When people ask how to prepare for a roommate, most of the time they’re thinking about things like rearranging furniture and cleaning out closets. Sure, those practical matters are important. Just as crucial, however, is being emotionally prepared for a new or first roommate.
In this article:
Yes, what you’re feeling is normal
There’s no getting around it: bringing in a roommate is going to bring up feelings, especially if this is your first time homesharing. Here are some common emotions you may find yourself struggling with, even if you’re generally feeling good about having a roommate.
Reluctance to change
Honestly, there isn’t a human alive who doesn’t feel some reluctance in the face of a big change. Whether it’s anxiety over how things might work out or a little sadness over the previous chapter coming to a close, it’s only natural. Letting go and taking a new leap forward is always hard.
Here’s some perspective: This isn’t about loss. You aren’t losing anything. If you are letting go of physical stuff, you’re doing so to make room for something positive on the horizon. For more specific suggestions, check out How can I homeshare without losing what I love about my home/my life?
Also, try to remember that there are few decisions in life that are permanent (fewer still that you will be 100% confident about).
Some homeowners hit a speedbump where they worry that choosing to homeshare means they have failed somehow—perhaps in terms of finances or relationships, or just general life choices. The thing is, the markers of success we prized 20 or 30 years ago may not apply to real life as it currently is. The economy is different. Circumstances in your town may have changed. Expectations for everybody are simply different.
So what do you do? You can reframe your definition of success. Making the decision to homeshare because it will enable you to live life the way you want to right now…. Well, that sounds like a wise and strong person. Don’t let outdated ideas of who you thought you’d be or how you thought you’d live hold you back from being happy and free today.
Fear of judgment
Like the self-doubt described above, anxiety over “what people will think or say” is pretty common. Anytime you make a choice that’s a little unexpected—whether it’s getting divorced, taking a hiatus from work to backpack Europe, changing careers or any big bold move—some people aren’t going to understand it. That’s a given. Hold tight to your reasons for homesharing and remember that this is your life, and nobody else’s.
Tips for getting in the homesharing mindset
If you’re not fully ready from an emotional perspective, that’s okay. Here are our biggest dos and don’ts to help you get your heart and mind in the right place.
Do: Practice gratitude and positivity about this new adventure.
Look for things to appreciate about your roommate and your new living situation. This doesn’t mean ignoring any anxiety or sadness that comes up. It means choosing to focus on the good, most of the time.
Do: Declutter to create mental and emotional space—for yourself.
The biggest secret about preparing for a new roommate is this: clearing out the clutter benefits you most of all. Stuff takes up mental and emotional space, just as much as physical. Decluttering will bring in new energy, lighten the atmosphere and free you up for this new chapter in your life. Enjoy it!
Don’t: Buy a lot of new stuff for the life you imagine you’ll have.
With any new chapter in life, it’s tempting to think “this time, life will be different/better/healthier (etc.)” and start buying things for this imaginary new existence. (A homeowner we know envisioned a super-healthy life with her new roommate, and wanted to buy a huge glass water dispenser to make fruit-infused water.) To this sort of thing, we say “slow your roll.” Don’t invest in new organizational schemes, cleaning routines or decor items until your roommate moves in and you know more about your life together.
Do: Accept that your roommate’s private space will be off-limits.
If you haven’t lived with anyone for a while, this may be a tough adjustment—especially if your roommate’s space had a previous life that you’re attached to (e.g., the former bedroom of a now-adult child). As you get ready for your new roommate to move in, practice calling their space “[their name]’s room” instead of “my craft room” or “my daughter’s room.” If you need to, create another space in your home where you can see and touch some of the old furnishings or practice the craft you used to do in that area. And remember, the memories will always be with you, even as you’re making new ones with your roommate.
Don’t: Expect your roommate to hang out in their room all the time.
This is another one that can be tough for homeowners and others preparing for a first roommate. They’re going to be in your kitchen, living room, etc. pretty much anytime they want. If you want utter privacy, you’ll have to go to your private space or set off-limits times for certain spaces. But look on the bright side: now there’ll be someone to watch sitcoms and reality TV with, have coffee with and generally keep you company. It’s a tradeoff that pays off in more companionship and fun.
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