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The "Talk" for Roommates

It doesn't matter how well or not you know your new roommate - living with someone takes on a whole new dimension of a previous friendship. You should really have this talk before you even signed the lease or moved your belongings into your new place, but the time passed and here you are. Before anything happens, you need to sit down with your prospective roommate and draw up some living guidelines.

You will have the best odds of working out if you communicate early and often. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Consumption of substances
  • Does either one of you smoke? If one of you does and one doesn't, how do you feel about this arrangement? If you're a nonsmoker and you've never lived with a smoker, don't be so hasty to say, "It's no problem."

  • Do you drink alcohol, and if so, how often? If both of you claim to be social drinkers, define what the term "social drinker" means to each of you. Does one roommate avoid drinking for moral reasons? Is one of you a recovering alcoholic? If so, how would he or she feel if you had alcohol present in your home?

  • Does either roommate have a history of drug abuse, or does one of you use drugs occasionally?

  • Lifestyle habits
  • Are you a "morning" person or "night owl"? If you have opposite habits, how will you respect those differences when coming home or leaving the apartment? If you're the morning person, how do you feel about guests coming home during the wee hours of the morning with your roommate?

  • How much time do you expect to spend at home? Will one of you be working at home full time?

  • Are you a "neat freak," a moderate neatnik or a slob? How about your roommate? If you're opposites, how will you come to terms with this difference?

  • How do you feel about overnight guests? If you agree that it's OK, you'll also need to agree to a time limit. More than one roommate relationship has been destroyed over a guest that won't leave. How do you feel about boyfriends/girlfriends who stay over? How often would you feel comfortable with them staying at your apartment? Establish these rules very specifically, including how much time girlfriends and boyfriends are allowed to hang around during the daytime. Make the joint decision that no keys are to be duplicated either for girlfriends/boyfriends or for platonic friends.

  • Does either one of you own a pet? Does the other roommate have any pet allergies? Do you plan to bring home a pet in the future, either jointly or separately? Will you agree to make the decision together? And when you go your separate ways later, who will assume custody of the pet if you purchased it together?

  • How do you feel about playing music? The television? How loud?

  • How late is too late? How late is too late for incoming phone calls?

  • Will you have parties? If so, agree to host them as roommates. Agree that no parties will be held without the other roommate's consent.

  • Is quiet time important to you? How often?

  • Property and household chores/obligations
  • How do you feel about your roommate using your possessions? Would you prefer to be asked permission first?

  • How will you divide groceries? Will you buy them separately and prepare your own meals individually, or will you cook meals together? Do you have any radical differences in eating habits/food preferences (for example, is one of you a strict vegetarian?).

  • How will household chores be divided? And what will happen if one of you fails to do his/her fair share?

  • How will you ensure that both of you produces 50 percent of the rent each month and on time? Perhaps most important, the two of you should discuss what will happen if any conflicts arise between you. Are you going to be able to reach middle ground and establish compromise, or will a battle of the wills ensue?

So, don't put off the "big talk" any longer. You'll be better roommates and better friends because of it.

Try RoommateAccess.com for finding a roommate.

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