Whether you’re finally moving in with your significant other or are shacking up with some of your buddies to split the rent, being a good roommate is crucial. There are so many things to be aware of when you live with others, from their weird personal quirks to their cleaning habits, and everything else in between. Things can turn ugly very fast because even the best of friends and the loves of your life can turn into the devil’s spawn when you share close quarters. To help keep the peace and a healthy living situation, here are some general guidelines to follow as you seek to master what’s called “the art of living together.”
Respect each other
Above all else, respect each other. This one is sort of a given but it bears statement. We’re all individuals with our own set of quirks and what may be important to them may sound utterly ridiculous to you. Alas, that doesn’t matter. There will always be things that bother you about them and they about you. Accept it, and move on or out.
Set ground rules
This one will help you out tremendously. The “ground rules conversation” should be had, no matter your living situation or who you’re living with. It might seem very unromantic to have this conversation with your S.O., but you’ve probably never spent this much time together before. This is the time to be brutally honest about the way you like to have things done, and they the same. Some of these things can include how you keep the house clean, when you like to shower, how you like to have half an hour to yourself when you get home from work, or even noises that may bother you, like a loud TV while you sleep. Make everything clear, even if you hate when someone fries bacon in the morning because the smell makes you nauseous. It’s important to say these things so the expectation of who and how you are, are clear from the get-go. Then your S.O. or your roommates understand what you need from the person(s) you live with. These aren’t trivial matters if they bother you. It’s essential to lay these ground rules down so you can live happily and get along with them in the future.
Don’t splurge on furniture
If you’re buying furniture with your S.O. be aware of this: While it might sound pessimistic, if things don’t work out between you two and you invested thousands of dollars on a leather couch or finely hand-crafted end tables, you’re going to have a hard time deciding who gets what. Unfortunately, it’s just the way things are. Sure you can pay the other person their share for the item, but if it’s something fancy that you both love, like that beautiful couch, you may both want it. Opting for cheaper furniture from say, IKEA, is a much safer bet. On the other hand, if you’re living with your buddies, buying cheaper furniture just makes more sense because it’s going to endure much more wear and tear. You never know who’s going to scratch what, and you guys’ living situation is probably temporary, so why make such a huge investment?
Let them be messy or clean freaks
It’s really (trust us) very difficult to surrender yourself to other people’s cleanliness habits, but generally speaking, people’s habits don’t change easily, unless some miracle occurs, but don’t count on it. If your roommate is always leaving his clothes out on the couch or leaving their shoes in the hall, constantly reminding them to pick them up or put them away, may not stop them from doing it any time soon. Alternatively, if you have a neat freak roommate who has to keep everything clean or have the plates arranged in a certain way, just let them do it. It’s no skin off your back. Generally speaking, a lot of these habits are ingrained in people, so the best you can do is offer reminders to clean up, or if you happen to be the messy one, keep your mess confined to your own room, desk, or closet and not in common areas.
If you’re living with your S.O. then you probably don’t label your food or claim it to be solely yours, but hopefully you have the shared responsibility of food shopping or if something runs out you know to replace it. However, living with your buddies is a little different: You probably don’t share food and if you haven’t laid ground rules regarding food, there can be some unintentional sharing of items. Make it clear, as you should follow this too, if you finish your roommate’s milk, butter, cheese, eggs, or anything else, that you should replace it, and don’t claim anything that is not yours.
This one is one of the more important boundaries that you have to respect and thoroughly set down the rules regarding. If you or one of your roommates brings guests home or if you or your roommate(s) are having guests over for dinner, be considerate and let them know the situation beforehand. The same goes for when you or one of your roommates brings someone home; have a system where you let them know that someone is there. For instance, a post-it or some other symbol that will clue your roommate that they should not walk into your room. Give your S.O. the same courtesy if you bring some of your buddies over to have some beers and watch the game.
The key to everything is compromise.