The idea of sharing a place with your best friends is always fun to imagine. Every day would be an opportunity to laugh, share experiences, and create new memories with the people you care about most. Not to mention, you get to live somewhere with an affordable price that has more room than a single accommodation.
I recently experienced this situation when my good friend, Jake, decided to move to Los Angeles from Baltimore. Him and his significant other, Sarah, were sick of the cold weather and dangerous neighborhood they lived in, so they started making plans to relocate, and of course, my girlfriend and I proposed the idea of us being potential roommates. The two were thrilled about the news, and so we all started making arrangements over the next few months before their plans to move in the summer.
It was an exciting time for all of us, but little did I know that helping others rearrange their lives and blending it with your own is a lot harder than it seems. Navigating the terrain was certainly a bit tricky, but after lots of consideration, we were able to come up with an arrangement that has benefited us into the present.
If you’re thinking about embarking on your own roommate situation, then here is a personal guide on how to move in with your friends and make it work for everyone:
Communication is Everything
I can remember the first conversation where Jake told me the good news.
“Buddy! We’ve been talking a lot the past few weeks,” he told me over the phone. “Sarah hates the weather here, and we both just feel like there’s no point in living somewhere that we can’t enjoy all year ’round.”
I had been living in LA for almost 9 years. I moved out after high school, and in all my years away, I never had a close friend make the move to the West Coast, so the prospect was a big thing.
Now even though he seemed serious, Jake has never been one to take a leap of faith and see what happens. As his best friend, I know that he is the kind of person who finds comfort in things that are established. For instance, after college he took a secure job in Manhattan for a leading insurance company to start paying off his student loans. Next, he served the Peace Corps for two years in West Africa where he met Sarah.
When their time was over, they both moved to Baltimore so Sarah could pursue a training program at a prestigious university. The choices in Jake’s life were by no means boring, but each one contained a safeguard of structure; a plan to follow that any young professional would surely choose to find success. Right away, I knew that them moving to LA would need to have the same kind of planning, and I was upfront about their strategy.
Keep it Real
Communication in this regard makes all the difference when planning to share a home with someone, regardless of who it is.
To some degree, you should have an understanding of who that person is, how they operate, and how you can adjust to their lifestyle. Good friends who you see on the weekend or at work or around campus will only show so much of their character, and really getting to know someone takes an extra amount of work to create a bond that you can tolerate 24/7.
After speaking with him a bit more, he told me that he wanted to make sure his current job would let him work remotely, that Sarah wanted to lock in some interviews for a nursing job, and that it also wasn’t a big deal to move quickly. Immediately, this told me that they wouldn’t start packing anytime soon. However, in the following spring, he got the green light from work and it was time for us to set up some ground rules.
Make Sure to Discuss and Agree On Your Personal Needs
As we followed up with each other, the conversations transformed into a period of airing out our routines, habits, quirks, and differences. Perhaps the biggest difference between us was that Jake and Sarah were vegans.
I knew from previous visits that they stored pounds of bananas in their freezer for smoothies; their kitchen overflowing with veggies and fruit flies, and this would no doubt be the case if we lived together. To make matters worse, they also owned a cat named Wallace, which I am deathly allergic to.
Not only were these real issues to consider, but I also had to think about how Mandy would adjust to losing the lion’s share of control in a new home. Mandy loves to redecorate every few months, she loves having space to create beauty products and herbal skincare; how much of that would be jeopardized by the tastes and styles of new people?
Establish Ground Rules Before Moving In
By explaining our personal needs and ways of life, we were able to brainstorm a successful cohabitation plan. For their dietary restrictions, they agreed to purchase a separate fridge for the fruits and vegetables. They also agreed to keep Wallace in their room and let him roam outside since he was already an outdoor cat. We both decided that we had to have a place with two bedrooms and two bathrooms to ensure total privacy and responsibility for one’s own mess.
Lastly, we had to have a big living room and plenty of garage space to store bikes, surfboards, and workout equipment. Getting these parameters and aspects about each other out in the open guided us toward the next checkpoint in our odyssey, but more importantly, it gave us an idea of what to expect from one another as roommates.
The last thing you want is to wake up one morning and see a sink full of dirty dishes or find that all the toilet paper is gone. There are plenty of annoyances and frustrations that you won’t be able to get out of, so before you sign the lease, make sure that you can embrace who your friends are and what they bring to the table. Once that’s decided, you can start searching for a place to live.
Find an Affordable Place that You All Love
My first thought to Jake was that I could lock down an apartment before they moved out to make the transition easier for them, but the girls wanted an active role in choosing our next home. Looking back, they definitely had the right idea since our tastes were polar opposites.
The one thing we had going for us was that we all loved the beach. I already had a studio a mile away from the ocean, and they loved the location we were in, so it made sense to look for a bigger place nearby. Once they arrived in LA with their U-Haul in tow, we threw everything into my garage space and piled into my tiny room with Wallace sleeping at my feet.
Know It Won’t Be Easy
Those two weeks were filled with horror stories. Each morning started with banana peels and blenders going off at the crack of dawn, but during the day, we got down to business and started to canvas the area.
There were plenty of places to rent on the Westside, but none that we could agree on. The first place had the right layout, but Sarah hated the carpeting. Then the next space we found had hardwood floors, but the kitchen was too small. Every now and then we would find an incredible apartment with everything we wanted, but the rent was outrageous. I had been paying $1400 a month for my shack, and Jake paid $1000 for their two-bedroom back east. Needless to say, they were feeling the sting of how expensive the city is and what little they would have left in their bank account each month. Altogether, we agreed on a maximum rent of $2200, with respect to utilities and amenities.
With that budget, we managed to secure a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in El Segundo, two miles from the ocean. Every room had hardwood floors and the kitchen had an open-concept with plenty of space to move around. Wallace would have a decent amount of legroom too.
The bottom line is that we kept searching for the right place with the right price. Settling on a location that only meets a portion of everyone’s needs will only lead to resentment and regret at the end of the day. Remember, even best friends need to feel secure around you because the relationship you share can only do so much. People need to feel comfortable, personally and financially, when they’re at home, and doing everything in your power to meet each other’s expectations will lead to a stronger dynamic.
Your Patience Will Be Tested
Finally signing the lease and moving into our new place was definitely a proud moment for all of us. We came up with a plan, had some real conversations, and still managed to come out on the other side with a strong connection.
In fact, the first few months of living together were pure bliss, but after that, the reality kicked in fast. I would come home and find Wallace laying in my bed. Fruit flies were constantly floating around the kitchen sink and infiltrating our cabinets and drawers. One day, Mandy had used their blender and burnt out the motor by mistake. Anytime you live with your friends, arguments and issues are bound to flare up, and if there’s anything I can suggest to help alleviate the tension, it’s patience.
Embrace Making Big Changes to Your Routine
Whether it’s for others or for yourself, having patience will give you an opportunity to find a solution to a problem rather than making things worse. Not only that, but patience also gives you the ability to change your perception of a situation and can help you try something new.
For example, since Jake and Sarah make smoothies so early in the morning, I started adjusting my sleep schedule to wake up with them, which in turn helps improve my writing schedule. Sarah used to hate seeing a mess in the kitchen from Mandy’s projects, but after a while, she started to join her in creating her own makeups and cosmetics; Jake and I are left to clean up the mess now.
Living with your friends isn’t always a good time, but it can be a time to learn from each other and learn about yourself. If you can offer patience and flexibility in moments of stress with your roommates, you’ll be able to have many years of happiness fueled by better friendships.