Living with roommates
Whether you’re living with roommates for the first time or want to get your relationship with new roommates off to a great start, here are tips and tactics to make your time in Residence together more rewarding.
Start with three simple concepts
Here are the top three things you can do to ensure you and your roommate(s) have a healthy living environment:
- Awareness – know the difference between fact and fiction
- Communication – keep the lines open for a strong relationship
- Setting expectations – ask some starter questions to help clarify how you will live in your shared space
If things just don't work out after you've given it a try, you can follow the procedures to request a room change.
Before you and your roommate move into your Residence unit, separate fact from fiction. Know the facts about living well with others:
"My roommate and I need to have a lot in common."
Two different people can live together and learn from one another's experiences – as long as both people stay open to it!
"As long as they keep their hands off my stuff, we will be fine."
Living with someone is about much more than just material things. Respect, communication and flexibility all work into the mix as you learn to have a relationship with your roommate(s).
"My roommate and I are going to be best friends. We are going to do everything together!"
Roommates don’t always end up as best friends. Friendship isn’t the main factor in developing an excellent roommate relationship. Instead, respect and willingness to communicate clearly are key.
Most roommate conflicts are the result of poor communication. Misunderstandings happen all the time whether you are good friends or complete strangers and it is important to clear them up rather than let them grow into tension and eventually conflict in the unit.
When interacting with your roommate(s):
- Avoid gossip. Gossip among roommate(s) and other members in your community can be a real source of conflict. Avoid conversations that include gossip, and ensure that your ”small talk” is gossip free.
- Go to the source. Complaining can cause a lot of tension within a shared living space. Those who you complain to wonder if you complain about them too, and this only provides you with a quick ”get it off your chest” feeling. Instead of complaining, talk to your roommate(s) directly. Starting a sentence with “I feel that ...” is usually a good tactic – no one can deny how you feel.
- Don’t beat around the bush. If there is something that you feel needs to be discussed or addressed, take a minute to think about what you are going to say and then say it. A problem is much easier to solve when it is out in the open and clearly stated.
- Don’t make assumptions. The source of many problems is false assumptions. If you make an assumption before taking the time to get the facts, problems will arise. See the previous two points for more advice.
- Use "I" statements. This is a very powerful and non-threatening way to address concerns. Talk about how you feel and what you have observed. This will provide your roommate(s) with an opportunity to see how their actions may be affecting you (excerpt from PaperClip Communications).
With up to four people living together in one Residence unit sharing a common room, kitchen and bathroom, there are bound to be many different styles of living. All four roommates will have to learn to compromise, agree to disagree and set expectations.
Here are some quick questions that address important topics that you and your roommate(s) should take some time to discuss soon after you move in. Talking about these things now will let you learn more about each other and create standards that you are comfortable living with.
Cleanliness: regarding the common spaces (kitchen, bathroom, living room), what are your expectations for cleaning? You may want to address things such as:
- How often should you wash/vacuum the floors? And who is responsible for this?
- Is each person responsible for their own dishes? Are they washed after every meal? How do you feel about a roommate borrowing your dishes?
- How often should the bathroom be cleaned, including toilets, floor, shower and sink?
- How often should the kitchen be cleaned, including the sink, stove, oven and counters?
Food: you and your roommate(s) will be sharing cupboard and fridge space. Ask yourselves:
- Should everyone have their own cupboard and fridge areas to store their own food?
- Are there items (e.g. condiments, cutlery) that you can share or do you prefer that everyone uses their own?
- What are your feelings about sharing and/or borrowing food?
Guests: each of you will entertain guests in your own private room and the common space many times during the year.
- What are your expectations for guests?
- What are your expectations of your roommate(s) when they are entertaining guests?
- What are your feelings about guests staying overnight? And where will they be staying?
Use of common space: each unit has amenities that residents share (e.g. television, living room, kitchen table, fridge, stove).
- How will you share these items?
- If someone is using any of these items unfairly, how should it be addressed?
- Are personal items in the common areas, such as game consoles, for common use?
Personal bedroom and property: everyone has their own private space and property.
- What do each of you expect of the other(s) when it comes to entering someone else’s room, borrowing items, etc.?
The Residence Conduct Guide – on living with roommates
The Residence Conduct Guide can help you. Refer to the following in your conduct guide:
- Chapter 3: Residence citizenship – rights, responsibilities and privileges
- Chapter 4: Conduct standards
A new living arrangement and new roommates can sometimes make for a challenging few weeks as everyone gets to know their new surroundings. What starts off bumpy will often grow into a good relationship. There are times, though, when things just don’t work out. After giving it a good try, you may wish to request a room change.
A room change freeze is in effect during September and January. After the freeze has ended, room change requests will be reviewed after you have taken several steps:
- As an adult and resident, it is your responsibility to attempt to solve your roommate conflicts on your own.
- If problems persist, speak to your Resident Advisor (RA) and let your RA know about the problem. They will provide you with some advice and new tactics to try in the resolution process.
- Arrange a meeting with your RA and your roommate(s). RAs are trained in mediation processes and can facilitate a conversation between you and your roommate(s) that may assist you in addressing the issues in a positive way.
- Evaluate progress. If the conflicts between you and your roommate(s) have not improved and you feel it would be better if you changed rooms, pick up a room-change request form from the Residence Services Front Desk in West Residence Building B. Once you have completed the form, you need to get your RA to sign it. Then you can submit it to the Front Desk. The Residence Life Coordinator and the Assignments Coordinator will make a decision about your request to change rooms.
In order for a room change request to be granted, you must show that you have followed all of the above steps.
Once a room change is approved, you will be notified by email or phone to pick up your new keys on the approved date. You will have a couple days – usually a weekend – to move your belongings and do a proper check-out of your old room. If the keys to your old room are not returned on the specified date following the move, you will be charged Residence fees for occupying both rooms.