’ll constantly feel guilty for not reaching their standards of clean, so choosing a roommate that matches you in this aspect make a big difference. Both Chris and I fall somewhere in the middle. We don’t mind some dirty dishes in the sink, or glasses left on the coffee table, but we like a clean bathroom, and general tidiness, and cleaning up if we’re entertaining. For the first time, I don’t feel the need to have a chore chart or cleaning schedule. We just pick up, and take turns emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, and mopping the floor. It all works out, and there’s little tension regarding the state of the apartment.
Choosing a roommate and dealing with money
Always a touchy issue, especially when it comes to roommates. My best suggestion is, when choosing a roommate, pick someone in a similar financial situation as you. It’s tough if you’re supporting yourself with 3 jobs and you have a roommate whose wealthy parents pay for everything and money isn’t an issue. It’s also tough if you can afford a certain standard of living, and your roommate can’t. Having similar access to, and outlooks on finances makes it easy to decide where to live, what and how you invest in your living space, and how you socialize outside of the living space. Be realistic about what shared expenses look like, and be sure you’re honest about what you’re willing to pay for. If you’re both hosting a party, or you both want to make some home improvements, decide how you’re splitting the expenses before you go out and make those purchases.
Food: what do you eat?
Have some basic rules around how you share your food. Most of ours are unspoken but go something like this:
- Coffee, condiments, and beverages are all shared. When you buy these products you are buying them for the household, not just yourself.
- Left-overs from restaurants are always off limits. I expect my second half of pad thai to be there for my lunch the next day. If it came from a restaurant and it’s not yours, don’t touch it.
- If you’re cooking dinner, you don’t have to cook for the other person, but if they’re around, it’s a nice gesture to ask if they’re hungry and make enough for everyone, or tell them that there’s extra on the stove and to help themselves. Because of our different schedules, Chris and I don’t eat together real frequently, but sometimes we do, and it’s nice.
Don’t keep count
Who was the last person to by toilet paper? Who last replenished the coffee? I don’t know. And you shouldn’t either. You take turns doing these things, and it all balances out. Don’t keep tabs, it will make you bitter. And if it really is you doing all the chores, or buying all the household supplies all the time, then you may want to consider a new roommate entirely. Find someone you can trust, and take turns taking care of each other.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun choosing a roommate and having them around. Roommates can be the best. Invent traditions, have ongoing pranks, and enjoy the fact that when you’re bored on a Wednesday, you have someone to watch re-runs of Ally McBeal with.