Starting a new chapter in your life (whether it’s a new school year or a new job) is difficult enough, couple that with the added pressure of moving in with someone new. When you are a student or just entering the workforce, paying expensive rent is a common problem, especially in major cities. Finding roommates is a great solution, but how do you adjust to living with someone new?
1. Friendly Introduction
This probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but communication is definitely one of the most important factors in any relationship. Open, honest, and constant communication is key. Both you and your new roommate might feel intimidated to start chatting right away, but there is no better time to break the ice and get to know each other. Be the brave one — begin the conversation! Ask a few things about your new friend, show genuine interest, give appropriate compliments, and don’t forget to listen! Then share relevant things about yourself, but keep it short and don’t force anything. Before you know it, you’ll feel more comfortable than ever!
2. Keep the Conversation Going
Let’s be honest — not every conversation you’ll have will be a pleasant one. With any housemate, you are sharing space and sometimes that can lead to little conflicts. Talking it out is the best option. If you keep in how you feel because you’re trying to be polite, that won’t work either! Being honest and polite will help resolve any conflicts quickly. If the time does come for a confrontation first take time to cool off. If you run into your bunkmate’s room yelling in agony, what kind of reaction do you think you’ll get? In contrast, if you think through the conversation before having it, prepare your arguments as well as answers to possible objections, you are more likely to have a civil discussion instead of a heated argument.
3. Set Ground Rules
Another effective conflict avoiding strategy is agreeing on ground rules from the beginning. Everyone is different, and what’s acceptable to you might be very upsetting to your friend. For example, you might think that finishing the leftovers is totally OK (they were left over which means no one wants them, right?), but your roommate might be on his/her way home dreaming about them the very second you’re munching on them!
4. Sharing is Caring?
While we’re on this topic, we should note that everyone feels differently about sharing. What you might consider borrowing may look like stealing and never paying for anything for your flatmate. Agree on “who buys what” rules first and foremost! If you’re there, create a budget and make sure it’s fair for both of you. It’s also totally okay if you both want to have your own budgets, and operate finances separately! Just be sure you know whose things are whose!
5. Quiet time
Have another conversation about your schedules and down times. Agree on the appropriate times for loud music and for quiet studying/sleeping. Never force your roommate out of the place by playing loud music! Your neighbours might do that to you (especially if you live on campus or in a student-filled building), but at least you won’t fight each other on that.
6. Divide the Chores
What’s worse than making your roomie feel like they do all the work around the house? Doing that and not knowing about it! Unless you live with a “Monica” (Friends reference) who genuinely enjoys the chores, make sure you pitch in. If you can’t contribute equally (if you are at home less often for example), offer to bring food or clean up another time. Just ensure your roommate knows you care.
7. If things aren’t working out
Even if you do your best at following all of the above, there is a possibility that you still won’t get along. You might dislike each other, or your roomie may make no effort in creating a positive environment. This a very tough situation to be in, but it happens more often than you think. Movies and TV shows always focus on the fun part of living with someone, but the reality isn’t always such. In situations like this, you need to go back to #2 on the list and talk it out. Share what’s bothering you and try to be the bigger person. At that point, if the conversation is still going nowhere, it might be best to part ways. Sometimes this means saving your friendship – a good friend doesn’t always equal a good roommate. All in all, know when enough is enough and be polite if you eventually need to ask your friend to move out (or move out yourself — based on your initial arrangement, see #2).
We hope that you’ll find these tips useful for adjusting to a new way of living. Sharing a space with your closest relatives is sometimes hard, so it is definitely a challenge with a friend or a stranger. Still, if you make your best effort to make this experience pleasant for everyone, you may end up with a best friend for life (yes, just like in movies!).