Roommate relationships 101

Four tips for living together with roommates

I remember back when I was starting university, one of the big things that I would think about was not living at home. Moving into residence and living with other people (maybe even strangers!) was a scary thought. I figured this would be a good time to share some tips I remember receiving back when I was in first year.

Boundaries are key

It’s pretty daunting to figure out healthy boundaries when living with other people for the first time, and even before that, deciding which boundaries are most important to set. But clearly defined boundaries related to sharing clothes, food, or personal items; privacy; routines; and personal space will help you and your roomie(s) enjoy the experience.

Open residence room door with name plates

Live with people who share your interests or values

Living with roommates is a fantastic experience. You can strengthen friendships you already have or make new ones. In residence, there is a preference form that helps match people who will enjoy living together based on their interests, values, habits, and schedules. If you're living off campus, you might have to do some of those checks for yourself. If you’re concerned about fitting in with your roommate(s) or avoiding arguments later in the year when people are more stressed, keep reading; the next two tips may help you out. 

Woman sitting in cafeteria with two friends

Establish a roommate agreement

Back in first year, I was given a handout of a sample roommate agreement which included the big of things you should absolutely-for-sure-no-excuses talk to your roommates about. It’s always better to get these out of the way at the start so nobody is frustrated later on. The items are ordered by importance on my little cheat sheet, so I’ll follow that for now.

  • Rent. In residence, this will not be an issue, but outside of that you might enter a lease with multiple people jointly responsible for one monthly rent. This issue definitely needs to be hammered out early. There are plenty of ways to divide rent, it can be done so each roommate pays the same amount, roommates with larger bedrooms pay more, or any other arrangement as long as it is agreed upon.
  • Other expenses.  There are a bunch of other costs on top of rent that are involved in living. These can be things like who buys the milk and eggs (if you share any food – another thing to talk about), or toilet paper, or garbage cans. Really anything in a home should be discussed as to who is responsible for it. Maybe some sort of rotating obligation between the people sharing a bathroom buying the toilet paper is the way to go, or whatever other arrangement you come up with.
  • Obligations. These are your chores: washing dishes, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, cleaning toilets (ewwww), etc. Not talking about these is a definite recipe for later arguments.

Decide how you want to handle disagreements

Speaking of arguments (which are bound to come up between even the best roommates), the last important thing to sort out is how future disagreements will be handled. Compromise is key!

Friendships can grow when living together, but it takes some work and preparation.