How Many of You Want To Kill Your Roommate? ☝️
“The thing is, it’s really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs – if yours are really good ones and theirs aren’t.
You think if they’re intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don’t give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do.”
J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
Roommates can be a great source of comfort in your life—or a huge stressor. It comes down to the 3 C’s of co-living, a framework we’ve developed from listening to many, many rants.
Dog Days of Summer
Over the past six months, I’ve become obsessed with a particular problem space that many young adults encounter: co-living.
This obsession started like most obsessions do—with a personal catalyst.
Throughout my college life, I’ve been pretty fortunate in terms of roommates.
Given that I lived on campus the entire time, I’ve pretty much been at the whim of the random selection process.
I’ve had many late night meals, half sober laughs, midnight conversations, and made connections to last a lifetime—but even despite my laidback nature, I’ve had my fair share of fights and headaches too.
Most recently, I spent time in the summer living with some less than stellar roommates. The living situation was only for six weeks, so I did my best to mediate and put up with it until I moved in to my own place. I’ll save the details of this specific story for a future post.
It wasn’t before too long that I realized just how widespread this problem was. My mom always taught me, whatever you’re experiencing is probably not that unique (thanks, mom).
I decided to bounce a few ideas off of my good friend Chris (and ex-roommate), in what started as a casual brainstorm, but has turned into an long discovery process.
From napkin scrawls, iPhone notes and text screenshots, we’ve graduated to an organized search and synthesis (this is a journey that will never be finished because of our customer obsession).
So what exactly has been our guiding question?
Simple—what sucks about living with roommates?
We know what’s awesome about it, and we have the Snapchats, holes in the wall, and hidden tattoos (not me, mom) to prove that.
Our side hustle this half year has been to lend an ear, and to let our friends, friends of friends, and strangers vent to me when we posed them this question.
And boy, did they vent.
I’m very excited to share with you what we’ve learned.
Welcome to the 3’Cs of co-living conundrums.
Most roommate problems can be traced back to this basic function.
I’d go so far to say as most societal problems can be linked to miscommunication (the popular social media networks are a prime example of this, something I learned firsthand from my time at Twitter).
In the case of roommates, communication issues can take many forms.
If you live with friends, sometimes people are reluctant to communicate bluntly about living related issues—in fear of poisoning their relationship.
On the other hand when living with strangers, people can feel distant or detached from their roommates, and are reluctant to speak to people they find little in common with.
If you and your roommates are largely on the same page in regards to house rules and other logistics, then there’s a chance that you don’t really need to communicate beyond the minimum.
If the bills are being paid on time, the dishes are being done, and no one is interrupting your sleep or privacy, chances are you’re a happy camper.
From our own survey, we’ve found that this is NOT the case almost 70% of the time.
This brings us to the next level of the problem.
Let’s say you and your roommates get along well enough—either you’re best buds that eat dinner together every night and bond over your busy days, or you’re at least on speaking terms.
That’s awesome, and it’s the foundation of any successful co-living experience.
The next step however is to wrangle together all of the recurring, or one-off group tasks.
What do I mean by this?
Consider that, the average college aged roommate group splits around $3,000 worth of expenses together every month.
This usually includes rent, utilities, shared accounts (i.e. Netflix), groceries, Ubers, delivery etc.
You may pay your rent through one platform (maybe SimpleBills), your utilities may be manually handled by one roommate who has to Venmo request everyone, and maybe you use Splitwise or an Excel sheet for the rest.
Now that’s just for anything involving money.
Many roommate groups also choose to organize their chores—for example alternating who cleans the bathroom every week, or who takes the trash to the curb.
This could be through Google Calendar, or some shared reminders app (Roof is an example).
Some groups even opt for the old reliable—post it calendars, notes, and self reminders to send text messages to roommates.
As we dived deeper, we saw even more creative arrangements—like a friend who goes to college in Orlando, and cleans his roommates dishes and does his laundry in return for free nightly meals.
I could and probably will write an entire post on this interesting subsection (bartering and incentive driven activity).
The overwhelming majority of roommates do more than just sleep under the same roof—they truly live together.
Living together comes with its own tangled web of logistical challenges and (hopefully) resolutions.
That’s all on top of your day to day stressors, like your job, your classes, your finances, or your other relationships.
So what’s the real root of the problem?
Lack of clarity is what we’ve settled on.
It’s lack of clarity that leads to disorganization, lack of coordination, and strained communication.
At the heart of it, the home ought to be a sanctuary.
If you’re fortunate enough to room with awesome people that fit your living profile in every way, then you’d definitely agree with this.
If you’re one of the millions of young adults with roommate problems, your living space and your relationship with your roommates doesn’t always bring you comfort or ease.
It’s important to set boundaries and expectations for what you expect your co-living situation to be like.
Are guests allowed/how many at a time/overnight? What time is quiet time? What are people allergic to? Which items are shared? How are shared items going to be distributed when we move out? Is it okay to party or smoke in the living area? These are just many of the questions which roommates have to answer, but often neglect until they become an issue.
When it comes down to it, co-living is a lot more complicated than we originally thought.
Even now, for every one question we answer, we open up ten more for discussion.
Frankly, that has us super energized. Most people would back away from such a disjointed and sensitive problem space.
For us it’s the contrary—it’s what drives our passion to find out more about what a solution to roommate problems would look like.
Most of the time, we settle for a subpar co-living experience.
Mainly because there’s no one platform out there that can address all of these key concerns, and all the other 1000000 solutions do a good enough job if we can remember to use them, (and convince our roommates to as well).
As a result, a great deal of time and money is lost, and more importantly—friendships are damaged.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Especially when co-living is only going to grow, with student debt rising, wages stagnating, and urbanization increasing.
Scratch Your Own Itch (Behind The Ears Of Course)
I know this first hand from sophomore year of college, when my friends and I built an on-demand tutoring app to satisfy our own needs. (Really we were just too lazy to email our TAs or ask questions in class, but it turns out most students are too).
The more we explored this particular problem space, the more that Chris and I knew we had to do something about it.
We both believe in the classic Steve Jobs view of the world—you don’t have to be a passive observer of life—someone just like you created all the things around you.
This means there is nothing stopping you from shaping your own reality.
As we’ve consulted over and over again with our customers, we’ve gotten closer and closer to realizing our vision of a unified and stress-free co-living experience.
Believe me, we know that we still have a long, long road ahead of us. But there hasn’t been anything that brings more purpose our lives than working on this problem.
In case you need any proof, just ask yourself why two college seniors would spend their final months of freedom (everyone skips class mom, I promise) losing sleep and working tirelessly on the weekends.
After all, it’s no easy work raising and training a roommate’s best friend.
As a matter of fact, we’re having fun with it. And we’re just getting started.
Stay tuned soon, for a special four-legged tail-wagging announcement.