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

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