Living at Home to Living with Roommates: A Transition Guide

By Alicia Geigel

Making the transition from living at home to living with roommates can be a difficult one if you’re not used to the changes and responsibilities that come with it. I was an only child growing up, so for the most part, I learned to be independent and depend on myself for a lot of responsibilities. Living (with your parents) but by yourself for most of your life, you become accustomed to how you do certain tasks, unlimited privacy, and the perks of being independent. Moving in with roommates change up the whole game of living situations and will teach you more about yourself than you ever knew could be possible.

Having one or multiple roommates is considered to be a natural part of the college experience, as it not only helps to expand your social life but it can also help you save money in the long run. Whether it is during your freshman year in a dorm or during your junior year in an off-campus apartment, living with your new roommates may be either a dream or a nightmare.

Sharing your life with one or a couple roommates is not easy, but there are ways that you can actively make your experience smoother and more enjoyable. Are you nervous about an impending or current roommate situation and do not know exactly how to handle it? Check out my simple tips below on how to live with multiple roommates!


Deciding Who to Live With:


Perhaps the first and most important part of living with a roommate/roommates is figuring out who to live with.

For a lot of incoming freshman college students, utilizing services provided by the university can help find a prospective roommate. In this case, universities will send out an email detailing instructions on how to fill out a questionnaire for your optimal roommate. Questions in the form may include: do you smoke/not smoke, do you prefer a cleaner/messier room, what time do you go to bed, etc. These questions help the residential advisors and administrators build a reasonable profile for you and place you with the ideal roommate that would compliment your lifestyle/living habits.

If you’re not a freshman, you may be looking for roommates elsewhere. Plenty of college students turn to university class Facebook pages to find people to be their roommate. This is less formal and is a way many consider better to find a perfect roommate. Students will typically post their major, where they are from, hobbies, favorite music/TV shows/movies, interests, etc. Before my freshman year, I found my first college roommate by making a post on my university’s “Class of 2018” page and found someone that was similar to me in interests. We ended up messaging each other, met up at accepted student’s day and decided to become roommates!

Another way to look for roommates is through mutual friends and/or through other social media pages. Many people successfully find roommates through friends or through sites like Roomsurf, Facebook or Craigslist. Finding roommates like this can be perfectly safe and easy, just be cautious of who you talk to and what information you give to them. Though not everyone on the internet is a bad person, there are definitely some bad eggs out there and you don’t want to end up being scammed by one or even go as far as living with one.

 

Tips for Finding a Roommate/Roommates:


  • DO consider university resources (if they are available to you)
  • DON’T rush moving in with someone you don’t know just because you need a roommate
  • DO look around multiple sites/pages to find someone compatible with you
  • DON’T move in right away if you can, spend some time talking and getting to know the person you may be moving in with
  • DO put truthful information out to your prospective roommate regarding you/living habits
  • DON’T lie about important lifestyle choices to appease a roommate and end up surprising them later on

 

You Have a Roommate/Roommates: Now What?


Once you have found a roommate or roommates that you want to live with and have moved in with them, now comes the hard part: actually living together. When it comes to living with others, I consider there to be five elements that are crucial for a smooth and stress-free living experience: chores, communication, privacy, bills, and quality time. These elements are important, as they will help to foster a healthy and balanced roommate relationship!

 

Chores:


Let’s be real, no one truly likes doing chores (unless you’re like me and sometimes likes cleaning to de-stress). You might be able to get away with not doing chores at home, but when you live with roommates, your lack of tidying up in the house definitely adds up. Before you even move in with your future roommates, it’s important to establish some basic, ground rules of living. This can include alternating who takes out the trash every week, who cooks dinner on Tuesday nights, who washes dishes after dinner, who vacuums on weekends, etc.

You may be thinking to yourself, “It’s not that simple. My version of clean is different from my roommate’s.” That may be true, but there are definitely ways that you can figure this out.

Kate Legere of Apartment Therapy states, “Determine what the household chores are and agree on a cleaning schedule. Ask questions like: What needs to be done daily, weekly, monthly? How will you split the light cleaning (vacuuming, dishes) and the deep cleaning (refrigerator, windows)?” Doing so will help you understand the tasks that need to be accomplished and when.

Additionally, writing out the chores on a chalkboard, dry-erase board, or calendar can further help by giving you a visual of what needs to get done. An Apartment Guide Blog suggests, “Use a wall calendar to write everyone’s duties down, or create a chart that lists all of the roommates’ names and their responsibilities next to it. This way, there is no confusion as to who is responsible for what. If it works better, rotate the chores every month.”

While this may seem incredibly simple, it will definitely be helpful in the long run. Once everyone gets a glimpse/idea of each other’s boundaries, standards, etc. each roommate can collectively work toward maintaining a good environment that is suitable not only for them, but for everyone else!

 

Communication

 

You have probably heard about keeping the doors of communication open over and over again in your life, but I can promise you that this is incredibly important, not only in roommate relationships, but in all relationship. This rule applies to living with one roommate as well as when you are one out of four people living in a dorm.

Regardless of how many roommates you have, you’ll want to make sure everyone is communicating effectively. Doing so requires no passive-aggressive post-it notes, subliminal messages, etc. but rather, openly talking to all of your roommates.

You may have an issue with roommate #1 because they constantly use your shampoo without asking, or roommate #2 makes you crazy because they eat all of the snacks your mom got just for you. Bottom line is this, speak up. There is nothing worse than having a problem with the person (or persons) you are living with and just letting their actions get under your skin.

It is infinitely more beneficial to confront your roommate with your problems than let the tension build for no reason. If you find yourself in a real pickle and you definitely can not talk to your roommate, bring your issue to your RA or a friend/parent and they can certainly help you settle it, it’s their job!

 

Tips for Communicating Effectively with Roommates:


  • DO be direct with your roommate(s) when there is a problem that arises between you both/all of you. 
  • DON’T go behind their back and talk nastily with other roommates about your personal problems with that person. This can not only cause drama but it also makes it hard to trust one another.  
  • DO respect them and their differences. 
  • DON’T belittle, talk down to, or yell when you don’t get your way or you cannot see eye-to-eye. 
  • DO both talk and listen. 
  • DO ask if there is anything you can do to make the living situation better and point out what they do that makes you stressed/angry. 
  • DO go to a family member or campus counselor to get their input on the situation if you do not feel up to talking to your roommate just yet but feel that you need to vent about the situation.
  • DO compromise. According to Rick Moreci in an article by Brian Burnsed of US NEWS, “Compromise does not have to mean sacrifice. It means working together with your roommate to determine the rules for your new living arrangement that you can both be comfortable with.”

 

Privacy


Everyone loves the chance to spend time by themselves, unwind, watch the latest episode of their favorite TV show, and not have to worry about anything. Privacy when living with a roommate/roommates can sometimes be violated, as it can just naturally (and accidentally) happen while living together. Sometimes you want to be able to call your mom or best friend without having someone else breathing down your throat or take a relaxing shower without worrying about who wants to jump in next.

Just because you have roommates does not mean that you have to spend every second of every day with each other. Sometimes doing so can create rifts and tensions and sometimes it can be great, it all depends on the person. However, do not feel obliged to have to do everything with your roommates, it’s good to have your own friends too!

Friends can not only help with any roommate problems you’re having but they can also be an escape for when you are experiencing a hard living situation. So whether you’re on your bed blasting music through your earphones or are venturing to the dorm across campus to see your friend, just know that needing your own space is ok and healthy!

 

Tips for Respecting Roommate Privacy


  • DO establish boundaries of what is ok/not ok with you in terms of privacy
  • DON’T use/eat something without asking
  • DO ask before hosting a party at your place
  • DON’T assume that it’s always ok to have friends over

 

Paying Bills


One super important element of living with someone (if you are in an apartment/house) is figuring out how to split up living expenses like rent/amenities/cable + internet. Taking on adult responsibilities and figuring out how to effectively split bills can be difficult but it will definitely save you any kind of money-related trouble in the future.

According to Leslie Tayne of Credit.com, “A major key for keeping the peace is making sure bills are organized. Figure out when and how bills will be collected and split each month, how they will be paid, and who is responsible for paying what amount. While this may sound obvious, too many times roommates will wait until the last minute, causing stress, tension and possibly late bills.”

To make splitting bills easier, put together a chart or spreadsheet of expenses that each person owes to organize payments and keep track of who pays what. Tayne notes, “Each expense should show details such as due dates, the amounts owed, and the person responsible for paying.” Once you get payments and billing figured out, a huge burden will be lifted off your shoulders!

 

Roomie Time


Between endless papers, labs, extracurricular activities, and jobs, it’s hard to maintain a strong social life in college without driving yourself crazy! It’s especially hard to find time to actually hang out with your roommates because you’re so used to seeing them all the time. As a way to keep the vibes good in your living situation, set up a day or night for everyone to hang out. Figure out what everyone’s schedule is like and make a plan to go to a party, have a movie night, or even go on an adventure around campus! Doing this not only can help everyone catch up, but it’s also a great way to create a better, closer bond with your roommates (plus it can be a nice escape from the busyness of life).

Going from living by yourself at home to living with roommates can be a large adjustment and can at times, prove to be difficult, but if you trust your gut and follow my tips, I guarantee you that you’ll look back the years with your roommates as some of the best of your life. As always, good luck!

 

Interested in using our roommate matching formula to find the perfect college roommate for you? Create a profile & take the roommate quiz on Roomsurf! Get Started