Ladylike Laws: The Roommate Rules

Ladylike Laws: The Roommate Rules

Be forewarned: This is longer than your average blog post. This is a very big subject to cover, so bear with me. I promise you will be happy you read it (as will your roommates or future roomies)!

A while ago I was talking with some girlfriends about roommate horror stories, which got me thinking about the etiquette around living with another person. Whether you’re sharing a dorm room, living in your first apartment with a friend, or splitting the rent with a stranger, there are ways to make living with others fun and easy.

I put together some basic rules for those of you who have a roomie. Stick to these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to a peaceful coexistence.

Noise. When deciding to live with a roommate, you should first sit down and make sure that you both have somewhat similar weekly routines. Meaning, if one of you works a 9-5 job and needs to get to sleep early during the week, and the other works nights at a restaurant and will be coming home (noisily) at 2am every morning, that might not be the best match. The worst thing is feeling like you have to tip toe around your own home because you and your roommate have opposite sleeping schedules. One word of advice for living with roommates: Invest in a pair of top-notch earplugs. You will thank me later!

Decor. When decorating an apartment or house that you share with a roommate or two, remember that the shared living spaces (kitchen, dining room, living room, etc.) are just that–shared. Feel free to decorate your own room as you see fit; your own, personal space is where you can really get creative. Add twinkle lights to your bed, paint a wall with chalkboard paint, go crazy. But when it comes to the shared areas of your home, make sure to consult with them first before adding anything or making any drastic changes, such as painting a wall or covering a wall with photos. Communal area decor should be mutually agreed upon. And sometimes you just might have to compromise, which happens to be the key to growing up.

The Kitchen. First, let’s start with doing the dishes. We all know that it’s best to wash your dishes after you finish your meal, but for many of us, this doesn’t always happen. When you live with roommates, washing your dishes after you eat and making sure that the sink doesn’t start to resemble something out of an episode of “Hoarders” is the easiest way to keep the peace. Nothing creates more resentment than one roommate who feels forced to constantly clean everyone else’s dirty dishes. Regarding food and the fridge, it depends on what arrangements you’ve made with your roommate(s). If you buy food together, split the cost, and share everything, just make sure that you’re not feeding all of your friends with your roommate’s share of the food. If you and your roommate(s) have your own food that you buy separately, remember to always ask before diving into their supply. Most times, people are happy to share their food, but if you eat their treats without asking, things could turn ugly.

The Parking Spot. For those of you who have to share parking spots with your roommate(s), practice good parking-spot-karma. If you always take the parking spot (even when there’s street parking readily available), your roommate(s) will most likely start doing the same, and all common courtesy will go out the window when your roommate knows you’re coming home late (possibly with luggage in tow)… And you’ll find yourself parking many blocks away. Not fun. If you have tandem parking, my best advice is to make sure that each of you have keys to the other one’s car. Or simply always leave your keys in a common place. This will make life easier for a number of reasons. Especially if you have an early morning, and you need to move your roommate’s car and don’t want to wake her. Trust me, your roommate will thank you for this. Remember, what goes around, comes around.

The Closet. One of the perks of living with roommates can mean that your closet has just doubled (or tripled!). However, just because you can see your roommate’s favorite new shoes peeking out of her closet doesn’t mean you should wear them without getting her blessing first. The most important thing to remember when raiding your roomie’s closet is to always, always ask first. No exceptions. She may be totally cool with you wearing her new tangerine tank, but if you wear it without asking, it might make her feel uncomfortable to think that you were snooping in her closet without a proper heads up. And no one likes a closet creeper. Plus it’s dishonest. Besides asking first, always return clothes in the condition in which you borrowed them. This is essential. If you wear something of your roommates, make sure to wash or dry clean it before returning. There’s nothing worse than repaying someone’s generosity by returning their clothes covered in stains. Same goes for shoes, bags, and all accessories. If you damage a borrowed item, make sure to have it repaired (or replace it entirely) before you give it back to your roommate. You would hope they would do the same for you, right?

The Television. If you live with people who have the same favorite TV shows as you, consider yourself very lucky. In many cases, different roommates want to watch very, very different things. While one roommate can’t get enough of the Kardashians and the Real Housewives, the other roommate may be all about “Intervention” and “Hoarders.” In this situation, the safest bet is to set some ground rules. Rule #1: Do not delete your roommate’s favorite shows from the DVR, just because you NEED space to record the “Mob Wives Reunion” show. The ladylike thing to do in this case is to delete a couple of your shows to make space. If you do this, your roommate is more inclined to return the favor and delete some of her own shows when space is running low and she just has to record the season finale of “Swamp People.” Rule #2: Don’t lay claim to the TV every night of the week. If you know that Wednesdays and Thursdays are your favorite TV nights, let your roommate have a couple of their own nights, where she gets to choose what’s on the agenda.

Guests. If you have someone coming over, give your roomie a heads up and clear it with him or her first. It’s particularly important to talk with your roommate if you are planning to have someone stay with you for an extended period of time. This means more than one night. I remember hearing about a girl who had her mother come stay with her for a month and never even consulted her roommates. Not cool. The golden rule here is to be considerate.

General Behavior. Many of us girls resort to passive aggressive behavior when we don’t want to deal with an issue head on. Let me tell you from years of experience, this is never the way to handle anything. Ever. If you ever have an issue to air with your roomie, sort out the facts, come up with a few solutions beforehand and calmly talk with your housemate to figure out a resolution. Not only will this make your living situation more comfortable and open, it’s an essential life skill to develop so you know how to deal with people in difficult situations.

Needless to say, the most important thing to remember when living with a roommate or two is to be respectful. Always treat them the way that you would like to be treated. If you eat their food, you are telling them that it’s okay to eat yours. If you borrow their clothes and return them damaged or unclean, they’ll feel free to do the same. Treat your roomies with respect and common courtesy, and (hopefully) they’ll return the favor.

What’s your advice for keeping the peace while rooming with someone?

XO Lauren

You might also like…
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Ask Lauren: Boyfriends Before Friends?
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Categories: Etiquette, Grow, Ladylike Laws, Lauren Conrad
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  • Liesl

    It’s important to just always be considerate of the other person and to have good communication. I live with The Boyfriend, and so far we’ve had no problems. :-)

    Liesl xxx

  • Pressilla van der Poel

    This is great! I’m gonna live w/ my bestie next year, and well, we wanted to make some rules for the house, but couldn’t really find some that are actually helping us. jk, haha.



  • Sarah Heckle

    These tips are so good. I think everyone has a horror story, but I luckily have had awesome roommates. It’s all about being courteous and treating others how you’d like to be treated!


    check out my hi-low maxi from la redoute!

  • Larissa Wilhelm

    This is going to come in handy this coming Fall. I’m living with 4 other girls (5 of us total) and I’m extrememly nervous when it comes to sharing things especially food. Thank you so much for the tips Lauren! My advice for people living in dorms is don’t stay in your room 24-7. Let your roommate have some alone time in the room.

  • Melissa Panici

    Lauren this is excellent advice. I agree 100% with all of these rules. I had a roommate once and we got along great because of these rules. But we were also very compatible. Thank you!

  • Petra Zeller

    Great post. I’m not leaving with a rommate but with my boyfriend :) and we also have some rules :)
    xoxo, Petra <— please take a look on my first Outfit Post πŸ˜‰ thanks

  • Richelle Baker

    This an amazing post! I wish I would of gotten this almost a year ago. I had the worst experience with my last room mate. My advice, Before moving in with your room mate talk about having your boyfriends over. I moved in with my fiance and one of his friends. Well we should of asked how much the friends girlfriend was planning on staying. She was there 24/7 living there for FREE. We all had to pay for her and when we would bring it up, she wouldn’t come around for a couple days and then would start right back up again. Made so much tension between everyone that my fiance and his friend aren’t friends now. Don’t let this happen to you. Ask your new roommate about there significant other and how much they plan on coming around.

  • Renos Fy

    Lauren this is excellent advice. I agree 100% with all of these rules. I had a roommate once and we got along great because of these rules. But we were also very compatible. Thank you!

  • Rachel Moltz

    I’ve definitely had my share of horrible roommates! You are right – earplugs are absolutely key! My bed is next to a wall with stairs that creak so loudly. With 3 other people going up and down and 3 cats, earplugs saved my life! That and a white noise app. I just adjust my alarm to be super loud so I don’t sleep through it :)

  • Rachel Trampel

    These are all great guidelines! If only some of my old roommates could read these πŸ˜‰ I actually had the best experience living with my girlfriends senior year of college. In fact the only thing I remember being upset over was not seeing them enough! (Completely different from other years where I just wanted to get away from some of my roommates). I live with my boyfriend now and although we have never set guidelines, we have picked up on each other’s pet peeves over the past year, for example: no clutter on the counter, if the dishes are clean in the dishwasher, unload them and don’t leave clothes lying around the bedroom. It works well! :)


    Rachel“”>Rachel’s Lookbook

  • Saule Andriuskeviciute

    Communication is key!! Great advice. x

  • Kelley {Keep Sitting Pretty}

    Where were these rules when I was in college! Lol all great and I love how they are focused on always being considerate!

    XO Kelley

  • Samantha Seamon

    Hi Everyone!

    I’m looking for some advice. I just moved into my first big-girl apartment with a college friend in October, and coming from my point of view, its not working out. We have different opinions on when its appropriate to have boyfriends over, there was a pet for a couple months in which I was not happy about, and there have been issues with bill payments. So, I don’t want to hurt her feelings but I’m not planning on living with her once the lease is up. How do I tell her? I stay out of the apartment a lot and, again, I don’t want to hurt her feelings. She’s very emotional, and I don’t even know how to bring it up. HELP!


  • Melissa Panici

    @Renos Fy Why did you copy and paste my comment and stick a link below it? Im confused lol

  • Melissa Panici

    @Samantha Seamon That’s a tough one! I would sit down with her and talk to her about all of the things bothering you that you mentioned in your comment. If she gets emotional, let her know that you would be willing to work on these issues with her and maybe she will compromise with you. If not, I would just tell her that you can’t live like that but you don’t want to hurt her and she really needs to understand you. I hope this helps:)

  • Megan M

    I had a horrible roommate in college and I got stuck sharing a bedroom with her! She was a fashion major so she would pull all-nighters working on projects and then she would turn it in and for the next two days do nothing but sleep all day and night. No joke, she once slept 28 hours straight and never even got up to go to the bathroom or eat. I would go to class and she would be in the same exact position sleeping when I got home. I couldn’t study in my room because she snored like a freight train and her snoring woke me up at 3am every night through my ear plugs. I started throwing balled up socks at her head b/c I was so aggravated at how loud she snored and my lack of sleep. Once she even refused to do her weekly chore (we switched jobs every week) of taking out the garbage and it was piled on the counter because there was no room, so I finally had to yell at her to do her job. I ended up never speaking to her again after I moved out. It was a nightmare that year!

  • Janella Haf

    what a good post. I’m moving in with my bestie in September and I think some rules will be made then. We share almost everything now and I think it will get more and more, but we’re also really different. I’m the cleaner person and she’s the messy one. ^^

    THANK YOU I’ll keep this post in mind!

    xo Janella

  • marija jurlina

    when you have roomate, your relationship depens just about how good both of you are in making compromises…

  • Kelby Peachey

    If your not going to split the groceries, make sure you have equal parts of the house cleaning supplies!! For example: laundry detergent, lysol wipes, tissues, toilet paper. Those little things can add up and cause major drama that isn’t necessary. Also, a good old sharpie pen always helps label foods in the fridge. If your initials are on the food item it means you don’t want to share. Very important for those early mornings!!


  • Cassandra Adams

    I did a silimar post to this on my blog but I really like some of the stuff you put on here that I forgot to mention:


  • Michelle LaPorte

    I guess my roommate is my boyfriend haha! We split everything evenly between chores and shopping that way there isn’t any debate!!

    XO Michelle

  • Andrea Urdaneta

    This is SOOOO helpful, I’ve been considering getting roommates and I think that if I do, I’ll have them read this :)

    Thank you so much for posting it!

    x Andie

  • Nina Sydskjoer

    I should show this post to my roomie (and my ex roomie).. Currently living with my older sister (she’s 24 and I’m 18) and we’ve been living together since October last year.

    And I can honestly count on ONE hand how many times she’s done the dishes. We don’t have a dishwasher, so we (I) have to do it all by hand. Sometimes I do my own and see how long it takes before she takes a hint, but in the end the cupboards are empty and our kitchen bench is full.
    Which quickly results in over an hour of dishwashing for me.

    Same goes with everything that has cleaning to do with it. She also steals my shoes – not cool when you find yourself in need of that particular pair.

    Tried to talk to her about it, but she always says the same thing “”oh sorry, I’ll do it soon, I promise””

    All I can say is thank goodness we’re moving to our own apartments pretty soon πŸ˜‰

  • Rachael Olear

    Thank you so much!! I am going off to college soon and these are so helpful!!:)

  • Ashley F

    This is great! I hope some woman will actually take youe advise. Trust me. I have come from HORRIBLE roommate situations, where everything horrible could have been avoid using most of these courteous principles, and I have to advise everyone to at least try. The women I lived with were sorority sisters I knew for years, too, so it doesn’t matter how long you’ve known them!

    Being communicative is the best way to go with issues too! Just sayin!

  • Amy Breckenridge

    these rules are SO important – i’m so thankful you did a post on this! i hope everyone reads it. i live alone now because i’ve never been able to find roommates who were as respectful as i was, and i was always the one who had to compromise and never felt comfortable in my own home. i love living alone, but it would be great to find a roommate who is on the same page as me!


  • Marielisa Gomez

    It’s really helpful to know all these things.. When I lived with my roommie we got along pretty well, we never had issues on anything, but it’s really good to read this for future experiences… thanks!


    PS. I just blogged about good eating habits, in time for summer! Hope they’re helpful!



  • Martin M

    I think the Closet is the most important point :) XOXO

  • soupforthegirlysoul

    these are GREAT rules–I just finished my freshman year of college and some people definitely need to look at these!

  • Melissa LaRose

    These are great rules… I have been married for a little over a year and I can definitely agree that these rules are awesome!!!!!

    <3 Melissa

  • Melissa Riollano

    I’ve had some good memories with roommates and not so good memories. Of all the times, I’ve lived with strangers which has its advantages and disadvantages. If you can help it, find someone who is on the same page as you. If someone’s compatible then it will make the living together so much easier. Have roommate meetings to make sure everyone’s good about the situation and if there’s a conflict you can resolve it mutually and friendly. No one’s a mind reader so don’t expect them to instantly know how you’re feeling. Importantly, communication is key & treat them how you would want to be treated.

  • Tiffani Stuart

    This is AWESOME!! You pretty much covered it, my dear! I’ve never lived outside my parents’ home with a roomate, but I had lived 24yrs with my sisters & brothers… and let me tell you, they were the basis of me living ALONE for the last 7yrs, lol! There was always some kind of turf war thing going on… Siblings “”borrowing”” clothes and trying to sneak them back in the closet, different morning routines, etc… I’m sure that living w/a roomate is probably a little different than living w/family– but there are some similarities, I’m sure. I prefer to live alone– but if I ever decide to move in w/someone, this is what I’d expect from them, as well.

  • Autumn Dillon

    You forgot all about the issue of boyfriends coming over. They practically move in, take up space on the couch, use electricity and eat food out of the fridge. This can be a major problem. Or roommates that constantly have guys “”sleeping”” over. What a thrill that is…

    I had the worst roommate EVER that used to leave hot pink post-it notes everywhere when she didn’t like something or she would accuse me of stealing something. Once she accused me of stealing her plunger (gross!) and breaking it and demanded that I pay for it. Such a random thing to accuse someone of. She despised me so much that she made things up in order to start an argument. Maybe that was her way of getting me to interact with her?

    If both roommates do not put in the effort to get to know one another the experience will not be a good one for either party. This is of course the case for roommates that don’t know each other prior to living together.

  • Emilie

    Why not write up a roomie agreement like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory ahaha

    xo Emilie

    PS please check out my latest blog post @

  • Lauren Coulter

    I’ll be a senior in college this fall and I have had terrible roommates every year! I definitely am guilty of becoming passive aggressive when it comes to dealing with gross, messy, and loud roommates! I wish more people would adhere to these rules!

  • Rebecca Bakofsky

    OMG I wish you wrote this last year. I had a roommate from hell last year!! LOL. I live at home now πŸ˜€ Nothing like the comforts of home!

  • Blair Arms

    Great post! My advice would be to sit down with your roommate(s) and write up your own contract. Everyone agree on the rules of the house as well as what will happen after you move out and if they’re are expenses, who would pay them etc…

    I had a roommate who didn’t take care of her dog and the dog ended up ruining the whole apartment. She expected me to give her money when I had nothing to do with it.

    Just because you are very good friends doesn’t mean everything will be great when you move it. Seriously, draw up a contract among each other and sign and date it!

  • Gabriela Caracas

    you just defined my ex-roomate! she was terrible. even the mom part happened!!!!

  • Stephanie DiMaggio

    totally wish I would have had this when I had a roomate, haha!

  • Meghan Conard

    I’ve had my fair share of all of these issues! Especially the closet shopping…my newest pet peeve.

    Great post! I’ll be keeping these in mind when I move in with my BFF in 2 months!

  • Katjusha Bricman

    Just like you said… Talk and ask for permission. When you share an apartment, that’s basic manner. And don’t do things you don’t like others would do to you.

  • Charlie Ravens

    luckily my roomie back home is amazing! Though now that I live in Milan, I have to share an apartment with 5, DISASTER!

  • Becca Deveaux

    Good timing! My husband and I are moving in a big house with another married couple and their newborn…should be quite the adventure!

  • DancesWithHooves

    THANKS for another ladylike laws post!!! Frankly, your “”general behavior”” tip can be applied to LIFE in general… not just for roomie interactions but for any human interaction! If we could all learn to grasp this concept 100% of the time (myself included), I know we’d all be a lot happier! :0)

  • Anice Barbosa

    I love this! I have had my share of incosiderate roomies & I wish they would read this so other people won’t have to deal with their unpleasant antics.

  • Jacqueline Chan

    Hi Lauren,

    This is a brilliant post. Thanks so much.

    How would you handle the issue of taking out the trash? Especially when one roommate is unwilling to follow a set “”schedule”” and therefore leaves the same person to do it each time?



  • Sarah Glickman

    Literally came at the perfect time– I’m going into first year and ended up in a double room! Thanks so much :)

  • MrazLover

    ha I wish I had this my freshman year…my roomie was CRAZY

  • Anood Lari

    I don’t have a roomate, but this was fun to read. Maybe I could come back to this once im settled with someone lol.

  • Rebecca Lawson

    Awesome post Lauren!! I am going to print and save this one!!


  • Jaclynn Gourdier

    I go to FIDM (transferring out though) and right now, (thank God for only two more weeks) I have three roommates. Two of them are awesome, but the one I share a room with is like the roommate from hell. She’s rude, changes the channel on people, hogs the TV and couch, her side of the room looks like she belongs on a hoarder show, and doesn’t listen to the RA when she tells her to clean. Oh, and she locked me out last weekend in the middle of the night! She has no respect and I really wish she could read something like this.

  • Jenna Beef

    The earplug idea makes me uncomfortable. I want to hear everything if I’m alone in the dark. Ha!

  • Tiffani Stuart

    It’s like “”The Roomate Agreement”” on The Big Bang Theory! lol

  • Ashley Nieto

    Moving in with two roommates this week! Thanks for the post!

  • Erin Clews

    moving in to a house with three friends this fall, so this was a perfect time for this post! loved it, thanks lauren :)

  • Noor AlQ

    I am so thankful I never have to have another roommate bc they were all terriable even the ones who were my friends first ended up being people I couls not stand.

    xoxo, Noor

  • Emily Geaman

    My roommates and I painted a chalkboard wall in our kitchen the day we moved in– it was the most fun bonding experience and started us off on the right foot! Great tips here Lauren!

  • Ara

    I’m rooming with my best friend this summer…

  • Mary Katherine Wilson

    I’ve had roommates for 3 years now (7 if you count college). I think one of the most important topics that you mentioned in several different ways is communication. Communication is the key to EVERY relationship. Let them know the important stuff. If it’s really important and has a direct effect on their lives, then tell them in person or at least make a phone call. Text messages should only relay mundane info. :)

  • dee gauss

    Good post! :)

    I would add two more things:
    1) Make a cleaning roster!
    2) Always clean your own mess

    I had a horrible experience with a male roommate. We always had little issues with him, but there was this one day… I couldn’t stand it anymore.
    He went to the bathroom like 3 times, and never flushed!!! It was so disgusting!!! :( So I hanged a note by the toilet: “”Each one of us should clean their own mess. I am no Putzfrau (word for female housekeeper in german)!!”” A couple of minutes later, I found my note with the following answer: “”And I am no Putzmann (word for male housekeeper in german)!!”” I was like WHAAAAAAAAT?!?! From that day I stopped cleaning the house and it looked like cr*p because I was the only one who cared about it.

    So, remember kids… always clean your own mess! :)

  • Poopdeck

    These rules are too lenient on dishes. They say: “First, let’s start with doing the dishes. We all know that it’s best to
    wash your dishes after you finish your meal, but for many of us, this
    doesn’t always happen.” Then it mentions to avoid making the sink look like something on Hoarders.

    But you know what?

    One grain of rice in the sink is too much. One single spoon in the sink is too much. The sink is a common area, and the type of roommate to just put stuff in it “for later” is being a selfish jerk who doesn’t care that they’re needlessly getting in the way of their innocent roommates.

    The sink is not a sump basin. And it’s not a storage bin. It’s meant for washing. If dishes are just sitting in the sink (even just one spoon), then someone is being an a**hole.

    • Maggie Moss

      A single grain of rice is too much? A single spoon is too much? Get over it. Your room mate can’t be expected to have the same desire to do dishes all of the time as you. If that single grain of rice bothers you so much, then turn on the faucet and rinse it away psycho.

      It’s a matter of balance. If they are regularly cleaning up after themselves and their sole faux pas is leaving a single spoon in the sink from time to time then get the fuck over it because living with you isn’t all peaches and cream either.

      When sharing a home with someone else you have to be willing to compromise on your lifestyles. Sometimes that means a little flexibility on your part when your room mate works all week and is tired when they get home and after making dinner they do all of their dishes except missed that single damn spoon or didn’t sufficiently rinse the sink to where that single grain of rice is still there.

      Because heaven forbid they wash it later, put it away later, clean it later. You’re not the chore captain. You don’t get to decide what the reasonable timeline for completion of these tasks are for everyone else. Although maybe I shouldn’t have told you all of this, as I’m guessing this knowledge will rip a hole in the space-time continuum should you ever fully realize it.

      • Aleks

        Amen Amen Amen!!!

  • j

    What if you’re roommate doesn’t clean up and you have to clean up after him and all his girlfriend does is keep on talking nothing but nonsense when she is drunk every time she is over . It is hard to bring friends around her because she puts me and my friends down

  • Chrissy

    These are great rules, I wish other people had the same decency. Each roommate I have lived with and I would treat them the way I would like to be treated with dishes, cleaning, and laundry, seemed to be completely oblivious to the nice gestures I would do, like clean up after them, cook for them, and fold their laundry if I needed the dryer. Even if I would approach them and try to discuss it with a breezy conversation, they didn’t listen. Some people just don’t care. It definitely makes it hard to live with others when you start off giving them respect until they do something to lose it, and they don’t give you any respect until you do something to earn it. Weird how people are.

  • Patricia Pangelinan

    On the parking: I love the idea of each person having a copy of the others keys. That being said check with your insurance company and make sure that you have a contract that covers drivers that reside at your residence without being on your policy. There are quite a lot of companies out there that ether reduce your coverage, or strictly say if you have someone within your household they MUST be on your policy. Check with your agent, if you don’t have an agent read your policy or call an agent (e.g.: Farmers, Allstate ext…) Make sure that you are properly protected!!!!!!

  • Chan

    Thanks for the article. I want to add something- if you have a pet before your roommate moved in, make sure you know that they are okay with the pet and have reasonable expectations of it’s behavior. Of course new boundaries will happen for the pet and they do not have to like it, but general kindness is a must. I had a roommate once who was awful to my cat (the cat was there years before her). Before I knew how much she hated him I left him with her over the weekend (she agreed to feed and water him for the two days to be nice). She never fed him, the house was a wreck, and he was hiding. He’s no angel by any stretch, but he did his best to avoid her and she always yelled at him or shooed him away when he came near. Then asked why he didn’t like her! Needless to say she didn’t last long (along with other reasons like not paying rent on time and constantly leaving empty containers on the floor).



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