I have had a combination of 28 different roommates since graduating from high school. From college roommates to my husband, I have spent over ten years sharing a house with someone. In that time, I learned that, as people grow and change, sometimes there will be a need to re-address your needs with your roommate.

From drawing a line down the room to divide the space, to interventions on PDA and other things you don’t know are important to you until they pop up, here are 10 tips to really find lasting friendships with your roommate and avoid having your “BFF” become your arch nemesis.

  1. Ice breaker question: Starting with something fun will show your personality and theirs as well. It could be as simple as “on a scale of 1 to ‘I can’t live without this’ how important is coffee to you?” You might find you have something in common.
  2. Is there anything that cannot be shared? I have lived with roommates who share my shampoo, milk, clothes, and have the mentality “what’s yours is mine.” I have had other roommates write their name on their food and as well as given specific requests if you borrow something (i.e., wash the clothes, hand wash dishes, etc.) Knowing their values on this will save you a fight in the long run.
  3. How would you prioritize: work, school, play, clean, rest? It is awesome when you and your roommate share values. Do you like to read? Play volleyball? Do you like a quiet house where you can study? Do you like to have a Disney movie playing while you work on homework? Values can clash sometimes, and that is OK. When you disagree on something, start by focusing on the priority of your values. You both might value a clean room but your roommate might prioritize play or homework above cleaning. Your roommate might think that dirty dishes in the sink or clothes left on the floor overnight are clean enough, when you want the sink empty and the living room pristine. It is important to find a compromise. It could be a 24 to 48-hour policy on when a dirty dish should be cleaned or that your roommate sometimes has to wear headphones to listen to Frozen 2 while studying, and you will spend some nights studying in the library so Lion King can echo in your room.
  4. Anything I should know about you? (Examples include sleep walking, a cat phobia, needs constant noise, emotional support animal, bed time, etc.) My college roommate slept walked as well as had an alarm that would go off 10 times before she actually woke up. I get up at the first alarm. As a compromise, I would get up first, then wake her up. The first time I noticed her sleep walk she was not herself. She was grumpy and made faces and walked right back to bed. I would have been mad if I did not know that was part of her nightly ritual. I have also had a roommate that needed to sleep with noise in the background. We were able to find a noise that we both were okay with and found a compromise.
  5. Are you comfortable with friends coming over? How long in advance do you need to know someone is coming over? It is important to know how someone views their home. Some view it as an escape, free of outsiders, others view it as a place to hang out with their friends. By communicating you allow your roommate to find a different place to study or compromise on which nights their friends can come over too.
  6. What is the best way for me to communicate disagreements? Although asking these questions ahead of time will prevent a large amount of disappointments, there will come a time when you disagree or something happens that hurts your feelings. It is good to know if they would like a scheduled meeting or a written note.
  7. Are you in a relationship? It is good to know if your roommate will have their significant other over and how often they will spend their time away. Discuss what you are comfortable with (PDA, time alone, how often they come, etc.)
  8. What are some of your pet peeves? We all have them whether we discover them this year or already have ideas. This could be: not flushing the toilet, not closing cabinets, or leaving clothes on the floor in common space. It is good to know how to respect those you live with.
  9. What are your preferences? Indoor temperature, noise level inside, cooking vs. eating out, cleanliness, house responsibilities, etc. Knowing preferences, helps you know the standard of “normal” for your roommate. Without knowing what their normal is, you could easily step across the line of annoyance simply because your normal is way different than theirs. One day I cut strawberries and threw the tops in the trash. A day later, fruit flies came. My roommate came to me and asked if I could put the strawberry tops down the disposal next time. I had no idea one act would cause tension or bring fruit flies. My first year of college, my best friend and I were rooming together. We had a fight with the thermostat. She loved it at 80 degrees, where I needed a cool room at 70. The compromise was 75 degrees and I used a fan.  
  10. What do you want in a roommate? It is important to know expectations of a roommate. Overtime I have learned some expect you to be their right-hand person and do everything together from studying, to shared friends. It is important to be clear about needing your own space or on hard days you might go straight to your room and need introvert time.

Bonus: Do I ask these questions if I am rooming with my best friend? ABSOLUTELY! You might share all the same hobbies and interests and feel like you know this person, but there are hidden things we don’t even know about ourselves until we are posed with the question.

Overall, your living space should be a safe place for both of you to feel at home. We all grew up in different environments and some of you, this might be your first time to live outside of your family’s house. Go in with humility and be ready to learn.

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