Roommate life rarely resembles how it looks in Friends.
The cast of our favourite 90s sitcom might enjoy living with their best pals in lavish New York apartments. However, in reality, most people in their 20s (and 30s, and 40s) will spend years hopping between spare rooms in shared houses.
While this can be an exciting and (significantly) cheaper way to live, it does force you into close quarters with a group of strangers. Much like a sitcom, your roommates can quickly become a rotating cast of characters full of little quirks.
Whether you’re looking to build friendships for life or just navigate the minefield of modern city living, here are five ways to feel more at home living with a constantly changing group of roommates.
1) Conduct interviews/viewings yourself
Living with a roommate is half the battle, but first, you have to find them.
In some shared house situations, this decision will be out of your hands. You might be in student housing where the application process is handled externally or at the mercy of a landlord’s decision. However, if you can, it pays to put the time into monitoring SpareRoom messages and finding the right roommate for you.
This is something you and your existing roommates can do as a group. You can log on every evening, analyze incoming messages and search for people you think might be a great fit.
Once you’ve found someone, invite them over for a viewing. While it might be intimidating to meet a house full of people at once, showing them around as a group gives everyone an equal opportunity to get a feel for their next roommate and offer their own feedback on how they’d fit into the house.
This isn’t just a great way to find the perfect new roommate, but to bond with your existing ones and re-establish their dealbreakers.
2) Establish privacy and boundaries
Speaking of dealbreakers, one way to make life with roommates more comfortable is to make sure everyone is clear of each other’s boundaries and dealbreakers.
Not everyone wants to live in a party house or have to get a bus over town to see their partner. Living with strangers is about making concessions and putting your foot down in equal measure. This is your home and if you don’t feel comfortable with certain situations, everyone should be aware of it.
Without becoming the house stick in the mud, some important boundaries and rules to discuss as soon as possible include:
- The cleaning duties
- The policy on guests (partners, friends) and parties
- How everyone feels about pets
- Where costs will be split (just sharing bills or pooling cash for meals and furniture?)
- Work and shower schedules (vital in a WFH world)
If this discussion doesn’t inspire confidence, it might be worth looking into tenant insurance for some added protection. Signing up for short-term options with services such as Duuo ensures your valuables and assets are covered in the event of a party when you’re out of town or fall victim to a roommate accident. Better safe than sorry.
3) Use it as an opportunity to meet new people
There are hundreds of reasons you may need to start living with strangers.
You could be doing it to save money. You might be fresh out of a relationship. You might have arrived in a new city for the first time.
Whatever your reason for opting for shared accommodation, moving in with strangers is a great way to meet new people and commemorate a fresh start. A constantly rotating cast of roommates might sound like a hard way to make connections, but you’re unlikely to ever get that opportunity to meet new people again.
Don’t be a hermit who hides away in their room all day and night. Some alone time is important for recharging your batteries, but you’ll soon regret that chance you had to make new friends of different ages and different backgrounds. And don’t worry about what happens when they decide to move out, you can still stay in touch and soon have a new person to get to know all over again.
4) Take the natural approach
That being said, there are bad ways to try and make connections with your roommates.
Anyone who’s lived in a shared property knows the downside of organization.
We’re not talking about cleaning duty rotation. We’re talking about organized fun.
While movie nights and shared meals work for some, most roommate situations thrive out of more natural interactions. Just happening to be in the kitchen at the same time, or catching the end of a movie with them when you get back from a date. These little things are home strangers bond in a home, much more so than being forced to play games every Sunday night.
People in shared homes live very busy, individualistic lives. You can’t force them to be your friends and if that’s what you’re looking for from a roommate, this might not be the house for you.
5) Find more permanent options
Tired of losing a roommate every six months? Consider ditching the Spare Room and Gumtree approach and finding some more permanent options.
That could be:
- A friend
- A work colleague
- A sibling
- Someone you volunteer with
- A roommate’s partner (although this comes with its own risks as Refinery29 can attest to)
While living with people you know presents its own challenges, it can often be easier than sharing close quarters with a different stranger every six months. If you know you’ll have an empty slot coming up, consider asking around to gauge interest.
There’s a fine line to balance when it comes to living with strangers, especially when you have to refresh your boundaries every six months. But, remember this is your home as much as it is anyone else’s and you should stand up for yourself. This might be only temporary, but it’s important to feel as comfortable as possible.