Preparing for Your First Roommate: How to Manage 4 Common Conflict Zones

For some, the word “roommate” is synonymous with “best friend.” For others, it’s “worst nightmare!” Surely you’ve heard tons of stories from both sides of this fence: great roommates and roommate horror stories! But don’t fear…it’s not hard to be a good roommate and to find a roommate that’ll be good to you. However, it will require for you to take some time to learn about the four most common conflict zones and how to manage them.

1. Communication

First things first: Communication is going to be KEY to a strong roommate relationship. Whether you’re living with a friend, acquaintance, or stranger, spend some time before you both move in to discuss your communication preferences. Ask questions like: Are you comfortable sharing your opinions? Are you passive? How do you want to address issues?

By having these conversations, you can determine the best ways to raise concerns with each other and ensure the lines of communication stay open. Here are some ideas to build strong communication:

  • Have a quick weekly checkpoint over breakfast or dinner to catch up with your roommate and raise any issues that may exist. Think of it as a quick “meeting” that may turn into time you really look forward to spending together.
  • Leave a notepad in common space to use for quick back and forth communication. Messages like “Having friends over from 6-8pm tonight” or “Please clean your dishes in the sink before my parents come on Saturday at 12!” give your roommate a heads-up and are easy to keep track of.
  • Leverage technology like phone calls or text messages, but be warned that emotion often loses its meaning over text!

2. Shared Spaces

Shared spaces can be the start of roommate issues, if one roommate feels more entitled to use the space than others or has different standards for keeping it neat and tidy. Talk about how you’d like to use shared spaces like living rooms, kitchens, and outdoor space. Some major questions to talk through together include:

  • What are your standards for cleanliness in shared spaces and how do you plan to maintain them?
  • How can we plan to host guests in shared spaces?
  • When guests are over, do both roommates still have access to shared space?
  • Who is responsible for furnishings and items in shared space (i.e. sofa, coffee table, television, kitchen supplies), and who’s responsible if items get broken?

3. Apartment Hours

Your apartment is your home, and every person has a different idea of how their home should run, and what hours to keep! When getting to know your roommate, ask about their preferences to ensure your schedules are compatible enough to successfully live together. Think through topics like:

  • Preferred “bedtimes,” or quiet hours for your apartment (i.e. no loud music after 11pm)
  • Work schedules (i.e. no loud music at 7am if your roommate doesn’t work until noon)
  • Favorite/least favorite hours (i.e. don’t bother me from 2-4pm when I’m working on my novel)
  • Weekends

Understanding how your roommate’s life operates outside of your apartment will help you understand and be respectful of their preferences in your apartment. By communicating these preferences ahead of time, there should not be any surprises!

4. Guests 

Guests can become a huge area of contention for roommates. (Read the comments to this post to see what we mean!) Instead of letting it get that way, establish some basic ground-rules in advance. Don’t wait until a problem arises to determine the best way that you and your roommate can coordinate having guests over. For instance cover these basics and tweak them to fit your needs:

  • Let your roommate know when you’ll have multiple guests over
  • Be respectful of shared spaces when you have guests
  • Don’t let your friends eat your roommate’s foods
  • Keep guests out of each other’s private spaces (i.e. personal bathroom or bedroom)
  • Overnight guests shouldn’t stay longer than 3 days
  • Decide if guests can be in the apartment when the hosting roommate is not home
  • Guests should maintain the same cleanliness standards you’ve identified together

Being a good roommate comes down to having open communication from the start. While preparing to live with a roommate for the first time, find a few minutes to talk through the lists above in order to avoid any future drama.

Have a great roommate experience!


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Author My First Apartment

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Sarah is a dog lover and advocate for conversation & laughing at your own jokes. Since finishing her college career in communications, she began working (and living) in Atlanta. After living in a few different apartments over the last few years, she's ready to share experiences. Stay tuned for adventures, tips and advice!

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