This past year, you may have driven past a brick house with red doors and a prominent sign reading “JAM” just south of campus. You may have, then, wondered who lived there – “Is it an off-campus frat?” Nope, that was actually my college family, and there were eight of us living in that house. [JAM stands for the initials of the original 6 living in the house – Jessica, Jared, Amber, Abby, Morgan, Maggie. And while Nick and Kate didn’t fit in the name scheme, they fit perfectly in the JAM family.]
I’ve absolutely loved the experience of living with so many amazing roommates, but with eight people under one roof, it can be difficult to keep the house an enjoyable environment for all. So I’m here to share what I’ve learned from my living situation, and hopefully the tips prove helpful, whether you have 2 or 10 roomies.
That tip sounds vague and obvious, but there are plenty of times you may need to remind yourself that your roommates are human and they deserve your kindness and consideration. This can mean a few things if you live with many roommates. For one, I suggest large “families” to create a group chat. My roommates and I created a Facebook message that included all of us the second we all signed leases. It’s an easy way to address issues, ask questions, or plan together. The chat makes it easy for anyone to ask permissions from the house (“Hey is it cool if my boyfriend parks in our lot today?”) or give heads up to the group. A group chat keeps everyone in the loop, so no one feels excluded. You also don’t have to directly confront anyone if, for example, the kitchen needs cleaning. “The kitchen’s getting a bit gross. Could we all clean our dishes and clear our stuff from the table?” is a lot easier to send to a group instead of directly commanding one person to clean the kitchen.
And the kitchen will need cleaning, and roommates will need reminders, trust me. People have different expectations or understandings of what is acceptable, so issues will arise at some point. It could be that someone spilled coffee and left it, or it is midnight before a final and your roomie is blasting music. Something will happen that easily could make you mad.
Don’t bottle that anger up. Little things will build up, and if you stay silent about how a regular habit of your roomie annoys you, you will start to house resentment. You don’t want little things to ruin a good friendship. Just be polite and direct with your roommates about what might be bothering you, and if you both are considerate, you should be able to arrive at a fair compromise. Keep your calm, communicate when you’re upset, and everyone can be happy at home.
Keeping the House Clean
The number one complaint I seem to hear when people are talking about bad roommates is the mess. When you have many roommates, the possibility of messes goes up, as well as the number of people annoyed by them. So it should be established early on that every roommate has a share of responsibility for keeping the house in good shape.
My “family” outlined which tasks would be our individual responsibility – washing dishes, cleaning up after cooking, picking up trash – and then split up major chores. Some groups like to have a rotating chore list, where each week your chore switches, but my roommates and I each had a preferred chore that we performed the entire year. Examples of tasks you may need to split up include taking out the trash, cleaning the floors, wiping the kitchen counter, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, etc.
However, even though we had house chores that we were individually responsible for, we all understood that we were all college students. Sometimes we have busy weeks or get sick. So instead of getting mad that the floors are a little sticky during a busy week for your roommate who’s in charge of mopping, pick up the slack and mop for them. And they’ll hopefully return the favor when it’s your hell week in school. This past year, I broke my foot and so it was very difficult to take out the trash (my chore) down our front steps to our parking lot dumpster. I appreciated my roommates so much when they’d take it out for me instead of nagging me.
Personally, I came into my house knowing most of my roommates. I will admit it would’ve been a lot harder if everyone was a stranger. But I definitely had some roommates I barely knew, so it’s extremely beneficial to foster relationships and friendships in the house. You want to feel excited coming home, and having good friends at home waiting for you helps a lot.
My “family” tried to plan a lot of nights together. (With 8 college students, that’s a lot of busy schedules. Through the entire year, we never had an event that all 8 could attend, which is why it’s good to have a lot.) We’d have wine and canvas nights, potlucks, dinner dates, pregames, etc. It’s so nice to have laid-back nights at home with your roomies and become great friends.
I’ve constantly called my group of roommates my family because we became one home, not just individual residents living in our separate rooms. We created a home we all took pride in. Not only did we have the JAM sign outside our house, we also each had a frat paddle with the same letters engraved. JAM was a community and a family we created that we all felt a belonging in. Creating that connection instantly brought us all closer to each other.
And always focus on the positives in each other. They’re your friends first, roommates second. Don’t let the little annoyances blind you to why you love each other. There may be days you need to retreat to your room or escape the house; it’s hard to spend 24/7 with the same people no matter how amazing they all are. Take those breaks, so when you return to the living room to watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch with your friends, you appreciate them all.
So there may be some difficult obstacles that come with living with so many roommates, but the positives will outweigh them substantially. Realize how lucky you are to have so many great people so close to you, ready to be there for you whenever you need them. I will always love my JAM family and miss that house. The house itself was small and a bit outdated, but my roommates made it the perfect home. If you’re about to live with a ton of roommates, be prepared for an amazing year full of unforgettable memories.