My freshman year, I went potluck and lived with a stranger named Emily for 8 months. Based on this one experience, I am an expert on living with a roommate. Here’s what, in my amateur opinion, you need to know:
Be upfront. When anyone does something that irks you, you have three options: Tell them, let it go, or let it fester and build to a rage inside you. If you tell them, the problem will be addressed, and if you let it go, there isn’t a problem anymore. If the issue festers, you’ll eventually explode into 10,000 pieces. The day we met, I told Emily that she should always tell me if something is bothering her- and she did. This helped build an open and honest relationship between us, so we could address small problems before they got out of control.
Set expectations. If having an overnight guest of the opposite sex makes you uncomfortable, tell your roommate before you wake up to a strange man snoring like a train. If you want privacy when you change your clothes, tell your roommate. If you want to do all the cleaning, tell your roommate. Communicate your wishes respectfully, and most people are reasonable enough to compromise or comply.
You have flaws. Let’s be real. No one is the ideal roommate. We all have issues. As for me, I walk really loudly. And talk really loudly. I’m just generally noisy and obnoxious. Also, I stay up late. Like until 5:00 am twice (Don’t recommend it). I thrash in my sleep like an angry bear. I listen to music constantly, sometimes one song over and over again (No Interruption- Hoodie Allen). Tell your roommate what you believe your roommate drawbacks to be; doing so will make them feel more comfortable telling you that listening to your frat rap is insufferable.
Basic respect and courtesy go a long way. Don’t use your roommate’s stuff without asking. If you are going to the store, ask them if they need anything. Don’t Harlem Shake when they are trying to study or sleep. Ask before you have your little brother sleep on the floor for 3 days.
Be sensitive and understanding. You are going to see your roommate at their best and worst. Why? Because you are sharing a room. When your roommate is freaking out about her Spanish project, don’t talk about your easy open-option classes. Emily’s grandpa passed away while we were living together, and understandably, that was really hard on her. You are going to see all sides of your roommate. Give your roommate space when you know they need it. Be kind. Don’t gossip or spread rumors about them. You may think that she sounds like a dying cat when she cries, and you are the only one who needs to know that. Your roommate should feel safe and at home in the room. They don’t need to feel like you are constantly judging them, or telling others about their problems.
You are different. That is okay. Emily and I have a lot in common. We both like theatre and journalism. We love Harry Potter. We consider pretzel M&Ms an acceptable supper. We’re also different. Emily has a serious boyfriend. I have a serious relationship with Netflix. Emily is not very religious. I have been called a Jesus freak. Emily is always fully-clothed and cold. Being warm-blooded, I find being fully-clothed difficult. I am organized to a fault and Emily usually knows where to find her scarves. Emily is the baby of six kids, and I am the oldest of two. We have different ideas about families and marriage. I’m extroverted and she’s introverted. The list goes on. However, Emily and I are great friends and we were great roommates. We attribute this to our mutual respect and nonjudgmental attitudes toward each other.
Ultimately, it all trickles down to attitude. If all parties involved are willing to cooperate and live together in harmony, you will. If not, make new friends who will let you sleep on their floor.