Tips: Living With Roommates.

In college, I spent a year as a Resident Assistant in one of the dorms on WKU’s campus. I learned a lot about roommates, good and bad, on campus and off. Here are some tips for living in harmony with another person, whether it be a dorm, apartment, or house.

1. Your roommate isn’t your personal janitor. If you’re comfortable with being messy, but your roommate isn’t, compromise. Common spaces belong to everybody. Spread out your cleaning to, perhaps, one chore a day. It will seem less of a burden that way, and everybody’s happy.

2. It sounds like a great idea to move in with a friend, but you want to tread cautiously if you’ve never lived together before. Don’t tread at all if that friend is that fun person you like to party with. Party friends turn out to be terrible roommates, and I’ve seen friendships ruined over it.

3. Don’t use your shared living space as the party place if all residents aren’t planning it. Home (no matter where you live) is the place where you should be able to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. Your roommate deserves the same. Parties are noisy, and very, very messy. There’s also the potential that your guests will get into your (or your roommate’s) things and take something.

3b. If you do throw a party while, say, your roommate is out of town, lock the roommate’s door beforehand. Put away all valuables. Screen your guests (if say, a friend has a reputation for getting trashed and barfing everywhere, I wouldn’t send that friend an invite). Most importantly of all, clean up afterward. Thoroughly.

4. If you and your roommate are messy, that’s fine. Being messy is different from being nasty. Don’t be nasty. Clean out the fridge. Take out the garbage. Shower. Please, shower. I’ve done safety checks in enough rooms where residents thought showering was optional.

5. Your roommate signed on to live with you. They didn’t sign on to live with you and your social circle. Nor did they sign on to live with your significant other. Being social is fine, but recognize that there’s a limit. You share this space with your roommate. Both of you have a say in what goes on.

6. If you have an issue with your roommate, talk about it. Be calm. Be respectful. Work something out. Compromise. Don’t get revenge, i.e. “Well, if he/she’s going to do that, then I’ll do…” It won’t work. It’ll start a cycle, and no one will be happy. I’ve seen friendships and familial relationships ruined over roommate issues.

7. Before you move in with someone, talk about boundaries, chores, visitor rules, cleanliness, sharing food, bills, etc. It may seem silly if you know who you’re moving in with, but the old adage is true. You never know what someone is like until you live with them.

8. Schedules. If you and your roommates have the same schedules and sleeping habits, great. But often enough, one may be an early bird, while the other may be nocturnal. Be respectful, as always–if your roommate is sleeping, quiet down.

9. Work and study. A lot of people work from home. Students have to study. Some people can be very productive in a noisy environment. Some can’t. Just because someone is working in the home doesn’t make is less important. Turn the TV down, put the earbuds in for music, keep your guests from letting loose battle cries. You don’t have to be quiet as a mouse, but don’t be overly loud, either.

10. If you don’t know your roommate before you move in, do. E-mail back and forth, have a few phone conversations. You don’t have to be best buddies, but being friendly makes everything a lot more comfortable. Exchange phone numbers, just in case you lock yourself out, or in other emergencies.

11. A lot of little things can turn into big things, but a little thing every now and then isn’t a big deal. Roommate eat your last yogurt last month? Drank one of your beers last night? Measure your response to the action. If it wasn’t agreed that your food is your food, and your beer is your beer, don’t blow a gasket. If it bothers you, mention it casually.

12. Cultural differences. Whether they be regional or national, social or religious, chances are, you and your roommate have them. When having a conflict with your roommate, these differences will pop up. Again, respect these differences. I’ve seen roommates use these differences to degenerate one another, and blame conflicts on these differences (which leads to bigotry, that is, hating an entire culture based off a “bad roommate”). It may be tempting in the heat of the moment, but don’t. These differences aren’t causing the conflict–lack of respect, communication, compromise, and understanding are. Sharing an intimate space–home–without all of these things cause conflict, though they manifest in many different forms. Focus on resolving the issue.

13. Sex. Sex is a healthy part of human relationships. Close the bedroom door when you’re having sex. (Really. It’s happened.) If you have sex in the common area, don’t do it when the roommate is home. If the roommate walks in on you, apologize. Clean up the common area afterward. In a dorm, don’t have overnight guests without your roommate’s okay.

14. If you’re the issue, whether you realize it on your own or your roommate confronts you, be mature. Realize that you owe your roommate everything that they owe you. Remember the Golden Rule. Apologize, and make it right. Apologies mean little if you continue whatever is causing the issue.

15. Health. If your roommate has a health issue that they have trusted you with, take it seriously. Ask if there’s anything you need to do. Don’t dismiss it or treat it as a burden if it requires some change in your lifestyle, eating habits, cleanliness requirements, etc. Remember it is your roommate’s health, and possibly life. Keep it confidential. Don’t condescend or make judgment of their health care decisions–there’s a reason for those decisions, and as an adult, they have every right to make them.

15b. If you have a health issue, you may want to consider telling your roommate. I let my roommate know about my epilepsy, in case I had a seizure. I gave her instructions on what to do when I had a seizure, who to call and not, etc. This is entirely your decision, of course.

15c. If you’re on medication, get a keychain to put a few spare doses in. Walgreens sells them for a couple of dollars. This way, you can keep the majority of your meds at home, but if you get stuck somewhere unexpectedly, you won’t have to go without your meds.

16. Look out for each other. You’re likely to be the first to notice anything wrong–if one is sick, if one breaks their routine and doesn’t come home, etc. Trust your instincts. You may not be best friends, but you are roommates. You see one another all the time.

Do you have any tips for living with a roommate?


About Brittany-Ann
Brittany-Ann is a proud, self-identified feminist with fictional tendencies. She currently writes for and moderates at My Fault I'm Female. She smokes camels, reads Dumas, and navigates a conservative state as "one of them darn liberals."

3 Responses to Tips: Living With Roommates.

  1. LazyBusy says:

    Did you come up with this? It should be posted in every dorm and college apartment in the world!

  2. Brittany-Ann says:

    Yeah. You learn with experience! It’s not wholly compatable with the content of my blog, but I thought the tips were good nonetheless. 🙂

  3. Karin says:

    Hi – I came here from Shakesville! 🙂 This is really a great and useful list. After living with quite a few roommates, I’d have to add the following:

    to No. 1: If you are more cleanly than your roommate, don’t expect them to match your expectations of cleanliness; they probably can’t, even if they try their best. Keep your space/room as clean as you want (and need) and try to loosen your expectations/standards of “tidy/clean” for communal space.

    I’d also suggest meetings on a regular basis to talk about the living situation – what’s working out well and what should be changed (maybe once or twice a month in the first few months of living together).
    Don’t start writing post-its or even e-mails to communicate your problems – TALK to each other IN PERSON.

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