You’ve been dying to get out of the dorms. You can’t wait to take showers without wearing shoes and to escape quiet hours and the watchful eye of your RA. But there’s a lot to figure out before you can move in and start living the off-campus life. You and your roommates have to furnish the whole house, keep a bathroom and kitchen clean without your mom and dad there to do it for you, and pay your own bills. The best way to move in to your temporary house is to plan ahead and to keep the future move-out in mind. Here are some tips on how to be successful with your first college house:
1. Share big items
Plan: By communicating with your housemates, you can avoid unnecessary duplicates of things that can be shared, like small kitchen appliances (coffee makers, toasters and microwaves); cleaning and maintenance supplies (vacuums, toilet cleaners/plungers, tool sets, and brooms/swiffers); and furniture for shared spaces (kitchen tables and chairs, couches and coffee tables).
When you move in: Make lists of what kitchen appliances, dishware, silverware, and utensils; furniture; and cleaning supplies each roommate has brought.
When you move out: Nobody will have spent money on things that were never even used and there won’t be any confusion over who takes what.
2. Pay your bills
Plan: Set up your utilities. Decide who will be in charge of water, electricity, energy, and cable/internet, or if one housemate will be in charge of all of them. Set up Paypal accounts so that you can send the money to each other if cash or checks are inconvenient.
When you move in: In the kitchen, hang a chalk or dry erase board to keep track of who’s paid and who hasn’t each month. Next to that, put a hanging mail organizer (you can buy these, but there are lots of ways to make your own with as many pockets as you need) to keep the paid and unpaid bills separated and easy to access (it’s good to keep the bills and/or the receipts once you’ve paid them, just in case).
When you move out: All the bills will have been paid, and you’ll have proof. Everyone will have paid the same amount for the utilities and services that you all shared throughout the year.
3. Coordinate cleaning efforts
Plan: Plan on keeping the house clean and functioning.
When you move in: Take time with your housemates to discuss how you’ll work together to keep the house clean. If you all agree on splitting chores or rooms to clean weekly, make a “chore chart.” If you’d rather each do your own chores around the house, make a list of rules (e.g. if you use a dish, wash it; if you have friends over, clean up the mess you make).
When you move out: There won’t be any resentment. None of you will regret living with one another.
4. Get your security deposit back
Plan: Pay attention when you’re discussing the lease with your landlord. You’ll want to know what you should expect, which will hopefully be functioning appliances and plumbing.
When you move in: Check to make sure that everything is in working condition. Appliances like dishwashers, stoves and ovens, washers and dryers, and refrigerators should be usable and the plumbing should be in good shape. Check for mold in the kitchen and bathroom. If you find that anything is wrong upon moving in, call the landlords immediately.
When you move out: You won’t get charged for any damages or issues that you and your housemates didn’t cause or contribute to. And you’ll get that deposit back, hopefully!
5. Furnish responsibly
Plan: Spend the summer looking for cheap furniture at thrift stores, yard sales, and your relatives’ attics and basements.
When you move in: Don’t bring your nice furniture from home or spend too much money buying all new stuff.
When you move out: You can decide to donate or toss big items that you don’t feel like transporting without regretting how much you spent on them.
6. Have fun
Plan: Plan on making it a year worth remembering.
When you move in: Hang string (or string lights!) with clothes pins, magnetic strips with magnets, or corkboard and pushpins on a living room wall. Add pictures to it throughout the year (it’s not expensive or hard to order prints from the drugstore).
When you move out: Spend time with your housemates to take the pictures down and have fun reminiscing about the year you’ve spent together.
Living off campus is exciting, but it’s important that you’re prepared for the responsibilities that come with your first house, even when you’re just leasing it for a year. If you stay organized and on top of those responsibilities, you’ll have all the time you need to have fun and relax. And to study, of course.
Feature photo via Flickr / Peretz Partensky