When you share an apartment there are many things to consider. We’ve gone over Roommate Agreements, the pros and cons of having a roommate, and also how to interview a new roommate. Now it’s time to look at ways to make sharing an apartment a successful endeavor.
Look at this scenario. You’ve moved into your new Bethlehem apartment and you interviewed and found the perfect roommate. She’s a great person with similar interests, very honest, comes from a nice family, likes to watch Mad Men with you, and has a cat that you actually like. She plays the violin and doesn’t practice at midnight but only during the times the two of you have agreed upon. You and your roommate have been equally sharing the expenses for your new Bethlehem apartment and everything seems to be going fine.
But the inevitable has happened. You are in the midst of a disagreement, you are not completely sure what’s wrong, and your roommate has stopped talking to you. She slams her door often, and she won’t let her cat out of her room, so the poor thing is meowing a lot, and this bothers you as well. You are late for work. You don’t have time for this drama. You leave all the dishes unwashed even though it’s your turn to do them, and you purposely used your roommate’s expensive shampoo this morning, a big handful, just to annoy her. At this rate, you know the crap will hit the fan, no doubt about it.
What to do?
The first thing to consider is that retaliation is never the answer. And neither is silence. You have to talk to your roommate and make clear what you don’t understand, what you feel, and what you need. And, you have to do this as soon as possible.
The following are some effective ways to handle a conflict.
- First, always stay calm when confronting your roommate. Ask him or her to talk when they are ready. Speak openly and honestly and focus only on the problem that concerns you both at the present moment. Keep on this topic. Do not deviate into other things that may be bothering you. This will side-track the conversation, and hinder progress in solving your issue.
- Ask: What can we do together to change the present situation? Be respectful of each others’ opinion and try to understand the others’ point of view.
- Once you know what the other is thinking and what they want, avoid using attack words. Make sure both of you are on the same issue and use positive, helpful words to explain your view.
- If you just cannot see eye to eye on the issue at hand, it may be necessary to bring in a mediator. This is a person who does not live in the apartment, and does not hold a special friendship with either of you. Consider someone who would stay neutral when hearing each point of view. An outside person perhaps can see deeper into your problem and offer suggestions to help the two of you balance out your conflict.
With thoughtfulness, honesty, and calmness, handling a conflict, though not a pleasant thing to do, can be easier and less stressful on both yourself and your roommate and make sharing an apartment a great experience.
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One of the best ways to share your apartment peacefully is for you and your new roommate to put together a Roommate Agreement. This agreement can be as formal or informal as you want, as long as you both agree to the terms presented. Both parties (or more if you share your space with 2 or more people) should sign the agreement, promising to uphold the issues presented. You and your roommate should sit down and take some time to address the issues that below and write up your agreement according to the specifications of your living space, as well as your personal preferences.
In the long run having this agreement as a reminder of each of your responsibilities will ease tension when disagreements happen. All childishness and drama will be set aside, and you and your roommate will live together peacefully…and have fun too!
The following are some things to consider when forming your Roommate Agreement:
- Expenses. This for many is the hardest issue, but once things are made clear as to who is responsible to pay for what life together will be easier. With respect for each other decide on the rent payment division, food and grocery expenses, and any subsequent utility expenses such as electricity, garbage pick up, or parking.
- Storage Spaces. If your apartment, like many, is limited to closet and cabinet space, thoughtful division for personal items will be helpful. Examine all the storage areas together and agree to who will use what space. Keep the space division as equal as possible. This includes kitchen cabinets, refrigerator shelf space, bathroom cabinets, closets, and the entertainment center if you have one, and any built-in shelving.
- Space of Apartment in General. Consider what areas of the apartment are shared, like kitchen, living room, and bathroom, and what areas are considered private space, such as your bedroom. Agree to how each of you will approach the others’ private space and adhere to this agreement.
- Personal Items. It is most important to consider what items are to be shared and what items are to be kept for individual personal use. Decide how all food items will be shared and be respectful. If one of you has dietary issues this could be very important. Also make agreements on other personal items like shampoos, towel usage, and other grooming essentials like blow dryer use. Apply labels to items that are personal so there is no confusion.
- Cleanliness. If both of you are neat freaks I see no problems! But, as with normal living, not all of us are neat 100% of the time. Make an agreement to keep the place looking neat by not leaving unnecessary items around the shared spaces, like clothing, used dishes, ashtrays, magazines, etc. Also, and most importantly, make a chore list for each of your weekly responsibilities to keep the apartment clean. These chores can be rotated weekly or to your own preferences. In this way each of you will be clear on who is responsible for what and held accountable. Post the list in the kitchen area, or somewhere visible as a reminder to get things done.
- Noise issues. Make rules to acceptable noise levels for certain times of day. If you or your roommate is a musician, make agreements to when and where you will each practice your instrument and at what times of day so as not to inconvenience the other. Other things to consider are music playing and TV watching and the volume used for each.
- Parties and Overnight guests. Another thing to consider is when and how often each of you will have overnight guests or parties. Set agreeable limits. Decide on how much notice needs to be given to your roommate when planning a party or having someone stay over. It’s no fun to wake up and make your way half naked to the kitchen for coffee, only to find some strange guy sitting there. Be sure to inform your roommate beforehand when having someone over. This way no surprises or problems will arise. Planning to have a party together will be tons of fun and with each of you informed properly, with enough time to make arrangements for it or otherwise, this will keep the occasion from getting ruined with a disagreement.
Hope you found some of these suggestions interesting and useful. If you are already sharing an apartment, there is no reason not to incorporate a Roommate Agreement into your present arrangement. This will inevitably help to remove potential conflicts. Thanks for reading.
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