Helpful housing advice from an RA

Ariel Hayat /Staff

Real talk, I know you’re the one who threw up in the shower. Those string lights in your room are a fire hazard and definitely against policy. But it’s OK, because I’m going to help you out anyways.

In my time as a resident assistant, I have seen the best and the most disgusting of group living. I have battle stories — none of which I am going to tell you for confidentiality reasons. Sorry not sorry — I have to keep my real job.

So you’re moving out! Congratulations. Who are you going to live with? While terrible roommates make for popular party stories, I’m not sure whether you can hack another 2.5 semesters of this. I want you to take a good, hard look in the mirror. Now peer directly to the left of your nose: What’s that? It’s the reflection of your roommate’s dirty and fermenting laundry. That sock has been petrified by dried sweat for at least five days. Do you smell that? Is the room getting smaller?

Hey, hey —it’s OK. I’m going to help you out, remember? Don’t panic just yet. This isn’t the second Chem 1A midterm. There’s still hope.

While you can live anywhere with four walls and a bed, it’s your roommate who will make or break the situation. Here’s a quick rundown of what you should consider when vetting your future roommate:

1. Sleeping patterns

Sleeping is extremely important. When considering your sleeping needs, take caffeine out of the equation. How much sleep would you get in an ideal situation? Ideally, science tells us that you need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. So, let’s half that— because realistically that’s all the sleep time you can afford during midterms.

Talk with your future roommate about what time you plan to wake up on the weekends and on the weekdays and what time you need to go to bed, accordingly. Then, discuss the factors that affect this pattern, such as talking on the phone or typing loudly. Also, consider the fact that noise occurs on a spectrum. This spectrum goes from zero to I-will-kick-you-out-the-door-you-noise-making-one-person-marching-band. Typically, an acceptable noise level hovers around three. Additional comments, conditional situations and expectations should be addressed.

2. Communication is key:

Let’s face it: No matter how perfect your roommate is, conflict will inevitably arise. You need to be to able to work through your differences, and an essential part of this is communication. Think about whether you are an indirect or a direct communicator. When beating around the bush, do you like to argue about the shape of the leaves? Or do you just like to hack the bush to bits?

Think about how you will address issues and then picture a communication style that complements this. Often, others just want to feel as if their voice is being heard. Helpful phrases include: “I hear you,” “I understand what you are saying” and the simple, “your feelings are valid.”

A significant portion of communication is nonverbal. Body language is essential — it gives off the impression that “you care.” For successful, nonverbal interactions, channel the Sun and “SOLER” that shit.

S: Square: Don’t cross your leg, ankles or arms. Sit with your feet flat on the ground. Face the person you are talking to.

O: Open: Keep your facial expressions neutral. In addition to keeping your facial expressions “open,” and nonjudgmental, withhold judgment and suspend the formation of opinions. Listen — not to the sound of your roommate’s voice — but to the actual words they are saying. With an open mind, open heart and a lack of resting bitch face, you should be good to go.

L: Lean: toward the person who is talking. This is fairly self-explanatory.

E: Eye contact: Do not stare directly into their pupils with the burning intensity of 100 suns. That makes everyone uneasy. Blink once in a while. Shift your gaze around a bit. Try staring at their ear.

R: Response: As with any conversation, it will eventually be your turn to talk. Your response should be on topic and devoid of sass. With a shocking lack of sarcasm, respond to your disgruntled counterpart: “I hear what you are saying — you’re frustrated that my laundry is perpetually dirty and I had sex in your bed. I should try and do better, because I definitely have some growing up to do. I’m hard to live with but — aren’t we all a little rough around the edges?”

With a solid sleep schedule and communication tactics, you should be well on your way to successful cohabitation. If your roommate is the stuff of fairy tales, that’s great. But keep in mind that your roommate doesn’t need to be your best friend.

They just need to pay the rent.

Contact Jasmine Leiser at [email protected].