5 Steps to Dividing Space with Your Roommates

By Elise Nelson 

Sharing a living space isn’t always easy, especially if you’ve never done it before. You may find it difficult to keep things fair. You might feel like you’re overstepping a bit when you’re sharing.

As odd as it sounds, one of the keys to sharing is dividing—within the rooms that you and your roommates will share, you should each have your own areas. Here are 5 steps to dividing space with your roommates.



1. Establish rules and boundaries

First, you should sit down with your roommates and discuss some ground rules for your living space. Which items will you share? Which items are strictly yours? These boundaries are especially important for shared spaces like the bathroom or living room. Is there anywhere in your living space that should only be open to you, such as your bedroom or a personal workspace?

You’ll find dividing space with your roommates to be easier if you have this conversation before you move in. Meet in person, chat online, or video chat and make a list of what each of you will bring. Start with the items you all have in common and delegate one person to bring each of them. You don’t want to end up with two or more coffeemakers or microwaves if you’re planning to share one—this will only take up more of your limited space.

Then, add to your list the things that are off-limits to your roommates. Create a roommate agreement that specifies which spaces are shared and which spaces are personal. Be as detailed as possible so you can look back on it later if something comes up.


2. Figure out how much space you’ll need

Your next move should be to compare the list of what you’re bringing to your living space’s floor plan. Claim the turf that you need but try to keep it fair for everyone. Don’t take up significantly more space than your roommates.

Everyone should have their own bedroom (or at least their own bed space if you’re sharing a bedroom) and their own storage area if possible. Other than that, you should divvy up shelves or areas in the rest of the apartment. Remember to be flexible.

Since space will be limited, try to bring along only what you absolutely need. Consider downsizing if you have too much stuff. Evaluate how much use you’ll get out of each item in the time that you’ll be living with roommates. If you hardly touch something, leave it at your childhood home or in a storage unit until you have your own place.


3. Label your stuff to avoid confusion

To somewhat quote Beyoncé … If you like it, then you should’ve put a name on it. In a shared space, you might accidentally grab something that belongs to your roommate. Labels are extremely important in spaces like the refrigerator or the bathroom. Do you and your roommates eat the same types of foods? Use the same soap brand? Put your name on your belongings to ensure that no mistakes are made.

Here’s a scenario for you—there’s a tub of ice cream that has been sitting in the freezer for a month. No one has touched it because you and your roommates all forgot who it belonged to, and no one wanted to overstep. Now, the ice cream is freezer-burned and wasted.

This scary scenario can be avoided by labeling your kitchen staples when you buy them. No more wasted ice cream!


4. Stay organized and clean

Investing in some organizational tools might make keeping track of your stuff a bit easier. Buy bins, drawers, or baskets for your belongings and label them in whatever creative way you’d like—washi tape, sharpie, an old label-maker.



Once you have your designated shelves and spaces, you need to stick to them. Always put your items back where they belong to avoid clutter. If you only negotiated one shelf in the bathroom per roommate, then that’s all you get. If you need more room you should ask for permission first before taking over someone else’s space.

Everyone is responsible for keeping their areas tidy. Remember to be courteous and always clean up after yourself.


5. If an issue arises, communicate

Don’t be passive aggressive. When you first move in together, you should devise a method for working out problems and include it in the roommate agreement. If you feel that someone is overstepping, sit down and have a mature discussion. Be honest and level-headed. They might not have even been aware that they were invading your space.

On the other hand, you should also be open to listening if someone feels that you’re overstepping. Think about how you can change your habits if needed.

Dividing space with roommates is all about compromise. As long as you remember to compromise, you shouldn’t have too much trouble.

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