10 Rules to Set with your Roommate ASAP

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It’s that moment of truth. You’ve unpacked all of your earthly belongings and then re-packed half of them back up, realizing that they can’t possibly all fit into your tiny new home. Then your roommate walks in. Whether you’ve known himm for years or just exchanged a few messages on Facebook, living with someone besides your family is no dainty task. Boundaries must be drawn, sacrifices must be made and ground rules must be set.

1. Sharing food

We are not quite as dominant over anything as our sustenance. Whether it’s the peanut butter cookies that your mom sent along or the diet Coke stacked neatly in the fridge, letting your roommate know exactly what’s expected in the food etiquette department is vital to a successful relationship. Without starting a war, and sometimes rather awkwardly, just be blunt about what you feel you guys can share and what should be secluded to individual shelves. Long story short: tell your roommate that your birthday cake Oreos are strictly off limits to anyone besides you, but go ahead and have some Cheerios if you run out of oatmeal after the first week.

2. Sharing Clothes

No matter if you’re a girl or a guy, this one can be a struggle. When you move in with someone besides your siblings, sharing clothes gets tricky. You used to yell at your sister in the middle of the hallway at school when she wore your jean shorts without asking, but what do you do when your roommate grabs your scarf last minute on -15 degree day? Sometimes clothing wars can cause the biggest rifts between roommates, but have no fear, we all have certain things we don’t mind sharing. Regardless if that’s a pair of gloves you really would never wear, an old tank top that you’re sick of, or a necklace that you forgot you even had. If your roommate has an issue with wearing the clothes you love, just offer up one of the items you don’t mind seeing leave the room and set those Birkenstocks in an “off limits” area.

3. Temperature

The year-round struggle of air conditioning to heat and anywhere in between. With open windows, energy costs and allergies to take into consideration, this is a topic to talk about the first day. When you arrive at your new home, most likely in the heat of late August, just say out loud how hot it is and ask your roomie what she wants to turn it down to. This ice breaker, no pun intended, creates an open environment for temperature talk (and expense talk) in the future.

4. Cleaning Schedule

Nothing–I repeat–nothing is worse than the smell of mold that comes from a sack of potatoes left in an apartment for a year. A cleaning talk the first week of school isn’t only necessary but should be required by the public health department. Dorm rooms and apartments can become rancid amidst the neglect of two or more busy college schedules. The solution is easy: set up a cleaning schedule of vacuuming, dusting, straightening up and throwing out old food. While you don’t have to follow it to a ‘T,’ it lets everyone know what is expected of your area…and that there’s a strict no mold policy.

5. Parties

It’s no secret that college opens a whole new door to rooms filled with booze, beer and drugs, so the pre-party chat is crucial to achieve roommate harmony. This doesn’t have to be a cut and dry thing, like outlawing any amount of alcohol for all eternity, but set some ground rules about when you’re down to have people over, who will be responsible for cleaning up the mess that is sure to come from a party and which substances you’re chill with having in the room.

6. Significant Others

Ah, the ever-dreaded boyfriend/girlfriend visiting for the weekend talk. Sometimes a roommate’s significant other can be the demise of your relationship. If your roommate’s SO is visiting every weekend, kicking you out of the room and making your space not feel like your own anymore, say something right away. Humans develop habits and if you don’t say that your roommate having his girlfriend stay over every weekend makes you feel uncomfortable until second semester, it will only drive a wedge between you two that is unlikely to result in his girlfriend visiting less. Talk about this right away, but don’t be afraid to ask if your significant other wants to visit either; it goes both ways.

7. Locking Up

This may feel like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised. Especially in dorms, tell your roommate(s) when you want the door locked. After all your entire life is in one room, the least they can do is lock the door when they leave. Also talk about when you want your door left open; this is arguably the best way to meet people in a dorm. Leaving your door open invites people to stop by and say hi. The locking up chat is a major key to roommate bliss.

8. Bathroom Schedule

Sharing a bathroom can be a stressful thing, especially when you wake up with just enough time to shower and brush your teeth before your 7:45 a.m. Spanish lecture and your roommate is using enough hot water to bathe an entire third world country. Mention your schedule, talk about it the night before and work out what times you can have the throne room to get ready so you’ll never have to settle for a tic-tac and dry shampoo in the morning.

9. Pricey Amenities

Paying for things like electricity, air conditioning, heating, water and Internet is a new and harsh reality for most people in college, and trying to work that out with someone you barely know is difficult. Be sure to talk about splitting the cost of these things and how much you feel comfortable paying so you can adjust your thermostat to something below 78 degrees in the winter. Sweating bullets about this one is just not worth it.

10. Paying for the Essentials

AKA, things we all need but don’t want to buy: paper towels, soap, tissues, lotion, toilet paper. While this list may seem like to nothing, expenses like these add up over time and switching off buying these is something to establish at the very beginning of your lease. No one wants to have to hide their toilet paper under their bed because they are sick of purchasing it month after month, with no help from the person who shares the roll.

Student writer, English lover, avid reader, and Wisconsin Badger. I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in English and creative writing.

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