No Hootenannies After 10 PM

Great roommates are like unicorns – beautiful, magical, and almost entirely the stuff of legend.

Besides the stories that your friends have told you – “once I was sad and my roommate came home with a bottle of great wine and my favorite movie!” – and the rosy depictions of them on TV shows, like “Friends” and “How I Met Your Mother,” living with someone (or more than one someone) is more complicated than a “Star Wars” re-watch solving all problems.

Recently, partially as popularized by the television show, “The Big Bang Theory,” would-be roomies have been sitting down and working out, on paper, exactly what they need from each other to have a peaceful and functioning relationship.

But aside from whose job it is to sweep and take out the trash, what else do you need in order to secure the perfect compact between individuals? We’ve drawn up a few clauses to throw into your roommate agreement, so that you too will be able to secure that mythical relationship so craved by all of us in a cohabitation situation.

You Wash, I Dry. It may seem like it only applies to the dishes, but the concept of reciprocity goes far beyond the kitchen sink. More broadly, it extends to the overall wellbeing of the house. If someone buys toilet paper, the other person buys paper towels. When one person does the floors in the apartment, the other should do the surfaces. If one person has the electric bill in their name, the other should be taking care of gas or internet, etc. It all comes down to teamwork, which, ultimately, is the saving grace in many a roommate relationship. We know people who had a bill list posted on the fridge, with columns for each roomie, an envelope where they each entered the bill they paid/grocery tab each month or week, the amount, and put the receipt in the envelope. If someone’s running tally was much higher than the others, they balanced it out by switching bills, or writing out a check, somehow. It worked well! They each took turns each day cooking dinner AND cleaning up (“if you make a big mess, you should be the one to clean it up”).

Let’s Be Reasonable. You love quiet time

at night. It’s what you need to get centered and be able to get ready for the day to come. However, your roommate is a would-be rock star and after 8 pm is the only time their bandmates are free to practice (and practice, and practice). Make sure that you both understand your limitations as people – including scheduling – but remember to stay flexible. Maybe, say four nights a week, your roommate can understand the value of watching Netflix and eating popcorn. Maybe instead of heading to bed at 9 pm every night, you

make friends with your new roomie’s bassist, Scar, and find you both have a love of chocolate bars and knitting patterns.

On the other hand, it might be good to consider these aspects *before* becoming roommates. There’s the whole pets/smoking/night owl vs rooster thing to weigh. Though sometimes it works better to have someone on a different schedule – you don’t compete for showers and the stove as much.

You Can Handle the Truth! One of the most important facets of every relationship is honesty, but perhaps no relationship can benefit from it more than a roommate relationship. Make sure that you’re honest with what you can and cannot do with and for your roommate. If you don’t make as much money as they do, and can’t afford to restock the fancy brand of cereal they like, make sure they know about it, or you can agree to have your own cereals. If you’re having a tough month and will be a little short on the electric bill, make sure they know that. Similarly, if your roommate never cleans or cooks for themselves, or if they use your things without asking, make sure that you are able to have an open and honest discussion with them in that regard. These things can go a long way to making sure a rooming relationship is stable and built on the all-important factor of trust. Don’t forget to give it some time. Once you have a strong foundation built on the above considerations and agreements, and you have chosen a basically responsible, trustworthy, and considerate roommie, don’t expect everything to go along swimmingly right from the start. You need to give it some time. You really will get used to each other after a few months.

— Bronwyn Davila, with contributions by Annette Hanze

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2018-01-01 digital edition