Moving in with someone new, whether it’s a total stranger or an old friend, always poses the risk of miscommunication issues and personality conflicts.
But even if you and your roommate have next to nothing in common, you can still create a comfortable living environment by respecting one another and learning to communicate.
Here’s how to transition into living with someone new—no stress necessary.
Talk about your habits and living styles.
The single best way to create a friendly, relaxed dynamic between you and your new roommate is to form a habit of communicating early on. Before you move in together, sit down and have an open, honest conversation about what you’d like in an ideal living situation.
For example, your roommate could simply want a quiet, tranquil space to relax after work, while you might be searching for a more lively, social atmosphere. If your needs and desires are conflicting, you need to be realistic about what you’re both willing to compromise on and tolerate.
Certified Professional Organizer Amy Trager advises talking about your individual organizational styles (are you always neat? do you let things pile up?) so you can be aware of each other’s habits and preferences.
Other important questions to ask are things like: What do you enjoy doing for fun? What are your roommate pet peeves? What is your daily routine like?
Being upfront with what you want will prevent tons of potential problems down the line.
Do a walkthrough of your space together.
Before you start unloading boxes of kitchen supplies or scouting out a spot for the TV, walk through your empty home with your roommate so you can figure out how to divide and organize the common spaces.
As you walk around, talk about your ideas: do you plan to split the bathroom cabinets, kitchen pantry and fridge space 50/50? How are you going to determine who gets which bedroom? How will you separate the storage space?
Trager says it’s crucial to organize your common areas together.
“Not only will you each know where items are stored, but now you can each put your two cents in,” Trager said.
Professional Organizer Rachel Rosenthal also recommends dedicating individual space for each roommate in shared areas.
“In the entryway, add hooks for each person’s keys, coats and bags. Create a mail/drop zone by using labeled vertical file holders to house each person’s mail,” Rosenthal said.
Before you move anything in, make sure you have a clear idea of which parts of the home are yours, which parts belong exclusively to your roommate, and which areas you’ll share—then respect those boundaries.
Get your finances squared away.
It’s important to figure out how you’ll pay the rent each month and whose name the bills will go under, as well as how you’ll tally and pay one another back for small household expenses like extra toilet paper and dish soap.
Equally as important as figuring out the logistics of paying your rent and security deposit, though, is taking the time to understand your roommate’s personal financial situation and how that may affect your living situation.
For example, if you know your roommate is on a tight budget while paying off her student loans, she may not be able to afford blasting the AC every night or splurging on an upgraded cable subscription.
Nail down the house rules.
Agreeing on a few general guidelines for navigating daily life together will make your cohabitation so much smoother.
A few ideas to discuss: your noise preferences, if you’ll allow smoking in the house, how you’ll communicate about guests staying over, whether or not you’ll share food, and how you’ll handle cleaning and chores.
Create separate zones.
Even if you and your roommate are comfortable sharing your space, it’s important to have separate areas of your home to retreat to when you need a little breathing room.
Besides your separate bedrooms, you can create distinct zones or corners within your larger communal areas. You can designate the armchair and side table in your living room as a cozy reading nook, distanced from the TV area. Or add a writing desk to your dining or kitchen area to create a small workspace.
Let your space showcase your personalities.
An easy way to feel at home with a new roommate is to make sure both your personalities are being equally represented in your space. That means giving one another the freedom to display decorative items or personal belongings like book collections, art, throw pillows, or souvenirs in areas you both deem appropriate.
Mutual respect and consideration is the cornerstone of any successful living situation, so above all, respect your roommate’s space, privacy, and personal belongings.