Roommate Revolution: Building relationships with your present and future roommates

Photo Credit: Jessica Lin

Roommate-horror stories aren’t just urban legend. Many students find themselves going home to a real-life horror movie when they have a bad relationship with their roommate. 

Roommates widely influence your ability to feel safe, comfortable and at peace in your living space. It’s important to look at methods to find a good roommate, address sensitive issues and evaluate the kind of roommate you are. 

Choosing roommates
When looking to pick a good candidate for your roommate, these are all important factors to consider. 

1. Living habits 
The most characteristic of a cohabitant is identifying someone whose lifestyle matches up with yours. If it’s 10 p.m. on a Tuesday and you’re trying to go to sleep, but your roommate just invited five friends over to hangout, then they may not be the best match for you.

Similarly, if you’re sharing a bathroom or have a kitchen, make sure your roommate has the same standard of cleanliness. How often do they clean the bathroom and keep dirty dishes in the sink? Address these topics before moving in together in order to make sure there isn’t resentment because one person is doing all the cleaning.

2. Friendship (optional)
While it’s obviously desirable to have a roommate who is also your friend, it’s not necessary. Don’t put friendship as the highest priority on your list of good roommate factors. Often, old friendships can be strained when living in tight quarters. It’s difficult to bring up issues regarding money or cleanliness with someone you may feel overly comfortable with.  Friendship can grow between roommates, but it’s most important that there’s mutual respect when living with another person. 

3. The initiation
When asking someone to be your roommate, always think about a person who is likely in need of a roommate for the next semester/school year and who will want to live in a similar apartment or dorm as you. Also think about someone you know socially, whose lifestyle is similar to yours. Don’t be afraid to just ask them if they’re looking for a roommate next year and tell them to take a few days and think about it. If they turn you down, don’t take it personally. It’s likely a conflict in lifestyle. As the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. 

Addressing difficult issues and setting boundaries
Conflicts will arise with you and your roommate. They may be small like someone forgetting to lock the door behind them or more serious like refusing to clean the bathroom. Approach the problem as soon as you notice it and always have an open line of communication. Make sure to clearly state your concerns to your roommate without making it sound like an accusation or an ultimatum.

They will most likely be open to listen and make a change, but if not, talk to your resident assistant or other roommates you have who may be able to bring in an outside perspective. Worst-case scenario: you may have to leave and find a new living arrangement to feel safe and at peace. Whatever you do, don’t hold in your concerns. That will only let the problem fester and grow. 

Being a good roommate 
As corny as it may be, the golden rule applies perfectly here: Treat others as you would want to be treated. Respect and empathy are key factors in a good roommate. Even if you and your roommate are completely different people, always be willing to compromise and respect each other’s life decisions. Remember that your living situation is in many ways just a method to cut down the cost of living for both parties.  

Being respectful also means paying rent on time, doing your share of the chores and following through on the promises you make about having guests over or buying groceries. Do these simple things and your roommate is bound to love you. 
The roommate experience doesn’t have to be something out of a horror movie. If you’re selective and respectful, the person you’re sharing a home with could become a great friend.