Moving out of the dorms is arguably the best thing that can happen to any college student. All of a sudden, you have your own space with your BFFs and you’re ready to take on the world. That is, until you realize you don’t know where to start when you think about choosing what to bring to the new place or how to deal with sharing an even bigger space with one or more roommates.
I had a lot of anxieties about moving into my first apartment, and while I think the roomies and I did a great job at making our apartment feel like a real home, there are definitely a few things we could have thought a bit more about before moving in together.
1. Creating a Cleaning Schedule Is Key
Before I moved into my first apartment, I thought that creating a cleaning schedule would make me look a bit OCD, so I didn’t make one. My roommate Elise, however, didn’t have time for a messy house and made sure we all knew the cleaning schedule. Did we stick to it? Not exactly. But having one as a reference made it less awkward to call out someone for not keeping a space tidy.
2. Don’t Bring Your Best Cooking Equipment
That fancy Kitchen Aid mixer your mom’s been saving for your first apartment? I’d leave that at home for a little while longer. I know it’s painful to be apart from your nice kitchen equipment, but the fact is that so many people (roommates, friends, friends of roommates, etc.) will be in and out of your kitchen in college that you really can’t know how well your stuff will be treated. On that note…
3. Your Roommates Don’t Care If That's Your Favorite Mug
Yes, you said not to use that mug because it’s your favorite, and yes, your roommates used it anyways. That’s just life, kid. The sooner you get used to sharing all your stuff (and I mean all of it), the sooner you’ll be at peace with your cups and plates being used by other people.
4. Yes, You Can Overcrowd Your Freezer
Arguably the worst experience I had in my first apartment was coming home after fall break to my fridge buzzing like a bee and letting off the worst stench. As it turns out, the roomies and I had overcrowded our freezer and broken the whole refrigerator because of the immense blockage we’d caused in the air vents. On the plus side, all my neighbors got to know me pretty well after I’d knocked on their doors asking if they had any freezer space to spare.
5. Claim a Shelf in the Fridge ASAP
Arguably the most important thing you can do when you move into a new apartment is claim your place in the fridge. From day one, everyone in the apartment should know which food items belong to which roommate so you can all eat your own stuff in peace.
6. Dirty Dishes Are a Thing—So Get Over It
Every roommate thinks they’re the “clean one.” Odds are, you’re all prone to leaving huge messes in the kitchen, and you will at some point irritate your roommate with your “small pile” of dirty dishes. Just take a deep breath now and think about the battles you want to fight. Is that stack of three-day-old dishes in the sink worth yelling at your roommate about? Definitely not.
7. But Speak Up if Your Roomie’s Dishes Are Getting Ridiculous
My beautiful college roommate was amazing to live with, but she sometimes let her dishes pile up for a week at a time. I like to think I’m a patient person (not sure if anyone else would agree to that), but week-old dishes gross me out.
In retaliation, I started piling her dishes in a huge Rubbermaid bin in the living room. While being that passive aggressive is probably not the best thing to do, keep in mind that you do still have a right to speak up if someone’s mess gets out of hand—just try and be nicer than I was.
8. Forget About Highly Specialized Equipment
I’m pretty sure my roommates could have lived without all my specialized cooking equipment taking up their precious storage space. That waffle iron-like cupcake maker? Ridiculous. The sandwich press I used once? Really didn’t need that. Bring as little equipment as possible and get creative with what you have. Cooking dinner will be more fun this way and you’ll have more room to store your food.
9. Don’t Bother Bringing Your Cookbooks
If you had seen the number of cookbooks I brought with me to my first apartment, you’d die laughing. I seriously think I had like 50 cookbooks, most of which were super old (remember those church cookbooks your grandma collected? I had tons) or weren’t ones I ever used. Just stick to the internet as much as possible when looking for recipes—you’ll save so much storage space this way.
10. You Should Set a Budget for Groceries
I’m pretty sure I never set a strict grocery budget the first four months I was shopping for myself. I pretty much just went to the grocery store and bought whatever I felt like, which often led to me having to take things out of my cart as the cashier was ringing up my purchase. I now allow myself $50-60 per week for groceries, but figure out what’s best for you and your needs.
11. Make a List of Which Utensils Belong to Which Roommate
The best thing you can do as soon as you move into your new apartment is write down which utensils belong to which roommate. I guarantee that by the time you move out at the end of the school year, no one will remember who brought the extra spatula or whose salad tongs those are.
12. Coordinate Kitchen Supplies Before Moving In
Three apartments later, and I still haven’t learned how to do this properly. I just moved to NYC, and my roommate and I remembered to bring everything except silverware—smooth move, Waggoner. Make a Google doc and share it with your roomies so you can coordinate who should bring what for the kitchen.
13. Figure Out What Food You’re Sharing With the Roomies
Are you someone who loves sharing the milk and eggs, or would you rather buy everything for yourself? Figure this out ASAP and keep a list on the fridge of who bought which shared item last. That way you can keep cycling through who needs to buy what next at the grocery store and you know which foods are fair game for everyone.
14. Your Roommate’s Food Is Going to Smell Weird
Not necessarily because they’re a bad cook, but because it’s not your food. Everyone has a unique cooking style, and it’s easy to think that your roommate is a “weird cook” simply because she prefers flavor combinations you don’t normally eat. Just let her do her thing—she’s not bothering you, after all.
15. Group Pitch-Ins Are Where It’s At
Both of my roommates were experts at hosting potluck dinners. I met so many of their friends this way, and made some lasting friendships because of it. Don’t be afraid to open your house to huge groups of friends, because you never know how much fun you’ll have until you give it a go.
16. Be Clever When Stealing Your Roommate’s Food
Rule number one of moving into a new apartment: learn how your roommate stores her food. Does she close the bag of chips all the way or leave it slightly open? Does she tightly seal her jar of pickles or just plop the lid back on? Learn her ways so you can sneak some of her food without her knowing. The key to stealing food is putting everything back exactly the way you found it.