I did a post about roommates a while back (2 years ago!), which was ironically the last time I had roommates for a while. Once I was an RA, I lived alone. Interestingly, I feel like I learned more about myself while living alone. Anyway, I’m sure most of my tips still ring true, but I wanted to update the post, and add a bit more maturity to it. I think I’ve grown up a lot in the last few years, and I think that after two years as an RA, I now recognize common trends, behaviors, and habits that lead to either healthy or unhealthy roommate situations. This might be repetitive if you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, or at least the last two years, but I really do think everything I’m about to share will help you have a more positive living environment.
Living with people is hard. Living alone is hard. If you take advice seriously, though, it’ll be easier to adjust to living with people who may be different from you in important ways.
(1) Communicate any expectations right away. Communicating with someone you don’t really know very well can be tricky. Sometimes you come off differently than you intended, and sometimes you aren’t sure how to bring up issues that are important to you. Be sure to bring up any expectations you have. Do you expect guests to only come over weekends? Do you expect the temperature in the house to be warm? Cold? Medium? Things may seem trivial, but they are important.
(2) If a problem develops, tackle it head on. I know conflict can be difficult, and frankly no one loves dealing with conflict (however, if you do, I applaud you). Conflict can be awkward, uncomfortable, and force us to reflect on our own behavior. However, if you let issues bubble and fester, you’ll be worse off. If something is upsetting you, be honest. After all, even if the conversation doesn’t go perfectly, it’s still better than saying nothing and then blind sighting you roommates when you finally have enough.
(3) Be inclusive, and don’t withdraw. Everyone has different ways of living, and even existing. I think something I consider when living with people is how I’d want them to treat me. It’s good to invite the roommates, even if you think they don’t want to go to something. If you actually, fully invite them, maybe they’ll surprise you! It’s better to be inclusive than exclusive. I also feel that if there’s something wrong, you should deal with. The last thing that’s going to help something is withdrawing from the situation. If you stop spending any time interacting with your roommate(s), the situation will just get worse and worse.
(4) If a conversation let something unclear, ask them to clarify. I hate miscommunication, but I hate it even more when it could be avoided. If you have a conversation with your roommate, and walk away feeling bad about something, re-discuss the issue. You both could have walked away from the conversation with completely different perceptions of how it went or what the agreement you came to was. Clarification is key to making sure communication is actually effective.
(5) Be active in trying to build a strong relationship. From my experience, the best roommates are those who actively try to maintain a good, open relationship. When roommates don’t work, it’s typically because there is no actual relationship there other than a living arrangement. If you live in a house, make sure you’re making time a few times or at least once a week to do something as roommates without anyone else. It’s important to get to know each other. And the more you invest, the happier you’ll be and the easier it’ll be to deal with things when the arrangement is having some issues.
(6) Know each others schedules, and respect them. Everyone operates differently. I think it’s important to respect that people are different and that each roommate may do things a bit differently. Try to be respectful if you’re a night owl and your roommate is an early riser (and vice versa).
(7) Talk about guests. Guests, in my time as an RA, were the top reason roommate situations failed. You should feel comfortable in your space, and if people are constantly trekking in and out, that may not be easy. At the same time, if you’re a social butterfly who needs to be around people, you may not want to room with someone who prefers a less-filled social calendar. There is, however, compromise, and it’s essential. Talk about what’s acceptable. If one roommate really prefers to study during the week, maybe don’t have people over to your place. At the same time, the quiet roommate should be okay with having people over at least a few weekends. Talking openly about guests is key. It’s also important you ask before inviting people over. This isn’t a restriction, rather it’s a courtesy! It’s also important to be very clear in what having people over will entail. Again, in my time as an RA, I saw so many people move because of tension over guests, so don’t let this ruin what could otherwise be a great arrangement!
(8) If necessary, set household guidelines. I’ve heard people shun the prospect of actually making guidelines and setting hard rules, but I’ve also seen doing this turn a horrible roommate situation into a great situation. I think if this is really out of character for you, it can be modified so it’s not super concrete, but still communicates the expectations of all members of the living situation.
I’ve only shared 8 tips, but there are obviously a ton more. If you have specific questions, feel free to email me, and I can offer advice!
How do you live well with another person?