How to Be a Good Roommate

A Few Simple Rules Can Help Keep Your Roommate Situation Positive and Pleasant

Three young women in student dormitory
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Living with a roommate can often seem complicated and overwhelming, especially in college. Between sharing a tiny space with someone you barely know and trying to respect each other's very busy lives, your roommate relationship can quickly implode if you aren't careful. So just what can you do to be a good roommate amidst everything else you have going on?

Fortunately, being a good roommate boils down to a few simple rules.

Be Kind

Sure, you're both stressed out, have way too much work to do, need to get more sleep, and haven't had any privacy since the day school started. No matter how stress/tired/cranky/annoyed you are, however, you still must be kind. Always.

Be Respectful

Respect comes in all forms in a roommate relationship. Respect your roomie's need for space and quiet sometimes. Respect the requests your roommate makes of you, even if you think those requests are silly. Respect your roommate's stuff, from their laptop to their milk in the fridge. And respect them as a person.

Be a Good Listener

Sometimes, your roommate may want to talk to you about something they have going on in their personal life; sometimes, they may want to talk to you about things they'd like changed in the room. And sometimes they'll communicate a million things to you without opening their mouth. Be a good listener to your roommate, paying attention to them when they're communicating with you and truly hearing what they have to say (even if it is through silence).

Be Clear and Communicative

Being forthcoming with your own needs is just as important as being a good listener. If something is bothering you, talk about it; if you just want some alone time, say so; if you are feeling overwhelmed and just need to vent to your roommate for a little while, ask if they have a few minutes. Roommates aren't mind readers, so it's important for you to communicate with your roommate in a genuine, clear, constructive way as often as possible.

Be Honest

Trying to gloss over little problems will just make them grow until they get humongous and unavoidable. Be honest about what you need as a roommate and ask that your roommate do the same. Additionally, if something happens that will affect your roommate, confess it. It's much better to be honest from the beginning than further corrode a delicate situation.

Be Flexible

Living with a roommate requires a lot of flexibility. Be honest with yourself about what kinds of things you can compromise and bend a little on. The things that matter most to you might not matter at all to your roommate, and vice versa. You might be surprised by how much you can learn by being flexible and adaptable when needed.

Be Generous

You don't have to buy your roommate tons of things to be a generous roommate. Generosity comes in all kinds of forms in college. Offer to help in little ways, from adding their towel to your load of laundry to saving a piece of pizza from your own delivery when your roommate's up late somewhere else finishing a lab report. A little generosity can go a long way without costing you too much money -- or effort.

Be Firm on What's Important

Although it might feel like you're doing the right thing at the time, you won't be a good roommate if you compromise too much of yourself and what you need. Be firm on what's important to you, no matter how silly you might feel at first. The things that matter most to you are the things that help define who you are; being firm in some areas of your life is healthy and productive. Your roommate ideally will respect your principles, value systems, and unique living preferences once you communicate about what you value most.