Living off campus with other students is an important part of your college experience and a good way to save money. But let’s face it: Living with other people sucks.
Unfortunately, the economic realities that most of us face keep that constant, unwanted companion across the hall. I, like most people, have had my fair share of roommates, most of them good, some of them bad, a few of them unbearable. I can’t exactly say that I’m a joy to live with either, but I do try to be a decent roommate.
My advice, especially to students who have signed leases with their so-called ‘friends,’ is to make certain that you actually know the person you will live with before you decide to live with them.
If you demand a sense of order and cleanliness above and beyond the call of sanity, it is not advisable to live with a stoner. This person will bring amusing but somewhat sketchy friends over at three in the morning. You might also want to say goodbye to the couch, because once this person moves in, he will rarely leave it except to go to the bathroom and pay the pizza delivery guy.
Perhaps the most notorious roommate is the one who will steal your boyfriend or girlfriend faster than you can blink. This roommate will be the one who shacks up with everyone you know. If you accidentally wind up living with this person, buy some antibacterial Lysol for the bathroom, keep your toothbrush and bath towels locked in your room, maintain a strict ‘no drinking out of the container’ rule, and lastly, buy some earplugs.
Avoid living with loners or super touchy-feely people. No one knows what the loner does, and this is probably for the best. If this person could afford to live by himself, he would. On the surface, a relationship with this person is great. He stays in his room, he doesn’t talk to you and he even schedules his daily activities so he doesn’t have to interact with you. The bad news is this guy probably has a 9mm collection and has already dug a shallow grave with your name on it.
Eventually your roommate will annoy you, no matter how respectable he or she is.
Take the super-religious, likable fellow, for instance. He is responsible, well-mannered, neat and generally in good spirits. You may actually start to like the guy. And then, after a few months, it happens—he busts out the Bible he keeps near his bed and talks about ‘what Jesus would do.’ Your friendship suddenly becomes a truce once he learns you’re Jewish.
Take caution. Even the nicest roommates, those touchy-feely ones, might eventually get under your skin. Don’t get me wrong, this roommate is undeniably sweet. She always smiles, lets you borrow anything, she’ll give you a friendly back massage and make you a healthy vegetarian meal. She’s also creepy! Beware of someone who never stops smiling. It isn’t normal.
In all seriousness, make sure to talk honestly and openly to your roommates. People get on each other’s nerves and will become upset. Roommates are no exception because they are destined to hate each other.
When you discuss habits and preferences, define your terms. Do not be vague. ‘Clean’ and ‘quiet’ can mean different things to different people. Find common definitions. Set standards, generate a list of simple rules, perhaps even put them in writing and have all roommates sign the form.
Making the roommate relationship work for everyone in the house requires planning, commitment, involvement and, sometimes, hard work, both before you decide to room together and after.
Reut R. Cohen is a second-year English major. She can be reached at email@example.com.