Friends or roommates

Remember, food solves conflicts. Try to mend your relationship with ice cream.

Living with your friends is one of the highlights of college life, but the joys of rooming with your best friend can turn sour if you act before you think. Many individuals assume that just because they are friends with a person, he or she would be a good match as a roommate. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start signing papers with someone you may not know as well as you think. 

Are their cleanliness levels compatible with yours?

Yes, this is important. Many people are happy to say that they don’t mind if you forget to take out the trash every once in a while, but make sure your potential roommate really means it. Check out your future roomie’s place next time you’re over — is it a festering filth hole? Are dishes and clothes everywhere? If it’s spotless, then look at your own habitat — unless it’s equally sparkly clean (or equally dirty), think twice about living with him or her for an extended period. If it’s hard to tell what he or she is like with only a couple visits, ask people who have lived with him or her before. If you don’t have access to those people, take note of the things your potential roommate complains about with regards to his or her current roommate. If he constantly grumbles that “Ben never vacuums,” or she frequently says, “It’s weird how anal Sally is about cleaning the sink,” take those comments into consideration, and make sure you don’t do the things mentioned in the complaints.

Can you be comfortably silent?

Rooming with your friends can involve staying up late gossiping, playing video games, having deep conversations about life and not worrying about the long walk or drive home. But what about when you have homework? Or what if your roommate needs a moment alone? If almost all of your time with this person is spent doing stuff together, be sure that you are comfortable when you run out of things to talk about, or if one of you doesn’t feel like chattering ‘til dawn. If you’re not at this point in your relationship, that’s perfectly fine, but living with that person might lead to awkward silences, which could lead to mixed signals and hurt feelings.

Are you good at making up?

Friends fight; that’s normal. Roommates fight too, which is to be expected. However, fighting is one thing, and making up is another. When you and your potential roommate bicker, do you talk it out or do you ignore each other for three weeks? The former will work great if you live together, the latter – not so much. Even if your unconventional problem-solving works for you, make sure it will still work when you have to wake up to each other’s faces every morning.

Who can you complain to?

If your potential roommate is your friend, there is a good chance that you have other friends in common. Assuming you have a current roommate, to whom do you complain about him or her? There’s a good chance it’s the friend group your future roomie is in. If you move in with your friend, can you still complain to that friend group about how annoying your roommate is? Even if you guys are working out great, it’s almost guaranteed that at some point you will need to vent, and you want to make sure you aren’t making things uncomfortable for your mutual friends who don’t want to pick sides.

Are you prepared for a friend breakup?

This is not fun to think about, but friend breakups happen. If you like the person you plan on moving in with and you believe you are compatible, you should hope for the best and plan for the worst. Have a conversation with him or her about a game plan if things go south. If you find you can’t stand living with each other, establish a way to move out as painlessly as possible to ensure your friendship can return to normal afterwards. The conversation won’t be enjoyable, and it will feel unnecessary, but if things don’t work out, you will be grateful you talked. Plus, if things do work out, then you can boast an even stronger friendship, so you have nothing to lose.

Deciding on a future roommate is challenging, but if you think things through and make a wise decision, it will prove rewarding. Rejecting a friend as a roommate can be awkward, but moving in together and realizing you can’t stand each other in that proximity will be even more difficult. So take some time, talk to each other about your lifestyles and options, and remember that you will still be friends, roommates or not.