Many of us have lived with a roommate either when we went to college or got our first apartment. But, with the high rents in many major centres, it’s not unusual today to still have a roommate well into your 20’s or 30’s (or beyond). There are some good things to be said about having a roommate. If you’ve moved to a new city, it can be a way of making new friends outside of work. And if you room with someone from a different background or culture, it can be a way of adding diversity to your friendships. Roommates can help you feel you’re not alone in the world while living alone can be a very lonely experience for some of us.
On the other hand, living in any type of shared household, whether it’s with a partner or a roommate, means that you give up some of the freedom you enjoy when living alone. Also, when you’re living with a roommate, who may be a friend or someone you found on Craigslist, some annoyances are bound to come up.
Here are a few common issues that may arise in shared living situations, as well as some possible solutions:
- Differing views on housecleaning: You are a neat freak, and your roommate is, well, not. One of the best ways to cope with different housekeeping points of view is to hire a cleaning service, and split the cost. This way, all of the major cleaning will get done, without either of you having to pester the other one. But there’s still the issue of the daily clean-ups: doing the dishes, picking up jackets and shoes, tidying up things left in the living room or other common areas. These little things aren’t so little after a while. If one of you can’t stand to see a single dish left sitting in the sink, while the other one doesn’t put anything in the dishwasher until a full load is piled up, things will come to a head, likely sooner rather than later. One solution might be to create a Chore Chart. There are many ways to do this; on a calendar, on a spreadsheet, or even on a wheel.
Too much togetherness: Your roommate works from home and is ALWAYS there. Okay, there are pros and cons to this type of situation. The downside is they will always be there underfoot. You’ll never get the living room all to yourself. But having someone at home every day might be a bonus: they could accept deliveries, meet the cable guy or any other service technician. But if you work from home as well, you might find yourselves constantly bumping into each other. Or when you invite some friends over, your roomie plunks themselves down in the living room and doesn’t give you any privacy. Or they hog the shared space all the time.To solve this, you might want to check each other’s schedules. At your weekly meeting (see below) find out when your roommate is planning to be out of the house. Everyone has to go out sometime; to the movies, to go shopping, to see friends. You could use these times for your own “me time” sessions. Take over the living room, put your feet up, and read or watch your favourite show.
- Bringing friends in too often: One of you is a social butterfly with friends constantly dropping over. The other considers home their refuge, away from people. You may feel like you have to sit in your bedroom while your roomie’s friends are over. And, they’re drinking all the coffee that you’ve bought. Clearly, issues will arise if something isn’t done. They may not realize you feel this way unless you speak up. Maybe the two of you can come to an agreement where they limit their visitors and meet them at a coffee shop or restaurant once in a while.
Unfair split of expenses: Hopefully, before you ever moved in together, you discussed this matter. Rent could be 50/50, or if one of you has a larger room, maybe the split is a bit different. One of you might pay more of the cable bill because you added a channel that no one else watches. And what about household items, like dish soap and toilet paper? If one person feels they are paying more than their share, resentment will build up. And how do you keep track of who owes what?One solution could be found in an app called Splitwise. If you’re always running out to buy small items, this app keeps track of the expenditures, as well as how much your roommate owes you (and how much you owe them). Then you can pay your debt in one lump sum, rather than several small transactions. And don’t forget about your tenants insurance. If you share one policy, and one of you has more furniture or other belongings than the other, a 50/50 split of the premium may not be equitable. Talk to your insurance advisor about whether it’s better to share a policy or get individual policies.
- Rising temperatures: One of you likes the apartment toasty warm. The other one likes it on the cool side. Are they just too warm, or is it the cost of heating that’s got them upset? If it’s the cost, maybe you can offer to pay more of the heating bill.
- Security: Did your roommate forget to lock the deadbolt again? Maybe one of you is a bit more security conscious than the other. Or it could be a matter of just not being aware. Let’s say you commonly open the sliding glass doors to the patio, and leave them open as long as one of you is home to let the fresh air in. When you leave for work, maybe you didn’t realize you were the last one out and neglected to close and lock the doors. To make sure this doesn’t happen, you could put a checklist up by the door: Shut the lights, lock the patio doors, turn on the alarm. This way, you’ll think twice before walking out, and leaving your home open to whoever wants to walk in.
- Using each other’s stuff: No. It is not alright to “borrow” your roommate’s computer while they’re out of town unless you’ve asked and they had agreed. Always get permission first before using anything belonging to your roommate. This goes along with respecting each other’s personal space. Usually, in a roommate situation, your bedrooms are your personal space to do with as you will. And it is definitely not okay for your roommate to enter your personal space without your express permission. The rest of the home is common territory: living room, kitchen, bathroom.
- Sleepovers: Significant other staying over too much? If they’re using too much water when they shower, it’s time they started chipping in for expenses. This is a very common issue among roommates and should be discussed before it builds up to a larger problem. It can also be a problem if you have family or friends from out of town staying for weekends occasionally. You must give your roommate advanced notice of any visitors. Imagine coming home and finding a stranger coming out of your bathroom. Let your roommate know who is coming, for how long, and get your roommate’s okay. It’s their home as well, so you need to agree on this. If it’s a significant other, and visits will be on a regular basis, discuss. Agree on how often this can happen without being too much. Put yourself in their shoes, and have an open conversation about it.
- Party time: Your roommate works on the weekends, so Monday and Tuesday are their days off. And days off might mean they’ll be staying up late and bringing friends over. But if you’re working the early shift Monday and Tuesday, you need to get to bed early and get your sleep. As a solution, perhaps you could agree on a “quiet hour” after which time there should be no noise.
One of the best ways to deal with small issues before they become big ones is to schedule weekly meetings. Call them what you like: “check-ins,” “sync meetings,” or “time to touch base.” But use them as an opportunity to:
- Check each other’s schedules so you know when you can have some alone time in the apartment. If you’re going out of town for the weekend, let your roommate know you’ll be away. This is a sign that you care about your roommate, and hopefully, your roommate will respect and care about you.
- Discuss the “chore chart.” If one of you has not been fulfilling your duties, this is the time for a gentle reminder.
Avoid passive-aggressive notes
People often try to avoid face to face confrontations by leaving passive aggressive notes for their roommate. This is more likely to cause additional problems than solve existing ones. It’s better to be honest and address any issues directly with your roommate. There could be a very simple fix to a problem. Maybe they throw their coat on a chair rather than hanging it up, and never realized it bothered you. Rather than leave a nasty note, add it to your agenda for the weekly meeting.
Pick your battles
You are never going to agree with your roommate on absolutely everything. Decide what issues are real deal breakers for you, and which ones you can live with. Think about how you’ll sound saying “You don’t squeegee the shower door after every shower.” If they don’t leave toothpaste blobs in the sink and always replaces the toilet paper, maybe you can live with an un-squeegeed shower.
Some people feel having a comfortable common area for roommates to hang out when they feel like being together is a great idea. Movie nights, game nights, or other types of get-togethers with your roommate(s) can give you some time to bond. You might find it’s easier to overlook your roommates’ annoying idiosyncrasies if you regularly spend some fun time together.
Living with a roommate has both its joys and challenges. The best way to keep on good terms is to maintain open and honest communication, and address issues as they come up. For more information, or to get a quote on your home insurance, contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933.