In 2017, nearly 79 million adults (31.9% of the adult population in the United States) lived in a shared household–that is, a household with at least one “extra adult” who is not the household head, the spouse or unmarried partner of the head, or an 18- to 24-year-old student.
I’m not surprised, living on your own can be very expensive, especially as a young person who is pursuing a career in a major city. I have lived away from home since I was 19 . At university; I shared a unisex housing building with 11 other guys and girls; shortly after that I lived in a self-contained studio apartment, and right now I share a cozy 2 bed with my friend, so you can say, I have experienced my fair share of roommate drama.
Truth is many people have a roommate from hell story, it is a rite of passage as an adult. Learning how to share your personal space with another human being is a transferable skill that comes in handy in all facets of your life. Living with a friend, colleague, someone you met on craig list, the first few years out of university whilst you stabilize your finances is a great way to save money, before you eventually get your own place with a future spouse or partner.
You can split bills, living expenses, share the burden of managing household chores and make a lifelong friend whilst you are at it, sounds like a win-win situation right?
Well, slow down your horses, there are a few rules that can help smoothen the inevitable kinks and ensure a pleasant cohabitation experience if adhered to, if you successfully stick to them you should have no problems living with anyone until you’ve saved up enough money to buy your dream townhouse.
- Great Friends Don’t Equal Great Roommates
I’m sure this comes across as counter-intuitive, if you can spend 4 hours chatting on the phone with your bestie, enjoy laughter filled brunch sessions and endless shopping trips together, then you should automatically make great roommates, right? well not really. Just because you get along with somebody, doesn’t mean that you guys can or should live together, I will go as far as saying you may end up potentially ruining a great friendship if you do. If you will live with your best friend, I assume you know him or her well enough to know their personality, temperament, habits are. If your friend is a slob and you are a neat freak, I don’t care how much you like each other, you both cannot live together, harmoniously.
Most people have this fantasized idea of what living with a best friend will be like, frankly if you are over 25 I don’t advise it. Think about this, most of the time, you schedule time spent with your bestie; mentally you both are in a place, where you want to catch up and have fun, laugh and let your hair down, or lend a listening ear.You don’t see them 24/7; you do not get to see them exhausted after a long day at work,when all they want is their glass of wine and bed. If you expect that it will always be late night girl chats, with your personal live-in entertainer, comedian, chef and therapist you will sorely disappointed and resentful, be realistic.
Not all friends know how to handle conflict in a productive and healthy manner, it’s okay if you have disagreements with your friend, you don’t speak for weeks and when you do, you guys move on as if nothing ever happened, if that works for your friendship, hey I can’t knock it, but when you live together, it’s a recipe for creating an unhealthy home environment (I will discuss further shortly). Disagreements are inevitable when you live with someone, if you and your friend are passive aggressive or overly confrontational, then it’s best to just leave it at sleepovers sis.
- Bills Bills Bills
This is one in particular, is for my Africans in the house (don’t shoot the messenger), please do not think it is okay for you to move in with a stranger or even a friend, and think you will “wing it”, “see how it goes” or ” believe that there will be a mutual understanding” regarding paying bills. Before you move in both of you MUST mutually agree and decide on this important aspect of housekeeping.
In whose name will the bills be in? How frequently will they be paid (bi-weekly, quarterly) and how i.e. by cash or electronic transfers? An established structure of how things work must be in place. There are great apps such as Splitwise and Zently (free for the web,Android and Iphone devices) that help you split and pay expenses easily between multiple groups of people. A lot of people get uncomfortable talking about money and bills, especially if they live with “friends” but I think it is better to have these difficult conversations at the get go, to avoid unnecessary complications. It would also be ideal if both of you can be transparent about your respective financial situations before you decide to live together, i.e are you both employed full time, students etc
The same thing applies to household chores, there is nothing wrong with creating a roaster, assigning tasks and responsibilities suitable for everyone’s schedule, I know I am making it come across like you are running a military operation but I believe that disharmony will thrive if some form of structure doesn’t exist, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Bend It Like Beckham
In other words, you have to throw in some good measure of flexibility and compromise. People differ on what they consider a clean house or a quiet environment. My idea of having friends over is just one friend, for someone else that may be seven, learn to compromise within reason. Truth is, as far as both of you are going 50/50 on the rent, you can’t dictate, how the common areas will be furnished, or how often the house is cleaned.
Take into consideration his/her lifestyle and be realistic, ask yourself does it really matter if they do things my way, and if the answer if yes, then you might have to rent your own space.
Grown adults, are not malleable, if you find an issue unbearable raise it, any reasonable person will make adjustments but do not expect it to get done the way you want it always and be ready to pick up the slack if it is important to you.
- Private Matters
Would you feel comfortable living in a space where you had to always log out of your email account, because you are afraid that your nosy roommate would browse through your in-box when you stand up to get coffee? Do you have to hide everything that comes in the post, because it tires you, dodging unwarranted comments from your roommates. Does everything that happens to you become gossip for him/her and their friends?.
Your privacy matters, you must expect it and create an environment that fosters it. If you don’t have a close personal relationship with your roommate be cautious about discussing private matters and divulging personal information to them. Equally, you must allow them the space to take the lead, and do not bring up their own personal affairs, unless they have implied in conversation or otherwise that they are comfortable sharing that information with you.
Many people have a tendency to feel entitled and take this personally but honestly as long as they pay their share of the bills and fulfill their housekeeping responsibilities they really don’t know owe you anything, the only time you may butt in without their permission, is if you perceive that they are involved in criminal or illegal activities that may endanger your well being. Otherwise mind your business.
- Be Friendly Be Nice
Everybody loves to come home to a great environment, and I don’t mean tidy and clean. If you constantly bicker with your roommate about everything chances are that you will not look forward to spending anytime at home. What was supposed to be your sanctuary becomes a negative space for you.
Create a space where you learn how to communicate and resolve conflicts in a way eliminates unnecessary long-term tension, have difficult conversations respectfully, if you are mad at something, it helps reflect on the issue internally first, that usually calms one down, instead of lashing out immediately at your roommate. If anytime you come home, your roommate is scurrying to their room or you can barely acknowledge each other in the morning, then there is a problem. You don’t have to be best of friends, but you need to be cordial and friendly, you can establish a relationship by organizing a games night, going out for a movie, to dinner, to get to know and understand each other.
Remember that he or she is most likely going to be your first point of contact if an emergency occurs, it pays to be on good terms with them.
These are just a few tips, that I think would be great to live by, I have made lifelong friends with absolute strangers, by applying these rules in my personal life, living with people doesn’t have to be a nightmare, it can turn out to be one of the best experiences of your life, if you try.