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.