If you’re thinking about getting a roommate, whether it be your best friend or a stranger, read our tips for how to get along with a roommate first! They focus on some areas that most commonly lead roommates to have arguments. Fortunately, you can easily avoid most fights if you clearly set boundaries and expectations up front.
If you already have a roommate, our tips on how to get along with a roommate can still be useful. Even if you currently have a great relationship, there will inevitably be problems at some point, even if they’re relatively minor.
1) Sharing Time & Space
Before delving into any other specifics about living with a roommate, you both need to understand up front what kind of living arrangement you each expect. For example, do you plan to hang out together every day? Or will you each lead separate lives and just share living space? Maybe, you want something in the middle, where you each do your own thing, but occasionally spend time together. Problems can arise unless you’re both on the same page about your expectations.
If you already have a roommate and this a source of frustration, you should sit down with them and have an open and honest conversation. A good way to approach the subject is to first ask what their expectations were for the living arrangement and whether they feel it is working out. Listen carefully to what they have to say, and you’ll find out whether they are also struggling with the arrangement. This also opens the door so you can express your own expectations and how you’d like things to change moving forward. Try to compromise.
Food is expensive so decide in advance whether you’ll share food with your roommate. If you want to buy food together and share it, be sure to set some rules as to who will shop, how much will be spent, and how the food will be consumed. For example, will you cook and eat meals together? If you decide not to share food, try using different color containers to separate food so it’s easy to tell which food belongs to whom or dividing the refrigerator in freezer space so you each have a designated side. If you agree to share some food, but want some of your favorites all to yourself, use labels with polite messages telling your roommate those items are off limits. And respect their labels if they have favorites that are not meant for you.
You and your roommate come from different backgrounds and may have different cleaning habits. Decide early on who will clean which areas of the apartment. For example, if you like to cook and spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you might want to volunteer to clean the kitchen, while your roommate handles the bathroom. These are the two rooms in your apartment that will require the most cleaning and where cleanliness is most important. You and your roommate should each take responsibility for cleaning your own bedrooms. For areas like the living room that you share, a good practice is for you each to tidy up after yourselves. If you notice that your roommate isn’t cleaning up after themselves or isn’t as tidy as you prefer, try leaving polite notes reminding them that you’d appreciate it if they cleaned up. If notes don’t work, try having a conversation.
Should your roommate let you know when they’re having company? Should you give them the same courtesy? If you’re watching TV with a date, do you want your roommate curled up on the sofa with the two of you? It’s important to set boundaries. For example, you might want to establish a rule that you have to give each other at least a two hour’s notice before bringing over a visitor. Or if you’re having a special date, the other person should go for an evening out. It’s up to the two of you to iron out the details. The important thing is that you set boundaries and stick to them.
One Final Word on How to Get Along with a Roommate
Whenever in doubt about how to get along with a roommate or handle a challenging roommate situation, remember the Golden Rule. Treat your roommate the way you’d like to be treated.
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