HEY, I WAS SITTING THERE: How to deal with roommates

Antoinette Yen, Contributing Writer

Do you prefer adventure and experience over solitude? Do you get satisfaction from paying for your apartment entirely on your own? Then I hit the nail on the head and you may be a millennial like me! It’s not that people aren’t living alone; rather, they place a greater emphasis on having more money for travel, food and entertainment. As a result, more people are opting to live in communities rather than individual condominiums. It’s common in college to live with multiple people and share space. When you become an adult and begin working, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to live and cohabitate with others.
Suddenly, you find yourself in a four-walled room sharing dishes, furniture, food and, most importantly, space. Perhaps you’re living with a friend you’ve known since freshman year, or perhaps your adventurous side took over and you decided to share a room with someone you met on Facebook or WhatsApp.
Living with roommates can be tricky. Love them or hate them, you have to live with them. So, how do you go about living in a peaceful, conflict-free environment? How do you make your space feel like your own in the midst of shared furniture and kitchen items?
Although most of us dream of going to college and becoming instant best friends with our roommates, that’s not always the reality. While some lucky ones may be able to do so, the rest are just trying to get through the semester. COVID-19 adjustments have taken on even more significance because of a lack of activities and places to visit, leaving us with extra time in the dorm rooms. It’s the flip side to social distancing.
Communication and setting boundaries are essential for navigating any successful relationship. Boundaries may be your best friend, especially during the pandemic, when you and your roommate(s) may disagree on what is “safe.” If all roommates set clear boundaries and are open and transparent with one another, you’re more likely to reach a compromise or happy medium once the other party understands where you’re coming from.
While it is best to set clear boundaries when you first move in together, it is always better late than never. We are a home stretch from the start of the semester, and you probably need to remind your roommate of your expectations. You could start off by saying, “Hey! I’m not sure I trust you doing this” and then explaining the reasons why. It’s always easier to understand people when you get a feel of where they are coming from rather than just saying you don’t like something, or something isn’t enough. College is unquestionably a significant step for everyone.
And we most definitely come from diverse backgrounds. Some people have had shared living quarters in the past. Whereas others are completely unaware with the concept of a shared space.
You’re probably thinking that it’s easier said than done. If your roommate is attending large gatherings and putting you at risk, it will be difficult to persuade them to see your point of view if they are unconcerned about COVID-19. If this is not addressed, it can strain the relationship and make the environment very tense. You could sit down with them and explain that you don’t want to risk having to quarantine yourself and how that would affect you if they contracted it. If you’re uncomfortable with direct confrontation, you could simply leave them a note.
Sometimes just spending time alone is beneficial for your mental health, and it’s fine to ask your roommate to respect that. Maintaining an open line of communication is critical, and at the end of the day, for any communication to be heard, there must be mutual respect.
Living with roommates isn’t always easy, but we can all agree that the experience teaches us a lot. My personal experience has taught me to accept responsibility for myself and for others. I’ve learned how to consider other people’s needs and how my actions can affect others. I learned to advocate for myself. I learned how to do the dishes as soon as I used them. I’ve learned the old saying, “You’re never done learning,” to be quite true.
Try out these suggestions and see which ones work best for you and your roommate. Don’t be too picky; instead, set an intention for your space and home. Life is too short to live in conflict, so remember why you chose to have a roommate and let that intention guide you. Respect that it is only temporary until you have enough money to live on your own. Respect that it was a decision you made in order to enjoy travel time and live for the experiences it brings.