In honor of the beginning of moving into dorm season as well as my own relocation to a new apartment with a new roommate, I’ve decided to write a post that outlines my experiences with roommates through a few tips I’ve learned. I’ve lived with eleven people over the past five years, in various combinations of numbers and in different living situations, from double dorm rooms to a triple dorm. I’ve also spent the past year living by myself in a one bedroom apartment. So learn from my mistakes and feel free to add any of your own experiences!
What’s Mine Is Yours(?)
There were lots of things I didn’t think I would mind sharing when I first went off to college. It wasn’t the first time I’d ever shared a bedroom, but it was the first time that other person hadn’t been one of my siblings. The final straw with my freshman year roommate came with the hairbrush incident, in which I returned to the room to find hair that was obviously not mine tangled up in my hairbrush. Having definite lines about what you will and won’t share in a roommate situation is important. In my best living situation, in which food was involved, we each had our own cupboard and had to share a mini fridge and freezer, but we made it very clear from the beginning that we weren’t to use each other’s food without explicit permission. When it came to dishes or utensils or pots and pans, however, the agreement was simply that if you used it you had to wash it and return it. Setting up boundaries early in the relationship means you can avoid having hurt feelings later, and you can always address issues as they come up, which brings me to my next point.
Communication is Key
There are always going to be roommate disputes, and when you shove three teenage girls in a very small space with all their belongings, problems are bound to come up. What frequently happened my sophomore year of college was the ganging up effect, in which two roommates would commiserate about something the third roommate was doing and rather than having a discussion would start an argument that would end with a lot of hurt feelings. If we had been reasonable and sat down to have discussions rather than putting each other constantly on trial, our relationship would have gone much more smoothly.
Moving away from home for the first time was stressful enough, but when I got to my freshman dorm room to find that my roommate had taken the best mattress, the best desk, the best chair, AND the side of the room that had the window, my emotions ran high. Rather than discussing any of these issues, however, I simply let them slide and let them breed eventual resentment. Don’t let issues fester, and don’t constantly be the one compromising by default. Bring up things that concern you and give the other person a chance to address the problem rather than assuming the worst.
Be (Y)Our Guest
Guests can be tricky, especially if you’re living in a situation where your sleeping area is also your common/socializing area. When I woke up one night to find a stranger in my roommate’s bed it quickly became clear that she had crossed a line and we had to deal with the situation. Whether it’s about guests spending the night or staying into the early hours of the morning, these decisions should be discussed without the guests present to overhear the conversation.
Can’t We Just Be Friends?
Sometimes you won’t be friends with your roommate, and that’s okay. It certainly is a lot funner to be great friends with your roommate, and I definitely recommend it if at all possible. Certainly don’t attempt to alienate your roommate, in any case. However, the roommate relationship is just as important as the friendship, and you can’t ignore roommate problems in favor of the friendship, because eventually the resentment will boil over and cause problems. Finding the friend/roommate balance can be tricky, but if you prioritize both relationships you’ll find a way to make it work.
Living with people has been a great experience for me. I’ve had some of my worst arguments with roommates as well as found some of my very best friends. Hopefully you’ll be able to avoid some of the more traumatic experiences I had by following these tips! Of course, you should always feel safe in your living space, and if your roommate seriously violates your right to feeling safe, you should talk to your Resident Advisor.
So what are your tips for living with someone new?