Tips, tricks, and the unfortunate facts of living with roommates

Photo by Jaime Mere

My expectation of what it was like to live with roommates was comically wrong from the beginning. Embarrassingly, my assumption was that the next few years of my personal life would play out similarly to a Disney Channel show.

Harmoniously living, exchanging witty greetings as we share a communal breakfast in the nook of the uniquely decorated kitchen. We all sip our coffees in unison as we huddle around our meals watching morning cartoons off the wall mounted flat screen.

This was a guarantee, the standard I crudely assumed. How could three irritable, sleep-deprived twenty-year-olds coursing with anxiety and testosterone not live amicably, becoming best friends along the way?

As my naive prediction inevitably unravelled over the next couple of months, I slowly realized that living with roommates can be a total irrevocable nightmare.

Here are just a few of the things I wish I knew before moving in with roommates along with some offhand ways of dealing with them.

  • Gaps in knowledge

It’s just a fact of nature that you and your roommates will all have varying gaps in knowledge. Some may be slim while some are embarrassingly and concerningly large.Some may be understandable, such as running a load of laundry or navigating an electrical breaker. While some are comically trivial —  “Are coffee filters reusable?” I recall being asked — a question I assumed answered itself considering they come packaged in the hundreds.Combining your preexisting knowledge is the best way to accommodate this, ensuring no one puts hand soap in the dishwasher or covers the stove’s heat exhaust with their indisputably essential BarStool flag. Saturdays are for four-story electrical fires, right?

  • Differing music tastes

Thanks to advanced portable speakers and Waterloo’s poor drywall contracting, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be experiencing your roommate’s grunge phase (or whatever out-of-date 90s subgenre they’re into) along with them through the napkin-thin walls of your apartment.You’ll know Tim Hicks’ “Stronger Beer” off by heart thanks to the living room pregaming that you weren’t invited to. You’ll find yourself humming unfamiliar country songs to yourself and finally acknowledge this needs to stop.Although debatably immature, the most effective way of combating this is passive aggressive retaliation. Invest in your own thundering portable speaker, something to blare Kermit’s “Rainbow Connection” during your seven a.m. shower. Insist that The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t it be Nice” is an utter necessity in passing your afternoon bowel movement and that nothing puts you to bed quite like the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”This may not solve any of your noisy problems, but at least as you fall asleep to The Muppets’ “Mahna Mahna” you’re given the peace of mind in knowing that your roommate’s tinder-swain of the night is only a few feet away, slightly aroused to the notorious puppetry of Jim Henson.

  • Poor bathroom etiquette and weak constitutions

Whether your roommate’s an intolerant dairy fiend or simply lacks the skill to trim themselves under running water, sharing bathrooms can be a messy and often gruesome experience. The best advice I can suggest is keeping all important toiletries in a separate tote locked away in your bedroom, brought out only when required. This is the best way of ensuring no one herpes-ups your toothbrush or touches their genitals with the razor blade devoted to your chin and upper lip. Scheduling may also be an issue provided your apartment comes with only one washroom.It wasn’t until I noticed the layer of film growing on top of the open two litre bottle of cider that I realized my roommate had been relieving himself in the confines of his own room, fermenting this rancid concoction for weeks based on the abnormal dijon hue of the liquid. “Your showers have been gettin’ longer,” he replied with confidence when challenged.

  • The terrible, no good, very bad friend(s)

There’s nothing worse than a freeloader. Someone who tends to overstay their welcome while treating themselves to the meal-planned tupperware in your fridge. Who better to keep you up at night playing Guitar Hero than someone you were never legally obligated to tolerate?A person so rancid smelling, hair greasier than a skillet, that you suggest bathing them yourself with an extension hose in the parking lot like neglected cattle. You wonder where your roommate has found this person as they finish clipping their nails in your kitchen sink.Somewhere along a swampy marsh? Buried under hurricane rubble? Maybe they’re visiting from Brock. Now this may not always be the case (it’s possible I’m projecting), but in my experience, every roommate has a terrible, intolerable friend who tends to visit more than you’d like.I have no adequate advice for this one: this serves as more of a warming than a combatant. Be friendly and hide your beer.

Despite all the pessimism I’ve discussed thus far about living with roommates, it can also be one of the greatest experiences of your life. You learn a lot about a person when living that close to them for that long.

My last roommate and now one of my closest friends was integral in helping me detox off my antidepressants, distracting me with humour and laughs while giving me lifelong stories and memories that I could never have crafted myself.

Some of your greatest nights will come with these people. Rowdy nights spent vandalising the absent roommate’s property, influenced by a couple bottles of pinot grigio, or silent evenings spent watching Marley and Me with the downstairs neighbours you both know are out of your league.

Sure, living with new people can be scary and unpredictable; I’ll never get used to the idea of a stranger painting the ceiling only feet away from me, realizing that a deadbolt and a locked door doesn’t necessarily protect you from airborne bacteria.

Although the realities of living with roommates may not have been what I expected, with a positive attitude and a hefty pair of rubber gloves, it may just change your life.

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