Roommates: Can't Live With 'Em, Can't Afford To Live Without 'Em

by Moriah Boone

Ah, roommates. The very word brings back so many vivid memories; it's hard to choose my top three.

Maybe it's the time my roommate secretly moved her boyfriend of three months into our small, two-bedroom apartment -- for free -- and didn't think I would notice.

Or, perhaps it's the time my roommate got upset with me and decided that the best form of revenge was to leave my cat in my room with no food or water for about a week while I was away.

They're all great moments, but my favorite would have to be when my spoiled, self-entitled, man-child of a roommate called his daddy to threaten me with legal charges because he simply could not wait a day to receive his half of our refundable deposit. It's probably better to let the adults handle it, anyway.

Roommates can either be the bane of your existence or the best part of your day, but how do you go about finding the right ones? It's pretty unlikely you'll be able to live by yourself until you're 30 with the amount student loans you owe, anyway, so might as well learn how to maintain a peaceful living situation while you can.

Here are some tips on how to navigate through the crazies and find roommates you'll love:

Host monthly roommate meetings

I realize this one may sound like a little much, but I guarantee it'll work wonders for you and your roomies. My roommates and I have a meeting about every two months, with each one only lasting about half an hour.

The goal is to create an environment in which all parties feel comfortable expressing their opinions about the current living situation, and to figure out how any problem or issue can be corrected.

At work, there are board meetings to make sure everyone in the office is on the same page. In my house, there are roommate meetings that serve that same purpose, and it works.

Draft a contract of your own

Working as a paralegal for a short time, I learned the valuable lesson that written agreements will always trump verbal ones. People just don't do what they say they're going to do, and that's a fact.

However, if you have a signed piece of paper that proves someone said something, it's going to be hard for him or her to find a loophole.

Not sure how to write a contract? Ask your teachers, parents or even a lawyer for some advice. That way, your expectations are outlined ahead of time -- aka before your roommates' loser boyfriend starts spending more time at your house than you do, and before dirty dishes are piled up to the ceiling and attracting ants.

Learn to deal with conflict

Another crucial part to maintaining a peaceful home is conflict management. It sounds a little intimidating, but all you really have to do is put your big girl pants on and learn to stick up for yourself.

No one loves the passive aggressive notes you leave all over the house; although, they may make for some entertaining Internet posts later.

Similarly, no one likes the rude text messages he or she gets from you when you're in the next room. I can also assure you that no one will respect you for getting mommy and daddy involved ... ever. Learn to say what you need to say in person, and you'll avoid becoming the problematic roommate.

Be firm, but fair

Sometimes I have to chill out and remind myself that my roommates are paying to live here and it's their home just as much as it is mine.

With that being said, there's a difference between forgetting to wash your dishes every now and then, and carelessly leaving a trailing mess behind you on a regular basis.

Learn to distinguish between what you should and should not call your roommates out for; they have busy lives just like you do. Set high standards, but don't be a control freak.

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