Take it from someone coming fresh from two weeks of RA training: the list of many, varied and unusual problems that can arise between roommates knows no end.
As you spend your first couple of weeks with your roommate, there are a few easy steps that you can take to help avoid almost any drama in your new living situation.
In the residence halls it is required that roommate agreements are written and signed upon move-in. This isn’t a bad idea for off-campus living as well.
Whether it comes through an actual contract or simply a verbal agreement, knowing each others’ expectations from the start will eliminate many unneeded arguments.
Some roommates like to include in these agreements what items are communal and which are not, such as hairbrush, groceries, etc.).
Common shared items may include blow dryers, kitchen supplies and the like. Many people enter a living situation with very different conceptions of what is appropriate to share with roommates. Despite one report, this should not include toothbrushes.
Other things to address might include deciding how loudly and when music should be played, giving advanced warning if a roommate is inviting over guests, requesting permission for overnight visitors and even drawing up a specific cleaning and chore schedule.
Although some of these things may seem petty or insignificant, it is best to have everyone on the same page from day one. Smaller disagreements have driven roommates apart.
Next, address any issue as soon as it comes up. Any expert will tell you that bottling your anger, tension or discomfort won’t do you any good, especially when released during the already stressful period of midterms.
Taking on the issue doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down and having a serious conversation with your roommate. Try making a joke or addressing the problem in a light-hearted way. You’ll avoid any awkwardness while still making your position known. He’s likely to get the picture and not take offense.
Finally, understand that if you give respect, you are likely to get respect in return. Think about the consequences of your actions and how they may affect your roommates.
If there comes a time when you absolutely must impose on a roommate, it won’t be the end of the world. Give a sincere explanation and apology, and go out of your way to do something nice for them within a few days.
As cheesy as it may sound, if your roommates know you are thinking about their comfort, they will be sure to grant you the same courtesy.
Mary C. Schell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.