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When Worlds Collide: 3 Tips For Successfully Sharing Space With a Roommate

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By Ambro @ FreeDigitalPhotos.netIt’s back-to-school time and, for many, this means “off-to-school” for the first time, as they make the transition from living at home with their parents to sharing space with a roommate.  And while the following tips will certainly apply in the college dorm, they stand for friends, couples and any group of people sharing space, as well.

Living with another person can be a delightful experience full of new ideas, shared activities, connection and lots of change. It can also bring some growing pains, as certain habits, the sharing of stuff and actions that seem strange or inconsiderate start to get in the way. The following tips can help you avoid any of the latter, keeping your new roommate relationship intact.

#1: Be Open and Honest From the Start

Do dishes left in the sink drive you crazy? Are you particular about things like your sleeping habits, having friends around too much or even days you like to do your laundry?

Think through your personal habits: things that you enjoyed about living with your family, pet peeves and how good or bad you are about keeping up with chores, and have a series of conversations with your new roommate about your habits and expectations. Do this early-on, before much time is spent living together, and again as time moves on. Habits will begin to develop early, and if you find yourself appreciating something your roommate does: like preparing a dinner, picking up something at the store or cleaning, make sure you thank them.

Perhaps a bit more difficult, if something irritates you, find a considerate way to bring it up. This is VERY important for several reasons. The longer something goes unaddressed, the more habitual it becomes – and the more irritated you become, allowing your roommates actions to wear on you. More often than not, people don’t want to upset you, and appreciate the opportunity to stop. You’re robbing them of this if you do not share and causing a whole lot of extra grief for you both.

#2: Establish Expectations For Chores

There are any number of plans for keeping up the living space that can work: you can vary chores week to week, divide the tasks per person or even divide the cost of a housekeeper.

But what doesn’t work is to plan nothing, say nothing and do nothing about the work needed around the house. Studies have been done about the “Roommate Phenomenon”, and an interesting result was found. Even if both roommates did equal work to maintain a place, if they weren’t observing each other when working or keeping chores organized, both roommates would believe that they were “doing it all” and develop resentment towards the other. Sort of the “If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s watching,” phenomenon, roommates often don’t believe that the other has cleaned or worked on the home without witnessing or discussing it. Make sure you work together to make a plan!

#3: Be Considerate

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule: “Treat Others the Way You’d Want to Be Treated”. Well, it’s not always that simple.

To start out, this is a great rule to follow. If you don’t like it when your roommate invites people over without asking you, then don’t invite people over without asking them. Enjoy when your roommate picks up coffee in the morning? Do it every so often for them, as well. Reciprocity is key – A good deed for a good deed.

The next step is to make sure that you listen and observe to determine what your roommate thinks of your behaviors. Maybe you really enjoy falling asleep to the television, but your roommate doesn’t share this feeling, and the noise actually keeps them up. Maybe you don’t mind the noise your electric toothbrush makes in the morning at all, but it wakes your roommate up every day.

When making a major change to the living space, or when doing anything that could potentially be annoying or an interruption to your roommate’s way of life, make sure you ask.

Some basic tips for being considerate:

  • – Don’t eat your roommate’s food, wear their clothes or use anything of theirs without establishing that it’s okay, first. You may be open to sharing, but everyone is not that way.
  • – Don’t raise your cost of living in any way (upgrade cable, install an air conditioner for your room, etc.) without discussing it with them, first. Never assume your roommate will fork over extra cash without checking in with them.
  • – Don’t allow a significant other to become a constant presence around your living space without clearing this with your roommate. Your roommate does not want to pay your significant other’s rent and expenses and may also want some space.
  • – Honor your half of the rental agreement. Don’t skimp out on your share of expenses and leave your roommate in the lurch.
  • – Clean up after yourself. Regularly.
  • – Lock windows and doors. You don’t want to compromise the safety and security of your roommate and their things. Also, don’t give anyone else a key.

Having difficulty with sharing space in a new (or existing) home? We’re here to listen, and are happy to help. If you’re experiencing heavy anxiety or frustration due to issues with a roommate or loved one at home, Contact Us. One of our trained counselors can work with you to establish new ways of living with each other and get back on track.