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Picking a Roommate

Although you’re leaving the nest and you will no longer have parents as roommates, you likely will have others. Be thorough when picking someone to live with for an extended period.

Two Women on Bench

There are websites that can match you with people living or looking to live in the same area who have compatible personality traits. Or maybe you have a good friend whom you trust and get along with who is looking to move out on his or her own. When meeting potential roommates, always meet in a public area. Remember to collect references and have questions prepared in advance. Don’t give out the address of the place until you feel comfortable moving forward with the candidate for a walk-through.

Once you have selected a roommate, sit down together early on and develop a social contract between roommates. Address common roommate conflicts and plan how to work around them. This is an exciting and fun time in your life. Don’t fill it with drama on whose turn it is to take out the trash. Issues between roommates can have serious consequences on your “out on your own” experience—stress, low grades, sleep deprivation, stolen property, distrust, etc.

Common Roommate Conflicts

Everyone has different cleaning habits. If you like to clean every day, you may find it frustrating to live with someone who cleans less often. Conversely, if you like to clean less often, you may find the quirks of a neat freak annoying. Find a happy medium that works for everyone and respectfully abide by that agreement.
Personal beliefs and values
While getting to know your roommate, incidents will arise concerning personal beliefs and values on controversial topics (e.g., politics, religion, education, sex, partying, safety). You will encounter hundreds of people throughout young adulthood who may not think, feel, or act like you. It’s important as a roommate that you do the following:
  • Be respectful and nonjudgmental—Even if you are 115 percent sure your belief is correct, don’t belittle your roommate’s viewpoint. Keep in mind that although you may think his or her opinion is wrong, he or she may feel the same way about yours.
  • Avoid or limit displays in shared spaces—For example, during the holidays, limit decorations if the observation of the holiday offends your roommate. Again, discuss these issues before moving in together. If you can’t resolve these controversial issues, do not move in together.
  • Don’t try to convert your roommate—Although you may feel very strongly on a particular issue and your roommate has either no opinion or an opposing viewpoint, it’s not your place to sway or convince.
Decide who will be responsible for which bills (telephone, gas, electric, sewer, water, cable, Internet, etc.). If you’re moving into student housing, utilities most likely will not be an issue. Be careful about lending to or borrowing money from a roommate unless there is a written agreement. If you are a “saver” living with a “spender,” conflict is likely to arise. Likewise, a household of “spenders” could be catastrophic. Know your spending habits and be honest about them.
Groceries and food
Decide if you’re going to rotate buying common items (paper products, milk, bread) or if you will each purchase your own items and label them. If you didn’t buy it or make it, don’t eat it.
Overnight guests
Whether you’re heading off to college or into another town, you are bound to have friends and relatives from back home come to visit. Decide how often you both are comfortable with overnight guests and having visitors over while you aren’t home. If you’re going out of town, lock up your belongings. Being young adults, you are going to start dating more seriously. You and your roommates may have significant others over frequently. Determine frequency, length of stay, and days of the week that work best for everyone. If your roommate has a big midterm exam the next day, it may be disrespectful to have overnight guests.
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