Roommates: The 'Laverne and Shirley' Way

Laverne and ShirleyMaybe Laverne and Shirley had it right. The fictional roommates from the hit 1970s sitcom played by Penny Marshall, right, and Cindy Williams had fights, but they also had plenty of fun.

Last week, featured a personal essay by Brooklyn writer, florist and stylist, Amy Merrick. In the article Merrick claimed that living roommate-free was "the biggest financial luxury a girl like me could have." But what would Shirley have been without Laverne? Boring, that's what. And poorer, as well.

The truth is, as more and more headlines point to decreasing incomes and increasing marital ages, is having a roommate truly the worst conceivable inconvenience? And in the end, isn't saving money the name of the game?

Having a roommate doesn't have to be an endless fight about hot water over-usage and not doing the dishes. Here are seven ways to live with a roommate after college, and like it:

1. Get a Job: "I lived with a guy who was agoraphobic," says Tina Anderson, a renter in Boston, MA. "He did IT work on a computer in our living room every day, all day. It was misery."

Don't choose a roommate who is unemployed or "works from home." Instead, make sure both of you are out of the
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house for a minimum of six hours a day. Also, don't choose a homebody. Choose someone social who likes to be out. This will guarantee you occasional alone time in your house.

2. Have Meetings: It might sound a little "youth group", but a scheduled monthly meeting over a spaghetti dinner or cocktails is a great way to check in with each other and make sure both of you are happy in your living arrangement. Be frank with each other, and use kindness to fix problems before they fester and explode.

"I lived with a girl who hated that I got up to shower at exactly the time she wanted to shower," says Viv Carroll in Columbus. "I was in school so I could have waited but I never realized she was mad about it until she told me the day she moved out and gave me a list of everything I had done wrong as a roommate."

3. Don't Be Best Friends: Contrary to the likes of Felix and Oscar; Laverne and Shirley; and Ernie and Bert, you will actually have a better roommate relationship if you are not the best of friends. However, you will need to be friendly.

"I need some independence in my living arrangement," says Tina Anderson. "If we aren't friends we can just say, `Hey,' and go about our business. Not every snack has to be an ice cream social."

4. Agree to Be Invisible: "You have to be comfortable in your home," Anderson advises, "but when you live with someone they have to feel comfortable too, so do what you can to help."

After you eat, do your dishes. If you spill something, clean it up right away. If both of you agree to keep common spaces clean and, for all appearances, roommate-free, you will both feel at home.

5. Schedule: "Live with an architect, a filmmaker, or a travelling businessperson" says Carroll. "They are never home."

If you can, when choosing a roommate, look for someone who has a different schedule than you. If you work at a bar at night, get a roommate who leaves for work in the morning. This way, you get all the perks of having a roommate without having to actually have a roommate – at least, most of the time.

6. No More Than One: You might think that the five bedroom house with the gorgeous red wood in the backyard for $500 a month is worth living with two couples, a socialite and a guy who does yoga, but in the end you will find that your home is also their home – and you will not like it.

"When you are in your early twenties, living in a commune is sort of romantic and fun," says Virginia Abrams in Berkeley, Calif. "But in your thirties, getting yelled at for overusing the shared stores of barley and beans is just humiliating and sad."

7. Separate but Equal: Do as much of your home living in your private space as possible. Put an extra TV in your bedroom and set up a personal office by the window. The less you use your communal spaces, the less put upon you will feel by your roommate, and vice versa.

"When you are apartment hunting with a roommate, or anticipating a roommate," says Anderson, "make sure the bedrooms are large enough to have small living areas. You will be much happier that way."

Although Amy Merrick argues that living alone is the greatest investment she has made, the truth is, people who live alone are ultimately less healthy and lonelier in the long run. So find yourself a good architect-roommate, schedule a monthly meeting and do your dishes. Not only will you save money, but you will be healthier and happier.

Joselin Linder is co-author of Game-Based Marketing and The Good Girl's Guide to Living in Sin.

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