Letters To My Younger Self Roommate Code of Conduct Ingrid Haas

Dear Ingrid with Roommates,

You are going to have roommates, if you’re lucky, for most of your life – starting with your parents and siblings, then as an adult you’ll live with friends… then the cycle will end (I hope) with you living with the family that you created.  Start understanding how to live with people. It ain’t easy, but it’s worth figuring out.

Roommates are kind of like family because you live together. But they are drastically different because you can’t cross that line, that very special line, that is only ever acceptable to cross with your family.  You know exactly what line I’m talking about… The line that you crossed when you lost your mind after your sister stole your bra, so you threw her clothes into the snow?! That line can never be crossed with roommates. Never ever.

Roommate Code of Conduct isn’t mandatory reading in schools yet… but it should be.  Everyone has their own unique way of “keeping a house” and they differ from roommate to roommate.  It’s important to communicate your expectations if you’re sharing space. Wishy-washy is never a good thing.

Finding a good match for a roommate isn’t always easy. Some people are blessed with living with their best friend. Some people move in with their long-term boyfriends/girlfriends. Some people find people off of Craigslist. I’ve done 2/3 of those options and they are always a bit tricky to navigate.

But… once you’ve gone through the process of finding the right roommate, now you have remember that even though you’ve found the perfect new house…it’s your responsibility to make it a home.  One of the best and easiest ways to do that is with common courtesy.  If that escapes you, here are ten simple rules to live by when living with roommates.

1. PAY YO’ BILLS: Just because your credit card company doesn’t ask questions about your new hot pink, $500 pony hair purse and lets you pay it off 6 months after you bought it doesn’t mean the world works that way. Pay rent on time. Pay all bills on time. If your roommate fronts the bill for something, pay them back right away. People get weird with money – it’s a thing. Avoid this by being a responsible human and pay yo’ bills.

2.  CLEAN YO’ DISHES:  If you’ve got a dishwasher, you’ve got nothing to complain about… when they are clean, take them out. But if you don’t have a dishwasher, just wash them after you use them. Easy. Simple. Get it done.

3. BE THE GUY THAT RE-FIILLS STUFF: So easy to forget this one. Try being the guy who remembers the stuff everyone uses; the salt, the sugar, the oregano.  And just you watch! A much happier home it’ll be.

4. FAMILY DINNER: Sometimes when you live with people, you forget about spending quality time with them. Take time to sit down, eat together and share your lives with each other. The same way you would if you didn’t live together and actually made plans to hang out.

5. CLEAN THEIR ROOM: JUST KIDDING!!! Do not go in their rooms! Do not touch their stuff! Do not take their clothes, unless you have that agreement already. Living with people involves a lot of trust, so be aware of each other’s personal spaces and respect it.

6. BE HONEST BUT TREAD CAREFULLY: If something is bothering you about your living situation, it’s important to be honest and open about how you are feeling.  However, sometimes it’s just better to keep the peace in the house than to get everything off of your chest. Think about what you are really upset about and when you’ve decided that something is too big to avoid, have the conversation in an open and loving way. Remember, you live together and are hopefully very good friends.

7. CLEAN THE BATHROOM: Bathrooms are oftentimes shared spaces. They are a room designated for bodily functions and yet, they are the one room in a home designated for CLEANING.  WHAT A DICHOTOMY! Keep it clean. Pick up your fallen hair, wipe the sink and flush the toilet. No one wants to see what you were doing in there. When they walk in there, it should always be a fresh start.

8. SHARE: You have decided, whether by choice or circumstance, to share your living space. Be cool about sharing your stuff, too. You obviously don’t have to share everything…but a little give and take goes a long way.

9. BEDTIME: Be aware of your roommates’ sleeping patterns. If you know they go to bed early because they have long days at work, don’t invite your loudest and most annoying buddies over to party until 6am on a weekday.  This is really basic stuff, but very easily overlooked when you are in the mood to rage.

*Lucky for you, Ingrid, you’ve slept through hurricanes, so your roommates can party as hard and as long as their red bulls will allow them.

10. JUST…BE COOL:  Sometimes it’s easy to blow things out of proportion when you live with people. People make mistakes and when you live with someone, it can feel like they make more mistakes than a normal human being. That’s not true, you just see a lot more of them than you do other people!  Be understanding, be open, be honest and try to see the best in the other person.

***BONUS*** SURPRISES: “No-reason-gifts” are the best! Give your roomie a surprise present every once in a while and see how much joy it brings into your house.  A funny magazine, a bouquet of flowers, freshly baked cookies or even their favorite tea are very easy ways to say “I appreciate you” without the awkwardness of actually having to say those words.

Hope that helps!

With love,

Your Future Self

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  1. I only had one roommate (college dorm) other than my hubby lol. And she was SO difficult to live with! She was always freezing so she would turn off the a/c unit, but the thing is, I was on the top of the bunk bed, and heat rises so it was always quite stuffy and warm up there. I also only used my phone after 9pm and weekends to save money, but the problem is..she went to bed at 8:30! WHO DOES THAT?! lol a college student going to bed at 8:30??? Unheard of! She was such a light sleeper too, even with earplugs and a eye mask on, she would constantly complain when I was on the phone, even though I was whispering as quietly as I could. I would have to sit outside in the hall but then I couldnt always go back to bed cause it’d wake her up :-S It was crazy!

  2. Great post! My BFF & I have been living & working together for the past 3 years & have won all the bets saying our 8 year old friendship wouldn’t last because of it. Following a set of rules that is very similar to the ones mentioned here made it all possible. Along with a couple rules regarding each other’s giant smelly dogs.. Figuring out how we’ll live without each other is another story.

  3. I wish my roommates last year read this.. One of them left the bin bag out in the kitchen instead of taking it down to the communal bin, one of the cats opened it up and spread out all the rubbish all over the kitchen floor.. Said roommate whose fault it was didn’t clean it up, so my other roommate (instead of cleaning it and telling her off for it later) swept all the rubbish into her bedroom and went away for the weekend.

    It was the most immature interaction between adults I’ve ever seen, and it was just because they were so not cool to each other!!

  4. I have had three random roommates (2 female and 1 male) that I did not know at all before moving in. Also my best friend and I were roommates for two years in college. I never had any arguments or falling outs with any of my four roommates. I have to agree with all of the points you make in the article because these are the reasons our relationship was always successful. You must give respect first to earn respect back. Fortunately all the people I have lived with were awesome. I am still friends with 3 of them.

    P.S. Yes, little gifts for no reason or free home-cooked meals are the best!

  5. Now, if only my roommate would listen to this!

  6. haha this is great :)

    Anonymous | 3/13/2012 08:03 am