It’s safe to say that we’ve all had our share of bad roommates. Whether they’re too messy, too loud, or just plain obnoxious, I’m a firm believer that roommates can either make or break a living situation. In college, I lived with a guy who managed to party downstairs until 5 or 6 a.m. several times a week–quite a contrast from my habit of retiring to bed before 10 p.m.
In addition to clashing bedtime habits, I find nothing more irksome than living with roommates to don’t respect my lifestyle choices, especially my commitment to living a compassionate, cruelty-free existence. Now, I’ve been guilty of being a judgmental vegan in the past, but living with omnivores has taught me that this approach is completely unproductive. Instead, I’ve been able to extend compassion to my roommates while still maintaining my own identity. If you’re living with non-vegans, take heart: these tips will have you happily coexisting in no time.
1. Establish rules.
Whenever I move into a new apartment, one of the first things I do is inform my roommates of my dietary choices. I prefer my pots and pans to only be used for vegan cooking, so I make sure to lay out those guidelines. That said, it’s important to not alienate your new roomies. I will often say, “I prefer that you don’t cook animal products in my pots and pans, but you are more than welcome to cook foods like spaghetti, oatmeal, etc.” In doing so, you’re opening up kitchen dynamics to a gray area wherein your roommates can explore vegan cooking if they wish.
2. Introduce cruelty-free products.
If your veganism extends beyond the food on your plate, you might want to talk to your roommates about making your home cleaning products cruelty-free. One way to do this is to offer to do all the home supplies shopping; you can establish a monthly community pool into which each roommate contributes a predetermined amount of money. Then, you can use the cash to pick up whatever your apartment needs, be it dish soap or laundry detergent. Since I work at an anti-vivisection organization, this issue is close to my heart. It’s my goal to phase out all of my apartment’s non-vegan cleaning products and replace them with those that have not been tested on animals. To find out which cleaning and personal care products are vegan, visit this comprehensive list.
3. Feed them.
As most vegans know, one of the most successful forms of activism is through the giving and sharing of food. Whether your specialty is cupcakes, pizza, or stir-fry, invite your roommates to share an 100% vegan meal with you. Remember to cater to their preferences: don’t serve homemade seitan to a diehard meat lover, or spirulina muffins to anyone who thinks spirulina is a type of exotic fish. Start with simple dishes, explaining the cooking technique and what vegan substitutions, if any, you made to the meal. If you can’t cook, take your roommates out to a vegan restaurant for a delicious dinner.
4. Don’t preach.
I cannot think of one person I know who has become vegan (and stayed vegan) as a result of persistent preaching and lecturing. Your roommates didn’t sign up for a 24/7 diatribe about the ethics of industrial agriculture when they moved into your apartment, so don’t try to use any and all interactions to be patronizing. Instead, answer any questions they might have about your lifestyle, creating an open and honest dialogue. Remember, most people come to veganism on their own, and it’s your job to serve as a compassionate and nonjudgmental model.
5. Don’t take things personally.
Even if you are the paragon of compassion and acceptance, no one can guarantee that your roommates will extend the same kindness towards you. Often, people who are exposed to different lifestyles feel uncomfortable–almost threatened–by something different than their way of being. It doesn’t help that there is a widespread notion that most vegans are preachy, arrogant, and holier-than-thou. While your roommates might make fun of your “rabbit food,” they are often simply expressing their own discomfort with your discipline and awareness. That isn’t to say that their observations aren’t legitimate (I have had many a conversation with former roommates about the ethics surrounding speciesism, and arguments are often intelligent and provocative), but it is often the case that they are simply trying to protect their own habits.
Have you ever lived with a non-vegan? Did we miss any tips?
Also by Molly: 15 Best Quotes About Veganism
Photo: Robyn Lee via Flickr