How to Be a Good Roommate

Monday, July 14, 2008

Have you ever had to share a home with a stranger or even a close friend, only to find out you can't live together? Living with other people is difficult, especially when each person comes from a different background and has their own ideas about how they want to live. Most people at some point must learn to cope with the challenges of having a roommate. The following is a list of suggestions to help you share your living space harmoniously.

Find a good roommate to begin with. It can be tempting to select a roommate on the basis of how friendly they are, but you're better off judging them on the basis of day to day living compatibility. Compare their daily habits to yours:

* Are they early risers or night owls?

* What temperature do they think is comfortable?

* How much TV do they watch?

* When should the roommate worry if they are not home at a certain time? Do you wait until morning to make phone calls or do you send for a search team if they're 15 minutes late from work or school?

* What are their favorite chores? Perhaps if their favorites are your least favorite, you can simply always to your favorite chore and ignore the ones you simply don't like.

* Do they talk about their feelings are keep their feelings in?

* Are they extra-sensitive to fragrances and/or odors? This may affect what you choose as cleaning products and you may have to hide your running shoes after going to the gym.

* Are they allergic to anything? i.e. peanuts, perfume, milk, flour, mold, smoke.

* Are they sloppy or neat?

* Do they smoke or do any other kinds of recreational drugs?

* Do they enjoy talking or do they prefer to be quiet all the time.

* Do they enjoy decorating or do they not care about decorating. What decorating style do they have.

* What kind of music do they listen to and, more importantly, do they particularly enjoy listening to it when it's loud?

Be upfront about your expectations. Set boundaries and stick with them. This applies to food, clothes, possessions, loud activities, use of common areas, parties, quiet hours, cleaning responsibilities, and so on.

Respect each other’s privacy and personal space. This is especially important if you share a small living area. Make a clear delineation between your stuff and your roommate’s stuff. That way you are only responsible for your things. You must always ask before "borrowing" anything, no matter if it's trivial. Definitely take good care of any borrowed items.

Follow through with your obligations. If you say you're going to clean the kitchen, pay your roommate back for your share of the lease or utilities, or call the landlord about a repair, then do it.

Be prepared to compromise. Not everyone has the same ideas about day to day living as you do. You can't ask your roommate to change himself or herself if you're not willing to change as well.

What NOT to do

What NOT to do

Clean up after yourself. This doesn't mean that you have to be a neat freak, but don't leave your dirty dishes in the sink for days on end, dump your things in the living room, or leave mountains of laundry all over the bedroom, especially if you share it with your roommate. Try to agree on a minimum standard of cleanliness that you'll all abide by.

Be courteous of your roommate’s sleeping habits. If you are a night owl, keep your noise down and turn the lights down after your roommate goes to bed so you don't disturb them. If you go to bed early, don’t get exasperated with your roommate for their late hours, but at the same time try to find ways that you can sleep undisturbed. The same thing applies for rising in the morning.

Spend time with your roommate. Say hello and goodbye, ask them how their day was, and show interest in his or her life. Getting to know the person you live with helps you understand their perspective, and allows them to understand yours. It also makes it easier to deal with problems that you have with that person if you’ve already established a rapport with them. Try to set a time in which you both can hang out at least once a week. Make dinner together, watch a movie, etc. Do something nice for your roommate every so often--make their bed, bake them cookies, or offer to give them a ride somewhere if they don't have a car.

Stay flexible. Understand what’s going on in your roommate’s life, and accommodate them. If your roommate has a big test coming up, you should probably be quiet and let them study. If your roommate is busy and stressed with their job, give them some time and space to relax and unwind. Wouldn't you like your roommate to show you the same consideration?

Communicate. As in any relationship, living with someone requires a great deal of work. Communication is key in making the relationship work well long-term, or even for a short time. If a problem comes up, it's better to talk about it right away than to try and ignore it and let it get worse. If you simply cannot communicate openly and there is tension all the time. Find a new roommate. The stress is just not worth it. You may be better friends if you choose to live separate.

11. Share. Or decide what you will share. Decide what contents in the fridge are ok and which are off limits. Determine whether or not a common phone line will be sufficient if one person spends a lot of time on the phone. If you borrow something, let your roommate know and (if necessary) try to replace it.

12. Divide responsibilities: If your roommate is a good cook and you are not, have him cook and you do the dishes. It may also be a good idea to set up a chores schedule, where you will take turns alternating cleaning the bathroom, taking out the trash, etc.

* Some people find it helpful to write up a "roommate agreement," in which you set down rules that everyone can agree to. This is a good way to make sure that everyone is clear on the rules for the apartment and their responsibilities. Have everyone sign a copy and keep it on hand.

* Control the amount of noise you make. Wear headphones when you listen to music, and go into another room when you're on the phone. If you're going to engage in a noisy activity, it's a good idea to ask your roommate before you do it.

* Inviting your roommate to open social events is polite.

* One possible cooking / cleaning arrangement: Make a standing rule that if you cook for everybody, you also have to do the dishes. That may sound counter-intuitive, but it can work. It solves the problem of one person making a big meal, but then the dishes never getting cleaned.

* Don't make your rules too rigid. Life is short, so sometimes you should decide that you just don't care. Dirty windows never hurt anyone. A broken plate is just not something to ruin a friendship over.

* Although you should be flexible and accommodating, don’t let your roommate walk on you. Be assertive about what you want.

* Don’t nag. This is a surefire way to get your roommate irritated.

* Don’t yell or scream at your roommate. If this is a friend, it could ruin the friendship. Remember, most people do not love unconditionally and won’t react kindly to fits of rage or anger, and it will probably hinder your cause rather than help it.

* If your roommate disregards your pleas for privacy or cleanliness, or otherwise continuously disrespects you, you should probably try to find another roommate. Remember, not everyone is meant to live together, regardless of how good a friendship you might have.

* Be careful about lending money. Small amounts aren't usually a problem, but don't let it get out of hand.


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