Whether you’re in the midst of your college years or living in the “real world” with your best pals, there’s so much to love about living with friends. You’re always surrounded with good company and a strong support system. But, no living situation is always perfect, and there are definitely some things that can derail friendships quickly when your friends are also your roommates. In honor of International Friendship Day on July 30, we’ve put together a “how to” guide to make living with friends the best experience ever!
How to Have Open Communication With Your Roommates
If you’ve decided that living with friends is a great option for you, the absolute first thing you should do is decide as a group what you want your living situation to look like. Even if one of you might be the only name on the rental lease or the owner of the home being shared, it’s crucial that all voices have a say, and open and honest communication to flow.
Being a good roommate when living with friends starts the same as it would with roommates you don’t have a prior connection to: by setting clear expectations.
Be honest about your living style and be upfront with what you want. Does someone want to rent a townhome, but you’d rather live in an apartment? Is one of you more neat and organized than another? Do you have any non-negotiable boundaries or desires for must-have amenities? Speaking your mind from the start can help prevent minor issues from snowballing into larger ones over time.
How to Split Monthly Costs With Roommates
Finances can be a touchy subject when living with friends, especially when figuring out affordability and must-have amenities. (Not everyone may think a pool or clubhouse is worth the price!)
When renting, you’ll typically receive monthly utility bills separately from your rent. Each of these services can also come with their own additional “set-up” fee. Some rentals may also charge fees for Wi-Fi/cable, parking, storage units, garage space, trash pickup and other amenities. Long story short… it adds up! So, what’s the best way to divide all these costs with your roomies?
If you’re looking to keep things easy, divide the cost evenly among everyone. Remember, though, that this isn’t always the most fair arrangement; personally, I wouldn’t want to pay more if I had a smaller space than my roommates!
If fair and square is the goal, discuss the idea of those with more “real estate” paying a bit more. (That price should agreed upon by everyone on the lease prior to signing.) My roommate pays more to have the biggest space in our apartment, and luckily, neither one of us overextends our water or electricity use. But if you live with someone who enjoys frequent baths, have a chat about them fronting more of the water bill.
Price conversations are all about compromise, but be sure to sort out expectations prior to moving in to avoid unnecessary strains on the friendship.
How to Handle Roommate Conflicts
Living with friends is an amazing experience, but even the closest of roommates can get into rifts. For situations more complex or difficult to navigate, solid conflict resolution skills can prevent them from destroying the entire relationship. Not sure where to start? Try the following:
- Give everyone involved space. If things get heated, walk away and regroup when you’re in a better headspace. Whether it’s a five-minute breather or a weekend away, as soon as you feel you’re reaching your limit, walk away; but be clear about why. Saying “I’m gonna take a walk to get some air so I can discuss this with a clear head,” shows respect for everyone and that you’re committed to resolving the issue peacefully.
- Talk it out sooner rather than later. Needing space is fine, but waiting too long to address issues leaves room for resentment to fester; leave it unaddressed long enough, and it could escalate into an even bigger mess — and that never does anyone any good.
- Practice empathic listening by viewing the situation from your roommates’ perspective. This is probably the hardest part of conflict resolution, but it’s often the most crucial. A helpful tip is to say aloud, “Ok, I’m taking my (name) hat off, and putting my (roommate’s name) on,” while physically imitating the act at the same time. It might seem silly, but it gives just enough mental reset to make it easier to understand where the other person is coming from.
- If none of the above helps, talk to someone trustworthy outside of the situation that can be a neutral party and not someone who will automatically agree with you. Whether it’s a therapist, a friend or family member, seeking insights from external, objective parties might provide greater clarity.
- If you’ve exhausted these options and no resolution is in sight, it may be worth severing ties as roommates for the sake of the friendship. (And hey, if it gets to that, it’s OK!)
How to Set Boundaries With Roommates
Boundaries are crucial to maintain a healthy, balanced living arrangement when living with friends. If you’re more introverted, it’s important for your roommates to know that bringing company over every night won’t work for you. If your schedule requires you to get up super early in the mornings, set boundaries for evening noise levels that everyone can agree to. Remember — what you need is what you need, period. But the same goes for everyone else; and unless those needs are communicated and sorted out, you can’t assume they’ll be understood or respected.
Ultimately, it might happen that everyone’s boundaries simply don’t work well together. That’s ok! It just means that you should reconsider if rooming together is a good idea in the first place.
How to Decide What to Share With Roommates
This is where healthy communication comes into play. Some folks may want to divide the cost of things like groceries, furniture and household essentials evenly among everyone. Others might already have a furnished place, and will let renters use items like beds and dressers. What about things like gaming or entertainment systems?
Whatever the situation, be clear and honest with expectations from the start by asking key questions:
- Will groceries and non-food supplies like cleaning items be shared or kept separate?
- If my personal furniture gets damaged by my friend while they’re using it, will they be financially responsible for it? (if this is the expectation, get it in writing with a signed rental agreement!)
- Who will handle which household chores?
- Are there things we’re willing to share communally? If so, how should they be replaced if damage occurs?
From the start, my roommate and I coordinated our weekly dinners and alternated who pays for the more expensive grocery items. We also designated certain areas of the apartment we’d be responsible for furnishing — I was responsible for most of the kitchen/dining room essentials, and she took charge of our living room space. Once we decide to move out in the future, this eliminates the awkward, “who takes what?” dilemma that inevitably occurs. Whenever we felt one person was spending more than the other, we split the cost!