Living With Roommates Survival Guide

Though some of us would much rather live by ourselves, having roommates is way more convenient and affordable. And so, living with a group of people is an inevitability for young professionals, recent graduates or any adult going through an “in between” stage.

But it doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. With the right tools, rules and conflict resolution techniques, you can make co-living spaces work for you.

Finding The Right Roommates

There are various ways to find the right roommate. It may be tempting to post on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that you’re looking to fill a room at your place.

However, just because someone is in the periphery of your social circle doesn’t necessarily mean they will be compatible with you. The best strategy for finding a roommate is a multipronged approach that involves specific platforms — including social media and word-of-mouth.

Cast a wide-net and then narrow down candidates. Websites like Roomster, Roommates and Roomie Match help by filtering out sketchy robots or spam. They are easy to navigate and can save you a headache later on.

If you prefer to use Facebook, there are specific regional housing groups you could join and advertise that you’re looking for a roommate. With Google Forms, you can create a questionnaire for potential roommates that could help determine whether or not they are compatible. Make sure to ask about these things:

  • Drugs
  • Smoking
  • Pets
  • Significant Others
  • Work Schedules
  • Night Routines
  • Cleaning Habits
  • General Interests

Although you shouldn’t be too picky and always be open for a compromise, you should be frank about what you’re looking for. If a potential candidate lives a wildly different lifestyle than you, it’s worth waiting it out until you find someone who better fits your needs.

Establishing Rules

Even if you find someone you think you’ll be compatible with, you should still be honest and transparent from the get-go about what you’re expecting.

As a group, clearly establish rules.

How long are guests allowed to stay? Are pets allowed? Is there a rule about noise during weeknights? In the event that someone wants to leave, when should they notify other tenants?

These are all things you will have to work together as a group to figure out.

Defining “Communal”

This is particularly crucial. Whether you’re sharing a small apartment or a spacious loft or a multi-story house, there will have to be boundaries about what will be considered communal or not.

For example, will everyone pitch in to buy groceries, or is everyone expected to have their own food?

There should also be a discussion regarding what’s allowed to do in communal spaces.

According to a Gallup survey, 43 percent of Americans occasionally work from home.  As workplaces become more scattered, there’s a possibility that one of your roommates might be tempted to use a communal space as their office.

Though there’s nothing wrong with someone working quietly on their laptop in the living room, conducting loud conference calls can easily become obnoxious for everyone else.

On the other hand, you should discuss what the rules are for having multiple guests over and how much head’s up you will need to give for having group activities at the house.

Dividing House Chores and Utilities

Even if you’re living with independent people, you will still need to acknowledge that a part of living with others is pitching in and helping out.

There are numerous ways you can divide household chores. You can use apps like Tody that streamline the process and help you manage your cleaning schedule, or you guys can simply come up with a house chore chart of sorts that ensures everyone does their part.

In addition to house chores, utilities should be divided. With payment sharing services like Venmo and Paypal, it’s easier for someone to take over one bill and then request money from their fellow housemates.  

Being Social and Friendly

Not everyone wants to live with their best friends. And that’s totally okay. But there’s a difference between having a cordial relationship and being cold.

Even if you largely prefer to stay in your bedroom, you should be friendly and polite when you see your roommates.

However, sometimes it’s unclear whether you have the potential to have a social relationship. Towards the beginning of living together, you should suggest a group activity together.

Dinner and/or drinks, bowling or a general night out on the town are all good recommendations, but check in with your new housemates to see what they’re all into.

From the start, try your best to make living with one another as pleasant as possible.

Avoid Passive Aggressive Communication

In a 2017 article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, scientists found that research participants were overconfident in the ability of emails as a tool for communication and persuasion. Meanwhile, their participants underestimated the value of face-to-face communication.

When you have an issue with a housemate, try your best to resolve it face to face. It might be tempting to write a passive-aggressive Post-It note (We’re looking at you, Derrick, you prick!), but ultimately, that generally leads to resentment and more conflict later on.

If something is bothering you, send someone a text requesting a meeting and then articulate how you feel.

Though living with other people can be a frustrating experience, you will end up learning a lot about yourself if you approach it with an open-mind. Be considerate and forgiving that people are different, and be flexible for change.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.