10 Easy Ways to Be a Good Roommate

published Oct 30, 2021
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If you’re entering a new living situation, paying rent on time is far from your only concern. Along with managing payment arrangements comes worries about compatibility, space-sharing, and boundaries. While you may think you’re a natural neatfreak, super considerate, and an amazing home designer, your roommate might disagree. You could have different habits and tastes as they relate to, well, a lot of things.

Even with differences, a new roommate situation doesn’t have to turn into a horror story. There are several things you can do to make living with a roommate as peaceful and seamless as possible. All it takes to be a good roommate is some forward thinking and consideration. Ahead, find easy ways to be a good roommate from experts and veteran roommates. Fear unfamiliar roommate situations no more.

Credit: Getty Images | Delmaine Donson

1. Wear Headphones

You may think ‘90s hip hop is God’s gift to mere mortals on earth, but your roommate may not. When listening to loud music, watching YouTube videos, or getting lost in a rabbit hole of TikTok trends, throw on a set of headphones when you’re in the presence of your roommate. It can save everyone from possible headaches and do wonders in maintaining peace. 

2. Develop Rules Together

Not bumping heads with your roommate means making sure you’re on the same page. That requires you to set the guidelines of living together early. Discuss what time is an acceptable time to vacuum or play music on the weekends. Decide who gets to use the shower first and when guests are allowed over. Create a chore chart to determine who cleans what in the home. Setting these ground rules early will help make the experience smoother. 

3. Manage Expectations of the Relationship

Don’t expect to become best friends with your roommate. It could happen, but it’s not necessary for having a compatible living arrangement. 

“People often confuse living with roommates as living with their friends and family. A good roommate relationship always involves living with realistic expectations,” says Navish Jain, founder and CEO of CirTru.com, a roommate finder.    

Even if you don’t hang out all the time as close friends would, you could still show you care and build trust in each other. Offer to pick up something for your roommate if you’re heading to the store, or help your roommate stick to their schedule. Just don’t come to expect it all the time or force the interaction. 

4. But Also Make Time For Each Other

While it would be great if you and your roommate became best friends, it’s not necessary to have a peaceful living situation. Friends or not, you should still get to know each other personally. 

“For the values of cooperation and tolerance to be put at the forefront of your roommate relationship, you need an insight into your roommate’s thoughts, feelings, and current struggles,” says Eric Phillip, a home repair expert and founder of Dripfina, a water purification blog. “If you don’t have a lounge, a small kitchen table can become a hub for even quick catch-ups when you meet after work. Don’t underestimate the value of this small talk in a roommate relationship. It becomes the foundation for understanding and healthy communication when tensions flare.”

5. Respect Their Lifestyle Choices

It’s rare you’ll live with someone whose life and decision-making mirrors yours exactly. So, it’s important that you’re mindful in your words and actions so you don’t offend your roommate — even unintentionally. Whether it’s a religious, sexual orientation, or racial difference, take the time to learn about it on your own, and ask about identification preferences, restrictions, and more. Knowing what microaggressions are, and what potentially offensive language and behaviors to avoid will do wonders in creating a safe, healthy and happy environment for you and your roommate. 

6. Discuss Likes and Dislikes 

Do you know if your roommate prefers the toilet paper on the roll to come from above or the bottom? It may sound like a trivial thing, but it could spare yourself from contentious moments in the new living situation. 

“One important way to prevent conflict is for roommates to communicate openly about what they need to feel comfortable,” according to relationship expert Christopher Kokoski.  “For example, it’s common that one roommate needs complete silence at night while another requires some ambient noise from a TV before falling asleep. Find a happy medium if those needs are conflicting.” Discuss pet peeves early on to make sure you don’t end up clashing in future. 

7. Clean Up Immediately

Whether it’s a large spill or a little mess of crumbs, try to clean it up immediately. It’s not fair to leave your roommate looking at your mess because you decided you’ll get to it later. Make sure you build time into your schedule so you can clean up after yourself in a timely manner without feeling rushed. 

8. Assign Areas

One of the easiest ways to ensure bad blood in a roommate situation is to use their stuff, even mistakenly. There’s nothing worse than coming home from a long day of work dreaming of your favorite beverage only to discover it’s missing, likely taken by your roommate. An easy way to avoid this is to designate specific cabinets, shelves, or closets in various rooms in the home to avoid confusion. Problem solved!

9. Be Mindful of Your Cooking

Even if you are great cook and willing to share, you should be aware of the mess you’re making both physically and aromatically suggests Andrei Kryssov, veteran roommate and owner of modernguitarhub.com

If you’re making fish, for example, you could bake it in the oven versus cooking it on an open skillet. Cooking in the skillet will not only make a mess on the stove, but it will also leave your apartment smelling like fish for hours. It’s something your roommate will likely not appreciate. “Baking instead leaves virtually no mess and very little smell and a happy roommate,” he says. 

10. Don’t Bottle It Up

“It’s natural for roommates to feel a little friction sometimes. You’re two independent people, with different ideas about how to live your lives,” says Phillips.  When frustration boils up, find an outlet for it, whether that’s a designated time to talk about things or just a kindly worded Post-It note on the fridge.

Avoiding confrontation is the first instinct for many people, but in a roommate relationship, you have to find an outlet for talking about the things that bother you. Don’t bottle up your frustrations — let them out in a healthy way.