Roommate Rules: Tips for a Better Roommate Experience

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Becca Elson
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(This is the third post in our Roommate Rules series. Be sure to check out the first and second posts, too, for more great advice on building a successful roommate relationship!)

Having a great roommate experience starts with choosing the right person. Just because someone is your best friend does not mean they will make a good roommate. I could never see living with some of my closest friends. When discussing rooming with someone it is important to go over topics such as guests, schedules, and cleanliness. 

Be Our Guest

Some people prefer their alone time and would not like to have guests over to their place all the time or overnight guests. It is important to set boundaries about how often you should expect to have guests over and when it is off limits, such as the night before a big exam. You need to be on the same page before it becomes a problem and becomes awkward for everyone.

Conflicting Schedules

Schedules are also important to go over because if you have a night owl and a morning person in the same room, issues may arise. If this ends up happening, try to make a compromise. This could mean that during the early hours and late nights you will try to stay out of the room or move to a more common area. A simple tip I used is that my roommate and I used our phone flashlights when coming in late or leaving early rather than turning all the lights on. Work together so you both can be happy.

Coming Clean

When I first moved in with my freshman year roommate I needed some work in the cleanliness category. For me, cleaning meant that if all my clothes were put up within a day of when I brought them out, then it was fine. On the other hand, my roommate liked to clean as she made a mess. The best way to handle this type of situation is to communicate your issues before they start to boil up. If you let issues fester with your roommate, then when confrontation arises it could come off as aggressive when instead it can be a simple conversation. I would suggest setting up a cleaning schedule for common areas so that everyone knows their role. If the same person is taking out the trash every single week, they will get sick of that quickly. 

Sharing Food

Food may seem like a simple issue, but I have seen it affect many of my friends’ relationships with their roommates. The main reason this can become a problem is because of finances and the fact that people are paying for their own food. It is key to ask before you ever assume someone is OK with you having some of their food. Other times it works out great where there is give and take and everyone shares. Always replace anything you take from your roommate because they may not feel comfortable bringing it up, although it may be bothering them deep down. This goes for not just food, but anything that belongs to your roommate. Unless you and your roommate have explicitly agreed that borrowing without asking is OK, do not assume. 

Get Time Away

Another important thing to realize is that you don’t have to do everything with your roommate. It is OK to both have your own friends and do different things. In fact, it is a good thing to get space from your roommate sometimes, so that you are not around one another 24/7. But do make an effort to get to know their friends because you may end up finding some great friends for yourself as well. 

I have had great relationships with my roommates from my freshman year dorm, to a sorority, and now a house. My biggest takeaway has been that not everyone operates like you and you must be careful to communicate your preferences and boundaries. Make the most of the experience because you may never know how much you enjoy living with roommates until you don’t have them. The one semester I lived alone I missed my roommates more than I could have imagined. 


Check out the first and second posts in our Roommate Rules series:

Roommate Rules: Communication paves the way for a positive roommate experience

Roommate Rules: Five Types of College Roommates and How to Live with Them


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