Hey! I Was Sitting There – How to Live with Roommates

We’re living in a time where people (a.k.a. millennials) value experience and adventure over solitude, and paying for an apartment all by themselves. It’s not to say that people aren’t living alone, but there is a bigger emphasis on having more funds for travel, food, and entertainment rather than spending more on rent. So we’re finding more and more people living together to split costs. When you’re in college, it’s common to live with multiple people and share space. When you enter the adult world and start working, you can sometimes forget what it’s like to live and cohabitate with others. 

Friends hanging out on couch

Suddenly you are in a place where you’re sharing dishes, furniture, space, and sometimes even food. Perhaps you’re living with a friend from college or you decided to go out on a limb and find someone on Craigslist. Whether you’ve known your roommate for a long time, or you’re just meeting for the first time, the challenges of living with another person are the same.  How do you go about living in a peaceful space with little conflict? How do you make the space feel like yours if all of the furniture and kitchen items belong to the other person? 


Here are some tips to help improve your environment and live in harmony. 

  1. Create some ground rules for your space. Have a conversation at the beginning so you’re both clear on what is being shared vs what is off limits. Perhaps you’re okay sharing your furniture or dishes, but your expensive shampoo or Beats headphones are off limits. Set the ground rules upfront so you’re both on the same page. 
  2. Keep up with shared expenses. We live in an age of their being an app for everything! So if one person is paying rent, set up measures so the other roommate is paying you back on time. Or if you’re splitting bills or go to a restaurant and get one check, be mindful of what you’re each spending and don’t leave it up to one person to cover it all. 
  3. Learn the other person’s schedule. Is your roommate a night owl and do they like to stay up late in the living room with the TV on? Or do they get up early to head to the gym and like to run the blender at 6 am? Are you working late and leaving early to catch a flight? Do you want to have friends over for game night? Be open and communicate your schedules with one another. Perhaps you buy a calendar to place on the fridge so you know what’s going on with the other person (and aren’t surprised when you walk in and there are people over when you get home from a long day). 
  4. Leave happy notes, not passive aggressive reminders. If you notice that toilet paper is running low, don’t stick a post-it on it to remind the other person to buy more. Send them a message or call them instead. If you are going to leave notes, let them be encouraging and happy. “Have a great day!” or “I baked some cookies, help yourself!” 
  5. Create a System for Chores. Whether you live alone or with someone else, the same is true. Trash will need to be taken out, the dishwasher will need to be unloaded, common areas will need to be cleaned. Create a system that works for you and your roommate. If you run the dishwasher, the other person unloads it; rotate weeks on who is cleaning; take the garbage out when it’s full rather than waiting for the other person to get to it. No matter how you go about it, make sure you’re both on the same page and communicate if you are unable to keep your commitment. 
  6. Include the other person in your plans. If you’re having a party or a few friends over for dinner, let your roommate know if they’re invited or if you’d like to have the space to yourself. Let your roommate make a choice whether or not they want to attend. 
  7. Be respectful of the other person’s space. Don’t just assume you can walk in on your roommate in their room or in the bathroom. Unless you have an open relationship, respect their space, and knock before entering. 
  8. To share food or not. With roommates, it’s typically easier for each person to buy their own food rather than one person buying it all and sharing. Unless you eat the same diet or are doing a cleanse together, it’s probably better to stick to buying your own food with the exception of bulk items like flour, spices, oils, etc. And if you do share, be mindful of how much you’re using and whose turn it is to replace the item. 
  9. Communicate! If there is something that needs to be replaced or something is missing, or you notice a pattern with the other person that is causing conflict, communicate it rather than letting it build up. When you hold onto annoyances, anger, or resentment, you’re likely going to explode at some point. It’s better to be open and honest and communicate how you’re feeling or what you’re noticing rather than let it build up. 
  10. Hang out together. Just because you’re roommates, doesn’t mean you can’t also be friends. Especially if you’re moving in with a stranger or someone you don’t know very well. Create a dinner night or go on a date to get to know each other better. 

roommates hanging out on couch
Test out these tips and see which ones work best for you and your roommate. Don’t be too much of a stickler and instead set an intention for your space and home. Life is too short to live in conflict, so remember why you chose to have a roommate and let that intention be your guide. If it’s temporary until you have enough money saved to live on your own, honor that. Or if you’re choosing to have a roommate so you can have more time to travel and live for experience, remember that. 

At the end of the day, life is too short to live in conflict. 

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