Living with Roommates

Posted by in Life in College

Often when people think of going to college they think of going to get an education and having fun, but what is usually overlooked is the countless other life and growing up experiences that occur in college. One of the many areas college teaches us about is learning to live with roommates. This is often someone you have never met before, may or may not have anything in common with, and could be someone who turns into your best friend or your worst enemy depending on the situation. Discovering how to live and get along with roommates can be tough and have its really rough moments, but often it is a great learning and growing experience. One rule that is a good idea to follow, especially when you are living with a roommate, is what I consider to be the Golden Rule–“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is a great motto for you and your roommates to strive for in order to coexist peacefully. Apart from this, continue reading for some other tips and tricks for having successful living experiences in college.

Shop together or buy it yourself – Often roommates believe the easiest thing to do when living together is to share everything. This can easily be a dangerous trap to fall into. Granted there are some things that are useful to share such as toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, pots and pans, and other basic common area items. In order to avoid issues with sharing these types of items, one of the easiest things to do is go buy the items together and split the costs. This way you and however many roommates you have see the cost of the items and can split them up equally. However, when it comes to items such as food, toothpaste, and laundry detergent to just name a few, word to the wise, buy your own. From living in a house with four different girls, I can honestly say for buying food and items you use individually it is best to buy your own. Generally there is always going to be one person who drinks way more milk than another, someone who does their laundry more often than anyone else, and someone who eats all the Oreos one night because of a sweet tooth. When you split up space in the kitchen and buy your own food, you know how much of everything you have and do not have the worry about eating or use too much or too little of something to make sure you get your fair share.

You make a mess, clean it up – This is easily one of the best rules for any roommate to follow. Staying tidy can keep roommates from growing to resent each other more than just about anything else. We are all guilty of leaving dishes in the sink or forgetting to take the trash out once or twice. However, if you make a mess, please, clean it up. There is nothing worse than walking into a kitchen that has been cooked in, dirtied up, and left because someone became lazy or got sidetracked. Simple things like loading the dishwasher, putting the clean dishes away, and wiping down the counters after you cook can greatly aid in helping you get along with a roommate. You might want to keep the saying “Leave the kitchen cleaner than you found it” in mind, especially when there are multiple roommates, and that saying can actually go for all areas of your living space. For some people, coming to college could be the first time they have ever had to do chores or need to worry about picking up after themselves. That’s why creating a chore chart or some kind of ground rules for cleaning can be helpful too. This way the chores are split up evenly and fairly. Then if one roommate ever struggles with completely their chores, at least you can revert back to the chart and kindly explain that you all do chores and that everyone needs to pitch in. Just remember it only takes a few minutes to clean up after yourself, do it now to avoid bigger issues later.

Be conscious of the time/setting – This may sound crazy, but remember you are in college to learn and gain an education. This point really applies to students who share a dorm room with another student. There is nothing worse than trying to go to sleep at a decent time for your 8am exam the next day and your roommate deciding to do her homework at 12am in the room or brings friends over to watch TV and hang out. I mean, really? Be aware of other’s needs and the time. There are other places to study or hang out outside of your room. Don’t bring on more problems than you already have by being selfish and completely overlooking your roommate’s needs. This form of etiquette still applies to living in an apartment or house with others. Don’t blast your music, yell, or have a party the day before exams start. Be aware that people around you, such as your roommates and neighbors, need sleep or may be studying. It’s important to be conscious of your setting and think before you act. It’s one thing to accidently wake your roommate up in the morning when you’re trying to quietly get ready for an 8am class, but it’s another thing when you are blow drying your hair or playing music in the same room while they are trying to sleep. Rule of thumb, if you don’t want them doing it to you, don’t do it to them.

Talk about issues – Talk about  issues that come up with your roommates. Communication on roommate conflicts is required to prevent creating a lot of negativity and resentment towards one another.  If your roommates are doing something that bothers you, they may not even realize it.  They may have never had to deal with sharing a room, house, bathroom, or anything like this before. For some students, a dorm room is much smaller than their individual rooms back home, and they haven’t figured out how to adjust to the smaller, shared space. Something important you need to be conscious about when talking through an issue is to avoid the pointed term “you.” Don’t begin a conflict conversation with “You never clean this place up and I am so tired of it.” Generally this is only going to make the other person defensive and annoyed, and you’ve already lost your chance for having a productive conversation. An alternate approach could be, “It really bothers me when I feel as though I’m the only one cleaning our room.” This way the subject is you (the person upset) and you are now trying to let your roommate see why you’re upset instead of immediately placing blame on them. Other helpful ways to deal with conflict and increase the chances of having a productive outcome are to consult an RA (Resident Advisor) or someone who can be objective (not one of your friend or a friend of your roommate). Someone like an RA can serve as a mediator and see both sides of the story while helping you both see each other’s sides. Conflict is going to occur whether it is talked about, avoided, or ignored. But dealing with it effectively and in a positive manner can drastically change the entire environment of any roommate situation.

College is not just about getting an education but also about learning to get along with others and discovering yourself. Remember if you want something for the apartment or dorm room, buy it yourself or shop with your roommates so they get a say in what is bought and everything is split evenly. If you make a mess, clean it up. Always be conscious of the time and setting, and treat your roommate like you want to be treated. Talk about issues and concerns instead of holding emotions in; it can greatly help the situation to talk through conflict so you can create a tension free environment that is more enjoyable to live in.