By now, you’re probably well read on how to deal with a bad roommate. But what if you're the one who's bad? It can happen, especially because most college freshmen have never lived with a roommate before. However, being a good roommate is definitely doable—it just comes down to courtesy and respect. Read on for HC's tips on being the best roommate ever to make sure your living situation is pleasant and fun!
1. Set your ground rules early and listen to her requests.
Talking to your roommate about issues like sexiling, cleaning schedules, and sharing clothes can be a little awkward, especially when you still don't know her very well yet. But setting ground rules is essential for making your living experience manageable. For example, if you aren't comfortable having alcohol in the room, tell her right away (before she can go on a beer run). If you feel like you have a lot of differences, you can even create a roommate contract to make sure that both of your preferences are being met.
Suzzette, a recent grad of the University of Puerto Rico, thinks setting guidelines at the beginning of the year is really important for keeping the peace. "Based on all my experiences with roommates, it's essential that from day one you lay the ground rules, just so you both are on the same page," she says. Suzzette and her roommates set rules about cleaning and having company over so everybody knows what is expected of them.
2. Clean up after yourself.
Nobody likes to live in a room littered with dirty dishes, overflowing garbage cans, or laundry all over the floor. It's totally understandable to put off washing your dishes when you have a huge exam the next day, but make sure your mess doesn't stay there too long. Not only can it be annoying for your roommate, but it's kind of gross, too! The key to keeping clean is getting into good habits early on. At the start of the school year, put all your laundry in a hamper—not on the floor. Get used to washing each dish after you use it and taking the trash out every week. If you start off your cleaning habits early, it won't seem too hard to keep it up during the rest of the year.
Also, if you clean your side of the room regularly, your roommate might follow your lead. "I try to lead by example—I’ll go out of my way to take out the trash, Swiffer the floor, and do the dishes," says Alicia from Penn State. This way, your roommate might take notice of how much cleaning you do and follow suit. But if she doesn’t, remember to talk it out with her directly yet politely—don’t be a passive-aggressive note writer! Let her know that you’d like to split up the chores evenly and create a cleaning schedule.
3. Respect her privacy
While it might sound like a no-brainer, don’t borrow your roommate’s stuff without asking! Later on in the semester, you and your roommate might decide to start sharing clothes and food. But until you talk about it, borrowing her stuff is off-limits. Using her stapler once or twice won't be a big deal. However, eating her food, taking her school supplies, or borrowing her clothes is a big no-no!
Also, don’t go through your roommate’s stuff, no matter how harmless it may seem. Getting privacy is hard enough while living in a dorm, so don’t snoop on your roommate! Don't invade her privacy by going through her personal belongings, looking through her cell phone, reading her journal, or checking out her browser history. If your roommate did that to you, you'd be upset, too.
4. Try to bond with your roommate.
At the beginning of the year, it can be hard to tell if you and your roomie will really click. Make it easier by trying to form a relationship right off the bat. Plan to go to the dining hall together during the first week of school to get to know each other and find out what you have in common. Discovering that you both love Harry Potter or want to join the same intramural team can help the two of you develop a friendly relationship early on!
5. Keep your stuff on "your side."
In most dorms, each person gets a bed, a dresser, a desk, and a closet. Your room will likely be set up in a way that all your furniture is on one side of the room, and your roommate's is on the other. Keeping track of your stuff and maintaining your privacy can be a lot easier if each of you claims one section of the room.
Katherine, a student at Northwestern University, found that separating her and her roommate’s stuff by sides was really helpful. "My sophomore roommate was neater than me—my closet and desk were pretty disorganized and messy, but I never left stuff out on the floor or on her side of the room," she says. Contain your stuff to the furniture on your side of the room; don't let your belongings wander onto her turf. Not only will you be able to keep track of your things more easily that way, but you'll also avoid annoying your roomie.
6. Respect your roommate's sleep and study habits.
Everyone does homework differently. Some people have no problem studying with lots of noise, while others need total silence. Ask your roommate what time of day she likes to study and if she needs total silence to do it or can stand a little noise. Then, help her out when she’s hitting the books by accommodating her needs. If you need silence when studying but your roomie is used to music, just ask her to put headphones in. Alternatively, find a new place to study, like the library or the lounge in your dorm, so she doesn’t feel like she’s not welcome in the room when you’re working.
Similarly, be quiet when she's sleeping, whether it's at night or during the day. Avoid having friends over late at night if she goes to bed early, and don’t invite people over when she’s napping. "My freshman roommate slept a lot during the day and didn't like me to be in the room while she was sleeping, so I usually planned to be elsewhere most of the day," Katherine says. This applies in the morning, too. If her classes start later than yours, let her sleep in the morning by blow drying your hair and doing your makeup in the bathroom so you don’t wake her up with light or sound. Tiptoe around the room, and don’t let the door slam on your way out!
Of course, you shouldn't be expected to stay out of your room all day, nor should you expect your roommate to never come into the dorm. Talking over these things at the beginning of the year can help you plan your schedule, keep things balanced, and keep up a good relationship with your roomie.
7. Be reasonable about guests.
You and your roommate should both be allowed to have guests over, whether just to hang out or to spend the night. To avoid drama, text or talk to your roommate ahead of time to see if she's okay with you having guests over. Have your visitors over at a reasonable time—not when she's going to bed or studying for a major test. If you have guests over a lot, check in with her once in a while and make sure she’s still comfortable with you having people over so often.
Then, there's the whole sexiling issue. "If you want to be a good roommate, don't spontaneously sexile them!" advises Nicole, a collegiette at the University of Michigan. "Establish a schedule for when you each consistently have class or work. That way, if you do want to bring somebody over, you know the times your roommate won't be there."
Similarly, be respectful of her guests—she's entitled to have people over, too! It's nice to give your roomie some privacy. If she texts you asking if she can have a guy over for the night, it's best not to start an argument right then. Keep the peace by finding somewhere else to stay that night, then talk about it the next day in person if it bothered you.
8. If you break or lose her stuff, tell her!
Accidents happen, and the least you can do is offer to fix the problem. If you break or lose something of hers, tell your roommate as soon as possible—it's better than her wondering what happened or finding out from someone else. Then, offer to replace her belongings.
On the other hand, if she breaks or loses something of yours, remember that she's human! It's also totally reasonable to ask her to replace it for you. Remember to choose your battles and to not sweat the small stuff. After all, you have to live with her all year!
Of course, if things get out of hand or you think you can’t handle the conflict, remember that you can involve your RA to sort things out.
9. Don't act like you own the place.
It's as much her dorm room as it is yours. Before making big decisions for the room—like moving around the furniture—consult with your roomie first and find a compromise that suits both of your needs.
When you're in the room alone, you should usually assume that your roommate will be back soon. It's her room, too, so you never know when she might walk through the door! That means you shouldn't hook up in your room or do anything else potentially embarrassing unless you know for sure that your roomie won't accidentally walk in on you. Not only will this save you some embarrassment, but it will also ensure that your roommate feels comfortable in her own room.
Now that you're in college, you're expected to act like an adult. So, when there's a conflict between you and your roommate, be mature and calmly start a conversation about it—don't be passive-aggressive. "My roommate has a knack of leaving b*tchy notes everywhere or Facebook messages us rather than talk to us in person. Not cool!" says Heather, a student at University of Oregon. She suggests being upfront to solve problems rather than avoiding a face-to-face talk, leaving written messages, or confronting your roomie via text.
Erin, a recent grad of Towson University, experienced similar problems with her roomie. "Many times we talk to other people about the situation instead of addressing the person you have the issue with," she says. "But talking things out can make sure you understand each other and it won’t happen again. Just be sure not to use accusatory language [like] 'you did' or 'you are.’ Always use 'I' statements, [like] 'I feel' or 'I think,' to avoid bigger arguments." For example, instead of accusing her by saying, “You always turn the light on when I’m trying to sleep,” say, “I would really appreciate it if you could keep the light off when you get ready in the morning while I’m still sleeping. Could you do your makeup in the bathroom instead?”
At the end of the day, living with a roommate is tough. But you can make the whole journey a little easier by striving to be the best roommate around! In general, treating your roommate as you’d want her to treat you is a good rule of thumb. You may have to deal with a tough roommate, but at least you know you’re not the bad roomie!