Introduction

               Unless you’re planning to attend a college close to home, you will most likely end up in a college dorm. The transition from living at home to living with a roommate, whom you’ve probably never met, can be both exciting and daunting. So, now (or as soon as possible) is a great time to start learning how to be a good roommate.

               First of all, we should expect there to be some discomfort when we first move into a college dorm. For most of us, we’re going from living at home with our family, where our parents take care of most things, to living with a stranger. We have to learn a new person’s preferences and opinions, take care of feeding ourselves (and cleaning up afterwards), and other start doing other housekeeping chores that we may not be accustomed to.

               After you’ve moved into your college dorm and met your roommate(s), make it a priority to sit down with your roomie(s) and set down some boundaries. This can be things like how you feel about sharing things, quiet hours, guest rules, and bathroom rules. These boundaries will help you all proceed with more clarity about keeping the peace and making the room/suite a safe and comfortable space for everyone.

               That said, there are some things about living in a college dorm that will make more sense with time. There are things about our roommates that we will find out as we live with them, perhaps the hard way, and, well—it happens. Some of the specifics about how we engage with our roommates we find out up front and some we find out a few months in, or after dealing with roommates for a couple of years.

And then there are some basics that we can just avoid altogether. In the interest of learning how to be a good roommate for our sake and those we room with, here are some dorm do’s and don’ts to help our time in a college dorm be full of peace and comfort for all.

Dorm Do’s and Don’ts

            Don’t Borrow Things Without Asking

               Most people like to have some security over the things that belong to them. Don’t take anything from your roommate’s room, toiletries, or desk without asking. Don’t borrow their super cute sweater without checking first, even if it would complete the look and land you on the cover of vogue. Don’t borrow their pen, even if it writes like a dream and magically increases your IQ, without asking.

Never assume that your roommate will just be okay with you borrowing anything. Always make a point to ask permission to borrow things and respect the answer that they give without additional begging or bargaining.

            Do Clarify If You Are Willing to Share Things

               When you draw up a college roommate agreement or your boundaries list, make sure to discuss sharing/borrowing items. Make sure to include that each of you should ask permission to borrow things unless you truly don’t care. Or, if you aren’t okay sharing things, make sure that is included in your boundaries.

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               It’s alright if you aren’t comfortable lending things to your roommate. It’s best to set that precedent early so your roommate doesn’t continuously ask to borrow things or take it personally when you don’t want to share. They shouldn’t take it personally anyway, but people are unpredictable sometimes…

            Don’t Eat their Food

               There are few things more disappointing than looking forward to a snack or meal, the thought of that meal getting your through class, only to realize it’s gone—and your craving is left unsatisfied. Don’t be the reason that happens to someone else.

               If you did not buy the food or make the food, don’t eat the food. If your roommate gives you permission or offers it, that’s fine. But otherwise, the food is off limits. Taking it anyway is an easy way to start a roommate war—food is, after all, one of the most powerful motivators (especially for college students).

            Do Come Up with Food Rules

               To prevent the horrific theft of life-giving snacks, come up with kitchen/food rules with your roommate(s). Are you all splitting groceries? Are you each buying your own food items? If you split groceries, what are the rules for usage? How often are you okay with shopping? These are important questions to make sure you aren’t eating each other’s food and getting roped into spending too much on groceries you aren’t using.

Some college dorms have a community/hall fridge, especially if the rooms don’t have full kitchens. The unspoken rule is that if it is labeled, it is off limits. Technically, if you didn’t put it in the fridge, you still shouldn’t touch it, but college students are like scavengers—if there’s food to snatch, it shall be snatched.

            Don’t Leave a Mess

               You know that feeling when you’re out in public, and you really need to go to the bathroom, and the only open stall is just an absolute abomination of filth? Yeah, that’s not a feeling you want to have when you walk into your dorm bathroom or go to use your kitchen sink. Set a precedent for cleaning up after yourself.

               Don’t leave a mess. Clean your bathroom on some kind of regular basis, especially if it is shared. Do your dishes in a timely manner, don’t leave them in the sink for days on end. Your roommates may not say anything at first, but the more messes we leave, the shorter their patience gets until one day they just blow up on us about it. Remember that the space is shared, and we should keep it in a condition that is acceptable for everyone.

            Do Make a Schedule for Cleaning

               Some quick roommate tips: most people like things clean, but not most of us really enjoy cleaning, and none of us enjoy being the one who cleans up after everyone else. So, to keep things fair, make a schedule with your roommates for when things will be deep cleaned. For example, maybe alternate with your roommates who scrubs down the shower and who wipes down the stove, sink, and counters in the kitchen.

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               Making a schedule keeps everyone accountable for the tidiness of the shared spaces and ensures that one person isn’t doing more than everyone else.

            Don’t Be Loud

               You know how everyone loves their sleep? Your roommate is also considered “everyone.” Be mindful of the volume when you listen to music or watch/stream tv. If your roommate is napping, maybe use headphones. Naps in college, as you will soon find out, are like currency—when you want to go out to do things, you pay with the nap time you lose. So, the last thing anyone wants is to be woken up by their roommate thumping loud music through their speaker.

               Definitely don’t play anything loud in the middle of the night, or when your roommate is hard at work studying.

            Do Set Quiet Times

               Quiet times are set time slots where roommates agree to keep quiet so that the other(s) can sleep, study, work on homework, or meditate to achieve self-actualization. Whatever the reason one roommate has, quiet times are the slots that they can be certain they will have the mental space and soundless environment for it.

We should always set a quiet time with our roommates for the end of the night, so we make sure that we’re not preventing someone from getting enough sleep while we’re watching The Office on full volume.

            Don’t Bring Guests “Whenever”

               We all have those days when we’d rather not be around people, or when we’re stressed and need space to unwind. You know what’s the worst on those days? Finding a bunch of people in your room because your roommate didn’t ask if it was okay to have friends over. Don’t be that roommate.

               Remember that you’re sharing the space with others, and they have a right to preserve their comfort. Always ask or at least shoot a text to your roommate to let them know you have a friend with you so that they have a chance to respond or prepare. This is especially important if they get changed in the room. No one wants to unravel the awkwardness after THAT incident.

            Do Set Boundaries for Personal Space

               Personal space is not necessarily just the space directly around our person. It can also be spaces that are close to us, that are sensitive, that have our private belongings, or the place we keep our underwear. With your roommates, set places that are off-limits for guests and for each other. This could be the closet, the drawers, the desk, or even your bed.

               Boundaries like these help us ensure that we are being respectful of each other’s preferences and privacy. One of the best roommate tips that can be given is to do the best we can to uphold our roommates’ boundaries, respect the rules we come up with together, and make a point of checking with them in anything that would involve them, such as bringing guests or borrowing things.

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 How to be a Good Roommate

               When it comes down to how to be a good roommate, there is a golden rule of thumb that all things can be simplified to: do to others as you would have them do to you. This principle comes straight from Matthew 7:12, where we are commanded to treat others as we would like to be treated. It’s a straightforward concept, but we so often forget, because we are human.

               All the things that go into how to be a good roommate can seem overwhelming, and sometimes we do things without thinking. A simple way to avoid clashing with our roommates is to look at everything through the lens of “would I like this if it were the other way around?” Chances are, if we wouldn’t like it done to us, they probably won’t either.

               But here’s the thing, we are still human. We’ll more than likely still have moments where we annoy our roommates or do something that makes them upset. Listen, it happens. Sometimes something upsets them that we had no way of knowing would be problematic. Here’s one of the least popular, but super vital, roommate tips out there: just apologize.

               Even if you think you’re right, or they’re being unreasonable, or there were circumstances that made it difficult to avoid whatever annoyed them, just apologize. You might be right, but holding strictly to that and pushing back at them can do a lot of damage to your living situation.

               Romans 12:16 tells us, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

               Pride, even when you may be right, can prevent living in harmony. Choosing to hold proudly to your position when you’ve done something that’s upset your roommate can drive a wedge between you and result in a tense living environment where it feels like one wrong move will make them snap. Just the act of apologizing, acknowledging that our actions may have bothered our roommate(s) shows that you respect that they live there too. It shows that you care, and that goes a long way in keeping the peace.

               You may not always get along with your roommate, you may not even like each other very much, but as long as you can respect each other, listen to each other, and abide by the rules you agree on, living in peace is not out of reach.  Another of the unpopular roommate tips: you don’t have to be friends with your roommates, and sometimes that’s better.

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               Can you be friends with your roommate in a college dorm? Absolutely. But it doesn’t always work out that way, and you definitely don’t want to try to force a friendship—that’s a great way to make things really awkward. We don’t always click with everyone, and that’s okay. The important thing is that we respect each other’s boundaries and maintain the peace in the room so that it can be a safe and comfortable place for everyone.

Conclusion

               Knowing how to be a good roommate is such a valuable thing, especially when most students will end up in a college dorm. The key to being a good roommate, beyond these simple dorm do’s and don’ts, is to remember that your roommate is a person, just like you. You’ll both mess up and you both need grace. Be patient with each other, allow yourselves time to adjust, and remember the golden rule: if you wouldn’t like it, don’t do it.

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