September 10th, 2007 Jamie
Whether your new roommate is a friend from high school or a total stranger, you’ll probably find that living with someone is completely different from hanging out at night or on the weekends. Some roommates who start off well together end up not-so-friendly by the end of a year of living together, mostly because they don’t communicate well about what they want out of the living situation. If you want to keep (or start) a friendship with your roomie, it’s a good idea to get everything out on the table right from the beginning.
Setting Ground Rules
One thing that makes a big difference is talking to your roommate about “ground rules”—rules that you both agree to abide by.
It might sound like an awkward conversation, but it’s necessary for two reasons: First, you are both used to a certain lifestyle, so you will both have opinions about how your life goes (and your roommate will affect that). Second, you will want to set the rules before one of you does something that makes the other uncomfortable (or angry).
Keep in mind—this shouldn’t be an angry or accusatory conversation, just a calm discussion of what you are both okay with and what you would like to avoid.
When to Set the Rules
It’s best to set up the ground rules as early as possible, because they can act as a barrier against roommate problems.
You might even want to set rules before you even move in to your dorm room or apartment. If you don’t want to talk face-to-face, discussing rules beforehand is even better, because you can do it via IM, email, or over the phone.
What to Talk About
My roommate and I had rules about quite a few things—like giving each other advance notice if guests were going to crash on our floor. You don’t want to walk into your room and find a party raging on your last cramming night before a big final. Here are a few things you might want to talk about with your roommate:
- Overnight guests
- Guests of the opposite sex
- Cell phone use (hours, in the room or in the hall, etc.)
- Music (types, volume, headphones)
- TV use
- Study time
- Borrowing clothes & other belongings (DVDs, CDs, etc.)
- Sharing (or not sharing) food
- Alarm settings (how many times can you hit snooze?)
- Locking the door
- Using each other’s things (microwave, fridge, TV, computer, stereo, etc.)
Basic rule of thumb: if there is anything you are worried about, you should bring it up now. You’re a lot more likely to get into a screaming match if your roommate has already been doing something obnoxious for weeks.