Unless you shared a room with a sibling, college will be the first time that you encounter the experience of having a roommate. For many freshman, your roommates will be randomly selected unless you specifically requested to be paired with someone. Typically after the first year, many friendships and relationships have been made so a lot of students request to live in the same dorm with or look into getting an apartment with their new college BFFs. Regardless if your roommate is a new face or someone that is your best friend, you never truly get to know someone until you live with them. You will learn a lot about their personal habits for hygiene, eating, responsibility, organization, etc. There are several things you can practice to have peace and harmony in your home with your roommates.
Having and showing respect for yourself and your roommates is probably the most important thing to practice. We all come from different backgrounds, families, places, and all have different life experiences—these are the things that make us who we are! Respect your roommate’s space, belongings, their schedule, and their beliefs. Remember that your roommate may not feel comfortable doing all the things that you are comfortable with. The Golden Rule applies here—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So, don’t gossip about each other and never make fun of or belittle each other. A few other things to keep in mind: Be sure to clean up after yourself; respect quiet time; never wake a sleeping roommate (unless they ask!); don’t use their stuff without their permission; maintain and respect privacy; be reasonable about visits from friends; and be reasonable about inviting over “special” friends you intend to be intimate with.
It is so important to communicate effectively with your roommate. Talk about any issues or concerns instead of hoping that they will go away on their own. Do NOT be passive aggressive if something is bothering you (like leaving Post-It notes everywhere). Be sure to trade numbers so you can chat throughout the week. To help with communication, set up a roommate calendar (whether on a big wall calendar or through an app on your phone) so you know when each other has important dates, tests, projects, etc. so they can quietly work or study. I have heard of some roommates developing a contract, stating specifically what is and is not accepted and who has what responsibilities in the home.
Along with this, perhaps set aside a day each week that you both get together to tidy up the dorm/apartment, do laundry together, or even cook/eat out. This will give you time to do things together and catch up on each others’ lives. Remember, your roommate may not be your best friend, but It will make It easier for you if you communicate with each other to live harmoniously.
Through all of my years in college and graduate school, and talking to other people, It seems that cleaning/cleanliness is the main issue that cause conflict between roommates. Remember, we are all unique people with different experiences which means we don’t all have the same idea of what “clean” is. The best rule of thumb is to clean as you go, and to not let little things pile up and get out of control. It is understandable that we get very busy and stressed sometimes and, as a result, we tend to get a little messy. Staying on top of cleaning is important to not let things get out of control! This is especially important for those who live in a small dorm room. Remember that your dorm is not only your living space but your work space as well. Keep It tidy and organized so that you can do your best in school!
No matter how hard you try, conflicts may still arise. In that case, consider the importance of effective communication. First, focus on the problem, not the person. When resolving conflicts, be sure that you are addressing the conflict instead of your roommate. When you attack your roommate this will cause further conflict. Next, validate your roommate’s position. Let them know that you understand where they are coming from and offer empathy. Put yourself in their shoes to better understand their point of view. Also, give positive feedback! We all like positive feedback and compromise when possible. Compromises are great, but be sure to stand your ground in a mature way. Finally, once the conflict is resolved, keep It to yourself. Avoid the temptation to rehash all of the details with your friends. Remember, this isn’t high school anymore and college students are expected to manage conflict in a mature way! Sometimes you just have to pull up your boot straps and move forward!
I would love to hear your experiences (good and bad!) with your roommates!