Tips For Living With A Roommate For The First Time

By Whisper R Menil

If you have ever shared a room with a sibling or perhaps a family member during the holidays, having a roommate in college won’t take that much getting used to. If you have never shared a room before, it’ll be a new experience for sure, but given that you have an open mind you shouldn’t have that much trouble. But don’t worry, having a roommate in college is supposed to be fun! Here are a few tips to get you through the roommate process.

Know yourself

The most important thing about having a roommate is understanding your own living habits. If you’re not sure, the best people to ask are your family. Are you a little bit chaotic or clean and very organized? Are you very outgoing or do you tend to keep to yourself? These are the kinds of things your family can tell you.

But first, how do you feel about someone else in  what some people like to call  your private space, or even sharing your things? Do you have your own friends or are you open to befriending new people? These are all very important questions to ask yourself before you even consider a roommate because some people are better off living in their own space.

Be considerate with your personal life

After you figure out how you are in your own home, there are other factors to consider, such as: a boyfriend or girlfriend, the social activities of you and your friends, which both involve how much time you actually spend in the house. These things can either make or break anyone’s living situation because while two people can be friends, they may not be compatible roommates, or vice versa. If you do have a boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s important that you and your roommate establish boundaries.

First of all, are they okay with you and your significant other spending a significant amount of time in the room? Are they okay with your significant other in the room or would they rather you keep your business to the common room? It’s important to understand that having a roommate may or may not put restrictions on a relationship and that you should not take it personally. After all, it’s your roommate’s room too and you need to respect their feelings about privacy. Once that’s established, another important question to ask is if it's okay for your significant other to spend the night. This is a pretty big factor for more serious relationships. My roommate and I did have this issue. As I’ve been in a relationship for two years my boyfriend tends to spend a lot of time with me in the house so my roommate and I established that only on certain nights of the week it was okay for him to spend the night and that we should keep our relationship “business” to the downstairs living room. It's also important that your significant other understands these rules as well.

Secondly, when I refer to the “social activities” of you and your friends, I do mean partying. If you like to party a lot and your roommate doesn’t, you should make sure that your roommate doesn’t mind you stumbling in at 4am, or hosting parties when they’re trying to sleep. To avoid arguments and embarrassing scenes, you should know if your roommate has anything going on the next morning, like work or an exam, before you think about bringing the party home with you. If they do have something going on, you should be considerate and respectful by going out instead of inviting friends over. If it’s the other way around, you should lay down guidelines with your roommate and let your thoughts be known if you have concerns.

Flexibility maintains peace

Finally, there’s “sharing”  for example, the sharing of food or the sharing of chores. Do you mind your roommate borrowing from you or do they mind you borrowing from them? How will you keep the room clean (i.e. vacuuming)? Generally, when you’re in college everybody shares, and you’ll be glad of it when you realize you ran out of shampoo yesterday. However, in certain situations, people can cross the line. Addressing this topic upfront can bristle a few hairs so it’s best to address it as it comes, in order to avoid any pre-judgments.

If you notice that your roommate borrows excessively from you (i.e. uses something you’ve barely touched), you should confront them about it. In most situations you can just ask that they buy you a new one when this happens. Also, when it comes to shared space, you can negotiate. For example, they can use your bookshelf if you can use one of their drawers.

As for cleaning, it’s always best for everyone to be held accountable on paper by marking whose turn it is to vacuum on a sheet of paper each week. It’s important to address all aspects of your living style before you even decide that having a roommate is the best decision, because for some people it really isn’t. Once you decide what the key aspects are, you should address them promptly. The worst thing you can do is bottle up your frustration.

By following these guidelines, you can essentially eliminate those “legendary” disagreeable roommate issues. But most importantly, you need to be considerate and respectful because someone else is in your living space and you must remember that whatever you do, it’s their room too.

In case you’re already in a bad roommate situation, you should follow these 3 steps.

1. Set up a time for you and your roommate to discuss the situation.

2. If you have multiple things you would like to address, write them down and make sure you have specific examples of when your roommate has done something that rubbed you the wrong way.

3. Be able to offer solutions to these problems and be open-minded if your roommate has suggestions of their own.

Sometimes things can get prickly in bad roommate situations, but you MUST REMEMBER to be calm and to be the bigger person by talking things out and to NEVER let things get too out of hand. If things don’t improve and they begin to affect other aspects of your life, I suggest moving out because you are the one who is really losing.

Find a compatible roommate with our Roommate Match.