Surviving and Thriving with Roommates: Selection Criteria

There are a lot of different situations that can lead a Catholic young adult to live with roommates. And some of these situations might make it so you don’t have a lot of choice about who you move in with.

But if you’re lucky, you might have several different options for potential living arrangements. And I can tell you from experience that someone you’re already kind of friends with isn’t automatically the best choice for a roommate.

Certainly, having similar faith and morals is a good starting point for a strong roommate match, but there are also a lot of other considerations that can make or break a living situation.

Are Your Personality Types Complimentary?

How to Surviving and Thriving with Roommates || Are Your Personality Types Complimentary?

I’m not going to say you should require any potential roommates to take a personality inventory (though it could help if you were both up for it!). Simply asking and discussing your personality traits together can help you avoid moving in with someone you’d constantly clash with.

The first college roommate I was paired with seemed, at first, to be a decent fit for me. We talked and bonded a little in the first few days away from our parents, and we found that we did have some interests in common. But it wasn’t long before how extremely different our personalities were hit me like a ton of bricks.

I tend toward introversion. Not all introverts need introverted roommates. But when their roommates are extremely extroverted—as I soon discovered this girl to be—it could mean non-stop guests in your living space and a total lack of solitude.

For me, that first semester got to be so trying with the constant visitors to our dorm room that I had to start looking for other places to hang out. And, I’m pretty sure my quiet personality started to become a wet blanket for her socializing needs as well.

I don’t think roommates need to be exactly the same by any means. But when you discover that you and a roommate are on two completely opposite ends of the spectrum in any area, things can start to get tough.

Can You Communicate Effectively with One Another?

How to Surviving and Thriving with Roommates || Can You Communicate Effectively with One Another?

If you do have rather different personalities, it shouldn’t necessarily have to be a roommate deal breaker, as long as you are able to communicate openly about the issues it causes.

For me in that early college situation, I had no idea how to go about living with a non-relative, and I imagine she didn’t either. We ended up at a level of silent resentment and no-fun bitterness that led me to apply for an RA position and get out of living with a roommate again.

But a few years more mature in grad school, I came to understand this issue a little better when I lived off-campus with three other young women grad students. The four of us had our share of conflicts, but we were much better at communicating our needs and frustrations than my first roommate and I had been.

“Do you have to turn on that bright light at 5:00 in the morning? It keeps waking me up.”

“Can we trade off using the assigned parking space so I don’t have to walk so far every day?”

“Who needs the kitchen still tonight? My meal might take a while.”

We definitely weren’t perfect at it, but I found the level of communication we shared to make it a much more enjoyable living arrangement than my previous experience.

Will They Respect Your Space and Stuff?

How to Surviving and Thriving with Roommates || Will They Respect Your Space and Stuff?

At one point, I had this roommate who seemed to have no concept of personal property. I don’t think she was intentionally doing it, but she adopted several of my things as her own in the time we lived together.

I would notice my conditioner supply depleting, while she had only a shampoo in our shower but still had marvelously luminous hair every day. I overheard her say, “Where did my lint-roller go?” And I then spotted her using mine (she didn’t even own one).

And, worst of all, I had strong reason to believe that she adopted my razor for her own personal use. Needless to say, I bought a new one. Gross.

The biggest problem with all this was that this girl tended toward such ditsy-ness that I felt even speaking up about these issues to her wouldn’t get rid of the problem.

Maybe some people don’t have huge issues with someone using their things all the time. If that’s you, roommate living should be considerably easier for you. But for me, it was a problem, one I wished I’d thought about before I had to live in constant uncertainty about my toiletry supply.

Clutter can be a Killer

How to Surviving and Thriving with Roommates || Clutter can be a Killer

At least in my experience, neat freaks kind of can’t stand their living space to be cluttered, and most messy people get pretty annoyed at having people on their case about the mess.

I’ve seen the issue wreak havoc on marriages and definitely make sibling relationships tense, but I’d say it’s even harder when the person you’re clutter-clashing with is just a roommate, someone you’re not in love with or related to.

So if you know the person you’re considering moving in with is a terrible slob and you like things neat (or vice versa), don’t assume you’ll be able to work around one another.

Different ideas about everyday tidiness were legitimately one of my biggest frustrations when I lived with roommates, and I can only imagine the case was probably similar for the people I was living with.

It’s Best to Have an Open Discussion

How to Surviving and Thriving with Roommates || It's Best to Have an Open Discussion

If you can at all avoid it, don’t just live with the first friend or acquaintance that comes along with a spare bed. You might think you’ll offend people by appearing picky or turning them down, but consider that you might actually be saving a friendship by being open about reasons you want to deliberate.

You can even put the blame on yourself, if you want: “Well I’m kind of hard to live with,” which is true, I can guarantee—we all are. “So let’s talk about it first and see if we would be good roommates for one another.”

And then discuss the issues that you know will be important for your day-to-day happiness, and see how your preferences match up with your potential roommate’s biggest concerns.

Even though it might seem simpler to just take your chances, being intentional here at the start can save you a lot of conflict and trouble in the long run.