You should make a roommate contract.
When I was preparing for college, one of the commandments I read over and over again was to draw up an agreement laying out food-sharing policies, “lights off” times, whether or not members of the opposite sex could sleep over, when there needed to be some peace and quiet for studying—you get the idea. I arrived at school, eager to sort these out with my roommates and confident they’d read the same articles and would be just as willing.
(Yeah, I realize now it was weird I was excited for this. What can I say– as a future lawyer, I find contracts sexy.)
Anyways, when I asked my roommates when they wanted to write the agreement, they responded with uncomprehending looks.
“You know, a short document setting down our mutual expectations…” I trailed off uncertainly.
Once they got the basic idea, they implied I was being control-freaky. Make no mistake: in college, freaky is fine and even desirable. Control-freaky? Not so much.
I never brought up the contract again.
Oh, but I wish I had suffered the uncomfortable but temporary pain of coming off too Type-A. Our apartment, which consists of four girls in four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a den, and a kitchen, is like an anarchy state. There are NO laws. If that sounds less-than-ideal, well, here’s how it’s turned out.
- I and another girl, Samantha*, are the only ones who take out the trash. Ever. The dumpster is a grueling two-flights-of-stairs and a jog-across-a-street away; okay, so it’s not exactly the Odyssey, but I wonder if my other roommates ever contemplate on how their waste magically disappears all the time.
- Another girl, Claire*, only “owns” half of a shelf in the refrigerator. I have no idea how that happened. I can’t tell if she doesn’t bring food home because she has nowhere to put it, or she has nowhere to put food because she doesn’t bring it home. I could ask if she wanted some of my allotted space… but I’m bitter about the trash.
- The last girl, Chloe*, has her boyfriend over three or four days a week but never tells us when he’s coming. Women everywhere will understand why this is highly inconvenient.
- Chloe shares a bathroom with me; I take a shower around 7:30 a.m. every day, but sometimes a bit later. We’ve never discussed what she should do if she needs to get ready for her 8 a.m. class and I’m in there. Go without brushed teeth? Comb her hair with a fork? Clearly neither are good options.
Obviously, there’s not a single saintly roommate; everyone has a potential cause for complaint. However, since we’re all nice girls who don’t want to rock the boat, we never bring these things up. Furthermore, because we don’t have any concrete rules, we can’t point to our contract and say, “Look, Chloe, we agreed that you would tell us before your boyfriend comes over so we can put a bra on, for Pete’s sake.” (Side note: how funny would it be if her boyfriend’s name was Pete? It’s not.)
My point is, it doesn’t matter if your roommates give you the side-eye for suggesting you write a contract. Figuring out what’s important to each of you and then following through with those rules will make you so much happier in the long run. Otherwise, you’ll be like me, dodging cars on the daily as I haul around three black Hefties stuffed full of old Powerade bottles and Cup Ramen containers.
I’d rather be a control freak any day.
* = Names changed to protect identities.