by Madeleine Brown
It can end friendships, start floods, or worse, deplete liquor stocks: a new roommate. They take sibling squabbles to a new level. And mom is no longer around to play referee. Yet the induction of a roommate is as much a required young adult growing pain as failed papers, burnt casseroles and awkward dates. (Hopefully you never experience all three in a single evening.) Whether your roommate turns into your best friend, worse enemy, or—often best of all—the one that’s never home, you needn’t allow them to decimate your daily routine. Here are my tips to survive not only their arrival, but moreover the duration of their stay.
As the experts say, it’s the key to any successful relationship. Establish lines of communication early. Create a Facebook page for your household to post bills, share holiday plans and “book” the living room for your Wednesday night group study sessions. Likewise ensure you have your new roommate’s e-mail address and phone number. You never know when an issue may require the formality of an e-mail or urgency of a phone call. However, don’t omit the best (yet most dreaded) form of communication: in-person conversation. In an ideal world, every set of roommates could dissect household matters in weekly meetings. You needn’t run your house like some government council though, just make the effort to bring up conflicts or needs in person as often as possible. Although it’s easy to throw down dirt via Facebook, remember your roommates know where you live.
Hopefully you’ve spent some time with your new roommate in advance of their move-in date. Whether you have or haven’t, socialize with them on a regular basis. Now your definition of “regular” can vary immensely. I’ve lived with roommates with whom our socializing amounted to shared a meal (and maybe a movie) at the end of each term. Conversely I’ve socialized with roommates on an almost daily basis in the form of bedroom floor lamentations. (I highly recommend during period of high stress.) However regular, let the “fun” aspect of your relationship develop naturally. Don’t draw up an over-packed social calendar or gift them endless friendship bracelets. Like most relationships, it’ll deepen on its own terms. So never force it. And who really wants to end up living with their best friend? …that’s an entire blog post in itself.
Routines established in September can change come December. Don’t lock yourself into duties or policies. If you’d prefer to take on all the household cleaning rather than divide-up the load, do it. (What?! I like to clean.) If your roommate’s new boyfriend’s elongated stays challenge your initially flexible visitation policy, adjust it. And should such changes present further problems, change them again. Consider your own family. Your role likely shifted in nature over the course of your childhood and adolescence. And it’s likely only to shift more as you progress further into adulthood. The most successful communities acknowledge change as an opportunity for growth and development. And maybe you just don’t want to share milk anymore. So don’t!