How to Live with a Roommate: Ways to Avoid Conflict and Develop House Rules

From college freshmen leaving home for the first time to young adults living with friends, these tips can make the transition to living with roommates easier.

Moving from one home to another is stressful enough, but add a roommate or two to the mix and it can seem downright terrifying. If you have not already met your roommates, try contacting them by phone, email, or a networking site like Instagram or Facebook.

See what they plan to bring to the dorm, apartment or house to avoid bringing duplicate items (such as pots and pans, TVs and DVD players, and excess furniture). Discuss any items neither of you owns and try to split any necessary purchases equally (and remember that whatever you bring you can use in a future home). Here's a list of useful but often forgotten items.

Keep in mind that everybody requires different levels of privacy, and even living with a friend who usually wants to talk and hang out with you at every moment might not feel the same way in his own home. Similarly, rooming with a former stranger could result in a lifelong friendship. The key is respect for privacy and more importantly respect for space.

Even if you end up with people completely opposite from you, with mutual respect and communication, rooming together could be more valuable and less complicated than rooming with a friend. Basic respect (like knocking before entering and keeping noise and light levels low when a roommate is sleeping) and the following tips combine to make the transition from single or family living to an exciting and rewarding roommate life.

Developing House Rules

Within the first few days of setting up the apartment and getting to know your new roommates (or living with old friends), ask everybody to meet to develop a set of house rules. First, ask what each person’s pet peeves are and make a list. Also, make a list of preferred chores of each person (maybe you have that rare roommate who would choose cleaning the toilet over sweeping the kitchen).

Keeping in mind everybody’s pet peeves and first and last chore choices, collaborate to make a fair list of chores (simply switching each week or so if nobody has preferences). It is useful to keep a calendar of each person’s chores in a common place (like the refrigerator) to help keep each roommate accountable.

Also, ask what kind of time schedule each roommate prefers; then, set up periods of quiet hours to respect each roommate’s need for sleeping and studying.

Avoiding and Resolving Conflict

It’s going to happen. Somebody is going to leave dirty underwear on the floor, pile trash way past its limit, or leave toenail clippings on the coffee table. Somebody is going to throw a party lasting until 3:00 the morning of a major chemistry exam. Is it possible to resolve such problems without bottling up or exploding?

Yes, but it requires following the most important rule, and the easiest to break: going directly to the roommate with a complaint. Discussing the annoyance with a friend, or even worse another roommate will only build the problem up worse than it actually is.

Though it can be difficult, especially in the beginning, confronting a roommate with a legitimate complaint at the time is much easier than attempting to resolve a conflict that has festered into a grudge against the actual person. This will lead to mutual respect and good communication.

Following these tips can make the transition from family or single living to roommate living a bit simpler. Though every person has annoyances and quirks, the key to living with anybody, be it a stranger or a best friend, is respect. Remember that nobody will, or should, clean up your mess and just because something does not bother you does not mean it won’t affect a roommate. It is with respect and responsibility that a rewarding roommate relationship is formed.