Whether you’re a college student, young professional or active adult who is living with a peer, you’ll find that navigating a roommate relationship can be just as fun as it was on Friends and Will & Grace or just as “challenging” as it was on The Big Bang Theory or Broad City. 

In a shared apartment, you have your own personal space and a larger communal area. So how can you make it all work? Here are some tips on how to make a roommate relationship easier. 

Respecting Private Space 

Roommates sitting on couch

A good place to start is showing respect for each other’s private spaces, including a bedroom. The last thing you want is for anyone to invade your room, so you really shouldn’t invade your roommate’s room. Before even moving in, spend some time defining what and where personal spaces are because your answers may vary. For your roommate, it may only include the bedroom or a part of the kitchen or pantry that is divided up. Make sure to communicate this and spend time discussing what spaces belong to you and which ones are for your roommate(s). Define each other’s boundaries and you won’t end up in a situation where your roommate takes all your coffee and breakfast like on Will and Grace. 

Respecting Shared Spaces 

Four roommates in living room watching TV

When living with a roommate, you’re likely to have a few communal spaces throughout your apartment. From the kitchen to the living room, a communal space is a place where you can enjoy yourself and the company of others. However, it is important to remember to respect the space. Don’t be that roommate who leaves dishes in the sink or a mess on the dining room or coffee tables. You’ll want to leave any communal spaces exactly how you found them. 

Defining communal spaces is another important conversation to have with your roommate even before moving in together. Discuss what that means, which rooms are considered communal spaces and if the items in those spaces (cans in a pantry, milk in the refrigerator, tissues on a countertop) are available to everyone or just the person who bought them. The last thing you want to do is make changes to the living room or kitchen in your apartment without the consent of your roommate and find yourself in passive aggressive arguments that culminate with a sword fight like on How I Met Your Mother. 

Clean Up After Yourself 

Man sitting on couch with clothes all over the apartment

Don’t be that person who leaves the sink full of dishes for an entire week or scatters clothes or other items on the floor of a shared bathroom. In most cases, it’ll take you a couple of minutes to clean up. In doing so, your roommate won’t be annoyed and the workload won’t pile up. 

Not everyone can be a neat freak like Monica on Friends, so do your part. Make sure any space you’re in is just how you found it - this way your apartment will be presentable anytime. Something you may not consider is making sure your personal space is clean. Even if unintentional, messes in private spaces can also affect shared spaces - remember that weird smells travel. Keep your personal space manageable and at a reasonable level of cleanliness and everyone in your apartment will be happy. 

Communicate Well 

Two senior women roommates having a conversation

Although it may seem funny on the internet, passive aggressive sticky notes aren’t the ideal way to resolve conflicts or communicate with a roommate. Communication is the key to an ideal roommate relationship. Regularly talk with your roommate about frustrations and determine ground rules early. Make sure to discuss which responsibilities are shared and which ones are up to an individual. This can include everything from paying the utility bills to taking out the trash to quiet hours. In extreme cases, consider chore wheels or a roommate contract. Just make sure your contract isn’t as crazy as Sheldon Cooper’s on the The Big Bang Theory. You might also consider having a regular roommate meeting to discuss responsibilities and any issues that arise.  

Understanding and Compromising 

Two roommates sitting on couch with backs turned to each other

Communication is only half the battle. Being empathetic and understanding are key to your roommate relationship – and most relationships in life, for that matter. If your roommate is doing something that bothers or frustrates you, consider his or her situation and don’t assume it’s directed toward you. Communicate these frustrations, but be empathetic. The last thing you want to do is just cast blame. Chances are, you may also do something that frustrates your roommate and you may not realize it until it's brought to your attention. 

Along with understanding, you should be flexible and willing to compromise. Living with another person has a lot of benefits, but it does mean you may need to change some habits – and vice versa. Pick your battles and know what’s worth compromising for. When you have something you really want, take Jess from New Girl’s approach: State your argument clearly and appeal to your roommate’s logical side. You’re more likely to get what you want or at least meet in the middle. No one can be the perfect roommate, and its unrealistic to expect this of others.   

It doesn’t require a whole lot of energy to be a good roommate. A little empathy and some mutual respect will go a long way in making your living experience amicable. Don’t be Ben from Parks and Recreation and try to teach your roommate how to be an adult. Just remember to communicate and talk it out – but also be willing to understand and compromise when necessary.

Other Blog Posts You Might Be Interested In

  • Before you plan on moving in with a roommate or significant other, conversations about finances and expectations for living together can save you priceless amounts of time – and arguments. Here's what you need to know.
  • It’s important to keep your personal and shared spaces clean. Whether it’s spring, fall, winter or summer, here are some tips on how to keep your apartment kitchen, closet, bedroom and living room spotless.
  • Now that you and your roommate(s) have moved in, it’s time to host a board game or dinner party. We’ve got the dos and don’ts for each.

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