As someone who has successfully nailed the ever-so-choppy waters of cohabitation with a friend, I can proudly say I know how to pick a roommate. Before moving in together, we sat down for what we affectionately called a lifestyle audit. Though we had been friends and neighbors for years, living with someone is a horse of a different color.
Of all the places in life where you can't get your way with your personal preferences, you don't want your home to be one of them. Ask a ton of questions and observe with equanimity. Due diligence is a must before agreeing to live together, which is why I made a list of 30 roommate questions to go over together before you set a move-in date (or sign a lease, if it's not too late). Here are all the bases to cover with a potential roomie before you set a move-in date.
Questions to Get to Know a Roommate
1. What's your daily routine? This line of questioning will be a slow burn. Start small by walking them through a typical day in the life. The goal is to get a feel for what a typical day for each of you is like sans drama or outside stressors (we'll get to those).
2. How would you prioritize the following activities: work, play, clean, and rest? The priority placed on values themselves is more important than actually sharing values. For example, hyper-organized and messy individuals can happily cohabitate under the same roof if they both rank the priority of cleanliness on the same level.
The priority placed on values themselves is more important than actually sharing values.
3. Do you believe in past lives? If so, who were you in your last lifetime? This technique is what Tony Robbins calls a pattern interrupt. Things are going to get personal, so jump in with a whimsical, fun line of discussion. Disrupting serious conversations with off-kilter, provocative questions will get you out of your shell. This is not a job interview. Odds are that this human is going to walk in on you in the shower within the next few weeks, so don't be afraid to break the ice.
4. What time do you generally wake up and go to bed? Early to bed, early to rise or night owl? An important follow-up to this: Are you a light or heavy sleeper? The answer to this one will establish the nightly sound barrier of your home.
5. What conditions do you require to sleep? If you're consistently up late and your roomie leaves for work at 5 a.m. (as is the case with my living situation), you need to set ground rules. Agree to only listen to music with headphones after a certain hour or promise to turn the lights off by a certain time.
6. What is the best means of approach to make a request? Does your prospective roommate prefer to hash things out face to face, or is text appropriate? When I moved in with my roommate, we established a system. All complaints and requests were to be made in writing via text.
7. What do you use your home space for? Do you work from home? Some individuals may merely use their home base as a launching pad for the day. Others might view their personal space as a sanctuary to regain their mental strength or a spot to entertain friends.
8. How neat or messy are you? Some people may want every ounce of clutter removed from the premises. Others may be cool with keeping common areas spotless and allowing a contained explosion to occur in their own closet. Discuss what your policy is when it comes to cleaning up, and then work out if the solution is hiring a housekeeper or DIY.
9. If you could name one place that would sum up the vibe of your home, what would it be? This can be a metaphor or a physical place, the point being: There is a big difference between NYC and Tahiti. If your idea of a homestead is an after-hours club and your roommate has more of an off-season resort energy in mind, maybe work that out before you come home to strangers dancing on your coffee table at 4 a.m.
10. What's your pet policy? I rescued a dog within two months of moving in, and my roommate encouraged it. Inquire after any short- and long-term pet goals. Maybe it's a lifelong dream to own a Bengal cat, and they are waiting for the right moment. The last thing you want is to have to move out due to an allergy or aversion to change.
11. What are your biggest stressors in life? It's helpful to know if you'll be living with someone who ranks their personal relationships at the top of their priority list. If work is number one, great. Life will bring the drama. Knowing where the minefields are will enable you to compassionately maneuver around red flags. Maybe cut them some slack during the busy season at work, etc.
It's helpful to know if you'll be living with someone who ranks their personal relationships at the top of their priority list.
12. How do you decompress day to day? I am convinced that my roomie knows most of the secrets to life. One of those secrets is that he watches the puppy channel every day after work for a half-hour to decompress. I know he needs that half-hour, and it is sacred space. Love bubble baths? Host a weekly TV viewing party? Stake out your rituals early.
13. What's your relationship like with your mother and father? This seems intimate and off-track, but the implications are far-reaching and touch everything.
14. What are your feelings about overnight guests? Make sure there aren't any steadfast rules or that you both agree if there are.
15. What's your worst habit? Pat yourself on the back if you know what it is. If you don't, ask your previous roomie or your best friend. This is a growth opportunity for you, and it's a heads-up for your new roommate.
16. If you were willing to go to prison for 15 years for a single crime, what would that crime be? See, pattern interruptions are both humorous and telling. Discuss. You've earned a breather.
17. What chore do you least like doing around the house? I'm a strong advocate for divisions of labor. If you hate doing dishes and your roomie hates cleaning the bathroom, why not settle on a quid pro quo? At the very least, if they know you hate doing something, you'll probably get a big thank you every time it gets done.
If you hate doing dishes and your roomie hates cleaning the bathroom, why not settle on a quid pro quo?
18. What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday night? Odds are that the most significant time you will spend at home will be in your free time (unless you have a home office). Get a sense of what their weekends typically look like. Do your social circles mesh?
19. What are the most and least stressful days of the week? Everybody has them, and it's not always Monday and Friday. Know which day trouble is most likely to brew, and be extra friendly and kind on those days. If Thursday is party day, maybe agree to keep the common areas clean and the fridge stocked every Wednesday night.
20. How often do you travel? Translation: How often will you be home?
21. How often do you cook at home? If you're looking for an apartment together, the kitchen setup can make or break a spot for foodies.
22. How important is it to know your neighbors? This gives a sense of the sort of community you are both expecting out of your living situation. Communicate your expectations for how social your home is about to get.
23. When you've had a bad day, what do you need? You're going to see each other at your best and at your worst. Get a feel for problem-solving.
24. Would you self-identify as introverted or extroverted? Introverts charge their batteries with alone time. Extroverts need outside stimulus to keep their mojo intact. The two can coexist seamlessly; just know what to expect from one another, and don't take it personally.
25. On a scale of one to 10, how modest are you? Just good to know, right?
26. What are your deal breakers? List them out. Are you a neat freak? Are you going to call them at work every time they leave a dish in the sink? Do you suffer from a paralyzing fear of dogs? Be real. There's no judgment. Own your quirks, and establish clear boundaries upfront.
27. Sharing is caring, or every man for himself? When it comes to sharing anything from clothes to cookware with a roommate, work out if you're playing a man-on-man or zone defense. Some people simply like to keep their belongings to themselves. Ask before you use their iron skillet.
28. Have any illogical pet peeves? Don't be shy, and don't hold back. Maybe you hate the smell of cologne or you're super eco-friendly and maintain a strict shower time limit. Be brutally honest.
29. What's your confrontation style? There is such a thing as emotional intelligence. Open communication and establishing an effective way to resolve conflict is crucial to any relationship. Figure out how to argue.
30. How do you think you are as a roommate for others? Describe yourself in your own words using specific adverbs like thoughtful, messy, volatile, or dreamy. You pick. Wrapping your head around how others perceive you requires great empathy and introspection. Ask your previous roomies what it was like to live with you. You don't have to internalize every criticism or take every note; just get a feel for what it's like for them. You might be surprised, and you might even find some areas of improvement you never knew existed.