Living with Multiple Roommates: A Guide to Harmonious Living

By Madison White


Your living space should be your safe haven, but sometimes a bad roommate situation can turn your space into a living nightmare. Getting multiple people to live harmoniously in one space may be a difficult task at times, but it definitely is not impossible. A great roommate relationship can add so much to your life in terms of friendship, entertainment, and comfort.


This article will detail different preventative measures you can pick while choosing roommates and the conversations you should have at the beginning of your lease. It also touches on the best ways to create honest and open communication, because nobody can avoid conflict completely.


Roommates: Living with Multiple Roommates: A Guide to Harmonious Living 


1. You CAN pick your (roommate) family


This first step is crucial and must be done before you actually move in or make any living commitments. Many people jump into living arrangements simply because someone has propositioned to live with them. This often happens with friends or other people you know, but be aware, sometimes living with your best friends can be a nightmare instead of a dream.


If you don’t have any friends that are looking for a place to live, Lorena Roberts has some great advice on finding quality roommates.


It is definitely worth it to have a chat with your potential roommates about your styles of living before you move in. You need to figure out if people are messy or clean, quiet or loud, morning people or night owls. Ideally, you want to live with people whose lifestyles aren’t going to clash with yours, so if you learn that your potential roommate loves to blast music but you need absolute quiet to get any work done, you might want to reconsider living with them.


Try as best as you can to be very honest when discussing this. You may be tempted to portray yourself as a perfect roommate when in reality, you know that you have a few bad habits. It is better to be candid about some of your faults, and perhaps even mention how you are planning on fixing some of them. Hopefully, your honesty will inspire others to do the same.


Kaitlin Hurtado details some important questions to ask before moving in. They can help you determine your standards of living and see if they match up.


2. Share the financial burden


Just like in relationships, money is something that can tear roommates apart. Many people fall into the trap of letting one person handle all the financial responsibility. This is an easy way to create problems.


It is better for you and your roommates to sit down at the beginning of your lease and think of ways that you all can share the cost. Of course, you’ll all be paying for rent, but there are usually internet bills, electricity bills, trash collection bills, and other bills that will need taken care of. Try and let each person take responsibility for paying one bill if possible, even if the bills aren’t the same amount. Because bills will usually fluctuate, you will probably have to calculate whether you owe someone money for an expensive bill.


With this method, one single person isn’t paying for everything and getting upset while waiting for the other roommates to pay them back.


3. Share the household duties


Like finances, if you don’t organize a system for sharing responsibilities, you could be setting yourself up for future problems. In any living situation, there are always repeat chores that will need doing like taking out the trash, cleaning and vacuuming, washing dishes, etc. If you can delegate certain tasks to certain people from the start, it will hopefully prevent too many chores from piling up.


Make sure that you discuss what are household chores and what are personal chores. You can expect that people will be in charge of cleaning their own bedrooms, washing their own laundry, and potentially, buying their own food.


Try and be clear about which spaces are communal (living room, bathroom) and what spaces are personal. Roommates should always keep communal spaces in clean conditions as a courtesy to everyone, but if they want to keep a messy bedroom, that is their choice.


4. Communicate effectively


Hopefully putting all of these systems in place will prevent some disagreements; however, problems are still bound to arise in any situation. Everybody communicates differently, but some ways of communicating are more effective than others.


Before you fire off an angry text message because of some dirty dishes, think about whether that text is going to allow for open and helpful conversation. The likely answer is that it won’t, and your impulsive text will lead to more problems.


Try and get into the habit of talking face-to-face about issues. Instead of texting something like, “I can’t believe you left your dirty dishes on the table AGAIN!” try something like, “Hey will you be around tonight? I’d like to talk about our kitchen space.” This will give you some time to cool off and will also lead to a more productive conversation. Writer Brittany Hawes has some suggestions on how to settle roommate disputes.


A few types of communication to avoid: aggressive and passive-aggressive. Nobody likes receiving an angry text in the middle of a workday. Nobody likes it when you leave sticky notes around the apartment either. Always try and be upfront about what is bothering you without getting upset and placing blame.


5. Anticipate Issues


If you’re moving in with someone you already know, chances are that you know a little bit about their personality too. Are they a bit forgetful? Do they tend to leave certain things around? If you know that some things could potentially be an issue, try and solve them together before the issue really arises.


For example, if you’re worried that your roommate is quite forgetful and may not remember to pay the electricity bill on time, talk to them about what would help them remember to pay it. You could help them set reminders on their phone the day before. You could write a reminder in a place that they would see every day. You could even try and set up a bill pay system that will pay the bill from their account automatically.


It is crucial that when you are making suggestions, that you don’t come off annoyed or condescending about the issue, especially if you don’t face similar issues yourself. You should be working collaboratively to come up with solutions that will work for them and benefit everyone.


College Roommates: Living with Multiple Roommates: A Guide to Harmonious Living 


6. Don’t bottle things up


If an issue has arrived that you hadn’t anticipated, you have a few actionable options. You can tell your roommate about what’s bothering you when it occurs the first few times and resolve it quickly, or you can bottle up your anger for months and end up resenting them. That second option sounds pretty awful, right?


If something has repeatedly been getting on your nerves, it isn’t a good idea to let it fester for a long time. Odds are that your anger will build up and when it (inevitably) happens again, you could emotionally explode at your roommate, damaging your entire relationship.


Try and stick to the rule of three: if the action happens three times, then it’s time to talk to them. If something happens just once, and it isn’t something major, it could be a fluke occurrence and not worth your time trying to resolve what isn’t really an issue. By the third time, you can assume that this recurring behavior isn’t going away on its own and needs to be addressed.


7. Your living style isn’t the only living style


When you move in with new people, it can be especially difficult to understand their methods of doing things, especially if they are different to yours. Maybe they load the dishwasher in a different way. Maybe they hang their laundry to dry while you prefer to use a dryer. As a roommate, you need to differentiate what behavior is an issue and what behaviors are just different to yours. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change everything about the way they live their life.


Being able to identify bad roommate habits from different living styles is essential. Let’s say that you need the house to be quiet past 10 p.m. so that you can sleep well. If you have a roommate who is up until 1 a.m. blasting music, then this is a real roommate issue that you need to address. However, if you have a roommate that just likes to sing in the shower at 8 a.m. when you’re already awake, you should probably let that slide.


The distinction will make it easier to find the perfect balance between bottling up all of your anger and picking a fight over every little thing.


8. Learn to manage friendship


Depending on how you came about finding your roommates, your situation could range from living with your best friend to living with a complete stranger. When it comes to having boundaries, these situations present different obstacles.


Living with your best friend sounds like a dream come true for many people, but what happens if both of you get in a fight over something? Living in that setting can be extremely awkward. What happens when hanging out isn’t as fun because you see each other all the time? How do you bring up an issue with the living situation without hurting their feelings?  Living with a best friend often means you’ll have to be extra cautious about your behavior.


It is best to approach things in a calm, constructive manner because very few things are solved when emotions are high. If you know how they prefer to communicate, it may be a good idea to present the issue that way. You need to look out for your own well-being, but you also need to try and maintain a friendship that you enjoy.


On the contrary, living with a completely new person presents its own challenges. It will take some time to know whether this person is messy or clean, loud or quiet, a morning or a night person. You likely won’t know at the start what their good and bad habits are.


Luckily, you will have the choice to really become friends or not. You will probably find out if you are destined to be best friends or happier just being roommates. It can be a lot easier to talk about roommate issues with someone who is strictly a roommate because you are less worried about how it will affect your relationship.


9. Find your own space


If something does go wrong between you and your roommates, the living environment can be extremely uncomfortable to be in until everything settles down. In case this happens, you should find a place that you can go to feel better that’s away from the stress of the household.


If you have a private bedroom, this could be a good place to go, but for some, this may still be too close to the conflict. Maybe you have a park that you love going to, or there is a great coffee shop nearby. Maybe there is a library that you enjoy being in. For some people, it could be the gym. It is nice to have a place (or two) that you can go to and relax in case your house/apartment becomes uncomfortable.


No roommate relationship is going to be perfect. Just like life, your relationship with your roommates will go through different highs and lows. By being proactive and seeking out roommates that have similar lifestyles to you, you may be able to minimize future issues. By talking about household expectations at the beginning of the lease, everybody will feel responsible for the upkeep of the space. By managing how you communicate with each other, you can resolve conflicts quickly. By being prepared for arguments, you will be better dealing with them effectively.


If you’re lucky, a great roommate relationship can turn into a friendship for life. 


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