For years you have waited to “fly the coop.” The day has finally arrived for you to spread your wings and fly . . . only to land in another nest with other birds from a different place. Maybe you are moving into a college dorm, an apartment with a friend or several friends. Suddenly, you realize how different things are from what you are used to. Sleep schedules, food consumption, cleanliness (or the lack thereof), bathroom sharing, and so many other adjustments have to be made in order for this new “nest” to become home. It is a very exciting time, but it can also be quite challenging. Here are ten tips to help make the transition as smooth as possible and to help you be the best roommate you can be.
1. Compromises must be made. Be flexible. Everyone has quirks, preferences, and idiosyncrasies. Be understanding of each other, but don’t allow yourself to be a doormat either. It might take some time to make the necessary adjustments, so don’t give up too quickly. Discuss and keep a specified range of temperature for the thermostat. This can have a huge effect on both the electric bill and the comfort of your home. Continue to have these same types of discussions for matters where compromise is a necessity.
2. Understand the way you have always done things might not be the way you will continue to do them. Does the toilet paper roll go over or under? Should you drink directly from the milk jug or not? Some issues might concern things you have never thought twice about but might catch your roommate off-guard, or vice versa.
3. Realize this is your roommate’s home too. Everyone wants a place to call “home.” Both of you should have an equal say in decisions, decorations, and daily tasks. Do your part to make sure you and your roommate both feel “at home.” Respect each other’s privacy. Pets are probably not a good idea unless both roommates agree to help care for the animal. Otherwise, it can be a nuisance to the one who does not own the pet, and it might even cause allergy flare-ups.
4. Be respectful of your roommate’s property. If you break something, fix it or replace it. Be honest when accidents happen. Take care of what belongs to others even when they are not around. Treat your roommate’s property the way you would like him or her to treat yours. When dealing with personal things or expensive items, ask before using whatever it is. It is better to ask for permission and it not seem necessary than to not ask and offend your roommate.
5. Establish boundaries and hold one another accountable to them. These may include boundaries regarding relationships, purity, and even financial affairs. (Financial issues between two people can be very difficult, especially when one is waiting on a payment from another. Respect due dates for bills and rent, pay on time, and pay in full.) The Lord has given us earthly relationships as a reflection of our relationship with Him. A roommate can be a built-in accountability partner. Prayerfully set “house rules” to hold one another accountable and keep one another from stumbling. Speak up when you see boundaries being pushed, even if it means having a difficult conversation.
6. Pick up after yourself. Guardians are no longer there to come behind you and pick up everything you leave behind. Your roommate does not want to climb a Mt. Everest of clothes in order to get in his or her room. Be mindful of your messes, wash your dishes, take out the trash if it needs it, and clean shavings off the bathroom sink. These simple tasks can keep you from lots of disagreements. Also understand that your roommate might have a different “clean standard” than you do. You will figure out the “standard” differences as time passes, but try to take the best care of your home that you can.
7. Have a collaborated calendar. Check with your roommate before inviting guests over to make sure you do not overbook your living space. This is as simple as placing a calendar on the door of the refrigerator and adding in your “event” schedule. If something overlaps, discuss it openly and immediately and examine all of the options. Again, be flexible! It is your roommate’s house too!
8. Respect the schedule of your roommate. Does your roommate’s work schedule require late nights or early mornings? Be mindful of his or her sleep schedule. Do not blare loud music at all hours of the night. If you are an early riser, leave the coffee pot on for your night owl roommate. Night owls, try to keep noise to a minimum late at night as your roommate is drifting off to dream land.
9. Establish grocery guidelines. You might even try to plan meals together to save money. Be mindful of the cost of food and try to split it equally. While it is okay to have your own “secret stash,” it is not necessary to have a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs per person. Split the task of buying the “essentials.” For the other items, know whose food is whose and ask before eating or drinking anything that belongs to your roommate. It would be heartbreaking to come home craving those cookies you purchased yesterday only to find crumbs left in their place. Consider allowing one person to purchase household goods like toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning products and splitting the cost equally.
10. Be willing to listen and know how to handle disagreements. After working a 14-hour shift when an 8-hour shift was scheduled, the dishes in the sink can wait until you get some rest. Hear each other out before jumping to conclusions, especially when you might not have all of the facts. Keep an open line of communication.
As you are making your new nest your home, you will face many challenges. It is difficult to adjust to another person’s way of living. Understand that neither of the homes you are coming from are the same—different people, socioeconomic statuses, ways of life, and parts of the country are all factors. Remember a verse that is very familiar and do to others as you would like them to do to you. (Luke 6:31). The biggest thing you can do is to try to be the best roommate you can be. After all, that’s all you can control (Romans 12:18).