Living with others is tough—from sharing space to paying bills, cohabitating can put a strain on any relationship. This can particularly occur when you’re living with friends, who you might love and admire but have drastically different living habits from.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t live with your friends or that it can’t be an amazing experience! We polled our expert collegiettes for their tips on living with your friends, and they shared several strategies for successful cohabitation. Whether you’re just considering it, or if you already reside with your pals, refer to this guide to have the best possible living experience!
1. Communication is key
Our collegiettes agree: if you’re not open and honest with your roommates, things will go downhill fast. “I’ve found that relationships are strained when friends live together because they forget to be open, and communicate honestly with one another,” says Lexi Hill, a senior at the University of South Carolina. “My advice: bring it up. If your roommate leaves dishes out and that really bothers you, send a quick text letting her know.”
It can be hard to be upfront with friends, but living together constitutes a different kind of relationship than friendship alone. “As long as you both aren’t short-tempered and passive-aggressive, everything should be fine,” says Dajin Kim, a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin. No one wants to be unhappy in their living situation, so having an open channel of comfortable communication is to everyone’s benefit.
Related: Rooming With Your BFF: A Guide to Your Best, Most Drama-Free Year Yet
2. Common areas require boundaries
If you’re sharing any kind of space in your living area, make sure you establish rules about cleaning and space allocation too. “I would run into the problem of running out of space, especially in the freezer, because my roommate at the time didn’t want meat touching her tofu or frozen vegetarian meals,” says Stepanie Murray, a junior at Savannah College of Art and Design. “You don’t have to draw a line down the middle of everything, but make sure you have your designated spaces and your friend/SO/roommate has theirs.”
3. Have a clear understanding of chores and house rules
Though it can be tough to confront because of the nature of your friendship, dividing up household chores and rules is necessary. “My belief is that we thought everything was ‘fine’ because we were friends, so boundaries weren’t set in stone,” says Ashley Ortiz, a fifth-year at the University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras Campus. “I’d recommend talking about likes or dislikes while sharing a place, food arrangements, who’s going to pay for what and some house rules.”
Remember that living with another person means you have to take their living preferences into account—it simply isn’t the same as being on your own. “I’ve watched friendships suffer because one (or both) are bad roommates,” says Hannah McConnaughey, a junior at the University of Washington. “Never taking your turn buying toilet paper or dish soap might not seem like a big deal, but it sends a bigger message about how considerate you are of other people—especially if those people are the friends you live with!”
“What worked best for me was having a conversation about ground rules in the very beginning—whether this was discussing normal sleep times, guest expectations, cleanliness, etc.,” says Lauren Lee, a junior at Phillips Academy Andover. “And once my roommate seemed to be straying from these expectations, or I had other worries, I was upfront with her.” Everything comes down to you addressing issues head-on. Otherwise, people are passive-aggressive and there’s constant tension, and no one wants that!
4. Overlapping friend groups can be good or bad
If you and your friend share a common friend group, there are plusses and minuses to that situation, too. “Your social circles most likely overlap, so having friends over is no big deal,” Lexi says. “You’re able to plan going out easier and there’s more trust there—your roommates become an extended version of your family.”
On the other hand, having that much of your lives shared could eventually be detrimental to your friendship and living situation. “I currently room with my best friend and this is our second year rooming together,” Dajin says. “We have never had any real issues but I think the main reason is that we usually do our own thing.”
You don’t want to get isolated from other friendships or life commitments if you and your friend/roommate spend all your time together. “If you room with someone in your same friend group in which y’all end up hanging out and doing everything together, that can cause problems,” Dajin says. “Spending too much time with someone almost always causes issues.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting—or needing—to take some time away from a person.
Related: 6 Ways to Make Moving Less Painful
5. Conversations about money need to happen
Talking about bills and finances can be tense, but it’s absolutely necessary to maintain a home or apartment. “When living with friends, rent and bills come before your friendship,” says Stephanie. “My first off-campus roommate overdrafted her bank account by $2,000 a few months into living together. This made me uneasy in the months following our lease. Needless to say, our friendship is no longer and she ended up moving out.” Ideally, you and whoever you’re living with are fiscally responsible, but again, it’s another conversation that needs to happen—hopefully before you move in with the person!
Living with someone means taking their finances into consideration as well—you aren’t managing their bank account, but you are in a situation where there is a mutual responsibility to timely bill payments and contributing to shared household items like cleaning supplies.
“Remember, each of you are paying (or should pay) the same amount of rent, so you’re entitled to voice whatever is making you uncomfortable before it’s too late,” says Ashley. When it comes down to it, you need to put your financial wellbeing before your friendship, and your friend/roommate should understand that and feel the same way.
6. Living habits can differ from friendship habits
Living with your friend likely was or will be a huge wakeup call for both of you. “Your friend thinks she knows you well, but you may have personal pet peeves or sleeping rituals that are important to share with her once she becomes your roommate!” Lauren says. You might have spent tons of time together and been incredibly close before living together, but sharing a living space will likely transform your relationship—hopefully in good ways! Again, living with a friend constitutes an entirely different situation than friendship alone.
Your experience living with your friend doesn’t have to include any horror stories as long as you remember these guidelines. There will undoubtedly be stressful moments, but there are ways to remedy them.
“Good friends don’t always make good roommates, but when you’re lucky, it’s like having a sleepover every single night,” Hannah says. Here’s hoping everyone is very lucky!