How to be the best roommate ever

Roommates all add their own special ingredients to the cohabitation stew. Some come with big TVs. Some with poofy cats. Most come with some kind of literal or metaphorical baggage. And all, including you, are curious how this whole thing is gonna work out beyond the initial relief of having found someone ready to cough up their share of the rent.

It’s a fair concern. After all, this isn’t like dating someone. This is a somewhat legally binding contractual obligation between presumed adults! This is serious!! 

As purveyors of renters insurance, we see roommate pairings go pear-shaped every day for every reason imaginable. So to help, we’ve compiled this short list of tips or perfect roommate rules. They could help you form a “roommate agreement.” Or a “Cohabitation Constitution.” Or a “Bill of Roommate Rights.” Whatever you call it, just remember, a one-year lease term is not a very long time in the grand scheme of things. And very few character flaws are worth forfeiting a security deposit.

Two Women Hanging Out OutsideCommunication
The game of establishing house rules for roommates is all about the details. And trouble usually starts with the small stuff. So small, you’ll be hesitant to make an issue of it. But here’s the thing, confront the situation now while it’s still small and it will only take up 10 seconds of your life, give or take. Keep it positive, establish ground rules early and offer preferences rather than simply pointing a finger.

“Hey, would you mind putting your shoes in your room when you take them off?” 

“Oh. Okay.” Done.

Or you could wait a couple of months — really let the resentment fester in your belly — then one night, instead of sleeping, you can write a very formal, carefully worded yet pointed missive, fold it into an envelope, slide it under Sloppy Shoes’ door, wait until she reads it, then allow her to wrestle with her feelings of guilt, anger and defensiveness. 

She’ll probably need to call a friend or maybe her mom to ask how she should handle a response, and all the while, she’ll be wondering why her roommate didn’t feel comfortable just talking to her face-to-face like a grown-up! So yeah. Your choice.

Maybe you’re a slob. Maybe your roommate is. Either way, it’s best to default to cleanliness while sharing a living space. 

Being aware in the shared areas goes a long way; put your dishes in the dishwasher, pick your clothes up off the floor and clean the litter box because that is nas-tay!

Look at it this way: If you do your part and your roomie doesn’t do theirs, you get to lord your righteous indignation over their heads until they get their act together. Just kidding. Remember to communicate and keep the fun, but living with roommates is all about keeping it kosher. 

Guys Eating Together at a Table
Personal space
It would be lovely if your roommate could always be your BFF — if you liked the same TV shows and could go out every night, and get takeout and talk until the wee hours about, well, anything BFFs feel like talking about!

But being a best friend — or even an average friend — is not a prerequisite for roommate-hood. Civility. Respect. Responsibility. And good manners in the common areas. That’s what you’re looking for. Not lifelong companionship.

Besides, even your best friends are humans who need a sense of space that isn’t always shared. It takes a level of sensitivity to understand when someone needs to retreat into solitude. Remember, you get the space you give.

Fridge etiquette
Think of the refrigerator as a smaller, colder, humidity-controlled version of your apartment. Same rules apply. Respect space and property. Pay for your share. And keep it clean!

Transfer the takeout to resealable containers (just remember… Tupperware is not a tomb). Keep track of how long you’re warehousing your wontons and clean them out after a week. And keep a Sharpie nearby so you can stake your claim to your private stash.

Does it really matter if you borrow an occasional beer or some of your roommate’s milk? In the grand scheme of life, maybe not. But doing so constitutes a little act of subconscious aggression. Every refrigerator effrontery either translates to a bigger problem or else it indicates one.

Perfect roommate tip: better to ask permission first.

People Talking while Seated on a Couch
Fun fact: They call an apartment a “flat” over there. Not sure why. But they do. That’s all.

“Even” doesn’t always mean fair. Just ask Even Steven. He got screwed on utilities last month ‘cause his roommate started streaming on Twitch every night, six hours a night. And their PCs are wicked hot.

Then there was the time he had to go out of town during the holiday, but his roomies cooked up a backyard BBQ and voted to host the neighborhood in style. They also charged Steven for his share of the festivity expenses. Moral of the story: Split fairly, or prepare to split fairly soon.

In space, no one can hear you scream. When you’re living with roommates, everyone can hear you scream. Or talk. Or scratch your head. It’s not even science — it’s just plain obvious.

In small spaces, silence really is golden, and the silent treatment is the opposite of rude.

Agree on establishing some quiet hours and remember that an investment in some decent headphones is an investment in your well-being.

People Eating Pizza
Sharing,” as the oft ironically quoted saying goes, “is caring.”

Twee but true. Especially when it comes to roommates. The couch may technically “belong” to you, but unless your place has room for two couches, you need to let it go. That couch is now part of the commons.

Same goes for the remote, the TV and the kitchen table. You share the comforts and the responsibility.

In time, you’ll find that the communal spirit comes with its own sense of peace. Do our possessions really belong to us, after all? Or are they just accoutrements to our fleeting temporal existence? Namaste, y’all.

Houseguests suck. Your roommate’s guests suck, and yours do too.

It’s not that they’re bad people, and it’s not that you’re a bad person either. After all, you were willing to share your space with them while they’re in town. It’s just a fundamentally flawed dynamic.

It’s important to realize that in the entirety of recorded roommate history, there has never been a situation in which a guest didn’t cause a hassle of some sort. An overnight guest, more so. Start with that honest, open and forthright truth, and then you and your roommate can adjust your expectations accordingly.

Otherwise, maybe just go halfsies with your guest on an Airbnb so you can all be on vacation together.

Three People Taking a Photo in Cosmetic Facial MasksEmergencies
Already forgot everything you just read? No problem. Here’s the $100,000 question: “How would you put out a grease fire?”

If a potential roommate says they don’t know, or the phrase “cup of water” leaves their lips, consider a hard pass.

Oh, also be sure to get a fire extinguisher. And remember, Toggle® renters insurance covers kitchen fires!

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