How to Be a Good Roommate

Female friends making breakfast in kitchen

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Whether you're trying to save money or have a tendency to be lonely, having a roommate is a viable option. Before you enter into this type of living situation, understand what you are getting into.

Roommate Benefits

Particularly in urban areas, having a roommate can have several benefits. Here are some reasons why people choose to share an apartment or house.

  • You will share the cost of your living space and save money.
  • There is some security in having more than one person in a house or apartment.
  • If you're also friends, you'll have someone to talk to.

Roommate Etiquette Guidelines

Whether you're a college student or a young adult who needs a roommate for economic reasons, you'll have a much better experience if you follow some important etiquette guidelines.

  1. Establish some basic rules. The first thing you should do with your new roommate is to sit down and establish a short list of rules. This is a give-and-take conversation, so first list the most important things that each of you expects. Include how to divide the bills, who pays for what, policies regarding guests, cleaning schedule, and anything else you can think of.
  2. Don't borrow without asking. Your roommate might have the cutest top that hasn't been worn in ages, but that doesn't give you the right to wear it without asking. Ask permission first, and always honor their wishes. If they give you permission, and you spill something on it, pay to have it professionally cleaned. If that doesn't work, replace the item.
  3. Respect the other person's space. Everyone has a need for some personal space, regardless of how outgoing they are, so avoid intruding on the other person's. Never enter their bedroom without knocking first.
  4. Follow the Golden Rule. Before you take any questionable action regarding your roommate, stop and think about how you would feel if the tables were turned. Following the Golden Rule can save your relationship.
  5. Be respectful when inviting guests. Whether you are having someone over for a dinner party or an overnight stay, it's always a good idea to discuss this with your roommate. Unless you are co-hosting a party or other event, never expect your roommate to share in the entertainment or expenses.
  6. Clean up your own messes. If you make a mess, clean it up. Don't expect your roommate to help clean up after a party unless the two of you co-hosted it. You also shouldn't leave the mess for the next day because the other person shouldn't have to face dirty dishes and crumbs when they get up in the morning. If you share a bathroom, keep your personal belongings neat and in order.
  7. Keep your hands off the other person's food. When a carton of your favorite ice cream suddenly appears in the freezer, don't assume that it's half yours. Don't eat even one bite of it until you have permission from your roommate. They might be saving it for a special occasion or may have purchased it with the last of their food budget. If you ask and it's off-limits, leave it alone. If you really want some, go out and get your own.
  8. Respect the need for quiet time. If you see your roommate reading a book, don't constantly interrupt them with conversation. If you know that they have to be at work early the next morning, keep the noise level low. One way for roommates to let each other know when they're sleeping is to have a small "sleeping" sign made that can hang from their bedroom doorknob.
  9. Take care of your own pets. If you and your roommate have agreed that pets are allowed, don't expect the other person to care for yours. Feed your own cat, walk your own dog, scoop your cat's litter pan, and vacuum the birdseed from beneath the cage. If your roommate feels extra generous and does it for you, show gratitude and consider doing something in return. Another option is to have a reciprocal agreement to take turns with some of the pet-tending tasks.
  10. Don't gossip about your roommate. Living in close quarters, you're bound to discover something that would make excellent fodder for gossip. Don't do it. Remember that the opposite is true as well, and think about how you'd feel if they broadcast your bad habits to the world.
  11. Don't be overly sensitive. Being roommates doesn't mean you have to be best friends. If your roommate makes plans without including you, accept that they might have other pals. Besides, if you have a positive attitude about their other friends, you are likely to be included more often. Most people resent someone who clings and smothers.
  12. Deal with problems quickly. As soon as you notice a problem, let your roommate know that it's time to have a talk. Go into the discussion with your point in a matter-of-fact way and avoid flinging accusations or constantly trying to correct them. Never try to deal with the situation with the silent treatment, passive-aggressive behavior, or yelling. Most problems can be worked through. However, if it's something you can't agree on, you might want to consider going your separate ways.

Things to Consider Before Having a Roommate

Not all roommate arrangements are positive. Before you decide to room with someone, here are some questions you need to ask yourself.

  • Do you get along? Having a roommate you don't get along with can be miserable.
  • Do you have conflicting work hours that would interfere with sleep or social life? Does one of you work the night shift while the other has a regular 9-to-5? If so, it might be difficult to sleep when you need to.
  • Do you have conflicting social lives that would get on each other's nerves? A party animal doesn't typically make a good roommate for someone who values a lot of quiet time.
  • Do you trust that this person would pay the bills on time? You don't want to wind up footing the bill for a freeloader.
  • Do your styles of housekeeping mesh? If you're a meticulous housekeeper and the other person is a slob, you'll be ready to rip each other's hair out by the end of the first week. The "odd couple" only works in movies and TV shows.

Having a roommate can be a blessing when you want to save money or have companionship. However, it can make your life miserable if you don't have established rules and respect each other's living styles.