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The slovenly man's guide to finding and living with a clean roommate

As students head out to university, many for the first time, it’s important to consider how to find a roommate and how to ensure they do all the cleaning.

Trust me, kids. Cleaning is the worst. For reasons that are now becoming clear to me, it’s been many years since I’ve had a roommate.

But if there’s one thing I took away from my time sharing a space with a near-stranger, it’s that if he bought all the cleaning supplies, then clearly he should do the cleaning. It’s the same set-up as when I was with my parents. What could be more homey?

It’s a simple matter of compatibility.

If I found a dead animal in my apartment, I would put a Glade Plug-In in its mouth and maybe Febreeze the carcass, if I thought it needed it. Balance dictates that my roommate should be a neat freak who wipes down surfaces even when — get this — there is nothing growing on them.

Cleanliness out of the way, here are a few basic guidelines that will get you and your roomie off to a great start:

Screening your roommate:

• Discover who is the Alpha by pecking at the person’s head until someone relents.

• Things will run more smoothly if you choose someone on the same schedule as you: Up past midnight procrastinating, a two-hour anxiety wake-up between 3 and 5, and a panicked 7:45 scramble to your 8 a.m. class.

Settling in:

• Get out ahead on being “the weird one.”

• Agree on a theme for the apartment, such as Arabian Nights or The Blair Witch Project.

• It’s customary to say a few words about the Eternally Soaking Frying Pan before you place it in the sink, never to be removed again.

• Explain to your roommate early on that you are the type of person who would prefer not to be murdered in your sleep, so as to avoid any future arguments.

Long-term compatibility:

• In today’s post 9/11 world, NEVER leave your bags alone in your apartment.

• If your roommate has a boyfriend or girlfriend, put them at ease by letting them know that they can make as much noise in the bedroom as they want, morning, noon or night.

• If your roommate is doing all the maintenance, ask for a rent reduction since they’re obviously getting more out of the place.

• Remember that the passive aggressiveness you cultivate with your roommate will be useful as you climb the corporate ladder and navigate your first couple of marriages.

• Don’t let things fester, especially flesh wounds.

• You paid half the damage deposit. You get to smash only your half.

• If you’re both jerkwads, get a reality TV camera crew in there, stat. If you’re both happy and laughing all the time, consider stock photography. And remember, if you have any run-ins with your roommate, the simplest solution is to come clean. As always, leave that to him.

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