When I was younger, I was never allowed to have play dates with three girls, which my mom believed to be the toughest number. Two would always gang up against one, and someone would feel left out. Luckily, my best friends were twins, so I learned how to deal with this apparently awful number.
In the past three and a half years, I’ve never had any less than three other roommates, and I’ve enjoyed always having the company, someone to talk to or commiserate with about work or the weather. I grew up in a family of four, so perhaps this is just the number I’m most comfortable living with.
As I blogged earlier, I lucked into my apartment, and having it as a friend of a friend’s has always kept the prime property in our circle. Though our roommates have varied over the past year and a half I’ve lived there—college students, unemployed recent grads, a Russian Gucci model, Syrian tourists…– I’ve found many ways to get along with my roommates and keep things civil, if not spectacularly awesome, in our extremely small space.
First, setting up some ground rules was something I learned is necessary when living with a new crew. The biggest adjustment to moving out of campus housing was not having a Resident Advisor (RA) who would set some rules and policies for us, and check in to make sure everything is okay. With each of my three permanent roommates, we have to know who is comfortable sharing spices or who wants her own, who wants to leave her door open when she’s out for the day or who would prefer it closed, do they want to designate areas in the fridge or use a labeling system… There are so many little details about each person that are impossible to know about her until you’re living with her 24/7.
And many of these details are impossible to know until some type of transgression is made. Were the shot glasses not communal? Should I not have turned your fan on when you were out of town? Is it not okay that I alphabetized the bookshelf? You can’t avoid irritating your roommates. It’s impossible. But being open to communication, and maintaining a level of respect is key.
When I blast my music in the morning to wake up, and the girl on the other side of the wall asks me to turn it down, I do. When my roommate’s leftovers are rotting in some drawer, I let her know. We don’t antagonize or blame each other, but rather try and make our living space the best it can possibly be.
As a group of four, we rarely all hang out together. We all work more than one job (rent in NYC is too damn high!) and have various groups of friends. While it would be nice to have drinks or dinner all together more often, we all operate as independent units who coexist, and it definitely works out!
Drawing ©Jennifer Lilya. Used by permission.