I’ve never really lived alone. From living with my mom, I went to living in an apartment with a roommate who was always someone I knew in one intimate way or another.
I’m not easy to live with. I have high expectations, can be a hypocrite, hate doing the dishes, and want my own personal space except for when I don’t and then I’ll come and chat with you while you’re trying to work. I know I’m the worst – but I clean the bathroom and will always share my food.
I’ve lived in this apartment for over 2 years and have had 4 separate roommates over that time. The first was a guy I briefly dated but stayed friends with, the second was my step-sister, over lapping that was a friend I had known since kindergarten who stayed to get back on her feet and then took over my sisters room, and now I live with my best friend. And my boyfriend. The first three people I asked to leave. All for varying reasons but mostly because I always considered this my apartment, thus I had the right to stay. My name is on the lease, my furniture and dishes are what get used, I am the one who cleans the bathroom and mops the floors and who knows the landlord.
I was – and still am – very egotistical about the apartment. I’m proud of it, but also can be very demanding of others and their roles/responsibilities without being very accommodating to their own lives. I’m not very accommodating to my own life either, truthfully. I’m one of those people who can’t function properly if my space is a mess and my biggest pet peeve is crumbs on the counter.
I now live with my boyfriend and my best friend. It’s one of the hardest situations I’ve lived in so far – even when you put aside the girl I’d known since kindergarten who would go into my room willy-nilly to take what she wanted and cleaned the bong in the bathtub. But it is also incredibly rewarding and comfortable (for me).
Living with two of the people I’m closest two, I definitely am the winner in the situation. I don’t have to worry about wearing pants or peeing with the door open. I feel comfortable talking to either of them about what’s going on. Being in the middle though, is also the most challenging part. I am the one who gets both sides of the problems, who has to facilitate meetings when things are off, and who has to pick up the slack and defend both sides while also being able to listen to the needs of everyone. I’m not very good at it.
But in kicking 60% of my roommates out, and trying to learn to be a more chill and respectful person I have learned a few things about living with people you love.
. . .
Nº1 – Delegating Doesn’t Always Work
You can break up the chores as much as you want. Everyone can assign themselves duties and tasks but at the end of the day it’s not a solution. There is always something that doesn’t get done, someone who is having a busy week, and another person who has a higher bar that they expect everyone to meet (me). Some people don’t see the garbage as full until it’s overflowing and some see it as ready to go out when it’s smelly. The truth is you just have to know what you’re willing to do and what you want your home to look like. If you need it to be a certain way, you need to be the person responsible for keeping it that way or you need to chill out and compromise.
Nº2 – Communication Is Not Always Key
Yes, if someone is doing something that makes you feel absolutely murderous then you should talk to them about it. If you keep hearing problems but no one ever does anything to resolve them, then you should talk about it. But you also need to pick your battles. If you nit-pick at everything everyone else is doing then chances are a) you are not aware of the little things you are(n’t) doing b) they are going to start to feel uncomfortable in a place they also live. Big potato, little potato. Even though I hate crumbs on the counter and it’s an easy thing for anyone to do, that also makes it easy for me to do. I don’t need to go have a serious talk with my best friend about her toast habits, I just need to realize that it is MY thing and therefore my responsibility to deal with it. If you say something more than two times and it still isn’t getting done, then like said before suck it up or compromise.
Nº3 – Set Boundaries
I lived with my best friend before I went travelling and returned with my boyfriend. We used to always be comfortable walking into each others rooms, borrowing clothes and makeup, having sleepovers. Obviously the boundaries have changed and since I now share a room with a partner, more privacy is a given. That was something we never really had to discuss, but I also try and give her an equal amount of respect and space. It wouldn’t be fair if I just always waltzed into her room when I felt like it, or kept borrowing her clothes without feeling like I had to ask. Respect is a mutual thing and if you want someone to do something, then you need to do it in return.
Nº4 – Mind Reading Is Not Real
If you don’t want to share the maple syrup or don’t want to have to stash your snacks in you room, then just be upfront. Everyone has things they don’t want to share, and that’s okay! If you live in a situation like I do, where a lot of things are free game (condiments, for example) but you have specific things you don’t want to be used just say so. It’s a lot easier to lay down the law or say what is bothering you than to harbour anger that they didn’t know the huge jar of peanut butter was not up for grabs for everyone. Be respectful in a vice versa manner – don’t try to sneak things that aren’t yours if you don’t want others doing the same. If you’re not sure, just ask.
Nº5 – Passive Aggressive Sticky Notes
While this is personally my favourite CAH card, it is not an effective manner of communication. If you really feel the need to label all the things that are yours, then maybe have a chat with your roommate about boundaries! If you have taken out the garbage the past 3 weeks, just ask them if they can take it out while they’re heading out or maybe have a quick chat – maybe you’ll find out there is something they have been doing that you weren’t aware of that brings some balance to the table. If you are feeling nervous about talking face to face and don’t know how to bring it up, leave them a nice note saying you appreciate them but just aren’t feeling good about a few things and want to chat before it festers. People generally take things pretty well if you’re kind and not accusatory. Say your side, and be open to hearing those. Don’t let things fester until you explode or resentment sets it.
Nº6 – Spend Time Together
If you’re friends with your roommate, take some time to spend together. It can be so easy to forget that living together and hanging out are different things. Go for a walk or grab a coffee, talk about your days, watch a movie together. Getting back inline with what your relationship actually means to you outside of the apartment is important to keeping things healthy and open. You likely won’t live together forever.
Nº7 – Reflect
Like said many times, it’s easy to get caught up in what other people are doing and forget about our own responsibilities and roles. Is there something else bothering you that is leaking into your living situation? If you’re living with your partner, are you taking on their grievances as your own? Are you feeling guilty because you’re having trouble fulfilling your side of the duties this week? Before you blame other people, look for problems you may be having with yourself and tackle them.
Nº8 – Find Middle Ground
If you are always the one supplying the toilet paper and dish soap, just ask your roommate if they can pick it up next time. If you’re having some money issues, just be real about the fact that you can’t afford to do the extra things this month. If you buy cleaning supplies for the whole house, split it. There are going to be lots of things that inevitably get used by everyone, and again, being honest about what you can afford to do or reminding others of their turn to do stuff is better than wallowing in resentment that you had to buy butter again.
. . .
The bottom line is, living with people you love is hard. You want to do good by them and make sure they are happy, but also they have a way of doing the exact things that get under your skin. If you live with a partner and a roommate, be aware that it may feel like an us vs you thing. Most importantly, just treat others how you would want to be treated and before playing the blame game try to have insight into all POV’s. Discussion is better than argument, and it takes time to build healthy habits. Patience is really the best thing you can have when learning to live with others, and on your own in general.