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wikiHow to Be a Good Roommate

Five Parts:Choosing your roommateSetting expectationsLiving in harmonySpending time togetherHouse Rules Poster

Have you ever had to share a home with a stranger or even a close friend, only to find out you can't live together? Living with other people can be difficult, especially when each person comes from a different background and has their own ideas about how they want to live. Most people at some point must learn to cope with the challenges of having a roommate. The following is a list of suggestions to help you share your living space harmoniously.

Part 1
Choosing your roommate

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    Find a good roommate. It can be tempting to select a roommate on the basis of how friendly they are, but you're better off judging them on the basis of day-to-day living compatibility. Compare their daily habits to yours:
    • What is this person's rental history?
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    • Does this roommate have enough money to cover the bills?
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    • Are they early risers or night owls?
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    • What temperature do they think is comfortable?
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    • How much TV do they watch?
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    • What kind of noise level does this person prefer (ie blasting television or quiet reading)?
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    • What are the roommates political or religious views? Are they more liberal or conservative?
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    • When should the roommate worry if they are not home at a certain time? Do you wait until morning to make phone calls or do you send for a search team if they're 15 minutes late from work or school?
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    • What are their favorite chores? Perhaps if their favorites are your least favorite, you can simply always do your favorite chore and ignore the ones you simply don't like.
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    • Do they talk about their feelings or keep their feelings in?
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    • Are they extra-sensitive to fragrances and/or odors? This may affect what you choose as cleaning products and you may have to hide your running shoes after going to the gym.
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    • Are they allergic to anything? (i.e. peanuts, perfume, milk, flour, mold, smoke.)
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    • How messy or clean does this person keep her space? Does she understand the importance of getting the dishes done and trash taken out?
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    • Do they smoke or do any other kinds of recreational drugs?
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    • What kind of personality does this person have, is she an extrovert or an introvert?
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    • Do they enjoy decorating or do they not care about decorating? What decorating style do they have?
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    • What kind of music and TV shows do they enjoy? And, more importantly, do they prefer loud music and a blaring TV?
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Part 2
Setting expectations

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    Be upfront about your expectations. Set boundaries and stick with them. This applies to food, clothes, possessions, loud activities, use of common areas, parties, quiet hours, cleaning responsibilities, and so on.
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    Respect each other’s privacy and personal space. This is especially important if you share a small living area. Make a clear delineation between your stuff and your roommate’s stuff. That way you are only responsible for your things. You must always ask before "borrowing" anything, no matter if it's trivial. Definitely take good care of any borrowed items.

Part 3
Living in harmony

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    Follow through with your obligations. If you say you're going to clean the kitchen, pay your roommate back for your share of the lease or utilities, or call the landlord about a repair, then do it.
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    Be prepared to compromise. Not everyone has the same ideas about day to day living as you do. You can't ask your roommate to change himself or herself if you're not willing to change as well.
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    Clean up after yourself. This doesn't mean that you have to be a neat freak, but don't leave your dirty dishes in the sink for days on end, dump your things in the living room, or leave mountains of laundry all over the bedroom, especially if you share it with your roommate. Try to agree on a minimum standard of cleanliness that you'll all abide by.
    • Divide responsibilities. If your roommate is a good cook and you are not, have him or her cook and you do the dishes. It may also be a good idea to set up a chores schedule, where you will take turns alternating cleaning the bathroom, taking out the trash, etc.
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    • If you split chores, it's your job to do what you've signed up for. Also, if you cause a big mess in your shared bedroom or living room, make sure to clean it up as soon as possible so your roommate can come back to a clean home.
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    • Help your roommate. If your roommate is cleaning, don't just sit there! Help them clean up, they might thank you later.
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    Be courteous of your roommate’s sleeping habits. If you are a night owl, keep your noise down and turn the lights down after your roommate goes to bed so you don't disturb them. If you go to bed early, don’t get exasperated with your roommate for their late hours, but at the same time try to find ways that you can sleep undisturbed. The same thing applies for rising in the morning.
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    Make sure you pay. You owe your roommate half the rent of your room each month so you better pay the bills. Also, you have to work and pay for your own things, like clothes and hair products. Don't ask your roommate to lend you money, you'll seem even more untrustworthy because you don't have money.
    • Get a job. If you're in college, it's good to have a small side job to pay for your necessities instead of getting money from your parents. This teaches you the value of money so you'll spend less.
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    Share. Or decide what you will share. Decide what contents in the fridge are okay and which are off limits. Determine whether or not a common phone line will be sufficient if one person spends a lot of time on the phone. If you borrow something, let your roommate know and (if necessary) try to replace it.

Part 4
Spending time together

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    Spend time with your roommate. Say hello and goodbye, ask them how their day was, and show interest in his or her life. Getting to know the person you live with helps you understand their perspective, and allows them to understand yours. It also makes it easier to deal with problems that you have with that person if you’ve already established a rapport with them. Try to set a time in which you both can hang out at least once a week. Make dinner together, watch a movie, etc. Do something nice for your roommate every so often—make their bed, bake them cookies, or offer to give them a ride somewhere if they don't have a car.
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    Stay flexible. Understand what’s going on in your roommate’s life, and accommodate them. If your roommate has a big test coming up, you should probably be quiet and let them study. If your roommate is busy and stressed with their job, give them some time and space to relax and unwind. Wouldn't you like your roommate to show you the same consideration?
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    Communicate. As in any relationship, living with someone requires a great deal of work. Communication is key in making the relationship work well long-term, or even for a short time. If a problem comes up, it's better to talk about it right away than to try to ignore it and let it get worse. If you simply cannot communicate openly and there is tension all the time. Find a new roommate. The stress is just not worth it. You may be better friends if you choose to live separate.
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    Be home on time. Always inform your roommate at which time you will be home, write him or her a note or tell them directly instead of texting them, they might not check their phone. It's also important to keep your promise and be home on time. This proves you can stick with your word and your roommate will be extremely happy.

House Rules Poster

Sample Inspirational House Rules Poster


  • Keep in mind that when you obtain a roommate it is first a business agreement and second a friendship. When you rent a room, share a room, or own a home, always remember the roommate needed a place to live as much as you needed their money towards the rent or mortgage. It doesn't matter if you're the renter or title holder. If you don't need them as a roommate or they don't need a place to live, the agreement no longer stands. Whether it is you not needing them, them not needing your place, or both not needing something of equal importance from each other the agreement is void. Equal importance being the deal- the exchange of money for a place to live for x amount of days. If you find a better candidate you pick them. If you don't like where your living you quit and find another place.
  • Make sure all roommates' understand the meaning of compromise and mutual respect. Just paying rent does not constitute a good roommate. Respect each others space as well as furniture, dishes, food, etc.
  • Some people find it helpful to write up a "roommate agreement," in which you set down rules that everyone can agree to. This is a good way to make sure that everyone is clear on the rules for the apartment and their responsibilities. Have everyone sign a copy and keep it on hand.
  • Control the amount of noise you make. Wear headphones when you listen to music, and go into another room when you're on the phone. If you're going to engage in a noisy activity, it's a good idea to ask your roommate before you do it.
  • Don't make your rules too rigid. Life is short, so sometimes you should decide that you just don't care. Dirty windows never hurt anyone. A broken plate is just not something to ruin a friendship over.
  • Be polite and fair to your roommate.


  • Although you should be flexible and accommodating, don’t let your roommate walk on you. Be assertive about what you want.
  • Don’t nag. This is a surefire way to get your roommate irritated.
  • Don’t yell or scream at your roommate. If this is a friend, it could ruin the friendship. Remember, most people do not love unconditionally and won’t react kindly to fits of rage or anger, and it will probably hinder your cause rather than help it.
  • Don't lend a roommate large amounts of cash. It complicates things too much and there is a risk you won't get it back.
  • Be careful about lending money. Small amounts aren't usually a problem, but don't let it get out of hand.
  • Remember, not everyone is meant to live together, regardless of how good a friendship you might have.

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