Not sure if I should move in with roommates.
June 28, 2012 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Not sure if I'm comfortable living with roommates. Am I being irrational?

I'm 26 and have been thinking about moving out of my parent's house for quite sometime. I live in New Jersey and places around where I live are pretty expensive. So I started thinking about moving out to Philadelphia. Luckily, a co-worker of mine currently lives in West Philadelphia and has a room available. It's close, and it's definitely affordable. He lives in a house with 3 other roommates.

I've never lived out on my own before and thinking about living with other people kind of irks me. I'm a shy and awkward person when I first meet people. And it usually takes me awhile before I start to warm up to someone. I'm also a private person and take time alone pretty seriously. I get the sense that these roommates are also outgoing and social. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being social and being with friendly people. In fact, I feel like this would be good also because a lot of my close friends have moved out of state. But sometimes I get incredibly insecure about myself (socially awkward, weight problems) and feel like I'd be out of place.

I guess the question is, what can I do to overcome this? Should I work on my insecurities before I decide to live with other people?

posted by morning_television to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't mind living with people but prefer roommates who I'm either comfortable friends with already, or roommates who never talk to me and have their own social life completely. Also, smaller places have fewer interpersonal dynamics to deal with and stress out about.

There is a third option here which is move into a smaller place with a roommate or roommates who aren't super social.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:22 PM on June 28, 2012

On one hand:

It is totally reasonable to not really want to have roommates. This is more expensive, but if you can afford it, entirely a sane thing for a 26-year-old to say. I'm your age and I've chosen to pay more in rent to always live alone; it is, however, important to point out that I can afford that extra rent.

On the other hand:

Big houses - and in particular I'm thinking of a lot of places I've known in West Philly - are fantastic opportunities to share a huge space with other people who you almost never interact with. Some big houses are super-social energetic places, but some are laid-back and everybody does their own thing, and interaction takes place mostly in people leaving notes for one another on the fridge. If I wanted a mostly-solitary lifestyle in Philly while keeping expenses low, "rent a room in a big Victorian in West Philly and spend a lot of time with the door closed" would actually be one of the first things I'd consider.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:23 PM on June 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

No, living with other people will -very likely help you- work on your insecurities.

Trust me, these people will also want their alone time and will more than likely respect your boundaries. You'll still have to establish those boundaries ("actually, I'd like to just chill this evening") but you'll have to do that anyway at some point.

Make sure you hang out with your roommates, at dinner a few times a week for example. Yes, you'll have to deal with noise, with who-does-what-chores-when?, with other semi-annoying stuff, but just relax. Go with it. Life is dealing with other people, and this is a fantastic way to establish your moral and ethical strength in dealing with even the minor issues.

Don't be afraid. You're going to be just fine. *Hug* You can do this.
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:27 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

You'll be fine, you'll actually enjoy it. You'll just notice that you get into the habit of doing a bit more in your bedroom than before. (Eg maybe you'll more often have your dinner on your lap in bed while watching your favourite TV show, or however you get your alone time)

Your bedroom will be private space whenever you feel like it, and for the most part, you'll only need to interact with flatmates when you feel like it.

I'm not sure how universal it is, but in my experience, your bedroom will be a much more private space with roommates than it is when living with your parents - if you want alone time, it will probably be easier than with your current situation, not harder.

Roommate problems stem from things if you often mess up the kitchen and leave others to deal with it, not being a ghost :)
posted by -harlequin- at 8:38 PM on June 28, 2012

Also, you could think of it as trainer wheels. You can't grow into a functional independent adult without moving out from the parental cushion, and moving into a place that is already up and running with roommates, is actually an easier way to discover and ease into the differences than striking out alone.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:43 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi, West Philadelphian here.

Like tomorrowful said, the character of West Philly group houses varies wildly. During my housing search here, I looked at one house that was intensely communal: shared food included in rent, cleaning and cooking schedule, long-ass meetings, big document about house values. That was a little too much for me, and probably you too.

I also looked at a house with two couples and one single person who all knew each other before, and pretty much kept to themselves. They said they would occasionally share cooking ingredients, and would greet each other civilly if they passed in the hall, but for the most part everyone had their own lives. That felt a little too antisocial for me, but it might work out perfectly for you.

I picked the house I live in now because it hit the right balance between the two. Housemates are friendly, we know some of each other's friends, we'll share dinner and meet on occasion, but there's no strict schedule of required events and meetings.

That said, I'd strongly suggest talking your concerns through with your future housemates. My housemates were very up-front with their concerns about my nervousness, but it's actually worked out well for introvert me--my room is my space, but everyone's friendly enough that I have good conversations with them in the kitchen and am not constantly avoiding common spaces. That said, my house did not work well for my more-introverted former housemate, who hated being interrupted in the common space. Only you know what your limits are, and hopefully your housemates will be able to clarify what they expect as well.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:51 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's definitely reasonable not to want roommates in your mid-twenties, but if you've never had them, I think you should go for it. I agree with others that it could be really good for your social anxiety. I'm super shy (and insecure, moody, anxious, etc) and I have been in situations at both ends of the spectrum: I've had roommates whom I loved and who brought me out of my shell and enriched my social life, and also roommates I never really clicked with, which made for an uncomfortable and sometimes stressful living situation. The former were people I was already friends with, and the latter were people I didn't know beforehand. Come to think of it, I've never had things go well with roommates I wasn't already friends with... But group dynamics are hit or miss, and you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot. I think it would be good for you, even if it doesn't go well... Maybe more so, in fact.
posted by désoeuvrée at 9:00 PM on June 28, 2012

Also, I've definitely known several households with "the quiet roommate" whom everyone was still totally cool with. As long as you keep the lines of communication open and make an effort to get to know your roommates one-on-one (if groups are not your thing), it's okay to be less social than the others.
posted by désoeuvrée at 9:05 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Depends. My social skills and wanting to socialize have always completely disappeared when I had roommates - even when they were my friends.
There are some people that don't don't like living with introverts - I guess they expect a pal and sit-down dinners and then get irritated that you "ignore" them. Luckily I've never dealt with people like that. I always prefered living with at least 2 other roommates that don't really know each other. That way they're most likely to have their own lives and don't concentrate on you.

Don't wait, I mean, you're already in your 20s.
posted by KogeLiz at 9:08 PM on June 28, 2012

I'm an introvert and I always hated having roommates, but sometimes you do what you have to do to pay the bills. It sounds like THIS group of roommates might not be for you, though. It should be possible to find quiet people who don't want to socialise much. Clues about sociability are whether people share food or have their own cupboards/fridges; what the lounge of the house looks like (a couple of chairs and a bookcase suggests a very different feel to the group than five old sofas, a pool table, and a bar); and what the house layout is like - are the bedrooms big, with people generally having a desk and/or armchairs in their own room, or is everyone just sleeping in their rooms and hanging out in shared space the rest of the time?
posted by lollusc at 9:40 PM on June 28, 2012

I think you can't really know if you'll be comfortable until you try. Would your friend accept a 3-month lease to start? Give it a go, and if it's not the best fit, then you can look for something else, or move back home. Easy-peasy!

Also, remember that feeling comfortable shouldn't be the only metric by which you judge the experience. A little bit of discomfort, which lets you learn new things about yourself and other people, can be a very enriching thing.

Good luck!
posted by argonauta at 9:44 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only thing I would be concerned about is if you end up being with your co-worker 24/7. Do you work closely together? Because it can be hard to work alongside someone, commute home together, break bread, maybe talk shop or socialise (since you won't know too many people in your new town) until bedtime and the see each other in the morning without even a break on weekends. They could be the greatest person n the world and still that would be a lot of time together.
posted by saucysault at 10:34 PM on June 28, 2012

Just do it. Give it a try. If it doesn't work out its not the end of the world. You can just find somewhere else or move back with your parents.

You are already 26 and you have never lived out of home. This sounds like a pretty perfect opportunity to push yourself and grow / develop into an independent adult person.

I was quite shy as a young adult but found myself living in a variety of share houses throughout my 20s and in the process made some of the closest friends I will ever know. Its cheap and its social and its the best way to expand your social sphere.

I"ve also lived alone for a few years and it was really a bit depressing. I missed the camaraderie, and you do tend to get weirder and weirder when living alone. Whereas living with flatmates will have a more 'normalizing' effect on your persona I believe. This is how people develop social skills. By throwing themselves in there, forcing oneself to make small talk, get along with near strangers. And the longer you leave it the harder it becomes. Its really not as scary as it probably seems.
posted by mary8nne at 1:48 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Should you work on your insecurities BEFORE you move in with people? No. at least don't put anything on hold while you work on it.

don't wait. How long have you been insecure? Forever? Don't ever put things on hold because you feel like you may not be as confident as you want. You are going to gain confidence by doing it and succeeding.

I moved cross-county to a giant city where I had no job, no family, and a grand totally of one friend. I didn't know how to make small talk, I was incredibly shy. I was a hundred pounds over weight and was very aware of every mistake and pitfall that was ahead of me. The following years were spent learning social skills, learning to be healthy, making mistakes and learning that I am totally, absolutely, 100% capable of surviving and fixing my mistakes. Now I am happy, still in my giant city. I am healthy and active. I have great friends and great relationship.

Don't wait to get better before you go out and experience things that are going to make you better.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:10 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Frankly, if you can afford it, skip any roommate situation entirely and get your own place. Sure, having roommates is more economical, but --- speaking as a lifelong introvert myself --- its also much more stressful. (Example: I once came home from work to find one of my roommates --- with whom I'd had ZERO previous problems --- had not only moved out without warning but had also taken most of the furniture in the house as well as a lot of my personal property from my room.....)

Honestly, why should an introvert "force" themselves into highly-social situations? Far too many times I've heard people say things like that, acting as if being introverted is a disease that can and should be cured! There is nothing whatsoever wrong with not being some kind bouncy outgoing social extrovert.

As far as roommates go: as an introvert, if you HAVE to have roommates I'd suggest you move into a smaller place with at most 2-3 people you already know --- I would NOT recommend either a large house or people who are currently strangers to you. The main benefit to any roommate situation is financial: splitting the bills. On the other hand, having roommates can also increase DRAMAZ and stress (search for threads on "how do I deal with my crazy roommate!"). There are both dishonest and/or just careless roommates, as well as honest and trustworthy types --- the problem is telling them apart ahead of time: choosing only people you already trust as your new roommates will hopefully give you a head start on this.
posted by easily confused at 3:52 AM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I totally get your concerns. I've lived in shared accommodation since I was a student and it is difficult to make small talk daily, or to accommodate other people's needs (I get irrationally annoyed when other people use my clothes airer or my favourite mug). However, this is after several years of living in shared places. When I started out, not only was it cheaper, but it meant that I met new people and, when I first moved to London, I got tips on places to go and how to cut my costs. It also was really useful experience in terms of meeting and dealing with different types of people.

What I would recommend is going to see as many places as you can - you are deciding if you want to live there as much as they are deciding if they want you to move in. Avoid anything described in the ad as a 'party house'. Personally I like somewhere quiet so I can have my own space or spend time in my room to get some alone time.
posted by mippy at 4:01 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, having roommates can also increase DRAMAZ and stress (search for threads on "how do I deal with my crazy roommate!").

Come on - do you really want to live your entire life in a cotton wool bubble? What is life without a modicum of stress or drama. Yes you could live alone and spend more and live a nice 'safe' untroubled time it might also be a bit boring.

And crazy flatmates make great stories anyway. As long as you get out of the situation alive..
posted by mary8nne at 4:05 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am an anxious introvert. I remained an anxious introvert after several years living with roomates (some of whom I got along with, and some of whom I didn't.) Some days I would just sit waiting for the noise from the living room to quiet down so that I could sneak out to the bathroom.

I get enough stress and drama at work. I live alone now and it's the best choice I've ever made.
posted by Jeanne at 4:18 AM on June 29, 2012

I'm also 26 and an introvert. I lived with roomates at university and although I got on with them, I never got as much alone time or even just...being-able-to-wander-round-in-my-bathrobe time as I liked. Since being a working adult I've made the choice to live alone. It's the best thing ever - I've got my own flat where I can do what I like without having to worry about sharing space or being friendly to people even if I don't really feel like it. I don't think there's anything wrong with that!

How about you try both? Live with these guys for six months or a year, and if you don't like it you can always move out to your own place :)
posted by cardamine at 4:59 AM on June 29, 2012

I would say give the roommates a try and see how you get on. The house itself and the roommates personalities do play a part, so get to know their habits and lifestyle before you move in - especially regarding cooking, partying, musical instruments, regular times they have friends over and any early morning starts. It might help to ask who was the worst roommate they've ever lived with, as this will clue you in to their pet hates (as for some people that is introverts!) and degree of control freakery. Basically just trust your instincts - if it doesn't work you can always leave.

I lived with flatmates for years, then got a place on my own and took to it so easily. When I had to save money again it was reallyreallyreally hard to go back to flatmates, and so I'd say if you are ever going to live with flatmates, do it now before you get too used to having your own space!
posted by EatMyHat at 5:29 AM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend (an introvert) lives in a house in West Philly with a bunch of people who are, I would say, more outgoing than he is. He just goes about his life--sometimes he watches TV with them or whatever, but other times he hangs out in his room.

I have another friend who lives in a house there which is more of an intentional community where everyone cooks together, hangs out together, makes art together. I would avoid a situation like that if you're nervous about roommates but I bet a house like my boyfriend's would be fine.
posted by mlle valentine at 6:06 AM on June 29, 2012

Having roommates has always been so stressful for me that it drives me to be more introverted and insecure. Or worse, just depressed and crazy because I'm stuck living with people who make my life miserable.

Now, living on my own, I have my own space to recharge and as a person it makes me more social. However, I guess it's something to try if you've never done it before.
posted by melissam at 6:34 AM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

While I might be interested in renting a room for a month or two to get the lay of the land, I've never been comfortable in a roommate situation.

Even my dorm roommates got on my nerves. (Could you type that some other place? It's 3 AM and I'm trying to SLEEP!!!)

I do have a wonderful friend and we shared an apartment at different points, and each time it was awesome. But we're like sisters and even though we're old farts now, I'd still let her move in.

You really have to know yourself. How territorial are you? How noise sensitive are you? How tidy are you? If you're extremely territorial, noise sensistive and tidy, roommates will make you insane!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:09 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've lived in a house where the norm was for folks to hang in the common areas most nights, and I often opted out of that and holed up in my room either to work (I'm a student) or just to have some alone time. I liked the option of a built-in social life if I wanted it, and people were always cool with me doing my own thing when I needed to. What eventually drove me out of this living situation, though, was really different standards on how clean the common spaces would be kept - you definitely can't change other people on this sort of thing, so it's better to find folks that already share your standard (or at least something tolerable to you). So, I'd chat with potential housemates about things like how social the house is, what the expectations are for housemates to be social (i.e. are there regular shared meals, will people feel weird about you holing up in your room if you need to), and also other living space expectations like how clean you and others are expected to keep common areas. I definitely think this could work for you, it is just a matter of finding the right group of people. It sounds like you might be happier in a studio if you could afford it, but I think you can definitely make the housemate situation work if you can't afford to live on your own.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:47 AM on June 29, 2012

Man, if I were you, I would take a pass on the whole "experience." Going to jail would be an experience, too. Most of the drama and irritation that has happened in my life has been from living with some crazy person, friends and non-friends included. Also, check out all the posts here on this site about roommates. Hundreds of problems, some of them so crazy it's hard to believe. Dogs using the living room as a toilet everyday, romance insanity, broken shit. Skip it, live alone, and work on your social skills in the public arena. I would say they matter more there anyway, as long as you're capable of having good home relationships.
posted by amodelcitizen at 2:05 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was looking at it, and going 'Fair enough, if you want to live alone' - then I noticed you were still living with your parents.

Just saying, for all the toss-of-the-dice potential craziness of roomates (ie, it's also likely you will have no problems), for all the people I've known, it was far worse living with their parents.
Even if they were quiet parents who didn't really bother them.

Something about not being able to develop fully as a person while living with the parents. Like, I've often *noticed* when someone I know has moved back/moved out of the parents house, despite them not mentioning it yet.

Roomates or living alone? Yes. Parents? No.
posted by Elysum at 3:43 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

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