So, you’re living with a roommate – or two, or more! Whether you’re in school or working, sharing a house or apartment with other people can be one of the most fun experiences of young adulthood, and an exciting step into independence.
You may live with friends or with someone new. Post-secondary institutions who operate campus residence housing usually assign roommates randomly. Regular apartments and townhouses can rent by the room, in which case you will likely live with strangers, or rent as a unit you apply for with a friend or group of friends already agreed to be roommates.
Whatever your roommate situation, there are a few things guidelines to remember:
Be considerate and respectful. This is priority one, and applies to any incident that may occur between yourself and your roommate. Treat them, their space, and their belongings in the same way you want them to treat you and yours.
You may have very different schedules. We all live with a variety of personal schedules: work, class, social life; being a night owl or an early bird, studying better at night or during the day. Again, the most important thing is to be considerate. If you wake up early or stay awake late, try to keep noise and activity to a respectful minimum.
Not everyone is the same level of tidy/messy or organized/disorganized as you are. Some people alphabetize their cereal boxes; others let their laundry pile grow high as a mountain. Sharing living space will bring these differences front and centre. The key again is consideration and compromise: make an effort to keep shared areas like the kitchen, bath, and living room clean, but remember that everyone lapses sometimes.
Your personalities and social lives can be very different. Living with roommates can bring these traits into conflict, and how you handle it shapes your friendship. You might be more introverted or extroverted, social or a homebody, than your roommates. If you need alone time to recharge, and your roommate likes to have friends over all the time, set out some ground rules, such as being in your room with the door closed means “do not disturb”. If you are social and like to party, but you know your roommate doesn’t, try to give them a heads up when company will be over, and don’t host the party at your place every time.
There are other considerations: rules for guests and significant others, cooking duties, splitting groceries and bills, or using, sharing, and borrowing others’ belongings. Sit down at the beginning and write up a roommate agreement for all parties, to have the opportunity to discuss and agree on ground rules ahead of time, rather than trying to sort things out after there is a problem. For campus residences, Resident Advisors and Mediation Services are available to advise, or to arrange a mediation session to help resolve roommate conflicts.
All roommate situations are different, but generally come down to the “Three C’s”: Consideration, Compromise, and Communication. As long as you remember these, living with roommates can lead to lifelong friendships, and a heck of a lot of fun!