Living With Roommates: 8 Expert Tips
I have an extensive history with college roommates. In my freshman year, I lived with a girl named Ashley. We got along at first. But we came from two different worlds, and they eventually clashed. For example, I'd stay up late either writing or working on homework, and in doing so, I failed to turn out the lights even when she asked me to.
So in my sophomore year I moved to a different dorm and started living with someone else. I was trying so hard not to make the same mistakes that I did with Ashley. As a result, I got nervous before the year even started. I made very different mistakes where the consequences were not the best. One such mistake was accidentally put on too much perfume, which caused her to have an asthma attack. While we're still on friendly terms, we're not living together anymore.
My junior year was...interesting, to say the least. Instead of living in a dorm with one girl, I shared an apartment with four. The first half of the year was great. We seemed to get along fine, and the apartment was phenomenal in comparison to the dorms. It had more space, more privacy, and air conditioning. But midway through the year, something changed. One of the girls wasn't as nice as we thought she was, and she soon started treating the rest of us terribly. For example, when someone in the apartment fell off of her bed and got hurt, instead of being helpful she made a comment about her being clumsy. At the end of the year, two of the other girls and I decided that living in that apartment for another year wasn't worth it.
And where am I this year? Back in the dorms with my first roommate, Ashley. We've had no complaints, we support each other in the best way we can, we've been able to negotiate, and we're close friends as well as good roommates. I guess there really is no place like home.
In all of my experiences, I've learned what to do and what not when it comes to sharing a small (or even big) living space.
1. Be conscientious of your roommate's needs.
Be willing to make small sacrifices for the sake of making your roommate's life easier. If she's allergic to nuts, keep the peanut butter somewhere she doesn't go. If he's afraid of clowns, don't hang a poster of Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight on the wall.
2. Don't be afraid to speak up if something's bothering you.
At roommate workshops, they always teach us to be neither aggressive nor passive. The phrase 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' goes both ways. Don't treat them badly, but at the same time, don't be okay with being a doormat.
3. Be willing to listen.
This goes for every relationship. If someone has something they want to talk to you about, stop what you're doing and give them your full attention. Be the kind of roommate you want to have.
4. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.
I can't stress this enough. Be open minded, and don't be stingy. This is one of the areas of domestic partnership that Ashley and I had to learn that we've now become really good at. We talk and offer different ideas until we reach an agreement, and nowadays it usually doesn't take us long to do so.
5. Be yourself.
One of my mistakes in my sophomore year was that I worried too much about whether or not the other person would like me. In doing that, I distanced myself and became too afraid to talk to her. Don't be a nuisance, but don't change who you are for the sake of the other person. If it's not a good match, then it's not a good match.
6. While it's true that your best friend isn't always your roommate, there's still no harm in trying to be friends.
I love all of my friends, but there are some activities that I would only do with Ashley. I like watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D with her, eating breakfast with her, and joking about/making fun of Disney Channel with her. We genuinely enjoy talking to each other about life, even after the lights are turned off and we're technically supposed to be sleeping. I value her opinion, and in many regards she's become like a sister to me.
7. If you get into a disagreement, give yourself some space.
While I don't think the phrase “time heals all” is always truthful, I think it qualifies in some cases for roommates. My mom once told me that when stress rises, the best thing you can do is distance yourself from the situation until you can look at it in a clear state of mind. With Ashley, we both used the two years away from each other to learn how to be better roommates overall. If it took those two years to teach me how to be a better friend and roommate, then I wouldn't trade them for anything.
8. Even if it doesn't work out as roommates, you can still be friends with the people you tried to live with.
If the living situation was absolutely terrible, I can understand the desire to never interact with them again. But I learned that some people make better friends than roommates. Two of the girls I lived with are some of my closest friends, and overall I'm glad I got to know the girls I lived with. Every single one of them taught me how I can be a better friend, and there's nothing wrong with that.