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5 Tips for First Time Roommates

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Living with roommates can be tough.  If you are a single child or never lived with roommates before, there is a learning curve to overcome.  Make your experience more enjoyable by following these tips.

Pick Quality Roommates

Unless your college pairs you with a random roommate, you have the power to choose who you live with.  It isn’t always easy, but picking quality roommates sets the stage for your entire experience.  Don’t give into picking your best friends just because you like them; finding great roommates can be an excellent way to expand your social circle.  Instead, sit down and make a list of qualities you will and won’t tolerate.  Consider these factors:

  • Noise Level: Can you handle a noisy party atmosphere? If so, this may be a plus for you.  Otherwise you may want to move on or negotiate.
  • Flexibility: Are they stubborn?  When you need to communicate about an issue, will they be reasonable?  Look for a roommate who wants to negotiate, especially if you’ll have to compromise on budget issues. (Make sure you have an understanding of fair market rent to be sure you’re not overpaying.)
  • Boundaries: Do they respect your personal space?  If you know that they use something without your permission or mooch off your stuff, this person doesn’t respect you.
  • Cleanliness: Cleanliness plays a key role in how you’ll get along.  If you are a clean person who experiences anxiety when you see a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, you should rethink this person. They won’t clean up just for you.
  • Responsibility: Will they pay rent on time?  If they have a history of not following through on promises or holding down a job, save yourself the trouble.


Nobody is perfect.  You may love your best friend, but they may be extremely messy and eat your groceries without permission.  What’s best is to choose roommates based on the qualities you can and cannot tolerate.  If you can’t budge on your demand to have the perfect roommate, you should live solo.  However,what solitude you gain living alone cheats you out of the community you could have.


Negotiate a List of “House Rules”

Don’t wait too long to have a meeting about house rules.  Before you move in, organize a meeting to discuss everyone’s needs.  Keep it lighthearted with dinner and drinks and negotiate these rules:

  • Chores: Decide together who will do what to keep the apartment  You can create a rotating list of chores that change hands every week, or everyone can stick to one chore.  Discuss what must be cleaned individually and what can be cleaned together like dishes and sweeping.
  • Inviting People Over: Discuss whether it’s OK for people to stop by unannounced.  Some roommates agree to send a group message asking for permission before they invite guests.  Consider this if a roommate works late nights, is busy with exams or is sick.
  • Personal Boundaries: Negotiate what you will and won’t share as a group. Items like cleaning supplies or toilet paper can be shared, but personal items like groceries are off limits. Decide how you will pay for shared items.

These are the main factors you should discuss but there may be more depending on your situation.


Respect Boundaries

Once the rules are set up, it’s everyone’s responsibility to follow them.  This applies both to you and them.  When you share a living space, you all agree to treat it and each other with respect.  For example, this means replacing something if you break it.  If you need something like a roll of toilet paper because you can’t run to the store, that’s appropriate.  Asking for money, however, is not.  Asking for money is dangerous territory because if you can’t repay it the debt will loom over your head.  Unless you can fully trust each other, steer clear of borrowing money.

Communicate Any Problems

Nobody can read your mind.  If you have an issue, discuss it together.  Pushing down feelings will only make you passive aggressive and manipulative. This can cause more conflicts and misunderstanding. Don’t assume the worst in the person; not everyone is out to get you. It’s likely they were oblivious to the problem and are open to change.


Practice What You Preach

You and your roommates are imperfect.  You all will make mistakes and hurt each other’s feelings from time to time.  Being flexible means forgiving others for their mistakes.  This doesn’t mean you should be taken advantage of, but it does mean that you can learn to understand others and have compassion.

Living with roommates has the potential to be a pivotal learning experience.  Be open to building new relationships and learning from mistakes to become an open and well-rounded adult.

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