Roommates, Student Life

Two’s Company & Three’s A Crowd: How to Manage Your Relationship with Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend and Your Roommate

While having your boyfriend or girlfriend around all the time might be great for you, it might not be for your roommate.  Whether you’re living in a dorm or you’re living in an apartment, it doesn’t matter: Sharing space with your roommate and your significant other can get tough to manage.  That’s why we’ve put a list together of all the things you can do to prevent a huge blow up between you, your roommate and your boyfriend/girlfriend.

In an article by Annie Maguire at College Cures, the first thing you want to do is set time boundaries.  This means that you should talk with your roommate about their schedule and when would be the best time for your boyfriend/girlfriend to come over.  You can also work with them to determine a cut-off time (10 pm, 11pm, etc.) for guests, and then stick to your guns.  Once it gets to the cut-off time, your boyfriend/girlfriend needs to go home and so should theirs.

The next thing Maguire suggests is setting spatial boundaries.  This means that you should establish with your roommate where your significant other can spend time in your room/apartment.  This means that you should establish with them (beforehand) where your boyfriend/girlfriend can hang out and what items they can use.

Another rule of thumb when it comes to managing these types of relationships is giving one another space.  This includes giving yourself, your roommate, and your significant other the space they need.  You should be sure that you and your significant other aren’t always hanging out in your room, and that you share time between each other’s places equally.  This way your roommate and their roommate get time alone too.

The most important concerns you should have when it comes to managing your relationship with your roommate and your significant other is to be considerate and to communicate with one another.  You and your significant others’ wants and needs are not superior to your roommate’s and vice versa.  The best way to manage this is to speak with one another frequently and often about what each other needs, wants, and feels about the situation and what each of you can do to make sure everyone is happy.

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Housing Advice, Roommates

What Happens When You Get a New Roommate?

It happens all the time:  You choose to live in the same apartment for another year, your roommate moves on, and you end up with a new roommate.  While it is just a part of life, it’s always a little weird adding a new roommate to the mix, especially if you have been living there already.  This is why we’ve put together some suggestions to help you navigate your new roommate situation.

Don’t forget that it’s their place too.  This is perhaps the most important thing to remember:  If you’re adding a new roommate to the mix, you can’t forget that the apartment is just as much theirs as it is yours.  Just because you have been living there longer doesn’t give you the upper hand.

Take time to get to know them a little.  We’re not saying you have to be best friends, but it is considerate to try to get to know them a little bit.  In particular, you should consider asking them questions about their lifestyle preferences (i.e. when they go to bed, where they like to study, etc.).  That way you know what they like and what they don’t.

Take time to explain to them your existing house rules.  If you and your roommate(s) had previously established house rules (i.e. guest policy, chore distribution, etc.), you want to let them know.  However, because this person is new to the situation, you shouldn’t consider these rules to be set in stone.  Talk with your new roomie about how they feel about the rules you’ve established, what they like (or dislike) about them, and how the house rules can accommodate everyone’s preferences.

Give them a tour.  Show your new roomie where things are normally kept; this includes where the cleaning supplies are, where everyone puts their food, and where they can find extra toilet paper and paper towels.

Be helpful.  Be open to answering any questions your new roomie might have about your place.  Also be sure to explain to them any weird features or problems you may have with the apartment.  This way they know the kooky characteristics of your pad just as much as you do.

While it may be strange for you when your new roomie moves in, imagine how weird it must be for them!  They are moving into a new place with people who have already been there before.  They may think you and your other roommates will be best friends already and/or you will already be into your own routine that you won’t acknowledge them.  This is why it’s important to talk to your new roomie and figure out ways you can help them make your apartment feel like their home too.

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Roommates, Student Life

The Passive Aggressive Note: What Does it ACTUALLY Mean?

Have you ever had a roommate that would leave you notes when you left dirty dishes in the sink, forgot to clean up your things off the kitchen table, or you had your friend over until 5 am?  Have you ever been that roommate?  If you’ve ever been in that situation (no matter what role you played), in most cases, in never ends well.  This is because there is a lot more behind that note than you may initially think.

Passive aggressive notes could mean one of two things:

The person doesn’t feel like they can talk to you.  Maybe you give that aura of “Don’t mess with me,” or maybe they’ve just never experienced a problem with a roommate before and they don’t know what to do.  The person could also just be afraid of confrontation, and this is their alternative to actually confronting you about the problem.

You aren’t around for them to yell at, so they leave you a note instead.  If someone is extremely frustrated, and you aren’t around, they may take out their frustration in note form.  It’s not the best option, but it certainly happens.

Sometimes it’s easy to see which option it is, especially when you know the person well, but then sometimes it isn’t.  You need to think about what motivations they might have for writing a note like that and what might have you done to make them do that.  You should go speak with your roommate about the note, because you don’t want to let things like this make the relationship worse.  I say worse, because, let’s face it:  your relationship is already not on the best of terms if you’re writing passive aggressive notes to one another.

Here are some tips for talking with your roommate about their passive aggressive notes:

Think about what you’re going to say before you talk to them.  Like we said in our previous posts about roommate relationships and conflict, it’s best to go into a situation prepared.  You want to plan out what you want to say and how you will say it.

Avoid escalating the situation.  You never want to avoid talking things out with your roommate, but you certainly want to avoid escalating the situation.  Avoid directly placing the blame on them, and use “I” statements instead of “you” statements.  This means that instead of saying “I hate it when you leave nasty notes like that for me,” you say, “It bothers me to read notes instead of actually talking with you.”

Act calmly and rationally.   Perhaps the worst thing you can do is to lash out and make accusations or make unrelated arguments about other things the person has done to frustrate you.  Remember:  You need to act instead of react.  This means that you should act on the situation, i.e. talk with your roommate about your relationship, why they are leaving you notes, and what you can do to fix it.  You don’t want to react to their note, meaning that you don’t want to go with your automatic and “gut” reaction to how that note made you feel.  While both you and your roommates feelings are important and should be acknowledged, you don’t want to take out those feelings on your roommate.

Perhaps the overall moral of the story is to be considerate and to have open communication between you and your roommate.  It will be significantly more successful, and significantly more valuable, for you to talk with them instead of resorting to notes, because your reaction (or their reaction if you’re the offender) says it all.  Don’t write passive aggressive notes to your roommates.

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Housing Advice, Roommates

Roommate Sharing 101

If you’ve never lived with a roommate before, it can be slightly daunting.  It’s strange to think that you’ll be sharing a home with someone whom you may have never met before.  There is certainly a lot to navigate when it comes to understanding how you will share that space and the things in it.  This is why we’ve come up with some ideas on how you can make sharing with your new roommate(s) easy.

Sharing Space

In an article we read by Catherine Walsh at Suite101, she explains that allocating storage for each roommate in the kitchen, fridge and bathroom is a great start.  You will also want to discuss with your roommates how the common areas will be used.  Are they primarily for hanging out and relaxing, or are they for studying, or both?  When will you have quiet hours?  You want to be sure that you identify those things with one another before you begin the school year.

Another thing you want to identify are the restrictions and guidelines for guests and overnight guests.  This is often the biggest problem roommates face, so be sure to to give plenty of notice when overnight guests are staying and establish beforehand what the terms will be.  This includes how long they can stay, if and how they can use shared space and items.

Sharing Food and Other Items

Establish beforehand with roommate(s) what items you will be sharing and how you will label those that are not.  This is especially important if you plan to share food items like milk, eggs, and condiments, as you want to establish a plan for purchasing them.  To do this, you may even want to establish a schedule to determine whose turn it will be to buy the shared items and when.  This way no one feels like they are the ones buying the food for everyone all the time.

You may also want to establish how these items get used, so you don’t run out of them before your next shopping trip.  While you don’t want to be “nitpicky” about how everyone will use the ketchup, maybe you want to establish a rule that if you are the last one to use it when it runs out, then you are the one who has to replace it.

Sharing Chores

This often tends to be another major problem roommates face:  who will clean what and when?  Establish a timeline or a schedule for when cleaning and other chores will be done and who will be responsible for what.  Maybe you want to break it up by week and switch off duties, or maybe you would prefer breaking it up by month; that is up to you and your roommate to decide what would be fair.  However, you want to be sure that everyone has a task and that the tasks are broken up evenly, so no one feels like they are left with all the dirty work.

Sharing Expenses

This is another tough subject for most roommates.  Especially if you are sharing one lease and sharing utility expenses, it can get difficult when it comes time to make those payments.  Our suggestion is to sign your own lease, rather than sign one lease between all the roommates (if your landlord allows it).  This way you won’t be responsible to make up the difference if your roommate doesn’t pay their rent on time.

If you can’t sign your own lease, we suggest that you establish one person who will be collecting utility payments and establish a schedule for when they will be collected (before the bill is actually due).  You may even want to switch off whose duty it is to do this, so no one feels like they are the “bad guy” all the time.  You could even establish some penalties for when someone neglects to make their payment on time.  This way everyone has an incentive to make his or her payment on time.

In terms of splitting utilities, that can be tough to do.  Use the same strategy as you would with your rent payments.  Be sure that everyone makes their payments on time so one person isn’t stuck with the bill.

The key to roommate sharing is really just establishing house rules beforehand, and making sure that everyone is complying with them.  Overall, roommate sharing can be simple, just as long as you are considerate and are able to have open communication with one another.

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Ask the Expert

ASK THE EXPERT: Why Invest in Student Housing?

In an article we read by Amy Wolff Sorter at GlobeSt.com, the student housing sector has become a rather popular one in which to buy and sell due to rising enrollment rates and diminishing supply of on-campus options.  To get an insider look at some of the other draws (and disincentives) for landlords, property owners, and investors when it comes to student housing, we spoke with RI student property manager, Diane St. Laurent.

What do you believe sets student housing apart from other types of investment properties?
As an investor, student housing is desirable because rent payment is reliable especially when the landlord has the parents of the student secure the terms of the lease.  Another positive is that demand for student housing is always high.

Is there an advantage for investing in smaller scale properties for student housing versus larger scale properties?
When the landlord can establish a relationship with the students, so open communication can exist, then problems as they arise can be easily resolved.  Building communication is easier with smaller properties.  Large properties can impact the landlord-tenant relationship that is so important to build trust and mutual respect.

What amenities do you think are essential for student-leased properties to offer?
A fixed rent price that includes utilities is beneficial, if possible.  This helps students manage their finances and ensure the property is being maintained in terms of heat and electricity.
Students sometimes require furniture to be supplied, so if basic bedroom furniture, living room and dining room furniture are supplied, the number of prospective students may increase as a result.  This opens the door for exchange students from different countries and/or out-of-state, because these students may not be able to travel with this type of furniture.

What would you say is appealing about investing in student housing?
Steady increase in student demand.

What would you say is unappealing about investing in student housing?
Some undergraduate students (freshman, sophomore, junior) are not really ready for this type of responsibility.  Student choices usually reflect in them not taking care of the property; additionally, their social lifestyles sometimes lead to damage to the property and them being a nuisance to the neighbors.

What are some of the pitfalls associated with student housing?
When the landlord and student’s expectations, regarding respect of the property, are out of sync.

How do you believe the recession has impacted these kinds of investments?
My experience is that supply and demand has changed related to rent prices.  On one hand, there is an increase in student demand, but at the same time, students have fewer dollars to spend on rent.  There is a lot of competition for investors of student housing.  First, on-campus housing (dormitories and university apartments), private on-campus housing, off-campus housing, and finally student computers.
It comes down to what the student can afford and the individual student behavior.  Essentially, what are students looking for in housing?  This places added pressure on the investor to find ways to differentiate their property from all the rest.  Additionally, what student market the investor is looking at targeting has to be answered as well.

Do you believe that making an investment in student housing is worthwhile?
Yes I do.  It needs to be managed as a business, but at the same time, investors have to embrace the responsibility of helping students make good choices so they can assimilate to independence, maturity and advance their knowledge all at once.

What should property owners and investors know when it comes to owning and investing in student housing?
Students are young adults finding their way to independence, and sometimes their lifestyles are incompatible with the expectation of the landlord and the rules of the house.

What are some difficulties you often encounter when interacting with student tenants?
Sometimes the student is just not mature enough to be living in something other than a dormitory.

What are some important things to consider when interacting with student tenants?
Take on the mentor role by treating students as adults and hold them accountable for their decisions.
With that being said, I would emphasize student safety as the top priority.  This means landlords should have house rules documented, fire alarm inspections, routine heating and electrical system maintenance checks, and door locks changed between tenants.

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Housing Advice

Reducing Home Allergens

While allergies symptoms can range from mild to severe, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 60 million Americans suffer from asthma and allergies.  Approximately 40 million suffer from indoor/outdoor allergies as their primary allergy.  The most common triggers being trees, grass and weed pollen, mold, dust mites, cockroaches, and cat, dog, and rodent dander.   Food allergies account for approximately 6% of allergy suffers, and the most common triggers are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.

If you have allergies, you may have experienced sniffling, sneezing, watery eyes, headaches, or worse.  It can be a very unpleasant experience when you your allergies flare up.  While there isn’t much you can do to rid yourself completely of your allergies, there are certainly some simple things you can do around your home that will help to reduce allergens.

Use an allergen impermeable cover to enclose your mattress, box spring, and pillows.  In an article we read by Mikki Hogan at The Allergy Spot, the first area you want to consider is your bed and your bedroom.  Dust and dust mites found on your bed can be a major trigger for your allergy symptoms.  These covers will help trap any allergens that may be on your mattress, and will prevent them from being inhaled.

Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets in hot water at least once per week.  Hogan explains that hot water will kill all dust mites and removes allergens from the fabrics.  By accompanying this with hypoallergenic fabrics, you can greatly reduce the potential for your symptoms to flare up.

Vacuum floors regularly.  By vacuuming carpeting and other flooring, you can greatly reduce dust and other allergens that can accumulate.  You can use dry carpet cleaners to further remove allergens.  According to Hogan, shampooing carpets can leave residual moisture than can increase dust mite growth.  You may also want to consider using a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

Dust regularly.  Be sure to dust every area that could potentially collect dust.  You may also want to consider clearing any clutter or messes regularly to prevent the collection of dust.

Wash curtains and blinds monthly.  In another article we read by Clean Air Plus, when purchasing curtains, you will want to consider washable fabrics so that you can wash them safely without damaging them.  You will also want to take a clean washcloth and wipe down window blinds.  Both curtains and blinds are primary locations for dust collection.

Regularly vacuum and clean furniture.  Ensuring that couches, tables, shelves, etc. are regularly cleaned will also help to greatly reduce dust and other allergens.  Be sure to remove the appropriate cleaners for woods and fabrics.  Vacuuming can be especially helpful on cloth-based furniture.

Regularly clean shower and tub areas.  Because these areas are generally damp, they can become breading grounds for mold and mildew.  To ensure that mold and mildew do not build up, regularly clean these areas with the appropriate cleaners.

Avoid opening windows when pollen is active.  This is pretty self-explanatory, but this will help ensure that no pollen gets in and it will decrease the number of allergens inside your home.

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Cooking, Housing Advice

Starter Pantry Essentials Checklist

When you’re moving off-campus for the school year, there are a lot of things to consider.  If your living in an unfurnished pad, in particular, there are a lot of things you have to remember to pack.  While it’s important, I’m sure many of you may forget the important essentials you’ll need to stock your pantry with when you move in.  It’s not like at home where your mom always had some chicken noodle soup in stock.  You’re on your own!

Knowing from our experience, we wanted to make sure you weren’t left out in the cold if you didn’t get to go grocery shopping one week.  Thanks to a couple articles we read at MyFirstApartment.com, we’ve come up with a list of things that every college student living off-campus needs to keep themselves fed.

  • Canned beans
  • Canned soups
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Pasta sauce
  • Spices (you at least want garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Vegetable oil (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Dried pasta
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Cereal
  • Honey
  • Hot cocoa
  • Rice

The articles we referenced:

http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2011/10/first-apartment-pantry-essentials/2/

http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2005/11/starter-pantry-and-staples-checklist/

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