The old adage is true – you really don’t know a person until you live with them. For those of you who have had to stay (or currently are) in the dorms your freshman year of college, you’ve probably been subjected to getting to know a complete stranger in the tight-knit quarters otherwise known as a glorified shoebox. Then you graduate, but UH OH, you’re too broke from those student loans and the lack of dream job your mother always believed that you’d get, that you’re back to square one, shacking up with fellow post-grads or, worst case scenario, the sanest person you could pluck from Craigslist who doesn’t collect taxidermy or own a Scarface poster.
Living with non-familial individuals is a natural part of becoming a normal-functioning human being. The experience is not only character-building, but involuntarily forces you to discover your own personality with all of its ticks and quirks. You’re suddenly a master of human psychology, friendship, negotiating, boundary-making, bonding, resolving, sacrificing, sharing, caring, dating advice-giving, bathroom scheduling, silent dressing, eating your food and your food-ering, and invisible-line-down-the-room-making.
We imagine time with our new roomies like an episode of Friends, getting ourselves into sitcom-esque shenanigans amongst mismatched furniture and never locking the door. But sometimes it becomes less Laverne and Shirley and more Single White Female. Okay, perhaps not that extreme. Maybe Eddie, the ad interim Joey Tribbiani? Or Puck from Real World: San Francisco. Ugh, Puck. It’s easy to forget, in our excitement of new found independence and pizza for breakfast that everyone needs a place to live, and that also happens to include the world’s crappy people. Then, five ex-roommates down the line, you find yourself asking, “maybe, just maaaybe, I’M the one that’s really been the problem all along! I’m the one who doesn’t clean up after myself, pitch in enough for toilet paper, or wasn’t unaware that Chinese lanterns are so flammable because I was just trying to make the place look nice! Why doesn’t anyone want to live with me? AT LEAST I’M NOT PUCK!”
We’ve all got flaws, my little snowflakes, but sometimes these flaws can result in people no longer trusting you near their curling irons. Or friends and family. Tomayto, tomahto. If any of these thoughts have ever crossed your 500 square feet-sized brain, perhaps it’s time to shell out the cash for a studio apartment, because you’re just not meant to live with other people.
1. Cleanliness is Godliness, and I’m the Devil Seriously, rule #1. You’re sharing a space and air and microbes with another person, and for the love of all things good and Jim Carrey, clean up after yourself! It’s an unwritten law that if you dirty the pots and pans, you will also undirty them. I’ve dealt with too many piles of dishes and filthy floors and didn’t know how to mention it to the perpetrator without it being weird and seeming like a parent. Being really messy makes you a bad roommate on multiple levels. One, that you are obviously lazy, and two, you’re making it uncomfortable for the other person who now has to ask you to do something that you should already know to do and gets to feel super weird about asking ’cause they just wanna be totally cool and good pals but seriously, girl, this is growing stuff. Just listen to your mothers. The most effective system I’ve experienced was a cleaning chart, organized to assign a different room for each person each week. Who doesn’t love charts?! Scrub it to its core on just ONE day and maintain its shine throughout the week. And the world is at peace.
2. Cleanliness is Godliness, and I’M GOD There’s a reason why Ross Geller didn’t have a roommate. Living with a germaphobe can be just as bad as the one who is comfortable with their global takeover. There’s the need for clean, and then there’s stifling your roommate with chemicals and yelling at guests to not take their beers onto the carpet so no one wants to come over anymore. A friend of mine in college lived with a roommate so OCD that she freaked out when I moved a magazine because I managed to fudge the symmetry of the coffee table. Now, I’m a neat freak, but THIS I couldn’t grasp. If you obsess about things being absolutely perfect, the safest route is not even bother living with people and risk the stresses of someone touching your soap. They will be grateful to no longer have to live with a mini version of their mother. Everyone wins! Or, you know, you could just learn to lighten up because life ain’t perfect and neither is this apartment.
3. What’s Yours is Mine and What’s Mine is Just Mine You can tell a lot from living with someone what their upbringing was probably like, and, no offense to those who apply, but it’s usually pretty simple to tell who grew up the only child versus a large family. The lone kids always have the most things and you can’t have any of it, even if you ask super nicely and promise to treat it with care, and holy crap it’s just blue nail polish! Sure, you’ve got to have boundaries, but living with another person means you will inevitably need to borrow or use one another’s things. It’s teamwork! I know that everyone is different, and many of you will think otherwise, but my own personal experiences support my argument. I had an only child roommate who decided to invest in fancy Pier 1 dishes that were never allowed to be used. Why are they here, then?! Are we waiting on the president?
If you ask to use or eat something, it’s only fair to expect to be asked at some point as well, preferably of an item of equal or lesser value. Share chips and salsa! Don’t share goat cheese. Share hair straightener! Don’t share special brand name shampoo. Share scarves! Don’t share clothes unless you’re the same size or it’s some sort of wacky Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants scenario. Share boxes of tampons! Don’t share cycles.
4. Mind if My Boyfriend Stays Here for A Couple of
Days Months and Never Pays Rent? When I signed this lease I didn’t mean I was going live with you and whomever you happened to be dating at the time, especially since we have to share a bedroom. Sure, we’re all kinda friends here, but he just ate my mac ‘n cheese and if it weren’t for this situation I would never voluntarily be in a conversation with this person. It’s rough to be the single roommate to a couple who loves PDA and babytalk phone calls, especially if you don’t have a door to shut them off. If you each have your own bedrooms, by all means, go nuts, but be mindful that the walls technically will talk if I can hear your alone time through them. If you’re sharing a dorm or bedroom and your boyfriend likes to come over for slumber parties, you’ve got some self-reevaluating to do. Squeezing three people of different genders in one room is one of the most awkward things I’ve had to be subjected to, and I would’ve been much more tolerant of having to hold in my farts if he’d at least chipped in rent money or baked or something. There’s helping out a friend in need, but there’s also just a dude without a job. Abort! Abort!
5. Excuse Me While I Make the Bathroom My Second Bedroom Man, ladies love their bathrooms. Ya know, ’cause of the mirrors! So we can paint our faces and pluck the hairs that nature gave us and take pictures of ourselves with a photobombing toilet and practice Academy Award acceptance expressions! Unfortunately, it looks like we’ve got class at the same time and neither of us decided to shower the night before. Someone’s leaving with wet hair. Everyone knows the girl that takes too long in the bathroom, whether it’s for three layers of makeup or 45 minute showers. I had a roommate who managed a full hour of showering almost every night. To this day I have no idea what she was doing in there, cowering in the fetal position, perhaps, but she still looks the same. Ladies, it’s all about speed and consideration. Seriously, why would you want to hang out in there so much in the first place? If you’re going in for a shower, always always always ask if someone needs to use the toilet before you hop in, because, if you don’t, you will pay for it. Get in, get out, put other mirrors around the apartment, brush your teeth in the shower, and tone it down with the Indian food.
6. Sorry I Puked On The Cat No one likes a sloppy drunk, especially one you can’t get away from. There’s nothing that makes me want to have a drink less than watching a dreadfully drunk person, and, of course, it’s when you have to get up at 7 am that your roomie is off to So-And-So’s friend So-And-So-So’s birthday party because there’s tequila and she drinks it like a Mexican mermaid. So many shots later, she morphs from mermaid to zombie as she stumbles home like she forgot how feet work. Then she throws her sea sick onto the freshly swept wood floor and now we need a new cat. Oop, time to get up for work!
Of course, you’re young and you’re allowed to get crazy. Make mistakes and learn things! But making it an all too common occurrence has its wears when your stupors start affecting another person’s quality of life and the wallpaper. Keep it in check before you ruin all of your nice dresses.
Does this sound like anyone you know? Does this sound like you? Share your stories in the comments section!
Image Courtesy of Screen Gems.