New Roomie? Here’s How to Make it Work

Ah, the joys of roommate living. You thought I was being sarcastic, right? No really, there are joys to roommate living, like shared chores, bills and the possibility of making friends through an entirely new, yet-to-be-tapped network. You get to be independent, but not totally on your own. And hey, if you forget the keys, you don't necessarily have to bother your super or intimidating landlord. 

Sure you may be skeptical and you may even think it's not for you. But if you're struggling with rent and have the space, you may want to consider it. So if you've already taken the plunge (or are thinking about it), it'll help to read the tips below to actually make your roommate experience work. Trust us, there's no need to become a shared-living horror story cliche.

Discuss Your Lifestyle(s)

Too many people decide to live together based on easy, verifiable facts, including past roommate references (always a good idea), proof of income and a seemingly hygienic exterior. Then they realize much too late that their lifestyles aren't compatible. Just talk about it. If you're already stuck with each other, then have an attitude of compromise. For example, if your roommate is slinging drinks on weekends, ask her to come inside quietly at 5 a.m. If you're a student and your roommate wants to keep the TV on 24/7, ask if there can be two hours of quiet time each evening. You'll respect each other more with compromises on each side.

Spend Quality Time Together

Sound cheesy? It's important to have an affable relationship, even if you're not the best of friends. In the beginning of your living situation, schedule a couple of roommate dates to get to know one another and just hang out. You'll also feel more comfortable approaching uncomfortable issues later on if you've built a personal bond. P.S. These aren't times to judge, but to find things to like about one another, so keep your gossip hat in your closet.

Talk About Pet Peeves

What could you not stand about your last roommate? What habits have you found gross in the past? Is there anything you can confess to that another person might find irritating? These are necessary to get out in the open. It will give each of you guidelines for respecting each other's space, likes and dislikes. And admitting you're not perfect will disarm your roomie in the right way.

Get Help Organizing

Do I mean hire a consultant? No. I mean get over to the home goods store and buy extra storage containers, shower caddies and shallow boxes to separate your things. This isn't being anal, it's being smart. And it's not just the bathroom that needs division. Consider places to put your shoes in the hallway along with two boxes for both you and your roommate to fill with keys and mail once inside. Whatever you can organize and label, do so.

Get Help Splitting Chores and Finances

This goes along with the theory that resentment boils hard and fast the first time one roommate feels they're being taken advantage of or treated unfairly. So sit down and make a chore chart, or use Google Docs to keep track of who bought milk last. Make good use of your fridge to pin up handwritten charts and lists (some people swear they're more effective than e-tracking), then stick to them. 

Define Your Version of Cleanliness

This is one area everyone feels they're an expert on, completely unaware that what we think is clean has a lot to do with our background. Let your roommate know you can't stand grime between tiles or dishes piled in the sink. They might let you know about a pet peeve against crumbs on the counter or mud from shoes by the door. You'll both be happier when you're respectful of the other person's cleanliness rules.

Consider Regular Meetings to Keep Things on Track

This isn't always necessary, but in the beginning, it certainly doesn't hurt. Expecting a monthly meeting always gets rid of the high tension surrounding calling a "roommate meeting" for out-of-the-blue causes. I've been there and it's not fun. Even if you only talk for five minutes about how things are going as it pertains to your shared-living situation, you'll be diffusing future problems before they start.