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5 Tips for Getting Along With New Roommates

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February 6, 2021
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Living with roommates has many benefits — you can split the cost of living, share chores and become close friends. However, moving in with new roommates is always a transition. Learning how to adapt will improve the experience for everyone. Follow these five simple tips for getting along with roommates to get acclimated successfully.

1. Establish Boundaries

If you're wondering how to comfortably live with roommates, the first step is to establish clear boundaries. Reflect on your needs and schedule an in-depth conversation with your new roommates. Be specific — define terms like "late at night," "early in the morning," "noisy" and "large groups" using exact numbers, as you may have different understandings of these concepts. Discuss your preferences regarding all the following areas:

  • Dividing chores: This is one of the most important issues to discuss right away. Many conflicts arise when one roommate feels they're doing more chores than others. It's a good idea to create a chore chart so everyone has equal responsibility.
  • Matching standards for cleanliness: Make sure everyone's expectations are clear when it comes to cleanliness. If possible, find someone to live with whose standards match your own. Someone who tends to be tidy might feel stressed when living with a more laid-back roommate. Alternatively, someone who is laid-back about chores might find strict demands overwhelming. If your expectations are different, try to honor each other's wishes and maintain respectful communication.
  • Splitting finances: Decide as soon as possible how you will split the costs of living, including rent, groceries, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. Keep detailed records of who pays for what to ensure fairness.
  • Sharing items: When you live with someone, it might make sense to share certain items. For instance, if you have one bathroom, you're bound to share toilet paper rolls and hand soap. Establish which items you're comfortable sharing. Can your roommate use your hairbrush? Can they borrow your clothes? Set rules for sharing items.
  • Hosting visitors: Decide when and if it's okay to have guests over. Set limits for how many guests can be in your communal space at a given time, and determine whether or not guests can stay overnight. You might also want to discuss the types of activities you can tolerate, including noise levels and substance use. Establish how late you and your roommate can have guests over on different nights of the week.
  • Having pets: Whether or not you're allowed to have pets is likely out of your hands. If pets are permitted, discuss whether or not you prefer to have any. For instance, if you're allergic to cats, make sure your roommates know not to adopt a kitten. Before bringing home a pet, make sure everyone is on board.

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2. Communicate

Open communication is important in any interpersonal relationship. Be honest and upfront with each other — passive aggressiveness and gossiping tend to create more problems than they solve. If you're having trouble talking with your roommate, try following these helpful communication tips. It may be a good idea to plan regular meetings with each other, during which everyone has time to speak. This is most important early on before any resentment or irritation has time to form. You might want to write up a complete contract, collaborating with your roommates.

When you communicate, always be considerate and respectful. Avoid sarcasm, non-constructive criticism, or raising your voice. Try to approach the situation with empathy, imagining things from each other's point of view. Keep your emotions in check and practice engaged listening. If you and your roommate have trouble agreeing on any issues, decide how to compromise. Come up with concrete solutions for these obstacles rather than letting issues fester.

3. Bond Over Common Interests

You already have something in common with your roommate — you can bond over the experience of living in a new place together. Make time to explore the area with each other. When the weather is nice, explore outdoor destinations like parks, zoos, and beaches. Most outdoor destinations are free or inexpensive, so they make a great budget-friendly way to spend a day. Check out local bars, coffee shops, and restaurants, as well.

You can also bond over specific activities together. Talk about the things you like to do and try to find some common ground. Maybe you both enjoy playing volleyball, doing arts and crafts, or wine tasting. If you want to build a strong relationship with your roommate, plan activities together from time to time. The more time you spend doing fun things together, the less you'll feel like strangers. Quality time can foster a more amicable relationship.

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4. Get to Know Each Other's Schedules

One of the most important tips for living with roommates is to know each other's schedules. Share your schedules with each other — including when you need to go to bed, when you need to wake up and when you need quiet time. If this changes from week to week, keep each other updated. You might want to use a dry-erase calendar or a schedule-sharing app.

Providing your schedules will make it easier to respect each other. If your roommate has an exam on Wednesday morning, you'll know not to invite a rowdy crowd of friends over on Tuesday evening. You'll also know when it's okay to reach out to each other, so you can avoid calling your roommate when they're in an important meeting. What's more, this can help you stay safe. Knowing when to expect each other home can help you determine if there's cause for concern.

5. Find Time for Yourself

As much as you want to bond with your roommates, make sure you carve out some alone time, as well. Spending too much time with someone can cause you to butt heads. Give yourself some personal space. If you share a bedroom, that might mean going out to a coffee shop or park on your own from time to time. It could also mean popping in some earphones and creating a sense of separation. If you do share a room, you can come up with clever ways to separate your space. You might want to hang curtains or tapestries to create clear divisions and privacy.

Be sure to respect your roommate's needs for alone time. This circles back to communication — talk about how often you each need personal space and what that entails. It can be easy to feel offended if you're an extrovert with an introverted roommate. Keep in mind that everyone's social battery is different and that respecting personal space will foster a healthier relationship in the long term.

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Make the Most of Living With Roommates

Though moving in with a new roommate can be a challenging adjustment, it can also be rewarding and even life-changing. Your roommate might become a lifelong close friend, and your learning experiences will teach you valuable lessons. Try these tips for how to get along with roommates to make the process easier. Be proactive — open up lines of communication and set boundaries before issues arise. If you do encounter problems, express your feelings in a healthy, upfront way.

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