I can’t believe tomorrow marks the first day of October (my favorite month of the year). I feel like I just got to school, but then again, I feel like I’ve also been here for a really long time. This year I am living alone, and I really like living alone. I thought I would struggle with not having my best friend (she’s currently livin’ it up in London), but as much as I miss her, I’m really enjoying living alone. I like having a space that is all mine, and I like that I don’t feel guilty if I let my room get a little messy throughout the week. In the last two years, though, I learned a lot about roommates, and I have friends who are currently struggling with their roommate situations. I thought it might be helpful if I did a post about roommates. I want this post to be as positive as possible, but I also want to acknowledge that not every roommate pairing is perfect…even when you choose your own roommate.
Sometimes we are completely unaware of our personal habits, and sometimes we just assume that everyone does something a certain way because that’s the way the people in our hometown or how our family does something. We enter into living with someone with a lot of unspoken expectations, and can, at times, cause a lot of tension within the room. Here’s a fact for you: dorm rooms are small. There aren’t many places to go if you need time alone, time to cool off, or just time to exist without someone around. The following tips are derived from my own experiences and experiences I’ve witnessed.
1) Communicate expectations right away. Remember the expectations I mentioned earlier? Well, bring them up within the first few days of moving in together to ensure that there are clear expectations on both sides. Do you think taking out the trash should be a rotating chore? Your roommate may think you need to take it out because the trashcan is technically on your side of the room. Make sure you communicate what you expect.
2) Make sure you each have a certain number of hours alone in the room per week. The number of hours you will need may vary, but try to consider this. I am a bit of an introvert, and I never realized that I really require a certain number of hours alone in order to be fully functioning. Make sure you’re giving your roommate space. If you are a homebody, make sure you’re making a point to let your roommate enjoy your room every once and a while. I’ve seen countless cases of people trying to go back to their room to relax, but their roommate never left their room, so it was unrealistic unless the roommate was in class.
3) Make a personalized roommate agreement. Your college may supply a roommate agreement/contract, but know that it won’t cover everything. Keep your very own in your room to have on file in case anything comes up. This way you can try to solve the conflict before having to take it to your RA or higher.
4. Keep your side of the room as tidy as possible. Messy roommates are the worst. Even if both people are a little messy, it’s better to keep your room a little tidier than usual. If a roommate conflict arises, people tend to blame little things first. In this regard, if she’s mad about your boyfriend being over, when she relays this to her friends she might also throw in, “and she NEVER cleans up her shoes. The shoes just sit in the middle of our room…” It may be an embellishment, but still, if you maintain a clean room from the beginning she is less likely to complain about the room.
5. Do not be passive aggressive. When something bugs you, tell her. I’ve always kind of struggled with this one. I’m pretty non confrontational, so I usually attempt to just ignore things and hope they go away, and then they don’t go away, and I get really irritated and it builds I start spending no time in the room. If something bugs you, tell the roommate right away and discuss it.
6. Be active in trying to build a strong relationship. You may not be a perfect match, and you may have very little in common, but maintaining some kind of relationship is important whenever you live with someone. Are you headed to the campus cafe for coffee? Ask if your roommate would like to join. Are you going to study off campus? Invite the roommate. Are you going to the grocery store with friends? Ask if she needs you to pick anything up. Be active, keep reaching out. Just because you don’t immediately click doesn’t mean you should stop interacting in a positive way.
7. Know each others schedules, and respect them. If you know your roommate has an 8 a.m. class, and you have friends over in the evening, make sure they’re gone by 9 p.m. so she can relax and get a good night’s sleep. Are you a day studier? Let her know in advance, and maybe ask that there aren’t many guests during the middle of the day. Do you need silence to study? Make sure you both wear headphones if the other person is studying.
8. Respect Your Roommates things. Don’t let your friends hangout on your roommate’s bed, and make sure you’re not using your roommate’s stuff. You should try to be as respectful as possible, and if you need something, want something, etc. just ask ahead of time.
9. Offer comfort. If your roommate gets a little homesick, seems down, or is just having a bad day, offer an outlet for her to talk or vent about what’s up. Make sure you let her know you care, otherwise you might seem a little heartless. Also, if you reach out, she’s more likely to reach out to you when you’re having a bad day. Also, if she isn’t your best friend, sometimes it’s actually more helpful to talk because she’s not as personally invested (in theory).
10. Talk about guests. Whether the conversation focuses on overnight guests or just regular guests, you must have this conversation because guests are inevitable. Unless you or your roommate is a hermit, you’re going to make friends, and you’re going to want them to come over. Make sure you both have a clear understanding of what’s expected when this happens.
These are just ten tips of how to be a good roommate, and how to be a good roommate when you’re not best friends with your roommate! Try to make your year the best it can be by minimizing any drama.