One of the most exciting aspects of university life, at least for me, was being able to move into your very own place. And if you’re really lucky, some of your closest friends will become your roommates. For the most part, having your own place brings undiscovered levels of freedom. No more dons, no more spontaneous room inspections, and no more quiet hours… But no matter how much you love your roommates, living in a place with other human beings is not easy. In a dream world, you and your new roomies are BFFs, throw phenomenal parties, and your lifestyles work seamlessly alongside each other. However in the real world, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Finding a place
The house hunting process isn’t always easy. Yes, unfortunately moving out of residence means you no longer have the luxury of rolling right out of bed and walking straight to class. Prior to house hunting, sit down with your future roommates and discuss a price point of rent that you are all comfortable with. Kijiji and Brock University Facebook groups are good place to start to seek out available listings. Keep in mind that places with utilities, cable and internet included are always an asset. Location is a key attribute; so make sure the distance between your new place and the school is reasonable. For those who don’t have cars, do some research and make sure your house has an accessible bus route and stay informed about bus times.
Once you’ve found a place, bedroom choices is an issue that you may come across. In some cases you will be able to compromise to pick the bedrooms you wish. If all fails, sometimes pulling names out of a hat is the most fair and democratic method.
My roommates and I had a few misses before finding our current house, but when we found it, the feeling was instantaneous and unanimous. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find a place right away, once you’ve found it, you will know.
What to Pack
Aside what you’re packing for your individual bedrooms, furnishings and appliances for communal areas also need to be considered. Before moving in, make sure you and your roommates discuss what you have available to bring to the house to avoid duplicates, as well as the purchases that need to be made for the house. Remember that spaces like the living room and the kitchen are shared spaces, so make sure you guys consult each other and mutually agree on the décor within these areas. So maybe leave your cardboard cut-out of your favourite boyband for your bedroom…
Without having the possibility of spontaneous room inspections, maintaining a house is quite the responsibility. The concept of “washing your dishes after you are done” sounds simple, however trust me, this does not always happen. To prevent your house from looking like an episode of the “Hoarders” and resentment from select roommates, household chores need to be divided. Don’t knock the Chore Chart until you’ve tried it. If you are lucky enough to have a dishwasher, designate a time before bed where the dishwasher is cleared and then reloaded every night. For those who do not have a dishwasher, make dishwashing a two-person job (a washer and a dryer), it will maximize efficiency and speed up the process. In exchange, an alternate roommate will take out the garbage. Dedicate a minimum of one day every few weeks towards deep cleaning the house (the fridge, main hall, and bathrooms especially tend to get neglected), to prevent cumulating dust and dirt from the floors and carpets.
Pro-tip: If you’re going home for the holidays, don’t forget to clean out your fridge.
Groceries and Bills
Buying communal groceries can be a great way to save some money, but at the same time be quite troubling. Even if you’re not living with the gluten-free or vegan roommate, it may be best to go with different shopping carts. Start with discussing the basics such as eating habits. If you and another roommate have similar routine and tastes in foods, you can make arrangements to shop for groceries on certain days and split the costs. Split costs on things that are necessary for the house as a whole such as garbage bags, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. Be explicit about what is communal and what isn’t. ALWAYS ASK. Using things without permission is easily one of the biggest conflicts that may arise. FYI, I promise you your roommate knows when someone is using their food, detergent or toiletries.
Pro-tip: For the things that aren’t communal – a mini fridge, dedicating a secret snack cupboard, or even writing your name on items you don’t want others to get their hands on are some options.
Unless you are the few that are extremely privileged, cable, internet and utilities are not always included in your rent. Ultimately, one person holds the responsibility of having their name be put on the bill. It is a smart idea to set a routine, for example, the first of the month for when payments are made.
Pro-tip: Apps like Splitwise or Venmo can help you keep track and split bills.
Roommates , Lifestyle and General Habits
It is important to really prepare yourself for brand new roommate dynamics. Just because a person is your best friend, does not mean their living habits coincide with yours. If you have never lived with them before, start with some roommate bonding activities. Have that
conversation about basic ground rules for the house and discuss things such as whether guests are allowed, parking spaces, pets and just general day to day routines. Get to know each other’s schedules, as different schedules mean different lifestyles. What do their days look like? Do they work full or part time? Try posting your schedules on the fridge. It pays to know the little details, especially to be considerate of days they an early wake up call. I promise you there are very few things that are worse than being woken up from a deep sleep when you have to be up pretty much at the crack of dawn.
Above all, your roommates are all human, not just a collection of semi-irritating habits. Be open to change, new things and addressing things head on. You do not necessarily need to be their best friend but it is important to take interest in each other’s lives. You will be living together after all, so you might as well make the best out of it.