Moving Out: How to Live With Other People

Whether you’re planning on moving out of your family’s home or university residence, renting your first place can be a huge adjustment. Then, throw roommates into the mix, and you have a whole new social dynamic to work out. 

I have had my fair share of roommates, good and bad. I’ve found that a lot of tension between roommates comes down to having different standards for what constitutes clean or quiet, or simply misunderstanding the other person. 

The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that everyone thinks they’re the best roommate! It took me a while to figure out that as irritating as my roommates could be, I had just as many bad habits to work out. So I did (and still am — if my roommates are reading this, I swear I’m gonna clean the bathroom soon!).

Here are some habits to keep up that will make you a more bearable person to live with.

  1. 1. Keep up with your dishes (and keep them out of the sink!).

    Especially if you have limited counter space, your roommates won’t appreciate watching your dishes pile up next to the sink. They’ll like it even less when dishes start ending up in the sink. Once you’re doing that, you’re just making it impossible for them to clean their dishes.

    Pro-tip: get in the habit of washing your dishes before bed, so you can wake up to a clean french press and no stress!

  2. 2. Clean out the lint trap.

    If your parents did all your laundry growing up you might not know this, but your dryer has something called a lint trap! The more loads of laundry you do, the more it fills up with lint, and the more it becomes a fire hazard.

    Pro-tip: Keep a bag or garbage can next to the dryer as a convenient place to empty the lint trap when you’re finished drying your clothes. 

  3. 3. Learn how to sort recycling.

    If you sort it wrong, there’s a chance your recycling won’t be picked up. Now you have to wait two weeks to try again, and your roommates are pissed that you mixed glass and plastic together. If you aren’t sure, check your local guidelines. Victoria even has a game to help you learn their rules, which you can play here.

    Pro-tip: create an in-house sorting system using a set of bags or bins, each for a designated material (glass, paper, metal/plastic). It makes recycling day so much more efficient!

  4. 4. On that note, rinse out your recyclables.

    And remove things like little metal bits, liners, and other non-recyclable materials from your takeout boxes and food containers. Things like jars don’t need to be spotless, but a jar caked with old jam is just gross for you and the people who have to deal with it once you’ve tossed it in the bin. 

    Pro-tip: read up on local recycling guidelines. Here’s Victoria’s CRD recycling prep sheet, which will help you get your items ready for pickup. 

  5. 5. Communicate with your roommates.

    You don’t have to be best friends with your roommates, but you do need to talk to them. If you have a problem with something they’re doing, you need to tell them and try to find a solution. They might not even know that they’re bothering you!

    Pro-tip: Sit down and get on the same page about guests, quiet hours and chores.

  6. 6. On that note, be open to criticism.

    My first reaction to criticism is to feel defensive. That might be yours too. But it’s important to not react defensively or try to deflect blame. Try to see where your roommate is coming from. 

    Pro-tip: If you’ve been slacking on chores and a roommate brings it up, thank them for the reminder and apologize for neglecting the housework. Then, change that behaviour! Apologies only go so far, but showing your roommates that you’re listening will make them more likely to listen when you bring issues up with them. 

  7. 7. Respect common spaces.

    The kitchen, living room, and bathroom are everyone’s responsibility. Don’t spread your stuff out across the dining table, or leave your shoes and coat on the floor instead of putting them away. Make sure you’re leaving space for everyone else. 

    Pro-tip: Just like you’re washing your dishes at the end of the day, do a sweep of shared spaces and gather your things. Hang up your coat, push in your chair, and bring your homework to your room.

  8. 8. Google is your best friend.

    If you don’t know how to do something, like clean a toilet or a dishwasher, that information is online. It’s not an excuse to not do a chore. Can’t find the answer online? Ask your roommates! It might feel embarrassing, but they would rather you learn than do nothing. 

    Pro-tip: If someone tells you to mix cleaning products as part of their cleaning tutorial, don’t do it, please! That’s how people accidentally flood their house with chlorine gas. To avoid this, my general rule of thumb is to not mix products, unless those products are vinegar and baking soda, and to only use bleach when necessary.

There are a lot more intricacies to having roommates than following my advice here, but these small things really do add up. Just remember, your roommates are learning too, so leading by example will help you create a peaceful and fun place to live. Good luck out there!