As the new school year starts, you might find yourself with one or more roommates, but even if you have had roommates before, it might be a good idea to have a refresher on roommate etiquette. Living with roommates in either a dorm or an apartment can be difficult to adjust to, but it is possible to make it go smoothly.
Do not expect things to be bad. Everyone has heard crazy roommate horror stories. You might have even heard specific stories with the person you were randomly assigned to live with. But remember everyone has their own experiences. It is okay to be wary and cautious, but do not let it fully cloud your judgment. If you expect your roommate experience to be bad, it probably will be. You will be subconsciously waiting for things to go wrong, focusing on things that would not have bothered you before, and be constantly on edge. You might miss out on a great friendship if you are not willing to let them in from the start.
Set boundaries. Living with people who are not your family can be great, but it also gets tough. It is easy to get frustrated with someone when you see them every single day. Make sure to sit down and explain where your personal space is, what makes you uncomfortable, what is okay, and so on. Do not put this off because its best to get it out right away. If you wait too long it might feel like it is too late to say anything. It is hard to find your own space in such close quarters, but even discussing what things you are and are not okay with sharing can help you feel like you are not being suffocated. If you need quiet time, let them know. If you are not comfortable with them having guests without notice, communicate that. Make sure they set boundaries with you too. You cannot know what bothers them if they never tell you.
Give them the same respect that you want. It can be hard to realize that you are not perfect. In fact, nobody is perfect. We are all human and everyone is a flawed roommate. Think about your own behaviors and if you would want someone to do that to you. Clean up after yourself. Try to be quiet while they study. Do not eat all of their food unless you have both decided to share. Work with them if they address a problem with you. If you need to be up at 6 a.m. while they are still asleep, maybe put in headphones instead of blasting music.
Remember that things add up. When you live with someone, little things that seemed like personality quirks can get annoying really quickly. Behaviors and habits that frustrated you before can become unbearable. If you know that your friend’s messiness is slightly annoying to you, maybe consider if you would be willing to deal with it all day, every day. If not, maybe consider choosing someone else to live with. When things start to add up, talk to them. Have a civilized conversation to see how you can work together to fix the problem. It is not worth ruining your relationship with them because they have a weird habit or do not do a certain chore.
You will probably fight at some point. Even the best of roommates have their disputes. Whether it is a small, petty fight or a huge friendship-altering one, it will happen eventually. Try to stay calm, communicate your side, and listen to what they have to say. If you can, work out a compromise. For example, if they have trouble doing the dishes, see if they might be willing to sweep the floors instead. If you really need help, get an RA or another impartial mediator and have them help you work out your issues. Remember that you have to live together and it will be much worse if you have to avoid each other every day after unresolved conflict. Try your best to get along if you can, because moving dorms or apartments can be extremely hard.
Figure out special guests in advance. At some point, you might have a significant other come over. If you are going to have your roommate leave the room, ask right away if they are even comfortable with you doing that. If they are, then let your roommate know in advance that you will need the room. Do not take too long unless that is specifically okay with your roommate. Do not do anything while your roommate is still in the room, even if they are asleep. If they are not available to go somewhere else when you want the room, then respect that by rescheduling with your partner. Figuring this out can be awkward, but nobody wants to accidentally walk in, accidentally see something, or have to leave with barely any notice.
Spend time with them. It can be hard to reach out especially if you are shy or do not know your roommate(s). However bonding is important. Take opportunities to get to know each other. Have conversations beyond small talk. Take the opportunity to cook or go out to eat with each other. Learn about their interests and personality. Go see a movie or make plans for a shopping trip or a beach day. Binge-watch a new TV show that you are both interested in. You do not need to spend every minute with them or fill every silence, but try to move beyond “people that just happen to share a living space.” You have to live together for at least the next nine months. Remaining practically strangers can make things unreasonably awkward and tense. You do not need to be their best friend, but getting to know them can make you feel like you are truly at home. You will understand them better and you might find things in common that you would have never guessed.
Take care of your pet and respect theirs. You might live in a pet-friendly dorm or apartment. Owning pets is a huge responsibility. If you are not sharing the pet then take care of it. Maybe you are stuck at work and need your roommate to feed your pet or take it on a walk just this once. Do not expect it to be a regular occurrence. You signed up to take care of this living creature, so it is not fair to make your roommates do it. Clean up after it, bathe it regularly, stay on top of food and water, train it, and any other things your pet may need. On the other hand, if your roommate has a pet, please respect that. Do not feed it things that are outside of its natural diet. Do not let random people take care of the pet without its owner’s permission. Do not harm it. Keep its enclosure closed so that it does not escape. Do not counteract its training. For example, if the owner is training it to stay off of the furniture, then do not encourage it to sit next to you on the couch.
It is hard to be a good roommate, and it is really easy to mess up, but be mindful and respect your roommate and it will help things go smoothly.