10 Tips For Moving In With A Stranger If You Have No Idea Where To Start
If you're taking that first scary step to venture out and live on your own after graduating from college, you have to confront the somewhat terrifying possibility of living with strangers. Sure, the best scenario is that you find a friend or a well-liked acquaintance to split the rent with, but that simply isn't always possible. So, before you move all your boxes into a new place with someone you just met a few minutes ago, there are some tips for moving in with strangers that can make the process smoother, more enjoyable, and yes, a whole lot safer.
Now, let me tell you, I've done my fair share of living with strangers. Sometimes these people become my best friends (fortunately, that's happened more often than not), and other times, it's been a bit of a nightmare.
As for the nightmare scenarios, I've since learned that there are plenty of things that can be done beforehand to make sure you don't get into a toxic situation, as well as ways to ensure communication is clear from the very start.
There's certainly a bit of a learning curve here, but the good news is that having roommates is a wonderfully unique experience, even if you're shacking up with a total rando. Here are a few tips to have in your back pocket if you're thinking about moving in with someone you don't know.
1. Meet In Person Before You Make Any Decisions
"You can tell much more about a person from how you feel in their presence than you can over the phone or email," Jasmin Terrany, a psychotherapist with Life Therapy, tells Elite Daily.
Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a psychologist based in Boulder, Colorado, agrees, adding that it's especially helpful to meet several times before you actually commit to moving in together.
"It's important to set up a few meetings before actually moving in together," Dr. Fisher says, "to ensure you feel compatible, and to work through expectations with shared living space, bill paying, lifestyle habits, etc."
2. Trust Your Gut When You Meet Potential Roomies
"Oftentimes, when something doesn’t click, the mind can come up with reasons why it doesn’t make sense to feel that way," says Terrany.
You can end up justifying why something should work, she says, even if deep-down, you know it doesn't feel right. If someone doesn’t feel like a perfect match for your living situation, don’t move forward, Terrany advises. Someone else — who you vibe with way more — is sure to come around eventually.
3. Create A List Of Priorities For Your Ideal Living Situation
Terrany suggests making a list of traits that are most important to you in a roommate.
"One person might be looking for a best friend, while the other is looking for the rent check," she tells Elite Daily. "It's really important to make sure you’re on the same page, since that way, boundaries are much less likely to get crossed, and the living situation is based on similar expectations and values."
4. Establish Your Absolute Deal-Breakers
Can't deal with smokers, people who work from home, or roomies who need a meeting spot for their weekly writing club? Try to figure all of that out before deciding to move in with someone.
Ashleigh Edelstein, LMFTA, a Texas-based therapist who works with teens, couples, and young adults, tells Elite Daily that one of the most important things to do before moving in with a stranger is to decide exactly what your deal-breaker boundaries are, so you can set up clear expectations from the start.
"For instance, maybe it's no sharing food, no loud noises after 10 p.m., splitting chores, or no long-term guests," Edelstein explains.
Whatever it is, she says, take the time to make a list of what's important to you, which will help you figure out what's absolutely off-limits in your living space, and what you're willing to compromise on.
5. Be Totally Honest About Who You Are
Now, this doesn't mean sharing your journal with a total stranger, but once you know what you really want in a roommate, it's important to communicate what you're really, truly like in your living environment.
Oftentimes, when you're trying to find a new roommate, you might present yourself in a certain way just to make the situation work, so you can move in and get the whole process over with. But, according to Heidi McBain, a professional women's counselor based in Texas, taking the time to make sure things will truly work out long-term between you and your new roommate is crucial. Ideally, you want someone to be cool with you being you, McBain tells Elite Daily, and someone who doesn't consistently cross your boundaries by just being them.
"Be really clear about who you are and what you’re comfortable with, and try really hard not to be a people-pleaser," she explains.
McBain also shares a few examples of what she means here: "If you want to keep all food, toiletry, etc. items separate and split the bills 50/50, then say that. If you’re wanting to have friends over every Friday night to watch Netflix, then share that, as well."
The more you can share about yourself, she says, including both your personality and your expectations for the living situation, the better it will be for everyone involved.
6. Ask For Recommendations Or Contacts You Can Check In With
Terrany suggests speaking with your potential new roommate's friends and family about them, which will allow you to get a real sense for what kind of people they typically surround themselves with, and how those people view your roomie.
If this person is moving into your place, Terrany explains, ask for recommendations from former roommates, even if they're from college. The more information you can gather on this person, the better.
7. Check Out Their Social Media
You certainly won't learn everything about your potential new roommate from their social media profiles, and you should definitely still meet the person IRL before moving in together, but it's not a bad idea to get a feel for them from their online presence.
"Before moving in with a stranger, be sure to check their social media," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, tells Elite Daily. "Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can reveal a lot about a person, including their habits and preferences."
For instance, he explains, if you’re someone who likes a quiet environment as opposed to the rager scene, be sure to look out for party animals and musicians. No-brainer deal-breakers like this can be revealed pretty easily if you're in school and they're at parties 24/7, right?
8. Share All Your Day-To-Day Expectations Beforehand
Terrany says it's extremely helpful to specifically write out and come to an agreement on what is expected from both you and your roommate, and to create plans for potential problems down the road, both big and small. You can even go so far as to sign a document that details all of these things, she says.
Some examples Terrany shares of what you might talk about during this conversation: How long are you both comfortable leaving dishes in the sink? Are you sharing food? What happens if rent isn’t paid on time? What are the preferences regarding guests?
You don't have to cover the bases of every single aspect of your living situation, but at the very least, going in with clarification around major circumstances, like security deposits and splitting bills, Terrany says, is really important.
9. Keep The Lines Of Communication Wide Open
Right after you move in together, Dr. Fisher suggests keeping the lines of communication totally open by having a weekly chat to discuss anything that either of you would like to adjust to make the living space more comfortable for everyone involved.
Terrany agrees, adding that it's key to room with someone who is as open to communicating regularly as you are.
She recommends bringing a few questions into this type of conversation: "Do you prefer to talk in person, or email? Should you have monthly check-ins to see how everything is going, and make sure everyone is on the same page? Or will you let each other know your needs as they come up?"
Whatever you establish, make sure it's an ongoing conversation as you continue living together.
10. Have A Plan For Disagreements
Edelstein agrees about the importance of keeping open lines of communication, but she also recommends having a strategy in place for how to deal with slightly more uncomfortable situations, if and when they arise.
"You'll want to establish a routine for handling disagreements or complaints," she says. Do you schedule a weekly or monthly meeting to discuss everything, she asks, or simply text as things come up?
And remember, even in the most ideal living situations, you always have to make compromises from time to time. It's all about consistently putting in the effort, on both ends, to figure out what works best for everyone.