Roommates are great: You always have someone to watch bad TV shows with; you get to split the cost of rent and utilities; and you can meet a lot of new friends through their networks. But, all good things must come to an end, and at some point, one or all of you will move out and on with your lives. Whether you were childhood friends or found each other on Craigslist, this process can get messy, especially when it comes to divvying up your stuff.
Follow these tips to making parting ways as painless as possible:
- Make a list: When, or even before, you move in, you should make a list of everything that’s yours, especially things that go in common spaces like the kitchen, living room and bathroom. As you accumulate more furniture, décor and other items, remember to add them to your list. You may not care who gets the $1 spatula in the end, but you will probably want that kitchen table or DVD player to come with you to your next place without any confusion about whose it is.
- Make purchases separately: Although it’s tempting to split the cost of a $500 couch between roommates, this will only cause a potentially uncomfortable situation when one person moves out. If there are multiple big items to buy, each person should pay for one of them in full; then, there’s no question who gets it in the end and no one is out any money.
- Diversify: If you are buying a lot of new stuff, try to spread it out throughout the apartment. For example, one person could buy the microwave, coffee table and a loveseat. That way, if that person moves out and takes all of their stuff with them, the remaining roommates aren’t left with one entire room to refurnish.
- Create ground rules: What happens when your roommate’s girlfriend spills red wine on the tan ottoman you bought? You should set expectations about this kind of thing before it happens. If you bought it, is it still for everyone’s use? If so, what is expected if someone else damages or breaks it? Decide what you feel comfortable with and make sure to follow the guidelines you agreed on when inevitable issues arise.
- Consider selling: Depending on your next living situation, you may not need everything you contributed to your current place when you move out. Ask your roommates first if they want any of the items you don’t need and come up with a fair price; there are handy furniture depreciation calculators you can find online. If they don’t want them, ask other friends or put them on Craigslist to quickly get them off your hands.
If you didn’t do the first couple steps when you moved in, just try to be fair and realistic when the lease is up. Chances are you’re going to lose some money and belongings when you move out, and that’s OK. Don’t let a couple DVDs tarnish your relationship with your former roommates – after all, it’s just stuff!