When two or more people who aren’t genetically connected inhabit the same space, there’s bound to be a little friction at some point or another.
Perhaps the stovetop hasn’t been cleaned in two moons, or maybe your roommate keeps leaving his weed baggies on the floor where the cat can get into them. Whatever it is that’s rustling your jimmies, it can likely be mollified with some good old-fashioned communication.
While it can be awkward to confront people about the things they do that irritate you, roommate meetings don’t have to be dreaded occasions. There are plenty of things that a household can do to make these gatherings as efficient and palatable as possible.
It’s also worth noting that meetings can be held for reasons other than to just (politely) vent frustrations. Even if there aren’t any conflicts stewing, you and your housemates can still convene regularly to check in with one another and make sure that the basics are getting taken care of.
I used to live in a house with six other college students. It wasn’t as packed as a Greek house or anything, but it still contained more people than your average family. In order to accommodate the lifestyles and preferences of seven different humans, we started holding monthly meetings. In the year and a half that we all lived together, I’d say that we came up with a pretty solid system.
When prepping for a roommate meeting, the first critical bit to take into consideration is timing. A gathering would ideally take place on a day and time when everyone is free for at least a few hours. If possible, try to take stressful events into account and plan around them.
For instance, one of your housemates may not be thrilled to spend an hour or two of their only free night debating toilet paper responsibilities when they’ve got three midterms to take the next morning.
The evening, when everyone is typically winding down, is a good portion of day to shoot for. That way, there’s still some time to relax after class/work and it isn’t late enough that people start getting too tired. Somewhere around dinnertime is ideal.
Speaking of dinner, one way to make your dwelling assembly more enjoyable is to provide food for one another. You could each make a different dish to share, or you could collectively cook something up. I feel that this is important for two reasons.
First, having something to eat after a long day of being a person can put pretty much anyone in a kinder mood. Hanger is a very real, potent force that haunts the even the mellowest folks. It’s something that’s best avoided in a situation that has the potential to get a little tense.
Second, making food for each other is just a nice thing to do. It’s pretty sweet when someone makes you tasty food or at least helps you prepare it. Eating is something that everyone needs to do, so cooking is pretty much a foolproof way to brighten up the mood and give your roommates a reason to look forward to meetings. Maybe this is a cheesy thing to say, but it’s a nice way to bond as well. Of course, cooking full meals for each other isn’t always possible due to things like time restraints and such. If that’s the case, you could all just order some pizza together or something.
Once the group has agreed upon a date, hour and cuisine, it’s wise to put together at least a rough outline of the direction that the meeting is going to take. This could include laying out general topics of discussion—mundane, persnickety and otherwise. It also helps if each person then does a little extra solitary prep as well, such as compiling a list of the more particular affairs they’d like to touch on.
The act of organizing a conference and planning some topics beforehand is conducive to resolving conflicts smoothly. If someone is really uncomfortable with initiating confrontation, as most people are, dedicating a specific time and place to vocalizing these feelings can relieve a lot of pressure. It simultaneously lifts burden of confrontation and doesn’t allow them to procrastinate having that talk any longer.
During a house meeting, it’s fine to ask your roommate why the hell she bought five jugs of juice and put all of them in the fridge at once, because that’s what you’re all there for. Conversely, planning meetings also primes everyone in the group for being challenged. If you’re scrambling out the door when your roommate decides to stop you to tell you that they think you suck at washing dishes, it’s more likely that you’ll feel attacked and react in a crappy manner. However, when you go into a situation knowing that you might be called out for something, it’ll be easier to endure.
One final element that my old roommates and I always tried to incorporate into our meetings was a chill, fun activity of some variety. When all of the business was out of the way, we’d just kick back, have a drink and just hang out for a while. We’d do things like play board games or go around and share the funniest thing that each of us had seen and/or heard that week.
This, similarly to the cooking, is one of the things that made me eventually see roommate meetings as something to look forward to. Chances are that at some point, you and your roommates are going to need to talk about stuff in regards to your coexistence. While these tips might not be applicable to every household and situation, trying to create a positive communicative environment is definitely worth a try.