5 Roommate Rules for the Start of Every Semester

Ginger Abbot

Dec 28, 2022
roommate rules

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College is a time of new experiences. One of them is living with strangers. While it’s fabulous to meet new folks, sharing a living space requires a bit of negotiation on both sides. 

Communication is key to harmonious relationships. Smooth yours by discussing these five roommate rules at the start of every semester. 

1. When Lights-Out Occurs

You and your new roommate are both adults and don’t have assigned bedtimes. However, sharing a dorm room means your habits could keep your roommate up all night. Plus, you might work various schedules, causing you to come home at different times. 

At the start of each semester, determine when quiet hours are for your dorm room or apartment. If you come home late, use courtesy, making as little noise as possible. 

Sometimes, you may need to be courteous if one of the other of you has to burn the midnight oil. In such instances, a bed tent or an eye mask designed to block out light can come in handy. 

2. Sharing Community (and Sound) Space

However, donning a mask won’t block out the sound of their death metal blaring at 3 a.m. Sharing sound space means remaining sensitive to your roommate’s needs and aesthetic tastes. If one of you lives to jam, work out times when you can do so to relieve stress that won’t drive your roommate to rip out their hair from what they consider noise. 

Another issue is shared television time. Today’s streaming services mean you can watch what you want just about any time. Work out a way to take turns with how you select the evening’s entertainment, perhaps alternating days or settling in when they’re away at class. 

3. Beg, Borrow or Steal? 

Living with someone gives them nearly unlimited access to your things. While some roommates don’t mind the other person raiding their closets, others take a hands-off approach. 

Set ground rules. For example, you may agree to inspect clothing items before borrowing them to ensure who’s responsible for that new stain. You might also ask where they intend to wear it —especially if you object to the smell of smoky bars and spilled Budweiser. 

It also pays to set boundaries and clearly express what things are off-limits. You can hardly get angry with your roommate for borrowing your favorite sweater if you never raised a fuss about her snagging other items from your closet. 

4. Dividing the “Household” Chores 

Maybe you don’t mind the occasional dirty dish in the shared sink. However, it can become a problem if your roommate creates the Leaning Tower of Filthy Plates that prevents you from washing your coffee mug. 

Decide together what basic standards of hygiene you expect. Is it okay to leave books and papers scattered around the living room during finals? How much floor space can your roommate use for their pile of dirty laundry in a shared dorm room? 

It also helps to create a chore chart, holding each roommate accountable for their share of the housework. For example, one of you might vacuum once per week while the other handles the dusting. You can even hang a printable version on your shared fridge to indicate when you completed each task. 

5. Requesting and Respecting Privacy

Even roommates who become BFFs sometimes need time to themselves. Work out a system for requesting privacy when you need it, and respect it especially if you share a dorm or bedroom. 

For example, you might hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your door to indicate that you need some alone time with your romantic partner. Clear communication also matters. You don’t want to create undue stress for a roommate who merely needs to snag a book or their wallet before heading to class. Combine the sign with keeping your cellphone alerts turned on so that they can text you if they need to enter. 

Some privacy concerns nearly go without saying but deserve mention. For example, you should keep your prying hands and eyes away from your roommate’s diary or journal, even if they leave it on their bed. You should also steer clear of their medications — it’s none of your business what prescriptions they take or why. 

Roommate Rules to Discuss Every Semester

Living with a stranger offers adventure but presents interesting challenges. You need to adapt to each other’s quirks and set fair rules for sharing mutual property. 

Crystal clear communication can smooth conflicts before they arise. Discuss these five roommate rules at the start of each semester for more harmonious living. 

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