Mistakes to Avoid When Transitioning from Living at Home to Living With Roommates

By Alyssa Laffitte

Living at home with your family is one thing, and living with a roommate is another. Both have their pros and cons, but they are undoubtedly different. For many people, when they start college, they make the transition from living at home to living with a roommate. This adjustment can be challenging since the roommate relationship requires much more communication. In this article, we will discuss the mistakes students make when transitioning from living at home to living with roommates. Read on to learn about these mistakes and how to make sure you don’t make them!



Not cleaning up after yourself

Messiness is one of the worst qualities a roommate can have. This is especially true if the messiness extends to the common areas and is not limited to their individual room, since they will then need to deal with your mess, too. When you live at home, you can ask a family member to help you clean up. But on the other hand, you are usually (not always!) on your own when it comes to cleaning up after yourself. Your roommate will not be pleased to come home to a stack of your dirty dishes in the sink, your things scattered around the floor, or crumbs on the living room couch. Your roommate will not be happy with you if you do not clean up after yourself, and this can easily escalate to big roommate conflicts.

Instead, get into the habit of cleaning up after yourself. A good rule of thumb is to leave “no trace behind”. Make sure your place, especially the common areas that you share with your roommate, shows no trace that you cooked in the kitchen, ate at the dinner table, or snacked on the couch (come on, we all like to eat snacks and watch TV!).

Another way to deal with messes in your shared apartment is to split chores evenly. If you and your roommate create a chore assignment system, neither of you will have the entire burden of keeping the place clean individually. You and your roommate should consider creating a “chore wheel” or “chore chart” since this will make sure the chores are divided evenly and it will help you keep track of who is responsible for cleaning what. It might sound cheesy, but it will definitely get the job done. If you need some inspiration, do a quick search on Google, Instagram, or Pinterest for templates.

In short, do not make the mistake of not cleaning up after yourself when you live with a roommate, as this will surely irritate them. Instead, ensure that your place is clean, especially in the common areas you share.


Disrespecting your roommate’s possessions

Another mistake someone might make when transitioning from living at home to living with roommates is not respecting their roommate’s possessions. When you live at home, it’s easy to share different things with your family members. For example, it’s easy to share food and kitchen supplies with your family when you live at home. On the other hand, roommates don’t share as much. If you are used to sharing things, you might need to adjust to keeping things separate.

As roommates, you both need to respect each other’s possessions. Of course, there are some general rules, such as using someone else’s things without their permission. But there are more specifics, too. What do these specifics look like? Well, that depends on the set of roommates. One person might be completely fine with sharing things like clothes but not kitchen items, while someone else might be okay with sharing their kitchen items but not their clothes. Because these preferences vary depending on the person, you should have a serious, sit down, conversation with your roommate. During this time, discuss which possessions you will be willing to share and which are off-limits. Also, discuss if there are conditions to borrowing things. For example, do you need to ask every time before you borrow something? Are you only allowed to borrow clothes if you return them washed? Should you return things exactly where and how you found them? This conversation will prevent any misconceptions or miscommunications concerning sharing things.

Clearly, it is important to respect your roommate’s possessions, and for her to respect yours.


…Including their food…

Just as I mentioned in the previous point, it is easier to share things when you live at home with your family. However, when you have a roommate, you could decide to not share as many things with them. One particular type of possession you should discuss sharing (or not sharing) with your roommate is food. Your roommate might be fine with sharing her things with you, but not her food, and vice versa, so it is important to have a discussion with her about this. When you sit down with your roommate to discuss sharing or not sharing your items, ask her specifically which food items you two will be willing to share and what items are off-limits. You should also discuss whether you two will label with your names the foods you will not be willing to share since this will help prevent confusion.

In addition to respecting your roommate’s possessions, you should also respect their food. The best way to do this is to always ask if you can share.


…Or their privacy

Along the same lines, roommates need to respect each other’s privacy. Yes, the space is yours and you are allowed to feel at home there, but it belongs just as much to your roommate. They also deserve to feel safe and at home. For this reason, you and your roommate need to give each other privacy and space. This could mean making sure you lock the door all the time, giving them time alone at the apartment (everyone enjoys having the space to themselves for a little while), and limiting the number of guests (and the amount of time they spend at the apartment). Doing these things will keep you and your roommate comfortable and safe in your place. Not respecting your roommate’s privacy is a big mistake.


Having too many expectations

When you live at home, you know what to expect. However, when you are transitioning to living with a roommate, you might not know what to expect. Your roommate relationship might be strained if you or your roommate have unmet expectations of each other. For example, if you expect your roommate to be a night owl like you are, you might be disappointed to discover they need you to keep the noise level down after 10 p.m., or if you learn they are a neat freak when you are not. Clearly, these unmet expectations can be damaging, so it’s best to avoid them. The best way to avoid unmet expectations is by communicating effectively, which brings us to our next point…




Not communicating effectively…

As we said before, the best way to avoid unmet expectations is by communicating openly and asking questions. Here are some things you should communicate effectively about, in order to avoid unmet expectations.

●      Cleanliness- is your roommate a neat freak or messy? Or somewhere in between? It can be stressful if you two have different organizational preferences.

●      Having guests over- does your roommate plan to have people over or not? How often? Will they stay overnight? If not, how long will they stay? Either way is fine, just make sure you two are on the same page about this, since disagreements in this area can cause huge problems.

●      Daily schedules- are you a night owl or early bird? Will you need your roommate to keep the lights dimmed at night or keep their alarm quiet in the morning? If you and your roommate have conflicting schedules, you will need to coordinate and work things out, which is totally possible.

●      Sharing items- as we discussed earlier in the article, it’s critical to discuss which items can be shared and which are off-limits. Be sure to also discuss if there are any conditions for borrowing an item (such as an item of clothing can be borrowed if it will be washed before it is returned). Be sure to discuss sharing food, too.

●      Alone time in the apartment- again, everyone likes to have at least a little bit of alone time in their place. You can coordinate some time every week with your roommate for each of you to have even some alone time in the apartment. With this time, you can get some studying done.

●      Significant others- how long are significant others allowed to stay in the apartment? Will they be allowed to stay overnight? For how many days? Will you want privacy when significant others are over? If significant others overstay their welcome by remaining the apartment for days on end, your roommate will likely have a problem. It’s also not fair to your roommate to have an extra person who doesn’t pay rent staying over for a long time.

When you ask your roommate these questions, you have a better idea of what to expect when you live together. This will prevent disappointments, unmet expectations, and potentially big problems.

Additionally, it would be a good idea to write down the answers to these questions and turn it into a roommate agreement. A roommate agreement is a contract with some rules where you and your roommate agree to abide by. Of course, it is best to do to this at the beginning of your time living together, but it will still work later on in the roommate relationship.


…Especially about finances

One thing we didn’t mention is finances. Along with everything in the list above, you and your roommate should definitely discuss finances. More specifically, how will you split the bills? Who will be responsible for what, financially? This is an area in which you and your roommate absolutely must be on the same page. It’s also good for you both to know when each bill is due and about how much each bill will cost, so each of you can produce the right amount of money at the right time (and avoid late fees!). At home, you might not need to discuss finances in such detail, but with a roommate, it is essential to come to a financial agreement.


Being passive-aggressive

If you do encounter an issue with your roommate, you might be tempted to be passive-aggressive rather than facing the issue head-on, in person. Rather than leave a sticky note on the bathroom mirror, talk to your roommate in person about the issue. Be sure to catch them when they are available, not right when they are about to head out the door for the day or are studying.


Being difficult

When you live with another person, you need to be flexible. There is always a give and take, so do not be difficult with your roommate. This does not mean you should be a doormat, but try your best to work with your roommate. For example, let them borrow something if they ask. Honor their request if they ask you to turn down your music. If you are difficult with your roommate, the relationship will not be good. It is important to be flexible with your roommate, because one day, they will need to be flexible with you.


In conclusion, it is definitely a transition to go from living at home to living with a roommate. Still, it is a doable change that you can adapt to. As a roommate, you need to learn to communicate well, manage your expectations of each other, and respect each other’s possessions (including food). Living at home and living with a roommate are both great, they simply have their differences that we need to adjust to. If you follow the tips listed in this post, you will be able to avoid the mistakes students make when making this change. I wish you the best of luck in your transition from living at home to living with a roommate.


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