Whether it’s simply bad luck, poor money management skills or something else entirely, sometimes we can end up in a position where we can’t afford to pay our rent any more. If you are in such a situation, you might be wondering if you should simply move to a smaller living space or perhaps you could share your rent with someone who happens to be in a similar situation? Before you make a decision to share your living space with a stranger, you should consider all the aspects, especially the negative ones! I hope you’ll find some useful tips from my personal experience with 6 roommates over the past 4 years.
Find out who they REALLY are
From mentally unstable “broken hearts” and drama queens to thieves and prostitutes with scabies, I have come to a conclusion that people are generally fucked up and downright disgusting.
I have had a total of 6 roommates over the past 4 years and while all of them did in fact help me pay the rent and I was able to save some money this way, almost all of them were fucked up in one way or another. For starters, ask yourself what kind of a person would move in with a complete stranger and share their living space in the first place? These kinds of people are guaranteed to be in some sort of trouble and it doesn’t necessarily have to be trouble with the police. I’m talking about everyday stuff like women running away from their abusive husbands, prostitutes looking for a place to conduct their business, alcoholics, drug addicts, the works.
From the 6, only 1 was alright
As a freelance web designer, artist and an amateur blogger, I’ve had some financial issues to work out so for the past 4 years I have had to shared my apartment with strangers.
My first roommate was a young woman in their early twenties who had just broken up with her boyfriend who, according to her, had been physically hurting her a lot. She brought in a new boyfriend pretty soon who she left hanging around even after she went off to work. Obviously this wasn’t okay so I got rid of them. I found out about a week later that my secret rainy day “cash pile” was missing. It was just €500, but a lesson to be learned nonetheless.
The next one was the only good roommate I had and I can’t really say anything bad about her. She cleaned up after herself, had a steady job and was fun to talk to. She left on her own accord after about a year when she found herself a boyfriend with a home.
After that came what I believe to be the weirdest roommate ever. She never talked, moved around quietly like a ghost and could spend more than 48 hours in her room without even going to the bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, I like when they’re not making too much noise, but that was scary as hell. To be honest, I’m still unsure whether it was a man or a woman.
Things got even worse with my next roommate who invited friends around for drinks like she owned the place, didn’t clean up after herself and had a different guy spend the night all the time. Needless to say she’s the one who gave me scabies. Ugh.
The other two have been quite alright, but they all seem to be lazy slobs who can’t even clean up their own room properly, let alone help me clean the bathroom or the kitchen. Sure, they’ll do it when I ask them to, but it’s annoying to ask it all the time. Don’t they have eyes? Can’t they see that this shit or that shit needs to go? God, I’m starting to sound like my mom.
I will say this once more in case you missed it: almost anyone who is willing to share a living space with a stranger has a nasty secret they’re bringing into your home, otherwise they’d be living happily with their parents or husbands and wives in a normal household. What you need to do is find out that secret and decide whether it’s worth letting in or not.
For me, the occasional marijuana toker is alright, but I can’t stand it when they drink, do hard drugs or party all night. You really have to know who you’re dealing with and whether their “sins” are going to be an issue.
People are keen to hide their secrets
Nobody wants the world to know about their problems so people tend to hide the skeletons in their closets very well and while it’s true that you can never truly know anyone completely, there are certain things in the human behavior that sort of “bleed through” and reveal little bits of the person from time to time, because subconsciously humans want to tell you the truth and lying simply isn’t something we do naturally (excluding psychopaths of course). You can read more about how to detect lying here.
Back to the topic at hand! When a potential roommate walks into your apartment for the first time, they will always be thinking about their most horrible skeletons because they really need a place to stay and they are worried that you might reject them if you found out. Some hide it better than others, but it’s definitely always there and guess what? You can lure it out!
Catch them off guard
I’m not a psychologist, but I’m speaking from experience when I say that catching people off guard with unexpected questions is probably the most effective way of finding out who you’re dealing with. For example you could spin a little story about how your last roommate was always getting drunk and describe all the shit you had to put up with before finally throwing them out. Talk about it like it’s something fun to think back to and let them be semi comfortable with the story, then suddenly get all serious and ask: “you’re not like that guy, right?”
If they immediately answer “No” in a “automated answering machine” sort of way, it could very well mean that they are indeed having trouble with alcohol. If, however, they turn it into a joke, it could mean they’re comfortable with the situation and you don’t really have to worry about them. Of course it really depends on the person answering the question and there isn’t a fool proof lie detecting method so you just have to consider all the variables like how they move, where they look and generally “feel the person” if you know what I mean.
Ask them why
You should always ask a potential roommate why they are looking for a room to rent. Try to find out as much as possible about their last place of residence and why they are moving out from there. It’s totally okay and you shouldn’t feel ashamed about it. If they are not open enough to tell you this, then you should probably call the next potential roommate on your list.
Do they have any pets?
Obviously you need to sort this out before they bring a huge smelly dog in the house who eats all your shoes and ruins the furniture. If you have pets yourself, you need to make sure they get along with each other. (cats + birds = nope.jpg).
Do they have a job?
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a job. It’s a must! I know it’s hypocritical coming from a guy who is against the form of slavery we call capitalism, but anyone without an income is going to be trouble. Of course you can’t expect them to have a serious full time job given the fact that they’re looking to share a rent, but you have to find out whether they’re just being lazy and stupid or actually trying to achieve something in their lives.
What about their free time?
It’s like getting to know anyone for the first time. Ask them about their hobbies and the things they enjoy doing the most. Find out if they are a morning person or not, do they spend a lot of time out clubbing, how many friends on average should you expect to visit them. How often? Additionally I always like to ask a new person what do they think it is that makes them weird in the eyes of “normal people“.
Don’t act like a freak
It’s okay to ask a lot of questions about their previous home and hobbies, but digging too deep into the person’s past will make you look bad and it’s easy to scare away a nice person this way. You have to feel the limits and if they are getting too uncomfortable, back off a little and maybe tell a joke about it.
Open yourself up to them
It’s not all about interrogating your soon-to-be roommate. You should let them ask the same questions about you as well. After all, they are as eager as you in trying to get to know the person they’re going to share an apartment with for god knows how long.
Because they are in a lesser spot trying to “break into” your humble abode, it’s understandable that they’re naturally more nervous than you so don’t expect them to start asking personal questions about you. Open yourself up to them first and, without actually saying it, let them know that they can ask you the same kinds of questions.
Take your time
The biggest mistake I have done more than once in choosing a roommate was being impatient. I didn’t pay attention to the subtle hints the people gave away subconsciously. I also didn’t take the time to thoroughly get to know the person and just assumed that since they had a lovely face, they were okay. I really recommend talking and talking some more. Offer them coffee and biscuits (cliche, I know) and just get to know each other.
You’ll know a good person when they aren’t in a hurry and actually have time to get to know you at least a little bit. If, on the other hand, they’re in a hurry and just want to move in without even giving two shits about who you are, you might want to reconsider.
If you discover that they are the complete opposite of you, say it to them politely and don’t leave them hanging. It’s not fair to them to keep their hopes up while someone else is already moving in. If on the other hand you feel like they’re alright, don’t risk it with the next guy in line who replied to your Craigslist ad and take your chances.
Getting a good roommate is a gamble and most of the times you’ll lose, but there are still good people out there who have just ran out of luck for a little while and need a place to stay. Give them a chance!