Living with roommates is a staple of college life. Sometimes you'll get to live with someone you really get along with, but most of the time you'll just be acquaintances. Even roommates who you get along with will most likely get on your nerves a little with once in awhile, and I guarantee you you'll get on theirs. Maybe they leave their towels or dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. Maybe you leave a lot of dirty dishes in the sink. Maybe they're a little loud at night or in the morning, or maybe they don't quite get your boundaries. You'll avoid a lot of trouble farther down the line if you have a conversation about how you're going to live together early in the year. Here's a couple things that will help.
1. Decide how you're going to split utilities and stick to that plan.
As I'm an international student, I don't have a social security number, so my roommate deals with electricity and things like that while I pay for the internet. Then at the end of the year, we each add up how much we've paid, and whoever paid the least has to even it out with whoever paid the most. You might decide to set it up differently, and that's fine: just make sure it's dealt with early.
2. Do your own dishes.
Some people would disagree with me here and say put it on a rota. That's fine too, but I prefer simply taking care of my own dishes because it means that when I'm not home for a while, I can't very well stick to that rota. It also means that if one of us cooks a meal using a lot of dishes, the other one doesn't have to clean up after them. You'll also find that you'll probably end up using a lot less dishes this way.
3. Communal resources
You're probably going to be bringing with you things that aren't bedroom furniture and clothes. In terms of kitchen utensils, those are fair game. If you've got something super fancy that you'd rather your roommate not use, fair enough. But things like dishes, cutlery, normal pots and pans, toasters, cooking utensils, kettles, etc should be shared. If you're using your roommate's things, however, you need to be careful with them and make sure you clean them after every use: aside from dishes, if you break things or leave them dirty, expect your roommate to be reluctant to let you use them again.
One of you might have brought a television or a printer or something like that to the apartment as well. Here's how that works: ask if you can use it. If the person makes it clear you're welcome to and puts it in a communal area for that purpose, then fine, use it, but they get priority. Don't stop them from using their electronics when they want to use them or again, they might decide they don't want you using it anymore. If there's a printer, and you use it a lot, you should be chipping in for paper and ink if necessary.
This is all only communal for as long as you're living together. When you move out, take your things with you.
Household expenses like toilet paper and paper towels should be shared out equally unless you are the only one using them.
4. Keep the bathroom tidy.
Whether it's makeup all over the sink or underwear on the floor, the bathroom can be a major source of contention. Make sure you tidy it up after you use it: toilet flushed, underwear in the dirty clothes, toothbrush in the medicine cabinet, soaps neatly by/in the shower, rubbish in the rubbish bin, etc. And women, for the love of god don't flush your pads down the loo. It'll get blocked really, really quickly, and that gets nasty.
5. Sort out a cleaning rota.
Things that need to be done at least once a week:
- Clean the bathroom (sweep the floor, clean the toilet, clean in and around the sink, clean the shower/bathtub).
- Clean the kitchen (sweep the floor, clean the sink, clean the countertops, clean the stove).
- Take the rubbish out.
(That's all that has to be done in my flat, but you might have other things).
6. Quiet before 8 AM and after 11 PM
Living with a roommate means that you're going to have to put up with certain things. For example, you may end up living with an early bird when you're a night owl or vice versa, which means that people will likely be up at very different times. Between these hours, no loud music, no yelling, no clashing or clanging dishes (I'm guilty of this one, unfortunately), no taking showers (depending on where your bathroom is in related to the bedrooms and how loud the shower is), no jumping up and down, etc. Just be as quiet as possible.
Most people tend to be awake between these hours, but if you're not, you can't reasonably expect everyone else to tiptoe around you. Your roommate pays the same amount of rent as you (hopefully) so they should be able to use the common areas as they like. If you feel the need to sleep in until 1 PM or go to sleep at 7 PM, that's fine, but you can't expect other people not to use the common areas because your schedule happens to be like that.
Note: your roommate can and should reasonably expect to use the common areas any time, but between those hours, they have to be quiet. That said, if you're a very light sleeper and you're woken up by even the slightest noise, I suggest earplugs, noise cancelling headphones, sleep aids, or some combination of all three.
There is one exception to this rule: if either of you has to catch a flight or train at crazy time in the morning, that can't really be helped. Still try to be as quiet as possible.
7. If you don't wish to be disturbed, close your door.
Similarly, if your roommate has their door closed, that means do not disturb. Of course, there may be situations in which you actually have to disturb them. These are:
- Realtor scheduling
- Letting them know you're going to be out of town
- Utilities and/or rent discussions (payments, if utilities are not working, etc.)
If you need to talk about any of these things, do so , but remember their door was closed, so deal with what you need to or leave them be.
Don't take it personally if their door is closed either. It's generally nothing to do with you and a lot more to do with their energy levels/need to study/potential sex life, etc.
8. Don't hog the internet
Unless cost isn't an issue (come on, who are you kidding? You're university students. Of course it is), your internet is probably going to be the cheapest option available, which means it's probably not going to be all that fast. That means when both of you are home, you probably shouldn't do the following, depending on your speed.
- Torrenting large files (or at all: again, depending on speed).
- Downloading software.
- Downloading updates (unless absolutely necessary).
- Uploading large files.
Exceptions to this: sometimes billing websites suck a lot of bandwidth too. That can't be helped.
Also, if the internet is being ridiculously slow and needs to be restarted, warn your roommate before you do it so that they don't lose anything important.
9. Don't criticise your roommate's lifestyle.
If your roommate sleeps with a lot of people, don't comment. If you don't like the gender of the people they're sleeping with, don't comment. If you think they weigh too much, don't comment. If you don't think their personal hygiene is up to snuff, don't comment. If you think they eat too much or don't have a healthy eating schedule, don't comment. If their room is constantly messy, don't comment. If you think they drink too much, don't comment. If they smoke and you think it's unhealthy, don't comment. It's none of your business and it is not your place.
Exceptions to this rule:
- They are drinking too much and therefore causing damage to the house or throwing up places that aren't the toilet regularly.
- They bring illegal drugs into the house.
- They bring a gun into the house (even if it's legal. You have the right to be uncomfortable with a weapon in your home).
- They are smoking inside the house.
- The people they choose to sleep with actively bother you or make you feel unsafe (by this I mean they've actually interacted with you in a bad way or you've seen them doing something untoward, not that you don't know them).
- Their room is so disgusting that it's possible it might attract vermin.
- Their personal hygiene is so bad that you can't stand to be in the same room as them.
- They aren't eating and are losing so much weight that it's actually a problem and they might be in danger. Be careful when broaching this one: depending on the situation, it still might not be your place. Use context to determine whether or not to say anything, and probably ask a friend or two.
10. If you want to have a party, check with your roommate first.
There is nothing more unpleasant or irritating than coming home to find a party in full swing when you need to study (this has happened to a couple of people I know). Basic human decency guys. Also, both of you have a veto vote. If you want to have a party, but your roommate isn't okay with it, you're going to have to find somewhere else to have it. Sorry.
If you stick to these and use clear communication, you should be able to make it through the year without killing each other. Good luck!