Moving in with a stranger can be very intimidating, especially if you’re an only child like me and never really had to share anything with anyone. I'll be honest, I struggled getting along with my roommate for a while. It takes a lot of patience and communication skills to learn how to live with each other. Here are some tips on how to get along with your new cohabitant.
1. Understand that you don't have to be besties
Though we always pictured being super close with our roommates, or actually moving in with our best friend, you don't have to be BFFs with them. Sometimes, it is the pressure of wanting to become super close with a roommate that starts a rocky relationship. Don’t bombard each other with a list of activities to do together. You’re both in a new place! Get out and explore to learn independence. Isn't that the whole reason you're moving away from home?
2. Learn each other’s basics
You will be under one roof, so talking and learning about each other’s routines can really help set boundaries and expectations. Which one of you is an early-bird and who is a night owl? What times do you prefer to study? This will tell you how long you or they can listen to music at night, or how long guests can stay over. Does one get headaches easily with loud music or take a long time in the shower? Establishing things like this early on is helpful in creating a routine that works for everyone.
3. Create a schedule and noticeboard
Using a whiteboard is super helpful! Here you can write down important information like any groceries that need to be bought (if you decide to share things) or even help you avoid awkward situations like “please unclog the toilet next time!”. If you constantly disagree on who has done what, then it's a great way to track errands, jobs, or anything else in between that you have one.
For example, sometimes I felt like I was doing groceries more often than my roommate, though he argued that it wasn't true. I started tracking how I often we both went and that solved a lot of arguments. We also wrote down important dates on this board, not only for our sake, but so that the other knew when we had important things going on, so the other knew why we couldn't take care of stuff in the apartment.
On this notice board, you can also write down whose turn it is to do what. That being said:
4. Set Jobs
From the get-go, discuss who is more willing to do which jobs. Who likes to cook while hating cleaning? Who can stand cleaning a toilet but not taking out the trash? If you share a small dorm, this step may not be necessary. But if you're sharing a kitchen or bathroom, it may be essential to set up shifts.
I never liked cooking, so it was great for me when my roommate offered to do all the cooking while I did the cleaning. It was a good compromise and sure, sometimes we would do each other's job, but it made us realize how hard the other's job can be. It helped us show appreciation.
This is when things start to get tricky. Sometimes, someone may not keep up with their chores, which can lead to confrontation. Before approaching it, take a second to think about how busy your roommate is. Are they working extra shifts? Is it exam season yet? Are they going through a tough situation? It's important to consider what they have going on that may keep them from keeping up with things at home.
5. Seek Other Sanctuaries
Whether you're sharing a small room or an entire apartment, it can be quite overwhelming to deal with others, especially if you don't get along. Going along with number 1, make other friends that you don't live with. Join clubs or societies that your college offers so that you have a place to turn to if things ever get ugly with a roommate. It can even be the library, local coffee shop or student center. Just find a place or group of people that can be your escape.
This step was the most important for me when my roommate and I would get into arguments. Both of us had somewhere to run to which gave us a chance to cool down and think about things. This, in turn, made us come back and talk things out in a healthier, more effective matter. Having other friends also gave me a chance to rant to someone, so I could get things off my chest.
Moving in with a stranger is extremely intimidating. It's important to remember to work together and communicate properly. However, if things really don't work out well for you, don't be afraid to find new accommodation. You can talk to a dorm advisor about how to be switched to another dorm. Good luck!