For many university students, the commencement of a new school year means the beginning, or resumption, of a crazy lifestyle of living on ramen and quick meals while living in close quarters with a roommate. No matter who your roommate is—stranger, best friend, or someone in between—the person you will be living with all year should be someone that you communicate with and treat with respect. Clear communication will stem, and resolve, any issues between you and your roommate. Mutual respect will also go a long way towards an amicable sharing of space.
Here are seven tips you should follow to ensure clear communication and mutual respect, so you can be the best roommate ever.
1. Set Rules
Living at home and enjoying the freedom of either having your own room or sharing with a sibling can make it difficult to envision sharing your dorm with another student. Space is tight in most dorms, so it is crucial that you and your roommate agree on how you would both use the space. It is best to settle that from the outset, so try your best to sit with your roommate and iron out all the terms of an agreement right after you both settle in and unpack. This way, you can get all the awkward stuff out of the way, and you can both live comfortably knowing the terms you and your roommate agreed upon. An agreement with your roommate should address relevant topics, such as clean-up responsibilities, sharing of food and/or in-room refrigerator, and guests.
If you are sharing an apartment or house, you should establish which areas are shared and which are personal areas. You should agree on how the two of you will pay cleaning supplies, utensils, food, and more, or if certain things will not be shared, like food. Also, you should decide on who should get the supplies or groceries, or set up a schedule for it.
2. Discuss Boundaries
We all have certain things we don’t want other people to use or touch, so make sure your roommate knows about that. For instance, if you don’t feel comfortable with your roommate’s guests sitting on your bed, let your roommate know! By making your boundaries clear, you can avoid situations where your roommate accidentally oversteps your boundaries and you won’t then have to be annoyed with your roommate’s transgressions. But keep in mind that your roommate should also feel comfortable with the space, so make sure you learn about your roommate’s boundaries too.
3. Establish Cleaning Schedules
Once you and your roommate have come to an agreement about cleaning responsibilities, you should establish a schedule. The cleaning schedule could be assigned so you and your roommate take turns cleaning weekly, bi-weekly, or whatever works best for both of you. Having a written schedule will help you avoid future confrontations and make it easier for you both to maintain a clean dorm room.
4. Be Considerate and Respectful
College students eat, shower, sleep, and wake up at different times, so be mindful of your roommate’s schedule and adjust your routine accordingly. If you wake up while your roommate is still sleeping, avoid turning on bright light, which may wake up your roommate. Instead, try to turn on a desk lamp or a light that will not bother your roommate. If you know your roommate is a light sleeper, try to make as little noise as possible while in the room. You can use common areas for study or phone calls, so you don’t wake up your roommate. Also, use headphones while watching or listening to your favorite TV show or album to avoid disturbing your roommate.
Being considerate and respectful goes a long way, especially in college when stress levels tend to be high.
5. Clean Up After Yourself
No one likes to see a mess, especially if it is a mess made by somebody else. So, be sure to clean up after yourself to minimize conflict between you and your roommate. For example, if you spilled a drink on a table or left hair in the shower, clean it up right away! Your roommate will certainly appreciate your keeping shared spaces clean.
Having guests over in your dorm room, particularly overnight, can cause problems. To avoid friction, you should always get approval from your roommate before having a guest over or having a guest stay overnight in your room. You and your roommate can agree on how much notice needs to be given before a guest can visit or or sleep over. This could be a couple of hours, days, or a simple text beforehand. Also, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your personal space with your roommate’s guests, you should communicate that to your roommate. Of course, you should also convey your roommate’s boundaries to your guests and have them respect those boundaries.
7. Be Thoughtful
Most students are stressed out at some point. If your roommate is getting stressed or not feeling well, do something nice for her. You can bring her a cup of soup or her favorite treat, or offer to run an errand for her or switch your cleaning schedule. Any unselfish act on your part can make the relationship between you and your roommate stronger. You may even end up as best friends!
So what if my roommate isn’t the best roommate ever?
No worries! Simply communicating any issues early on between roommates will lead to more effective communication in the future. If your roommate is messy, ask her to keep common areas clean. If you had agreed on certain rules and your roommate repeatedly ignores the terms you have agreed upon, have a sit-down conversation with her to review room expectations and address any previous issues. If necessary, you can ask your Resident Assistant to help you resolve any issue. Remember though that you don’t need to be antagonistic to get things done.
Having a roommate in college can become one of the best experiences ever. You can enjoy getting to know the person you may have been randomly assigned to and get to know her as a person. Being the best roommate ever isn’t as difficult as it sounds, but it depends on clear communication. Communicating needs, expectations, and concerns to each other can result in an efficient and mutually beneficial living situation. Remember, you have to live together all year long.