Tips for Rooming With a Roommate for the First Time

Bye high school, hello dorm room

If we’re being totally honest, the whole dorm situation is a little strange.

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Basically, your first year away from home you’re randomly assigned a stranger to share a very undersized square with. While unfamiliar territory, it could, however, be some of the most fun years of your life. So, to keep things smooth sailing and to avoid the dramatic roommate blow up situation (trust me, you DON’T WANT TO GO THERE), here’s our guide to rooming with someone for the first time.

1. Don’t be a brat

Okay, yes! That was a little harsh, but I really mean it. For many of you, this will be your first time sharing a space, comprising on who gets the bathroom at what time, when the lights will be turned out, and if you should sleep with the windows opened or closed; this set up certainly has potential to bring out a few of your self-righteous ways (it’s totally normal!). So just be aware of this going into your new living situation. As a broad stroke of advice, always remember this when you’re feeling frustrated: this space is just as much hers as it is mine. This way, you can catch yourself when you’re leaning toward some selfish thoughts and turn toward compromise.

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2. Be honest

If something is bothering you, don’t sit on it. If you do, it will turn into a hornet’s nest of resentment inside of you. Not only will this cause you to become annoyed and distant with your roomie, but your living space — the place that’s supposed to be your safe haven — will be a stressful environment. So be honest. If your roommate plays loud music until midnight, and you like to be asleep by 11pm, mention it in a kind “how can we fix this so we’re both happy” way. Which leads us too…

3. Compromise

The first step is to be honest, but the next step is to compromise. Let’s use the example of the loud late night music from above. You’re less likely to get an outcome you want if you say, “Hey, you’re being an a**hole. Turn your music off by 9 pm so I can sleep.” Instead, approach it as a conversation with the hopes of compromising. Maybe try something like, “Hey, it’s been a stressful few weeks, so I’m trying to see if getting more sleep will help. Would it be possible for you to turn your music off by 10 pm?” She’ll most likely say yes, but if she comes back with 10:30 pm, be open! You totally just compromised! Win-win for everyone.

4. Make a code

It’s not a bad idea to make a code with your new roomie at the start of your relationship. In the first week, maybe propose a code of honesty? Maybe say something casual like, “Hey, I’m so excited to be rooming with you. It’s close quarters in here, so I just wanted to let you know if you have a problem with anything, let me know. And I can do the same for you? Sound like a plan?”

5. Ask questions when you first move in

This is a great way to start setting up some boundaries and get on the same page. Anything from, “Hey, I normally shower after my workout at 7 am, is that cool with you?” to “Hey, is it cool if we sleep with the windows open?” will aid your roommate relationship. Because that’s what it is — a relationship. Not a one-way street.

PS: I highly recommend calling your roomie before you move in to discuss some things and get to know each other. Small conversations like, “I’m bringing a fridge, would you like to share it?” is a great way to get to know each other!

6. Divide the space fairly

If you get the crappy desk in the small corner, ask if you can take the slightly bigger closet. You both should feel comfortable verbalizing what you both need and think is fair. The earlier you feel comfortable expressing these things, the better it will be for both of you.

7. Stay neat

Listen, I’m a converted messy gal. I get it. A mountain of clothes most likely would be on my bed every day in high school. And while it’s totally cool if you like being messy in your own room, it’s not cool or considerate to your roommate. If you know you don’t have the best habits with tidying up, make the effort so your room is a happy, positive environment. I highly recommend reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up before you head to school.

8. Don’t spend every second with your roommate

This is a tricky one. All I’m saying is that on the first week of school, don’t cling to your roommate like she’s the only friend you’ll ever make there. You will make SO many more friends. Hang with her, meet other people, hang with her with other people. If you get way too bonded in the beginning, it could create some hurt feelings if you end up ditching her for a friend you’ve gradually made a great, strong friendship with. Take it slow! There’s so rush.

9. NEVER talk behind your roommate’s back 

Sure, maybe you’re having problems with your roommate and need to vent or ask some advice of a highly trusted friend. My suggestion? Call your high school BFF for this. Avoid bad mouthing your roommate to other people on campus because guess what? It somehow will ALWAYS find its way back to your roomie. For example, the person you’re bad mouthing your roommate to could totally become her friend in the coming months. It’s safer to just avoid it all together to dodge hurt feelings.

And last but MOST importantly:

10. Don’t judge them before you meet them 

Don’t do it!! Don’t decide you HATE your roommate from the one phone call, three emails, and the social media stalking you did. Getting caught up in a version of this person you created in your head will only make it harder for you. Have an open mind going into the situation, because hey,  you could end up with an unexpected friendship that could last a lifetime.

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