74639330And Bridget Fonda thought Jennifer Jason Leigh was trouble? She never met Destinee.

I met Desitnee in French class, my junior year of college. We hit it off so well that by the time senior year rolled around, we were blissfully cohabitating in her 2-bedroom ranch house just blocks away from campus. Everything was perfect, at first. Destinee was the human antidote to the toxic friends I had chosen in the past. She was my positive-conscious-sistah-friend; the quintessential Black hippie chick who was into everything from veganism to Harlem Renaissance Literature to Modern Art and Jazz. It’s not that she was a square or anything (the girl smoked more reefer than Snoop Dog), it’s just that the scene was interested in more than just the same ol’ party scene – refreshing after spending my first three years in college around kids who majored in Olde E.

All that glitters ain’t gold, y‘all. My perfect, dream roomie who I thought was this poster child for mental health? Well, she turned out to be nuttier than a port-a-potty at a Peanut Festival. Yep, beyond the “conscious chick“ exterior, Destinee was a neurotic, lying, kleptomaniacal, freakazoid with major emotional issues. Chick would even steal and wear other people’s undies (DON’T ask!) I still haven’t figured out what that was all about and I’m not trying to. A year after we parted ways, imagine my surprise (NOT) when I was called to testify in court, by my poor, unwitting successor. That’s right, oops she did it again!! Destinee had gone and found her some other clueless, sucker to share space with and done all the same horrific things to her subsequent roomie that she had done to me. And worse! I’m talking stealing major cash and picking the lock to the girl’s private room (roommate #2 had the sense to install a deadbolt on her bedroom door). Turns out that Destinee had a pattern of crossing boundaries with her living companions which not only spanned years, but also universities ( I later learned that Destinee didn’t voluntarily transfer to my school, but had basically been “run out of town” by a mob of angry roommates at her first college).

Look, my case was extreme, no doubt. But, anyone who has to share space with another human being, for academic or economic reasons, is going to have to spin the roulette wheel in the roommate game of chance and pray they don’t come up with a loser. And, the economy being what it is, more and more “live by myself” type of girlies are finding themselves having to reconsider the economic pragmatism of the whole living solo thing. That could mean drama, at least in some cases. Even people who have been close friends for years, often find that all new difficulties and conflicts arise when cohabitation is thrown into the mix. So, how can you avoid a similar fate as mine? Well, here are 5 great tips to help you steer clear of ROOMMATE-ZILLA:

Know what you want.
Sounds simple, right? But a lot of times when you’re moving into/out of a new living situation, the obvious gets overlooked. Take some time to write down the things that you absolutely DO and DON’T want in a roommate. The deal-breakers. Could you live with a smoker? What about someone who dates a smoker (he might be over several times a week)?

Sharing Personal Property Items.
Good boundaries are essential to a happy and healthy cohabitation. Be clear about which personal items are to be shared and which are off limits. Perhaps there are items that can be shared, but only with certain stipulations (i.e. You must wash it immediately after use/ You must get permission before each use).

Privacy, Quiet Time & Guests
Most of us, even the biggest, Rock Star partiers, occasionally need quiet time for work or study. Come to an agreement about what works best for your living situation. Are they certain days or hours when you can agree will be reserved for quiet in the apartment house? What about guests – overnight and otherwise? How frequently each of you is comfortable with having outsiders in?

We all come from different backgrounds and have varying standards for cleanliness. One person’s pigsty is another person’s “looks fine to me.” When you talk details about keeping the shared space clean, it’s a good idea not only to address questions like “How often?”, “Who cleans what?”, but also understand what each of your standards for clean vs. messy really means.

Get it In Writing
The idea of a “Roommate Contract” may sound a little overly dramatic, but it could save you (both) a lot of headaches. There are so many opportunities for misunderstandings when you live with another person. Especially when you’re dealing with money issues (When the rent is due? Who pays what bills? How soon is the security deposit returned if one party moves?), clear written communication can help avoid major conflict. There are dozens of free” Roommate Contract” templates available online that you can add to/adapt to your own needs. Just do a quick search and find one that best suits your personal arrangement.

While there’s no guarantee you won’t stumble upon occasional conflict or even (SCREAM!!!) the dreaded Roommate-Zilla, hopefully these tips will help you avoid a lot of unnecessary, “roomationship” drama!

*Names were changed to protect the trifling.

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