About the Author
Photographer ANNA OTTUM is known for her sense of playful spontaneity, photographing divergent characters and sceneries throughout New York City. Epic and expansive, moody and quiet, Annas work captures emotion with an intimate attitude. She frequently photographs for lifestyle and fashion brands, including Urban Outfitters, Refinery29, NYLON magazine, and the Modist, among others. She is based in Brooklyn, New York.
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When you’re just starting out, living with roommates is an obvious choice. Not only will you have built-in buddies and help with the cleaning, but you’ll also be able to pool your money for a better place than you would get on just one income, especially in cities where salaries don’t rise as fast as the rents. Despite the challenges of learning to work with a housemate’s quirks and pet peeves, many people love the sense of community that co-living creates. Whether you’re looking with friends, a significant other, a sibling, or strangers, sharing a space means finding common ground.
Pick Your Partners Carefully.
Good friends don’t always make good roommates, and good roommates don’t always make good friends. Someone who’s fun to hang out with might not be the most conscientious housemate and vice versa. Consider how much time you each spend at home and how often it will overlap. Do you like having people over? Will someone be using the living room as a home office?
Even if you decide not to live with friends, always ask people you trust for recommendations as well as looking at listings online. You never know who has a spare room or knows of one that’s opening up. And meet any potential candidates in person. Even if you’ve done your due diligence, sometimes compatibility is hard to gauge over text or email—ultimately, go with your gut.
Ask a Roommate Finder
Ajay Yadav, Roomi
How does Roomi ensure that people find good roommates? Our vision is to create a community for shared living so that your house always feels like a home. Our app allows users the options of background checks, full ID verification, in-app messaging, and secure rent payments to help build safety and trust. We take the search very seriously and match people based on compatibility: Are you a night owl or an early riser? A party animal or a gym rat?
When is the right time to start looking for a roommate? Even though the search process (from signing up to booking a room) usually lasts about ten days, we recommend talking to potential roommates even earlier so you’re not waiting until the last minute to make a decision.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking for a roommate for the first time? Focus more on finding the right person than finding the right place. Everyone has a specific budget in mind and once you narrow down where you can afford to live, you should spend most of your time and energy looking for the right roommate. Your first experience living with someone else will set the tone for future setups.
How do you feel about living with friends versus strangers? Personally, I’m fine with either, but I like to try new experiences—so if I had to choose, I’d probably live with a stranger. I’ve mostly lived with strangers and have had very different and unique experiences each time.
What five questions should you always ask a potential roommate?
1. What’s your sleep schedule? Do you stay up late or go to bed early?
2. What about parties? Do you like having lots of people over or prefer to go out?
3. Find out if there are any activities they’re into. For example, I always ask if they like to bike or go for walks because that might be something we can do together.
4. What are your cleaning habits? It’s good to make sure you’re living with someone who can tidy up after themselves.
5. Another good way to find common interests is to ask about their favorite movie. I like watching science fiction so it’s nice to know if they’re into that, too.
Once you move in together, how do you maintain a good living situation? Set house rules together at the beginning and follow them. I’d focus on things that you really care about—for me, that would be splitting expenses equally, paying bills on time, cleaning up after yourself, and respecting personal space. (For example, I like to lay in on Sunday mornings without disturbance until at least nine a.m.)
Do you have any tips on setting up a space and decorating with a new roommate? What if you have different tastes? I like different! I usually decide to split the walls or areas between roommates and also try to brainstorm ideas together. Get everyone involved early on so you can think about decorating as a team. Maybe even plan a few group outings: browsing design store (and sites online), spending the afternoon at an art gallery, or visiting furniture or fabric showrooms are all great ways to get inspired.
On average, how often do people change roommates? With Roomi, we’re seeing that people stay in a place for around 6 months. People seem to be moving more often, from city to city.
If a roommate situation isn’t working out, how do you recommend making a graceful exit? Come up with a process together and try to be as transparent as possible. Set a move-out date, inform everyone in good time, and look for someone else to replace you as soon as possible.
Secrets to Living with a Significant Other
So you’ve decided to move in together. You’re about to be closer than ever and learn things you never knew about your partner. First, decide on where you’ll live — sometimes a new place is best because there isn’t an imbalanced sense of ownership and it allows you to start fresh as a couple. Here are some things to consider when you’re cohabiting.
Assess your stuff. Since you’ll be building a new home and your individual storage space will shrink, it’s important to look at what you both have and decide what to keep and what to get rid of—you don’t want to bring literal baggage into your new apartment.
Combine your tastes. It’s exciting to style a joint space. Discuss your decorating goals and come up with a plan. Even if one of you is more invested, talk through the big decisions to make sure nothing is a deal breaker.
Talk about it. Money. Bad habits. Things that get under your skin. Good communication is key. Be open and honest about things upfront so you don’t get into arguments or passive-aggressive standoffs later on.
Learn to compromise. You’re in this together. Lay out your expectations—like how much time you need to get ready on a workday or how long you can deal with dirty dishes in the sink—and come to an agreement on how you’ll share responsibilities and merge your routines.
Allow for alone time. You might be used to retreating to your room when you want to be by yourself, but now it belongs to both of you. Talk about alone time and respect each other’s privacy when one of you needs some space.
Tips for Tough Conversations
It’s not always easy to talk about things that are bothering you—whether it’s a roommate who always has people over without notice or a partner who never picks up after themself. Here’s how to make your needs clear without coming off as uptight.
Bring things up early. It’s best not to let things build up. As soon as you feel tensions rise, it’s time to talk about the issue.
Talk face to face. Don’t have important conversations over email or text. Body language and facial expressions add so many emotional nuances that are hard to pick up and easy to misinterpret if you’re not sitting in front of each other.
Keep it casual. Meet somewhere neutral, like a quiet café, where you’re both comfortable but still have some privacy.
Be empathetic. Acknowledge and express your feelings but also try to understand where the other person is coming from. It’s good practice to focus more on what you’re hearing than on what you’re saying. If you feel yourself getting worked up, take a break and continue the conversation later on.
Compromise . . . or don’t. It’s important to know when something is a deal breaker for you—especially with a significant other. If they love and respect you, they’ll be willing to accommodate.
Set Some Boundaries.
It’s a good idea to create a few house rules so you can all live together without driving each other nuts. You might make a roommate agreement, spelling out things like how often a boyfriend or girlfriend can spend the night, how cleaning duties will be divide, and when it’s okay to have groups of people over or throw a party. These contracts aren’t binding, of course, but they include the kinds of details that can make or break your day-to-day.