A weak economy, ridiculously high housing prices and the increasing popularity of urban city centers are causing more and more people to take up a roommate. And let's keep it real — it takes a person with a specific skill set to be able to live with a roommate successfully. You know, without one of you ending up crying or in jail.
Problems with roommates generally fall into one of four categories: money, mess, mine and noise. Luckily it turns out that there are tools and strategies you can use to help manage those all-too-touchy roommate relationships and keep your shared household on track.
Money is what brought you and your roommate together, so make sure you have a plan to track expenses and have a clear understanding of payment expectations.
Like just about everything else these days, when it comes to managing household expenses between you and your roomie, there's an app for that. If you'e looking for an app to just manage who owes how much to whom, Splitwise is a free app that will let you track bills and IOUs among a group. Venmo is another free app that helps with tracking money and lets you share money instantly among friends.
For a more full-service roommate management app, HomeSlice is a pretty cool option. It lets roommates build their own private social network to track everything from bills to chores and even weekend plans. You know, so you don't accidentally walk in on something you'd rather not see. It's the high-tech, mobile app version of the old tie-on-the-door routine.
More people, more mess. And there's really nothing worse than having to live in someone else's filth. Have the conversation up front about how you're going to split chores and — this is critical — hold each other accountable. Whether you use a roommate chore calendar or just have general assignments, the key to a happy home is everyone keeping their mess to a minimum. Oh, and this should be a no-brainer, but never, ever under any circumstances use the end of the toilet paper roll and not replace with a new roll. That's the absolute worst roommate offense imaginable.
Robert Frost once wrote that "good fences make good neighbors," and the same goes for roommates. If the idea of someone else touching your laptop sends you into a tizzy, lock that sucker up with a laptop lock. If you're worried about people going into your room or other private area when you're not there, put a lock on it.
Use washi tape and sticky labels to mark your stuff that's off limits to anyone else. And use individual plastic bins in the fridge to keep your groceries from the general-consumption population. There's even a special Ben & Jerry's ice cream pint lock to keep late-night munchies mitts off your Chunky Monkey.
Here's a video on how you can make your own ice cream pint lock.
The point is, don't make your roommate guess what stuff of yours is off limits. Make it crystal clear with labels, locks and lots of communication.
Whether you're rocking out or knocking boots, noise can be a big nuisance and obstacle in any roommate relationship. Every roommate needs to invest in some sort of white noise maker to cover up everything from sex screams to private phone conversations. Whether it's a fan, sound machine or even a TV tuned to C-SPAN, think of white noise as a fence for your sounds you want to keep private.
In smaller spaces, even appliances like hair dryers, coffee grinders and blenders should be used with care and consideration for your roommate.
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