A fellow named Chuck Otto, over 50 and exiting a marriage after 16 years, decided to look for a roommate when he relocated to a new city. His experiences finding – and then living with – a roommate at age 50+ gave him some new insights on living with others when you’re older. He came up with seven rules for roommate survival that he shared on Next Avenue. Here they are:
1. Agree On the Rules First
It’s pretty much a matter of laying out your typical day – and theirs – and seeing if there are any conflicts. If you need utter quiet in order to go to sleep, and you want to be asleep by 10:30 every night, make sure your roommate doesn’t like to stay up watching TV until the wee hours. If you get really depressed waking up to a kitchen full of dirty dishes, make sure your roommate will commit to cleaning up his own kitchen mess before going to bed each night. Nothing is too petty to talk about ahead of time; it’s your daily peace and happiness you’re protecting by setting out explicit rules.
2. Don’t Assume Your Plans Will Work With Their Plans
The things you look forward to – like watching several episodes of your favorite show in one sitting, or cooking all Sunday afternoon, or enjoying a zen hour after work with chill music and wine – aren’t yours to choose in a vacuum when you live with others and share common areas and things like TVs and couches. You will need to be up front and communicate your desires – ahead of time – and see if they mesh with your roommate’s plans. If not, be prepared to negotiate a compromise when needed.
3. Be Prepared For Some Grating Habits
For instance, if you’ve had more than one discussion/agreement/rule-setting over who buys toilet paper when, but your roommate continues to “forget” when it’s her turn, don’t give up, but don’t allow yourself to be really inconvenienced either. Hide a couple of rolls of toilet paper in your room so that you’re not in a bad spot when she fails to uphold her end of the bargain again. Or if you repeatedly tell her she forgot to turn off the oven, and yet she still does it, maybe in the grand scheme of things you can just chalk that one bad habit up to “how she is” and make it your habit to check the oven a couple of times a day. There could be worse things to deal with.
4. Don’t Unconsciously Take Over Shared Space
When you get comfortable with a roommate, sometimes it can be easy to start sliding into a me-centered comfort zone: You like to kick off your shoes when you flop on the couch and now you start leaving your shoes in the living room all the time. Or you like to spread out your work on the dining room table where it’s light and bright, and, well, she doesn’t seem to be planning any formal meals or anything so what does it matter if you leave your work spread out there overnight, or through the weekend, or forever? Remind yourself to look objectively at how you’re using common areas and whether you’re being considerate.
5. Don’t Stew – Say What’s On Your Mind
It can be hard to bring up things that are bothering you with someone who’s not family or an intimate friend – but all the more reason to bring those things up as soon as they arise rather than down the road when you’re really steamed. If you think a civil conversation over messiness or quiet time or whatever is bothering you is awkward, imagine how much worse it will be if you’re so mad that you say things you later regret. If you’re thinking it, say it, now.
6. Figure Out Your Go-To Before You Need To Go To It
No matter who you live with, there are time you’re going to be irked. For those times, you need your own personal sanctuary. Figure out what will serve as one for you – your own happy place where you won’t feel that you’re hiding in a corner, deprived of comfort and joy. An armchair in your bedroom can be wonderful, converting your space into a mini living room for your own personal use. Or if you have your own bathroom, you might make it especially nice so it’s a soothing place to hang out and perhaps read a book with a glass of wine while enjoying a long soaking bath.
7. Try To Let Go Of Being In Control
You might like utter solitude for a while at the end of the day, but sometimes you might find your living room full of your roommate’s friends when you come home. That could drive you up a wall, or it could be a chance to get out of your own head for an hour. Try to adopt an attitude of being open to opportunity rather than being determined to control everything around you.