Few people are born into a world with unlimited ponies, champagne and square footage. Most people have limited funds and share an apartment with other humans. Heck, some people have really limited funds and have to share a freaking room with other humans. Whatever situation you have, it’s best that you and your fellow squatters learn to play nice before it’s too late. The last thing you want is your roomie going AWOL a week before rent’s due with your birth certificate and the last roll of toilet paper. This advice goes for you lovebirds as well. Moving in seems like the Best Idea Ever regardless of what the naysayers say, but keep in mind you will need to set ground rules. Even kissy-faced, kitten-formulating, glitter-popping love won’t stop you from resenting The Most Beautiful Girl Ever when she won’t put away her dishes.
Communication is essential to any healthy relationship, but how do you start setting boundaries without sounding like an uptight jackass? Households get tense when you preemptively accuse one another of using up the toilet paper before you’ve even unpacked. Do you wait until shit gets real or should you have a binding contract as part of your lease? It’s hard for everyone to admit their flaws, but it’s almost second nature to dissect someone else’s.
Remember how often L Word characters did idiotic things that grated on your nerves? Do you remember all of the times you cursed at your screen between 2004 and 2009? Pop in the DVDs and bond with your roommates over your love-hate relationship with Ilene Chaiken while promising to never be that bad. With all of their flaws they all kept their roomies, so why not let them help y’all get along?
Have you ever stolen casino winnings? Spent all of your dough on a trip to Canada and been cut off from your inheritance? Gotten kicked out of your overpriced apartment?
Money is always a contentious issue, so make a plan for rent, bills and communal goods. Everyone I know has played passive aggressive toilet paper chicken at least once and knows how difficult it is to undo the damage. If y’all figure out how to manage your household funds, you can spend your free time baking cookies and high fiving instead of avoiding each other when the cable’s due.
Keep finances transparent. Post bill due dates, accounts and amounts on a shared calendar or an app to spread out the responsibility. If you choose to buy goods communally, Google Docs, Mint, Settleup and Splitwise are all effective ways to keep track of the IOUs. If someone has to take on a greater role because of the landlord, promise you won’t cuss them out when they collect your rent.
I solemnly swear I’ll never be as irresponsible with money as Helena.
Do you freak out daily when things don’t go your way? Do you take out your disappointment on your Bluetoothed assistant? Did you attend a meditation camp, yet never learned to relax?
Time to own up to your idiosyncrasies! Everyone deserves to be happy in their house, but if one of you has standards that are way higher than the others’, that person has to be reasonable. The finnicky flatmate should recognize that they decided to live with “a bunch of slobs.” If everyone’s paying rent, everyone gets an opinion — at least in a democrapartment.
Discuss an acceptable level of order that everyone can accept and achieve. If the picky party still wants the house to be cleaner, they can continue tidying to their standards. As long as no one slacks on their minimal duties, you won’t have to call in Joyce Wishnia.
I solemnly swear I won’t be as tyrannical as Bette.
Have you erected a shrine or tote around a cutout of an ex-girlfriend? Do you wail uncontrollably at the drop of a hat? Do all conversations inevitably lead back to your problems?
A bit of drama is expected. Everyone has issues and there’s nothing wrong with feeling low or upset sometimes. It only becomes an issue when those emotions manifest in a way that affects others. All you wanna do is curl into a ball at the bottom of the shower, but you have to remember there’s a queue on the other side of the door.
If either of you know you’re going to experience a stressful period, think of how your coping mechanisms affect those around you. Will you need your space or a thoughtful listener? Will you break out in tears, lash out or run away? Have an open discussion so you can understand each others’ triggers and coping strategies. At the minimum everyone learns what type of emergency chocolate to stock.
I solemnly swear I won’t be as dramatic as Season 3 Alice.
Have you adopted a dog for the sole purpose of putting it down? Do you keep a Pomeranian but rely on an assistant to care for it? Have you still not figured out how to work a Pooper Scooper?
If one of you moves in with a pet, keep in mind that Prime Minister Margaret Scratcher isn’t owned by the apartment. Although all of the roommates should partake in cuddling duties, whoever brought kitty is responsible for kitty.
If Fluffy McMitterson sheds hair, scratches walls, vomits hairballs or behaves like a cat, it’ll redefine the split of household chores. It’s the owners responsibility to take over kitty’s share of the cleaning since it’s hard to teach animals to vacuum when they don’t have opposable thumbs.
I solemnly swear I won’t be as bad of a pet owner as Jenny.
Have you fucked in your neighbour’s pool in broad daylight? Do you bring home one-night-stands and leave your roomie to deal with them? Have you used your roommates’ breakfasts for foreplay? (Whoops, wrong show!)
No matter how great sex is, it’s always awkward to overhear it. I had no control over my upstairs neighbour, so I showed my appreciation for their sexcapades by loudly applauding whenever they lasted more than 30 seconds. Walls (and floors) aren’t soundproof and this is emphasized at 3am.
If one of you is a loud sex fiend y’all should talk about it. First off, applaud the fact that someone got laid. No sex shaming here! Once you realize how sound travels in your house, take the precautions to insulate doors, pad headboards and oil bedsprings. Or make silent, covert sex into a game. If they’re trying their darndest and they’re still too loud, consider buying a bucket of earplugs for the entire house.
I solemnly swear I won’t be an inconsiderate fucker like Shane (or Sadie).
Have you filmed your roommates naked? Have you converted your room into a surveillance station? Do you think you’re getting away with it? OH THANK FUCKING GOD!
I haven’t met anyone that confessed all of their foibles from the get-go. Everyone pretends they love paying rent on time, are friendly yet quiet and would never touch your vodka. I have yet to live with this magical unicorn.
Roomies are human and fuck up from time to time. It’s best to get everything out in the open instead of perfecting the art of passive aggressive notes. Is only one person taking out the garbage? Have people stopped doing their chores? Is there still a whipped cream tit mark on the counter? Did you eat all of the Rage Chocolate? Create a safe space so people can air their grievances or reveal bad news without donning body armour. It’s easier to check in on a regular basis than confess all your sins buck naked — unless you’re into that.
I promise I’ll never be as dishonest or secretive as Mark.
Continue unpacking your bags and take the L Word lessons to heart. If more issues arise you can always rely on the Real L Word for examples of fucked up behaviour. Hopefully you survive your first few months together and no one ends up at the bottom of the pool.