How To Create Boundaries When Moving In With A Roommate
Roommates used to be like keg stands and all-nighters; we left them behind at college or shortly after. However, rising real estate prices, people staying single longer and an aging population looking for ways to stay social and active are causing a resurgence of roommates – of all ages.
Moving in with anyone can be stressful, but when the relationship is strictly platonic, things can even get more complicated. How do you divide the groceries or do you? What about visitors?
In the past, I’ve had several roommates and not a single one of them was a friend going in. A few of them are still friends. When you move in with a roommate, the odds are stacked against you. It might work out for the duration of the lease. In rare circumstances, you’ll find roommate magic. My personal philosophy is that friendships are too precious to risk in such close quarters, but if you do decide to move in with a friend, there are ways to make things easier.
Ask if they are morning or night people. Neither makes someone a bad person, but opposite sleeping schedules can make for an awkward roommate situation.
Ask about food and smoking. You don’t have to eat together, but a vegetarian might hate the smell of meat cooking. A non-smoker probably will hate the smell of cigarettes.
How to meet a roommate – While I don’t recommend moving in with friends, you can ask friends. You want to have something in common with your roommates and friends of friends might indicate that you enjoy the same music and some of the same activities. Craigslist or other online sites are risky, but with credit checks and references, you should be okay.
Lease – I recommend that only one name go on the lease, just in case things don’t work out, but the landlord might require that both names go on. I also recommend that only one name go on utilities.
Deposit – The lease holder should treat the roommate as a tenant. Require a deposit and run a credit check and get at least two references. This is much easier if the potential roommate is a stranger. You’d be surprised at what you don’t know about your friends.
Ground rules – Once you’ve found that roommate, it’s time to set up some ground rules.
- This sounds an awful lot like living with the parents, but it’s a good idea to designate a quiet time during the week, especially if one person is a light sleeper. It’s not too much to ask that headphones go on at 11:00.
- Figure out how to divide the food, or not. I have found it easiest for each person to buy their own food, especially if the roommates aren’t on the exact schedule. It is a good idea to share condiments, spices and cleaning supplies. Note, though, cooking together is a great opportunity for bonding.
- Cleaning is a biggie. Do whatever you want with your bedroom (close the door) but keep the common areas clean. It’s a great idea to start a chore chart. Wash your dishes after using them. Take out the trash when full, not when overfull. Vacuum, dust, clean the bathroom, mirrors and floors at least once a week. If you can afford it, hiring a weekly cleaning service has probably saved more roommate situations than anything else.
- If one or both of you have pets, discuss pet care. It is the pet owner’s responsibility to walk and feed the pet, not the roommates, but it’s nice to have a roommate who’s willing to pitch in. I once had a roommate who didn’t even offer to walk my dog after I had surgery. That was a sign of a short-lived situation.