My previous roommate and I lived together for three years. During this time, we got in a total of zero fights. This, despite the fact that we hung out often, at various times had classes together and worked together, and I pretty much always owed her money.
Being good roommates is not just as easy as just being friends, though—we all know the horror stories of best friends becoming mortal enemies after living together. When you’re living with another person, making it work is as much about being a good roommate as it is about having a good roommate. It takes some personal accountability, and a willingness to do your part (and sometimes, do it again) before pointing fingers.
What made the two of us great roommates was that we paid attention to the little things—stuff that’s so important—and we made sure to give each other a break. Here are four things you can do to make your living situation feel like home, and not a constant combat zone.
Share Your Baked Goods
Okay, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your baked goods (although in my personal experience, nothing brings roommates together quite like a fresh-out-of-the-oven batch of brownies). But, you have to be willing to do a reasonable amount of sharing. If my roommate ran out of shampoo and used some of mine—it wasn’t a big deal. If I waited two months to do laundry (hypothetically, of course) and needed to use her drying rack in addition to mine (and the couch, and all the kitchen chairs, and the coffee table) to hang up my delicates—this was also no problem.
When you’re sharing a space, you’ll make life much easier and more pleasant if you share things rather than trying to segregate everything into “yours” and “mine.”
Don’t Take Without Asking
That said, you’d probably be upset if your roommate walked in the door one evening wearing a pair of your shoes, even if you might’ve had no qualms about letting her borrow them if she’d asked first. (As my older sister can attest, 99% of our fights growing up were a result of me “borrowing” her stuff without her permission.)
Take it from me, it’s much easier to just ask first than to have to apologize later.
Get Some Space
Even though being with your roommate all the time can be fun, everybody needs a break. So, having adequate time and space away from each other is very important, especially if you share a small space.
I learned this the hard way my freshman year. My dorm-mate and I spent every second together that we were not in class. This explains the blow-up: a no holds barred fight that ensued when she left a towel on my bed. Yes, it seems ridiculous. Normally I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But when you don’t have breathing room, tensions get high and any small situation becomes ripe for conflict.
Don’t let it get to this point. No matter how much you like each other—make sure you’re getting some much-needed time apart.
If it’s your roommates turn to buy toilet paper, and you notice the roll is getting low and she still hasn’t replenished the stock—don’t just fume about it, or worse, leave one of those smiley-face-ridden sticky notes letting her know. Simply tell her. If she borrows something without asking and you’re upset, or you hate that her boyfriend’s friends always hang out at your place, let her know and talk it out.
Holding grudges or leaving snide hints solves nothing, and it can lead to a build-up of a lot of misunderstanding. Confrontation can be uncomfortable, but better to face it now than have little things add up and create a rift between you over time.
When you move in with someone, liking each other and getting along is only half the battle. To really set yourself up for roommate success, make sure you pay attention to the little stuff, too.