We don't have to be in college to still share a room with a pal, although it's most certainly not ideal. For one reason or another (cough, writing for a startup, cough), there comes a time when, for a few weeks or months or -- should we be super unfortunate – years when 'your room' isn't fully yours.
Sharing a room is a unique situation in which we have a very intimate, close look into a person's quirks and lifestyle. And at the end of the day, we're either going to like what we see or we won't. But here's the catch – our roommate's habits can have a huge effect on our own daily happenings, and finding the balance between the two is key to a successful livelihood together. Because as much as we think we're independent, we still have another person breathing five feet away from us.
I have the unfortunate bragging rights to being an experienced nomad. I've done everything from couch-surfing as an intern to sharing a shoe-box for an entire two years straight, to cuddling various tiled floors abroad, cushioned only by alcohol. And along the way, I've gained and lost a few roommates as friends – but I think they'd all agree with me that there will always be a mutual respect between us (if only for the fact that they know everything about me – including my bizarre behavior of sleeping with water bottles and purses in my bed – and I know everything about them).
After over five years of being a roommate and having a roommate -- and well over eight if you include repressed summer memories of a bunk-bed -- I've found that as long as you give (don't snooze your alarm, please) slightly more than you take (grabbing the last yogurt on the way to work), then both you and your roommate can happily co-exist. The situation is definitely not for everyone, but everyone definitely gets through it.
I'm sharing with you a comprehensive guide to splitting a room. It's important to remember that as much as you think you're an angel to live with, your sh*t does stink and your roommate is the one who has to smell it. From my own hilarious encounters to dealing with various scenarios, here's some advice on cohabitating and making it out alive. Part One.
Elevate Your Definition of “Satisfactory”
The room looks clean, you're ready to leave, packed up for the day, hands are full, until you notice an errant sock nestled half under the rug. Do you A. close the door, pretend you never saw it, and let it sit to be dealt with later B. push it under the rug and promise to eventually pick it up later or C. actually bend down, pick it up, put it in the hamper, and pat yourself on the back for realizing how quick it was to tidy up. Listen, I've been guilty of doing A and B because I am that lazy. But then I think, “Would I appreciate coming home to a disorderly space?” Maybe, but definitely not when it's someone else's crap lying around. Having a roommate shouldn't be a bigger excuse to be messy.
What is acceptable to you is probably not the same to your roommate. We've got to raise our standards on not only cleanliness, but also generosity and consideration. If you know that your roommate has a big interview tomorrow morning and went to bed early the night before, don't blast the television at 1 a.m. and don't be an even bigger douche by complaining that your roommate “goes to bed so early.” Chances are she really doesn't, and when your time comes, you'd appreciate the same respect in return.
Bottom line: If you show your roommate 5-star living, she'll work to keep it that way, too. And if she doesn't, well I'm sure you can flip the switch and change her mind real fast.
Sleep is Golden
Almost all arguments stem from being woken up too early or not being able to sleep. The best bet? Being narcoleptic. My freshman year roommate – who I also continued to live with in NYU dorms that summer – could sleep through anything, which worked to both our advantages. Well, sometimes. There were numerous occasions where I'd forgotten my key and Leah (not her real name) could not be woken up by furious banging on the door or countless phone calls to her cellphone or alarm sounding rings to the landline and even attempts at breaking down the door…which then left me, almost always drunk and pants-less, to sleep in some very suspect accommodations.
Some places that I have called home include the janitor's closet, a random neighbor's couch (that ended poorly), and even a bench next to the athlete's track (in the morning I realized I had company in the form of a drunken homeless guy and a park police officer…still sans pants and now likely with a case of tetanus). Although I would have preferred to get some quality shuteye on my own mattress, I do enjoy laughing with Leah about these outrageous escapades.
I was also a total insomniac in college, (mostly because I was staying up late to Google weird stuff like brain waves on psychotropic drugs and chromatophores in fish), which is something I always disclosed to potential roommates in advance. If she didn't like hearing me watch "Zoolander" while falling asleep, then we probably couldn't live together. Be honest about your sleeping habits, work schedules, and if you're an early riser, make sure that your sleeping patterns are compatible.
The Closet Is Sacred Ground
Every woman (and surprisingly, a lot of men, especially those who own vintage Nikes) cherishes the items in her closet more than the spare cash in her wallet. If you have to share a closet that doesn't give you the rights to freely look through it, try on clothes, or preemptively ask for the rights to a new pair of shorts. Respect the goods, people.
Invariably if your roommate is willing to lend you an item, she'll offer it to you or say something nonchalant like, “you can borrow this whenever.” Any piece she doesn't like or has over-worn and is photographed way too much in is fair game. What's not are really expensive, high-quality frocks (don't play stupid, you know which ones those are!) and clothes that are now too small on her (hell no would she dare let you flaunt what she used to have).
When you know you look slamming in one of her outfits and all she replies is something to the effect of, “Yeah that looks all right. Nothing special though,” that means she doesn't want you wearing it. We get that copying is the sincerest form of flattering, but dressing like twins more than twice a week is irritating to the both of you.
Also equally important, please if you're really a shoe size 9, don't pretend like you're a large size 8. You ruin shoes that way, and it just wasn't meant to be for you and your roomie to share shoes. You literally share everything else. Shoes are sacred.
Stay Tuned For Part Two of “How To Live With Your Roommate And Make It Out Alive”…We've All Been There