Ask Ainsley, Student Life

Ask Ainsley: How do I live harmoniously with my roommates?

Dear Ainsley,

I’m in my second year at McGill, and I just moved into my first apartment with four of my friends. Although I’m very excited for this new chapter of adulthood, I’ve never had roommates before, and I’m worried that a five-person apartment is bound to breed conflict. What advice do you have for maintaining positive relationships with your roommates?

Sincerely,

Anxious Disorganized Roomie (ADR)

Dear ADR,

Congratulations on moving into your first apartment! Living independently for the first time can be exciting, but also overwhelming. This is especially true when you’re sharing an apartment with four people you’ve never lived with before. Luckily, there are many ways to develop and preserve an environment where everyone can feel at home. 

Since many roommate conflicts are the result of miscommunication, it’s important to ensure everyone is on the same page. Consider forming group chats on Facebook, Discord, or iMessage—whichever platform works best for everyone. You can use this group chat to send out reminders about things like chores and rent. 

It’s equally important to establish ground rules and personal boundaries. You may wish to set up a meeting early on to acquaint yourself with your roommates’ living habits: Are they early birds or night owls? Do they cook elaborate meals or mostly order takeout? All of this information will not only give you a sense of what to expect on a daily basis, but will also help you accommodate everyone’s needs. After becoming familiar with each other’s preferences, you might set up monthly meetings to address any issues that arise—especially since there are five of you living under the same roof. 

Another priority for when you first move in should be to create a roommate agreement that outlines each roommate’s duties and expectations. This agreement can be an opportunity to establish household management and bill-paying plans. Going forward, consider using a chore chart to accommodate each roommate’s unique schedule and time constraints. You can make things even easier by using a roommate chore app, such as Tody, ChoreBuster, OurGroceries, Cozi, or OurHome

Even with preventative measures in place, problems may still arise, and you will need a good strategy in place for managing them. While it can be daunting to directly address issues with your roommates, it will save you a headache later down the road. First off, ensure that you approach your roommates level-headed and willing to hear them out. Aside from blurring your own judgment, any anger is bound to put them in defensive mode. Rather than throwing accusations, try to use “I” statements, like “I feel I am frequently taking out the trash and would appreciate a little more help.” By framing it in these terms, you’re expressing to your roommate how you feel, thereby encouraging collaboration rather than conflict. 

The LARA method can also help you foster successful dialogue with your roommates. The L stands for listen: Try and be an active listener by providing them with thoughtful responses, open body language, and eye contact. The A stands for affirm or acknowledge, meaning that you recognize the feelings and needs behind what is being said. The R stands for respond, giving you the floor to express your thoughts and feelings about the problems your roommate brought up, and the second A stands for Add, finishing off with a chance to voice any of your additional opinions or solutions. If you follow LARA, your roommates are more likely to recognize that you are invested in resolving the issue in a way that works for you both.

Using these tactics is a sure-fire way to cultivate a harmonious relationship with your roommates. But if all else fails and you’re still struggling to get them to wash their dishes, you can always leave them passive aggressive messages

In all seriousness, living with roommates is an incredible way to build friendships, have fun, and make the most out of your college experience. Don’t forget to enjoy the process and let loose!

Good luck with your semester.

Sincerely,

Ainsley

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