What I wish I had known about roommates

Advice for successful cohabitation

Unless you are lucky and can afford to live by yourself, or you can deal with living with your parents for the duration of your degree, it is almost impossible to make it through university without having to deal with roommates.

After living with four different sets of roommates since I moved out of my parents’ house two years ago, I’ve decided to give up on cohabitation for now as I leave my townhouse I share with two people in downtown Winnipeg and settle into a one bedroom apartment. Looking back on my rather extensive experience, there are a few pieces of advice I wish I had been given about dealing with roommates before stepping out on my own:

1. It’s not going to be an episode of Friends: Like every naïve young student first leaving the nest, I imagined that I’d automatically become best friends with the people I was living with. While I have had roommates that I’ve become close with, and am still friends with, I’ve had others that were virtually strangers. You may get lucky and hit it off with your roommates right away, but you might find yourself living with people who are only interested in sharing your rent and nothing more, which can be a perfectly fine situation too.

2. Best friends don’t always make the best roommates: You already hang out with them all the time, so why not live with them, right? While you may know everything about who they’re dating, it’s hard to know what they’re like to live with until you live with them. Make sure to seriously consider if you can deal with any weird habits they may have, and having to spend that much time with them before moving in together. These things may seem trivial but can be really taxing on your relationship, so be honest with your friend and yourself.

3. But be wary of living with strangers: It’s a lot harder to talk to a roommate you met through about paying their share of the bills on time or keeping up with housework than someone you’ve known for a while. You’re also setting yourself up for getting stuck living with someone that creates bigger problems for you than making your home less than tidy if you decide to board with someone you don’t know.

4. Communication is key: Sometimes it can be difficult to keep the lines of communication open with whomever you’re living with when you have opposing schedules and hardly ever see them. But having good communication with your roommates is really essential to having a happy household. If they’re doing something that’s bothering you, you need talk to them about it and not let it stew. No one wants to feel uncomfortable in their own home because they’re secretly mad at their roommate.

5. Try to shop together, at least for groceries: If you can split the bill on things like staple groceries and bathroom supplies, it will make living together much easier. Having to label who’s salad dressing is who’s can get really tedious.

6. Chore charts are bogus: I don’t find chore charts or chore wheels to be effective in keeping your home in order. No one really wants to have to check their names off each time they mop the floor, and they just end up seeming anal and annoying. If you’re worried about everyone doing their fair share of housework, you’re better off dividing up tasks or sections of house for each person to look after.

7. Have each others’ emergency contact info: This is something I’ve never done, but probably should have in hindsight. Hopefully you will never have to use it, but it’s a good thing to have just in case. If you haven’t seen them in a while, a nice courtesy text or call is always a good idea as well.

Of all the advice I could give however, the most important thing to remember is to always be respectful and considerate of whomever you’re sharing your home with. Seems like a pretty basic rule of thumb, but it’s something that is forgotten much too often, especially once you’ve been living with someone for a long time.

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