Roommate best practices for living with a friend?
November 11, 2016 8:53 PM   Subscribe

It looks like I will be moving in with one of my best friends, instead of staying in my mother's house. I am hoping the hive mind can give me some best practices/pointers to help our co-habitation go well.

I am pretty happy about this arrangement - it totally takes the weight of the house off my shoulders.

W is a very dear friend, a sister really, and we've lived together, successfully, once before for three months after she had serious surgery.

I have a key to her house, and already come and go at will. In fact, I was heavily involved the purchase process as a sounding board and such.

But temporary is not the same as moving into an already established household with someone who definitely has her own way of doing things. We've talked a little about this stuff, and I'm pretty sure we can work out any disagreements that come...but I'd rather not get to that point, if at all possible.

Possibly relevant info: my room has its own bathroom and is fairly private; I am more introverted and like my private time; she is constantly trying to reduce the miniscule amount of clutter she has, while I have sxads of books and art supplies.

All suggestions welcome.
posted by Archipelago to Human Relations (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Some things to talk about before moving in to figure out if you're of similar minds and expectations generally about cohabiting:

* What areas are common space?
* What tidiness levels in the common space are to be expected?
* How often is reasonable to have friends and romantic partners over?
* are either of you sensitive no noise? Does there need to be a quiet time established?
* Who does what chores? How to split them? Do they rotate?
* How do you split housing supply expenses, bills?
* are you both familiar with each others' communication and conflict styles? How will you manage disagreements if they come up, or head them off at the pass before they come up?
* Do either of you anticipate any power dynamic problems since she's the house-owner?
* What are the legal terms of you staying there, if any, and what sort of notice should either of you expect if you want to move out, or she wants you to move out?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:08 PM on November 11, 2016 [8 favorites]

That's an excellent list to start with.

I would add that most of my frustrations with roommates over the years have been due to differing ideas about common-area maintenance. I'm not exactly sure why this should be, but someone else's mess is often a lot harder to tolerate than your own. As such, it's best to plan on keeping to a higher standard of neatness than you might feel necessary in your own place.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:46 PM on November 11, 2016 [9 favorites]

I posted this question some time ago and got some great answers from the hivemind. You may find some of them helpful.
posted by Ziggy500 at 10:02 PM on November 11, 2016

You should have a lease. Even if you're not paying rent, you will have a legal status in her house and your state probably has a standard lease that helps clarify things like notice periods, her access to your room, etc.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:31 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

In addition to what Jon Mitchell said, decide ahead of time what happens if someone violates those rules. What happens if one of you starts deciding that "eh, I'll do [chore] next Sunday" is basically the same as doing it Tuesday? What if someone keeps making noise in the wee hours? Roommate situations can go to hell quickly when the rules are--rules! But there's not actually any penalty for *breaking* a rule. Maybe there can be fines, or someone has to hire a cleaner if they break a rule more than [however many times], but there should be some sort of consequence.

Figure out how much of your stuff can go in the common area, and then either put out, like, half that, to start, or revisit how much stuff can be in the common area in a few months. I'm also the clutter-reducing type, and while I thought I could deal with [x amount] of my housemate's stuff being in our common space, and it turns out that what it actually does is make me aggressively avoid the space because it's so cluttered and makes me so unhappy.

What happens if one of you loses your job/goes on disability/etc and is struggling to pay the rent? If you're going to miss or be late with rent, what are your responsibilities to them? If they're struggling to pay the mortgage, how much information do they owe you about that situation?
posted by mishafletch at 10:56 PM on November 11, 2016

Always be fully willing to cheerfully do 60-70% of the cleaning and maintenance.

People tend to overestimate the amount of work they do in a household, so estimating it at 60-70 brings you closer to the true 50%.
posted by mochapickle at 3:17 AM on November 12, 2016 [13 favorites]

Even if you get along really well, it's good to disappear for a weekend every now and again and give the other person some space.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:28 AM on November 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

Lots of great advice above. I'd also have a pretty detailed conversation about how the kitchen + food will work, as in my experience that can be one of the greatest sources of awesomeness and/or stress in roommate situations (especially roommates who are friends). Some things to consider:

1. How much of the food in the kitchen will be shared vs. personal? Does it make sense to fill the fridge with, for example, two jugs of milk or bags of flour, or is it okay to split those things and share the cost in some way (if so, how?). If you're doing everything separate, how will it be clear whose stuff is whose (shelves in the pantry/ fridge? labels?)
2. How often will you both be wanting to use the kitchen at the same time (i.e. a morning rush or similar dinner times)? How do you navigate that?
3. How soon do dishes need to be washed and put away? I have found that even a 24-hour rule can feel too messy to people who like a neat kitchen, but that expecting everything to be washed immediately is often impractical, so see what balance you can find here.
4. Will you plan to cook/eat any meals together? This is one of the best parts about living with friends, in my opinion, but it helps to have clear ground rules so no one feels taken advantage of. In various living situations, we've had rules such as: if one person cooks, the other person does the dishes; there's a set budget for group meals that everyone pays into and the expectation is that if you want something fancier than that, you pay out of your own pocket; set evenings for group dinners and if you're going to miss you need to share that in advance. If you are going to share food/meals in some way, be very clear about everyone's dietary needs and preferences.
5. What are your ground rules for hosting larger gatherings like dinner parties or other larger events that would tie up the communal cooking and eating space for longer periods of time? How much advance notice is expected? Is the other person automatically invited/welcome to join? How often is too often for hosting larger events? How quickly do things need to be cleaned up after? Are there certain days/hours when these events are pretty much never okay (i.e. quiet hours or knowing someone has to get up early so weeknight parties aren't okay).
6. Kitchens tend to have their own set of chores that it's good to account for specifically in a chore rotation (or however you decide to set up chores). Off the top of my head, this would include: deep clean of the stove/oven, cleaning out the fridge on a periodic basis and tossing anything that has become too old (and people's standards differ on what's "too old"), dishes, taking out kitchen trash (again, people differ on how long it's okay to have it sit around), sweeping/mopping the floor. Try to come up with a common set of standards for these things so it doesn't become a constant fight of "well, I assumed anyone would know it's not okay to leave cottage cheese in the fridge for two whole weeks!!!"
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:48 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Post your work schedules in a common calendar. It helps to have an idea of when you will both be there at the same time or when you can be assured you'll be alone.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:56 AM on November 12, 2016

Clean up after yourself.
Be the morning coffee maker.
Don't play your music or video loud.
Leave her alone if she doesn't want to talk.
Respect her space; both physical and mental.
Keep your art supplies/crap well-contained.
Be on time or early with your fiscal responsibilities.
If she's not a cheery-in-the-morning person, don't be cheery!
Don't be the person who asks "Are you okay?" with a concerned tone of voice. Egad!
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:12 AM on November 12, 2016

Always leave the kitchen at least slightly cleaner than it was when you walked in. This is the key to harmonious house sharing.
posted by flabdablet at 8:22 AM on November 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'd suggest setting up a recurring order on Amazon or Jet that helps you keep stocked up on household essentials without having to think about it.

I'd also set a 3 month interval schedule to sit down at home and share anything that you've been noticing either as a problem or as a virtue in your roommate, so that nothing spends too long getting stifled.
posted by vacuumsealed at 8:39 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Even if you are paying fair market rent, psychologically this is still her house, and you are a long-term guest who contributes to expenses.

If you go into this thinking you are housemates with equal rights, the little encroachments can add up over time. Don't decorate walls. Don't remind her to do housework. Do keep your footprint small - with regard to time, space, and energy.

Living with a friend can bring you closer in wonderful ways. The fact that you are asking this question means you care greatly about her. Good luck to both of you!
posted by metaseeker at 12:08 PM on November 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here are the things not to do that someone staying with us did (we sent them back to their Mom):

- not cleaning their room and the bathroom only they used so there was a nasty smell in the area
- not cleaning the common areas like the hall, kitchenette and couches next to their room and the bathroom either, despite messily using them a lot
- being noisy until 3 am at night despite knowing I work normal hours, mostly screaming at the internet while playing LoL, thought it was fine since they had a headset on, duh!
- filling up the fridge with their stuff and then not helping clean when their tons of fruit and vegetables rotted there
- drinking all our alcohol and complaining we were low
- letting their stuff (mainly card collections) spill over into common areas, also refused to move it when we wanted to have a party
- dug heels in and sulked a lot when we asked them to start looking for a place of their own (we learned from this, it's a good idea to have a timeline from the start)
- they spent crazy amounts of money on collectible and online cards while they were supposed to be saving up to move out (not something hosts can or should police at all, but it stung since we letting them stay for free)

I think the biggest concerns I would have if we helped someone again would be noise and having a clear timeline.
posted by meepmeow at 1:32 PM on November 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ask your friend what, if any, home improvement projects are on the horizon, that may take place while you live there. Ask how these may affect both your 'personal' space and common areas and what expectations there may be about how you cope with this. Like if you needed to prepare for a professional exam and study at the weekend because you work full time. Will there be any surfaces in the house that are not covered in dust and with stuff that had been moved from the area worked in, doing work that causes so much noise that it is impossible to hear the phone ring never mind to study...and who needs a bathroom anyway?!

Ask if they plan to take up smoking again due to drama with the ex after they were a non smoker when you move in. Ask how that will work if you plan to prepare a meal and eat it without having to endure smoke.

Ask if they plan to adopt any pets down the pub. For example a mix between a Boxer/German shepherd that is absolutely adorable while you can still lift it but not necessarily once it is the size of a pony. And if they adopt such a creature, do they plan on training it or will they allow it to jump up on every person entering the house (except the lodger/now ex-friend who made a point of ignoring the thing until it sits somewhere quietly) and in particular if they plan to potty train the creature they adopt or expect you to prepare for a very unpleasant obstacle course every morning when you leave your bedroom.

Ask me how I know to ask these things.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Always assume your friend has good intentions, no matter the situation. ("I know she meant to wash her dishes; she's normally very conscientious and considerate. Something must have happened.")

Always go above and beyond - consider it a random act of kindness. ("Since I'm just standing here waiting for the microwave, I'll go ahead and sweep the floor.")

Never mention that you've gone above and beyond.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 3:03 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Talk to each other, be honest and be forgiving.

(This technique also seriously undermines almost all the plots in modern sitcoms.)
posted by srboisvert at 6:12 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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