5 Tips for Living with College Roommates

Tips for living with college roommates in harmony!

Ah, the roommate life. As I look back on my college years, I mainly remember good memories of everything. It seems as if I’ve blocked out any issues I had (for the most part) with roommates, and I choose to dwell on the fun I had. I suppose that’s a good thing!

However, when I really think about it, I do know that there will always be difficulties that arise with living with anyone – whether it’s with your parents, your best friend, a random stranger, or a spouse! I always found that the first few weeks of living with new roommates was always the hardest. Since many college students are likely finding themselves with new roommates right now, I figured I would write a little bit about tips for getting along with your roommates.


This is probably one of the biggest sources of conflict for roommates – at least from what I’ve seen. Not everyone has the same cleaning habits or expectations, and this can make for a difficult living environment. However, regardless of your thoughts on how clean an apartment needs to be at any given time, cleaning does need to be done.

Some apartments – especially when you live in college-approved housing – required monthly cleaning checks. This ensures that at least once a month, everything (hopefully) will be clean. Of course, there’s always roommates who will refuse to do their job, making others do it for them. But hopefully, this isn’t the case in your apartment!

It’s a good idea to try and assign/divide up cleaning responsibilities throughout the rest of the month, though. I think it’s important not to be too bossy or intense about this, but someone needs to take the lead. One of the simplest things to do is to set up a rotating chore/cleaning chart. This one from Roommate Harmony is pretty intricate in details, but it can ensure everyone knows what is expected of them. Rotating chores is a good idea, so no one is stuck with a harder/easier one for long.


If someone truly isn’t doing their share, bring it up…but in a kind way. Don’t be accusatory. I promise that will only make things worse. I think when it comes to cleaning, most of the time, everyone is going to have to compromise a little bit. Just be willing to work with your roommates!

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I used to think labeling your food was silly, but it’s one of the best things you can do. I never really had issues with roommates taking my food, but I know plenty of people that did. While a label won’t necessarily stop someone, it does help people remember what is there’s – when you live with more than one person, chances are, you may buy similar products. Eliminate the confusion by labeling things!

You can write with a sharpie on things, or you could buy labels. I love these personalized food stickers from Roommate Harmony. They are 3.99 for one sheet, and they are customized with your name. There are even some “Please Share” stickers, so you can let your roommates know when you do want to share something (because sometimes, you can’t eat an entire loaf of banana bread yourself!)

Be Considerate

It’s so important to be considerate of your roommate/s. I think it’s good to remember the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you! There may be disagreements on what is being considerate or not, but here are a few things to consider that I think most would agree with.

  • Music – Avoid blasting your music throughout the apartment, especially when others are studying. Sure, maybe you’ll both have the same taste in music and you both want music played loud, but I wouldn’t do it just because you want to. Headphones are a great investment!
  • Staying Up Late – I’m not going to tell you not to stay up late. However, if your roommate is an early riser, or they need to get to bed early one night, in particular, don’t insist on keeping all the lights on. If you both have opposite sleeping schedules, this may be something you’ll need to talk about (because you shouldn’t have to turn all the lights off at 8 PM, either!)
  • If you make a mess, clean it up. Even if you’ve assigned jobs, if you did something out of the ordinary (such as make a huge, gourmet meal for your 10 closest friends), you should make sure that you clean it up.
  • Respect their stuff – this is a big one. I would talk at the beginning of the semester about what items you don’t mind your roommate using, but don’t just assume they won’t mind if you borrow their computer, or their printer, or their milk.
  • Monopolizing common living space all the time
  • Lock doors and windows
  • Consider having a schedule on the refrigerator where everyone can put down important events in their week that may affect other people. This doesn’t have to be a big thing – Roommate Harmony sells these refrigerator notepads that would be perfect for that.

Be Upfront

If there’s something that bothers you, or you have some quirk that you don’t want to change, be up front about it. Don’t just let things fester, because that just makes everything worse. It’s good not to be rude or overly intense about things, but it’s important to express your feelings!

Community Goods

While I think most of the time, roommates should handle buying their food, school supplies, etc., you may want to consider doing some community goods. When I was a freshman in college, I remember there was one time when all six of us had a gallon of milk in the refrigerator. Obviously, this left very little room for anything else! We decided that each room (there were three rooms in our apartment) would share a gallon of milk. It made for a lot more room in the fridge!

Other common community goods that you could all pitch in for are toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc.

If you do this, though, make sure that you keep track of who buys what and when. Otherwise, you may end up with someone paying for things far more often than they want to/is fair.

Don’t Leave Notes

Communication is so important, and I will tell you, the most annoying thing is a roommate who refuses to bring things up or talk to your face, but they loveeee leaving notes. Leaving a note every now and then (especially if you don’t a roommate for a specific period of time) isn’t a big deal – but if you start leaving them every day, when you could easily talk to the roommate…it’s just annoying. It’s especially annoying if they are passive aggressive notes!

Let Things Go

No one is perfect, and no two people are the same. It takes time to adjust to living with someone who, well, isn’t you. In general, give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best. Of course, there are people who don’t deserve that, and if you live with someone like that…I would probably consider moving out. But in general, just try and be easy to live with, and hopefully others will give you the same courtesy.

Don’t Assume You Will/Have to be Best Friends

In a perfect world, everyone would be best friends with their roommates and immediately hit it off. This doesn’t always happen, and it can make for a difficult living environment if you don’t get along or even click.

Enlist Help

Sometimes, a roommate situation might just be bad. My sister had a very bad experience her freshman year, and it got to the point where she couldn’t handle it on her own. Most universities have some conflict resolution resource in place, and if you find yourself having a hard time resolving an issue (or you feel threatened, scared, etc.), definitely look into this. It’s not a bad thing to ask for help!

A special thanks to RoommateHarmony.com for providing samples and compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own. 


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