Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Roommates: A Look Back

On my lunch break, I like to visit Apartment Therapy and hopefully get home inspired. However, a couple of days ago, they posted an article about what makes the best roommate. This got me thinking about my former roommates and advice I would give to anyone trying to find a roommate.

Not including my family or my husband, I've only ever had two roommates (if you don't count the two girls I shared a suite with in a dorm when I spent the summer doing research in Michigan). These two roommates were at complete opposite ends of the roommate spectrum. My first roommate was horrible, so I'll leave her anonymous, and the second one, Rachel, was totally and completely awesome.

Roommate #1 was a childhood friend that I reconnected with in college. She was a great friend and a good person, but I think she had previously had some crappy roommates so her defenses were always high.

We had been planning to move in together for months because her current roommate wouldn't be back for the Fall semester. Things got complicated that summer when she got engaged. Her fiance and his sister were actually renting an apartment in the same building, so it was really convenient for her. They decided to get married over winter break, so I just assumed she would be moving out. Even though I was on the lease, she had the nerve to ask me if I would move out once the got married and maybe I could live with her fiance's sister. Why did I have move out? Because they wanted "the good apartment". Yeah, that wasn't happening and I made it clear that he wasn't moving in here while I was here either.

Maybe this was a bad foot to start off on, but things just got worse. The apartment came fully furnished (awesome) but her fiance had some extra furniture that he was willing to lend us that was much better than the stuff we had. Not a big deal, she said. She'd just talk to the apartment manager to get them to take back some of the furniture.

It was weeks in that crowded, over furnished apartment. She did absolutely nothing to get rid of the extra furniture. I finally called the apartment manager, who had no idea what I was talking about, and told me there was no room left in storage since we'd taken so long. I told the roommate and, when the extra furniture remained, I piled the fiance's stuff up by the door, finally set up our living room, and left them to deal with it.

We never had any big problems after that, but she could just get under my skin. We had a rule to keep the apartment locked at all times since we lived in kind of a shady neighborhood. She'd always pop over to the fiance's apartment to get something, leaving the door unlocked, and end up staying for hours. I wasn't about to leave the door unlocked when I'd go to bed, so she got locked out a handful of times. She eventually learned to take her keys with her.

Now, this next one sounds like absolutely nothing at first, but it pissed me off for weeks. A couple weeks after I was settled in, I decided to host a dinner for my family. I wanted to prove how grown-up I was, living on my own for the first time. I planned this fancy meal with courses and was prepared to really wow everyone. I even had a bunch of new kitchen stuff from Ikea I was excited to try.

Dinner was going really smoothly until I started to make dessert: baked apples. Baked apples are relatively simple so I wasn't worried. That was until I couldn't find my peeler. It was weird. It was brand new and I'd never used it, so where was it? After looking for a while, I finally gave up and peeled a half dozen apples using a knife. It's a miracle I still have all my fingers.

About a month later, the peeler showed up in a sink full of dirty dishes. As calmly as possible, I asked the roommate where it had been and she said she borrowed it, took it to the fiance's apartment, and had forgotten it. I'm pretty sure that moment is what an aneurysm feels like.

Once the first roommate got married, she moved in with the fiance and I have no idea what happened to the fiance's sister. However, luckily for me, the first roommate helped me reconnect with another childhood friend, Rachel, who was apparently sent by the roommate gods.

After living with these two girls, here's my list of rules for getting along with a roommate.
  1. Move in with someone who has a similar timeline for living together. It was really hard to feel settled when, by the time my first roommate was basically done unpacking, she was packing everything back up again.
  2. Set up some ground rules. Keep the door locked, who will put the chain on the door at night, who gets the bathroom first in the morning, who takes out the trash, etc. It's easier to stay on the same page when you start on the same page. 
  3. Find out what the other person is comfortable with. I am not known for being a clean person, but with Rachel, it was easy to agree to try and keep the common areas like the living room and bathroom fairly organized (i.e. not addressing wedding invitations on the coffee table for over a week), but things like leaving dishes in the sink for a couple of days was okay.
  4. Keep your roommate in the loop. I would always let Rachel know if I wasn't going to be home for the night so she wouldn't have to leave the chain off the door so I could get in. We'd let the other know if we were going to the store in case the other needed anything. Invite the other to join in on the movie you're watching. Some common sense and respect can go a long way.
  5. Be true to your word. This one sounds like a no-brainer, but don't say you're going to pick up paper towels if you aren't. You may not owe your roommate paper towels, but you sure as hell will piss them off if you fail to deliver.
  6. Define "borrow". I never had a problem with people borrowing my stuff, but there are limits. Don't use my only pot and then leave it dirty in the sink so I'd need to wash it before making mac 'n cheese. I don't mind if you use my shampoo if you run out, but that deal only lasts for maybe a week. And don't jack my peeler and take it from the apartment!


  1. Ugh. The first roommate sounds super annoying. I'd be mad too, if her grand plan was to throw ME out of the apt! No way! I'm finally living on my own, after many, many years of different roommates. Some were awesome, some were terrible, and some were just tolerable (courteous to each other, but not really friends).

  2. As great as my second roommate was, there's nothing better than living alone. It's glorious. Enjoy every minute of it.