I Lived Alone for 4 Years–Then I Had to Get Roommates. Here’s How I’m Making It Work

published Oct 12, 2018
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

I have had some bonkers roommate experiences in my short 25 years of life. From waking up to a roommate watching me sleep repeatedly for months in a small dorm space, to another roommate going on a three-day blackout drinking binge, I’ve grown accustomed to compiling my own personal list of “roommate horror stories.”

Hence, when I was able to find an affordable micro-studio in Seattle for the last few months of my undergraduate studies, I jumped on the opportunity. Since then–late 2014–I have been blessed to live either (a) by myself or (b) with my parents.

It was a whole new world to live by myself. I got to determine my own clean-up schedule, have visitors over without texting anyone in advance, and meal prep without fear of someone taking my food. It’s been a dream to only rely on myself and come to terms with these newfound aspects of adulthood.

But this was all pretty short lived because I recently moved to New York City, where the average rent for a Manhattan studio is $2,550 (no wonder nearly 79 million American adults in 2017 were reported to live in a shared household, where their roommate was not a family member or romantic partner!) I knew I had to kiss my solo-living goodbye. Luckily, I was able to bypass the placement services and Facebook groups and found a college classmate who also needed a roommate. Together, we found an affordable apartment and a third roommate, and I am practicing living with others once more after being on my own. It’s been a process, but I’m happy to say it’s working out with minor kinks. Here, the five tips I’ve found most helpful from transitioning from solo-living to life with two roommates:

1. Make sure you talk about finances beforehand

In our first housing-search steps, we each decided on a scale for how much we wanted to pay for rent. We decided to look for three-bedrooms rather than two-bedrooms to get the most bang for our buck, and figured out the most affordable but functioning extras (cleaning and Internet service) that we could find. It was great that everyone was on the same page about our upper and lower limits, and it really helped to establish a realistic view of what living all together would look like financially.

It’s always a ongoing conversation—we are still working on it just a month in but are open to discussing what we can and cannot afford–which is so important in such an expensive city.

2. Talk about schedules

When my roommates and I first moved in together, I was doing one-off temp jobs. Once I got a full-time assignment, I communicated what my schedule would look like and how we could make it work so all three of us could get to work on time (there’s only one shower!).

Luckily, we have found that we have differing shower schedules, some of us have events after work, and we’re all cognizant of late-night noise during the work week.

3. Figure out what you can share (and what you really shouldn’t)

My roommate told me one of her friends had a roommate who *freaked out* about someone using her EVOO. We all agreed that olive oil, spices, and the like are O.K. for sharing, if everyone is contributing to purchasing them.

4. Clean up after yourself, you filthy animal!

You will need to bring your self-awareness back to pre-solo living levels. It will take some work to strengthen back up those muscles, but it will be appreciated by everyone. I have grown used to finding my hair nearly everywhere, but when living with others, I have made a significant effort to pick up all those loose strands as often as possible. Plus, living with others has given me cause to wash my dishes more often–which wasn’t always the case when I lived in a studio and worked long hours.

5. Remember: Be courteous

Just like in a kindergarten classroom, living with others requires the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. You can’t change someone else’s habits, but you can chat about anything that makes you uncomfortable or irritated. It’s been great to establish respectful, open and honest communication with each other—I really think we’ve set ourselves up for success for the rest of the lease!

Ultimately, remember that your apartment will still be your home–just with a few other people in it. Try to make it the best home possible for everyone who calls it one—including you.