Living a life with roommates is a big part of the college transition, and something you’ll likely have to deal with for many years to come. That means if you struggle to live with other people or you often find yourself at odds with someone leading a very different lifestyle, you’re going to have to figure out ways to still enjoy your home environment. No one wants to feel annoyed or uncomfortable in their own space, that awkward tension in the air. Thankfully there are ways to encourage a healthy roommate relationship no matter who you’re living with, and you can still curl up on the couch with a beer and Netflix in the evenings to relax without worry.
1. Set Boundaries
Boundaries really are what it’s all about, especially if you’re rooming with someone you’re not particularly close to. You each have things you consider your own and that you’re particular about keeping to yourself, be it your food, your clothes, or your space. Those things have to be respected, in order for you to feel respected as a person. That’s why it’s important to establish and be open about these boundaries when you start living with someone, or when there’s a problem. Tell them you aren’t really comfortable sharing your food, or that you really appreciate the house being quiet in the afternoons so you can study.
As long as they’re a normal person (fingers crossed), they then know what is important to you and can work within that environment. You too should respect their things and space until they let you know what’s okay with them, and even then still be careful at first until you’re more familiar with each other. Oftentimes we want to be chill, not mind, and offer to share everything, but if you start there it’s harder to come home and be pissed realizing they ate all your favorite chips. You’ll do better to start with harder boundaries you can ease off of once you get to know each other. Boundaries are super important when it comes to a healthy roommate relationship!
2. Have Open Communication
Having and encouraging open communication is the only way you’ll ever actually solve problems with your new roommate. Surprise, surprise, being passive-aggressive helps nothing. It only creates a hostile and uncomfortable environment in a place that is supposed to be your home. If your roommate is doing something that really bothers you, talk to them about it. Explain how you’re feeling to them and try to figure out a compromise. Most of the time they’re just doing something that bothers you without even noticing it, and if you let them know they can try to stop. If you both come at the conversation from places of patience and understanding, you can work it out and you’ll both be more comfortable knowing what the other is thinking, rather than trying to guess how to keep them happy.
3. Be Considerate
Newsflash: you can be the problem, just as much as you think your roommate is. For every problem you find with them, they might be finding a problem with you too. So it’s your job to be a moderate level of considerate, as well. Be mindful of your flaws and try to tone them done for your roommate. Do you stay up late at night when they’re trying to go to sleep? Try not to be too loud and keep lights off when you can. Do you work in the living room, leaving your stuff everywhere?
Pack up when you’re done and put things back in your room, out of the way of the common space. Being considerate is the best way to be a good roommate. They’ll have no complaints and maybe even be encouraged to act similarly toward you. You have to be considerate if you want a healthy roommate relationship.
4. Do Your Share
Sharing space together means you also have to share the cleaning of that space, which can get tough between younger people with busy lives. The best way to handle things is for each person to do their share. If you’re lucky, you and your roommate can self-regulate that. You each always do your own dishes in a timely manner. You jointly keep the living room tidy and your own things out of the way. But that’s best case of scenario and not always the way things are going to go.
If you need a better system, start with yourself, the main thing you can control. Make sure you’re doing your share to keep the place clean. But if it ends up feeling like you’re doing everything, while your roommate always lets dishes pile up in the sink or trash in the living room, sit down and talk to them about it. Set rules and make a schedule. Maybe you alternate doing certain chores each week, like dishes or taking out the trash or keeping the bathroom clean. Maybe you just worry about your own things and then divvy up common space responsibilities. Together you can find a system that works for your lifestyles that will make sure your both doing your share and no one is getting frustrated under piles of chores. This is one of the best ways to have a healthy roommate relationship!
5. Spend Time Together
Even if you aren’t close friends and don’t really care to be, you’re still living together and that means inevitably spending a lot of time together. You can try to stay out of each other’s hair, but apartments are small, so that’s easier said than done. The truth of the matter is the more you get to know each other and the closer you become, the better you’ll do living together. That doesn’t mean you have to be besties. It’s just in your best interested to get to know each other and figure out how you each work in different ways which will help facilitate a healthy roommate relationship. This will encourage understanding between you both, which will lead to less annoyance and passive aggressive tiffs in the household. Plus roommates are basically built-in friends anyway. Go for drinks once a week or watch a show you’re both interested in, and as you spend more time together you’ll turn into better roommates, too.
There are no perfect solutions. You can try your hardest as a roommate and still end up with someone crazy or maybe that you just don’t click with. If that’s the case, survive the year and find someone new when the next lease rolls around. But before you get to the point of giving up, you can always try to make things work. Using these tips and a little bit of patience should help you and your roommate figure out ways to coexist, so you can both still fully enjoy your space.