Ask anyone who has ever lived with roommates and they will tell you that “finding the right person” is key. But perhaps better advice would be to think long and hard about which type of roommate is right for you.
How do you know? Start by asking yourself, “Who am I, and what is important to me?” When you know these answers, you know who you are looking for.
It is worth considering how much you are willing to accept someone who might be a little different from you. After all, this is your home and your living environment, so you might have some non-negotiable items.
Start by considering these common deal breakers.
If you want a non-smoker, this is your choice. Accepting someone who is an outside smoker creates a situation where smoke fumes may come into the house on clothing, and you may have cigarette butts on the grass. If this isn’t OK, don’t accept an outside smoker. If you catch someone smoking, and the lease says that smoking is not allowed, break the lease. Of course, if you are a smoker or an outside smoker, make sure you establish ground rules about where smoking is permitted.
Do you have pets? Would you allow pets? A pet is like a child to many people, including those who want to be housemates. What happens when the pet has an accident on your newly cleaned carpet?
If you have strong feelings about drinking alcohol, this can be nonnegotiable. You might be willing to accept wine and beer in the house occasionally. How would you handle someone who drinks too much for your comfort? (Note: Look out for someone who drinks on a regular basis or regularly hangs out at bars. This is a bad sign.)
Of course, if you enjoy hanging out in bars and drinking regularly, look for someone who has the same habits.
If you have a strong affiliation with a particular religion, examine how important it is to you to have someone with a similar affiliation. Some religions have practices that may not fit in your household. Some religions have strong teachings concerning people from other belief systems.
You can’t discriminate in housing based on religious preferences (this really applies to separate living spaces), but you have a right to choose carefully when you are living in the same spaces.
For instance, some religious groups do not celebrate birthdays and holidays, and you may love to decorate for every single holiday, bake a cake, give presents, and blow out candles! In other religions, it may be common to say a blessing before a meal, and this might be uncomfortable for some people. Stay open-minded about religious preferences, but understand how practices might affect your living environment.
Of course, if you do not have strong religious leanings, you will probably want others with the same inclinations or others who can live easily with different belief systems.
You have a right to have firearms in your home, but you may choose not to take this risk. You also have a right to ask that no one else brings firearms into your home.
Of course, if you have firearms, they should be locked up safely. Please consider very carefully whether you will allow someone else to bring firearms onto your property. What happens when someone gets mad about something? What happens if a firearm goes off accidentally?
If you come from a culture or a region of the country that has certain customs, think about whether your customs may seem strange to others. You may not even notice culture differences in the beginning.
For instance, in some cultures, it is common to share food and other resources, while other cultures expect each person to provide for his or herself. In some cultures, it is common to speak loudly and to sound like you are arguing (when in fact, you aren’t!), and in other cultures, people have a quieter way of talking to each other. Would your cultural habits be difficult for someone from another culture?
Of course, you could be adventuresome and intentionally look for people from other cultures and learn how to accept differences!
Yes, eating habits should be considered in some situations. What if you are not a meat eater, and someone cooks bacon every morning? Could you tolerate the smell and the occasional bacon grease? What if you keep a kosher kitchen? What if you want to share an occasional meal (Which, of course, we recommend.)?
Although understanding your deal breakers and addressing them with prospective roommates takes some time, you’ll be glad you did it. All parties must be happy with their living arrangements and settling on issues that matter to you will lead to resentment.
Excerpted from Bonnie Moore's How to Start a Golden Girls Home, available on Amazon.com in paperback or in Kindle format.