There’s a common saying that great friends don’t always make for great roommates. And, sorry, BFFs everywhere, but it’s true. Although, admittedly, the idea of living under the same roof as one of your favorite people is a nearly irresistible thing.
So assuming you have weighed this decision carefully; considered what you look for in a roomie and what potential pitfalls await, I say go for it. This coming from a longtime veteran of living with her besties. And I haven’t lost one yet. (Wait. Right, best friends? Guys?)
So either I’m just a delight to live with, or I learned to follow some of the most important rules of a good living situation. And yes, there are such rules, especially when it comes to preserving a relationship with someone you really care about. So before the ink is dry on that lease, check out these tips for living with your BFF and staying BFFs.
1. Talk about food
I was a really bad roommate in this department. There is nothing like having a pantry-backup for when you forgot to go grocery shopping but you are really needing something sweet right now. I’ve lived alone for the past year and I still get mad when I’m out of food and have no one to steal from. That being said, I usually asked before I ate, or replaced what I wolfed down within 24 hours. This is actually a really bad example of what to do if you want your best friend to stay your best friend. The rule, actually, is to discuss the terms of food ownership. Will you two share groceries (or big items like milk or La Croix or tequila)? Is it an every-man-for-himself situation and are you labeling things? You’d be surprised at all of the different ways roommates have dealt with this, so just make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to that refrigerator. Trust me, nothing will make you feel more petty than, “Did you eat my yogurt?” So avoid this argument and have a plan in place. Friendship > food.
2. Set expectations about significant others
You know the drill: you split the rent two ways, but most of the time there are three bodies in the apartment. And only one of you is on the making-out end of the bargain. The issue of you or your roommate’s bf or gf can be sensitive, especially when it comes to discussing boundaries. This can get tricky if the original living situation started one way, and changed, but remember this is your bestie and you love her and she loves you and if you want some weeknights where you can go pantsless in peace, ask for it. Better to come up with some ground rules than to turn into the bitter roomie always being like “Oh, HI DYLAN.,” and then eating your dinner in your room. Plus, what goes around comes around and you might snag a lover soon; so if there is already an environment of respect and communication, then everyone wins.
3. Organize those bills, bills, bills
Don’t get me (or Destiny’s Child) started about this one. Money can be so divisive, and between friends can get really ugly really fast. So the rule here is to keep it organized and formal. Rent and utilities should be all business, with responsibilities and due dates clearly communicated in advance, and then abided by. Do you hear how formal I am getting here? That’s because you gotta put on your suit and tie for this if you want to keep things peaceful at home. Whatever system works for you: Shelly pays all the bills, and Lisa pays Shelly for 50% on the 30th of every month, or Lisa and Shelly each pay for a bill and then split the difference on the 1st and 15th, or any other scenario that makes sense and maybe doesn’t involve girls’ names from the ’80s. It’s up to you, just make sure everyone is on board and shakes hands and stuff. Meeting adjourned.
4. Discuss your introvert/extrovert preferences
You might think you spend a lot of time with your best friend now, but just ye wait. When their stupid head is the first and last thing you see at night and in the A.M., your closeness will be redefined, and, often, put to the test. This is a great time to discuss your tastes and preferences for alone time. Ideally this happens before moving in, so no one feels scolded or shunned. One of my besties whom I lived with for almost seven years (I know!) would always close her bedroom door when she wanted to be alone. I know this sounds simple, but I knew if she was in her room with the door open, it usually meant, “Come on in and tell me all your feelings!” Another friend-roommate problem you should be prepared for is the issue of needing time alone but with other people. Ya know, leaving the house to go hang with pals, but not always needing to invite the at-home bestie. Just be sensitive to your friend’s feelings, and understanding of their needs. It’s mostly unhealthy to spend ALL of your time together anyway, so treasure and celebrate your individuality—when you’re together and apart.
6. Who is cleaning this joint?
Living with roommates is how I learned that most people fall into two categories: those who love things “picked up,” and those who love things really clean. The difference being clutter vs actual dirt. I, for one, cannot handle clutter. I was the obnoxious roommate who would put people’s shoes in rows, or move the mail from the table to individual bedrooms, or throw away errant magazines that were crowding the coffee table. My roomie, on the other hand, liked to clean. And when she cleaned, she cleaned. I’m talking scrubbing the bathtub, cleaning out the fridge, waxing the wood floors. So, at a crossroads, we just had to make a plan. She would make an effort to keep the common spaces clutter-free (aka putting all her sh– in her room) and I would agree to bi-weekly deep cleans and/or rotating schedules.
Many people I know actually have a chore chart. This will really save you your sanity. Or, if you can afford it, just hire a cleaning lady and call it a day. Ooh, don’t forget the buying of toilet paper, trash bags, paper towels, and cleaning stuff. Figure out your method there too before Target receipts start being highlighted and put on the fridge with magnets. You do not want that.
7. Consider a separate TV room
If you by chance have the budget for a 3-bedroom when there are just two of you, or have an unused office, may I kindly suggest a second TV room? This will not only ensure that you both get to watch what you want, but that everyone is comfortable and relaxed. And isn’t that how home is supposed to feel? I know two different friends who do this and they rave about it.
Last little piece of advice is just to remember the love. Living with my best friends gave me some of my favorite years and memories. If you can make it work, it’s really magical. So in the midst of your angriest bill-sorting, shoe-organizing, toilet-paper-buying (again!) fits, remember that this is your best friend and at one point she was great enough to earn that title. Compromise will never fail you, nor will monthly check-ins about how everyone is feeling. Call it a house meeting like they did on the Real World and that will add a touch of Hollywood to the whole thing. You’re welcome.
So happy homing, happy best friending, and happy somehow combining the two.