The 21st-century 20-something


Monday, August 27, 2012

Rules to avoid roommate tensions

I haven't lived with roommates for about two years, unless you count my mother, but I know what it's like when you have issues with the people you live with that you're not sure how to resolve.

Several of my friends are currently in roommate situations where the degree of familiarity varies but many of the same issues arise. After a lengthy discussion with a good friend of mine about her recent roommate woes, I was inspired to write a blog post about it.

So here's some suggestions I have to make your living situation as amicable as possible.

- Don't eat food that isn't yours. It can be hard sometimes to distinguish whose is whose in a full refrigerator, but if you know something isn't yours, don't touch it unless you ask. When I had roommates, this worked very well for us. If it was something like using someone else's butter or an egg, we knew the answer would be yes, but STILL ASKED. There's a huge difference between communal things like that and eating my last Lean Cuisine Chicken Club Panini when I'm not home. Totally unacceptable. And never, EVER, eat your roommate's leftovers. Not only is that gross, but they kept the leftovers for a reason -- and it wasn't so you could eat them.
I suggest: Having a firm discussion about the rules concerning food and clarify that you would like your roommate not to touch your food or ask beforehand if they need to use something. Label food items if necessary.


Photo courtesy of gabrielabadica.wordpress.com
- Do your own dishes. Without fail, the kitchen space is always a touchy subject with roommates. Not only the food as previously mentioned, but the dishes especially. They can pile up over the course of a few days and sometimes in our busy lives we neglect to keep up with the cleaning. The problem with this is when dishes pile up, especially when they haven't been rinsed, they start to smell absolutely horrid.
I suggest: Wash all of your own dishes after you've used them within a reasonable amount of time. Don't take turns, because who are we kidding, that never works. If you leave a mug from your coffee and and bowl from your oatmeal in the sink in the morning, just make sure it's washed before you go to bed. Don't let it sit for days. That's disgusting.

- Be respectful of communal space. This includes not leaving your shoes/clothes/purses/coats lying all over the living room floor or dining room table. These are areas that are meant to be used by all of the people in the apartment and should be reasonably ready for company at any time. Shove that crap in your room. Your room is your domain and you can keep it as messy as however you'd like as far as I'm concerned. One of the most disgusting things can also be when a roommate doesn't clean up after themselves in the bathroom. That means pick your dirty drawers up off the floor after you shower, take the hair out of the drain, rinse the toothpaste out of the sink and for God's sake clean the toilet after you puke in it. (Sounds gross but has been an issue on more than one occasion.)
I suggest: Plain and simple -- just clean up after yourself. If you're over 18, you are an adult. Your roommate is not your mother and is not going to happily clean up after you. Those days are over, my friend. If it becomes an issue it needs to be addressed immediately before obvious animosity ensues.

- Clean up after your company. Along the same lines of the previous points, you are responsible for your company and any mess the may create or chaos they may cause. Don't leave the beer bottles and empty bowls of salsa and onion dip lying all over the living room. When  you invite people over it is automatically your responsibility to clean up if necessary. Sidebar to this issue -- it would also be a good idea to make your roommate(s) aware that you're planning to have company and what type of night it might turn out to be. Having a kegger on a Tuesday night when your roommate has to get up for work at 7 a.m. is rude.
I suggest: Don't plan to have more than one or two people over without having a discussion with the people you live with first. Even if you have mutual friends, communication is the key to any successful relationship -- including one with a roommate.

Photo courtesy of longislandpress.com
- Discuss how you plan to pay for things before moving in. Anyone who hasn't lived on their own or with a roommate before may not realize that there are bills other than rent that need to be paid. There's heat/hot water, cable and Internet bills if you so choose. Then there are also communal things like furniture, rugs, lamps, electronics -- things many people use second-hand but you should obviously talk about who's bringing what before you end up in an apartment with nothing but throw pillows to sit on. There are also things that don't need to be purchased individually like toilet paper and paper towels... just be sure they're always there for not only your sake but for any visitors.
I suggest: Decide which bill will be in whose name and plan on it being paid a week before it's due. You can ruin your credit by not paying bills on time because of a roommates issues with pay schedule or paychecks. Also, if you feel you're always the one buying toilet paper while your other roommate(s) are using it as well, talk about it before it becomes a tense issue. A simple "Hey dude can you pick up some toilet paper on your way home since I got it last time. Thanks" should suffice. No need for "Wtf, man I always buy the toilet paper and you use it way more than I do you need to get some now before I bleach all of your clothes." It's all about communication.

- Be courteous when entertaining a 'friend.' Whether you or the people you live with have a steady boyfriend/girlfriend or are just bringing someone home for the night...keep a few things in mind. Do not under any circumstances have sex in a communal space. Not on the couch, in the shower or on the kitchen table. Keep that stuff in the bedroom. Also be wary of the noise levels. Walls in many apartments can be incredibly thin -- making someone feel like they're in a room with you -- even when they definitely don't want to be. Another problem that comes up many times is when a roommates' bf/gf ends up feeling like another roommate. Unless they're paying rent, they have to follow the rules of the people who actually pay the cost to be the boss. This means being respectful of things in the apartment, people who come to visit and especially the other roommates.
I suggest: Even if roommates are not particularly friendly with your bf/gf, they need to find a way to be civil. Remember, your bf/gf is in a home that you share, and should be mindful of imposing or being rude. If it's a one night stand type of deal, just keep it down for the night. Seriously.

I could add a million more things to this post but for the sake of brevity I'm going to end it here. I feel like I've covered the major/most common instances.

How about you? Do you have any dos/don't for living with roommates?


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