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Roommate Etiquette

For many Freshman, starting life at Central University is not only their first time away from home for any real length of time (summer camp for a week doesn't count), but their first time truly living on their own and dealing a roommate as an equal. Being that it's something new to them, many don't exactly know what to expect or how to act. The following guide should help you to be the best roommate you can and keep things civil and pleasant your whole time at Central U.

Most guides tend to start with some interpersonal mumbo-jumbo, talking about finding common ground and forming links to becoming friends, but those things have very little to do with actually working well as roommates. It doesn't matter how well people get along as friends when it comes to living together, and even people with nothing in common can be great roommates. The real place to start is with chores.

The biggest problem area with any shared living space is with keeping that space clean. It's very easy to let little things slide, but eventually it will get to a point where one (or both) of the roommates will get sick of the overwhelming mess. It also usually gets to a point where both sides are sure most of the mess is the other person's fault. The best way to avoid these problems is for everyone simply clean up as they go, but failing that (and let's face it, most Freshmen will) you should set some clear guidelines as to who does what cleaning chores and when.

Creating a cleaning schedule early in a living situation is the best way to handle these things (even if the plan simply says to keep your side of the room clean and keep your things off the other side). It's best to equally assign certain areas or types of cleaning to each roommate involved and have some set level of attainable cleanliness they are required to keep them at. Work out set times for when certain chores need to be done by and make sure each side sticks to them.

Sometimes even instituting some small roommate level punishments for those who fail to fulfill the agreements is the best way to make sure these schedules are kept. The exact nature of these depend on those involved and should be worked out ahead of time. Most dorms and houses will have RA's or House Heads who are more than happy to help create and enforce these deals. So don't be afraid to talk to them.

In some of the larger shared living environments (like Greek houses and shared rentals), you also have kitchens and supplies to deal with. Cupboards and refrigerators filled with goods. This is another area of common contention between roommates that should be clearly organized and decided upon before going too far into the relationship. The first thing roommates have to decide is if the kitchen and foodstuffs are a communal thing or is each person on their own.

If they are a communal thing, everyone has to be clear about their part of keeping it stocked and doing their fair share of the cooking and meal preparation (even if these chores are simply part of the overall collection of chores fairly divvied out). Everyone (as a whole) is responsible for the costs of stocking the kitchen and making sure everyone has a fair share of the food when it comes to meals. How this is handled it up to the agreement and can be done in numerous ways, from a share money pool they all give into to working out other kinds of trades to "pay" for their part of the deal.

If the kitchen situation is deemed to be an each person is on their own deal, then certain cupboards or spaces need to clearly laid out as belonging to certain roommates and anything in shared spaces (like the refrigerator) should be clearly marked by who they belong to. It is often smart to have a number of sharpies around to do this marking with. It is then up to each person to respect these boundaries and not take items that belong to others without permission. This is another area where roommate level punishments may be helpful to keep people from being too tempted to step out of line.

If one person is assigned the chore of cooking for the house (as is relatively common), it is important that other chores of equal time and difficulty are take over by others. Remember, cooking for a house is often a multiple times a day, every day, kind of job. Not many other household chores are on the same level. That's why it might be best to have this be a rotating chore if you can.

Laundry is another fairly common one that many people don't immediately think about, especially if roommates end up sharing clothes at any time. This can also include ancillary parts, such as ironing, folding, organizing and putting away the clothing. Any and all parts of this could be a single chore, a shared chore, or even several chores done by different people at different times. It just all needs to be agreed upon before hand. And remember, if you are doing laundry anywhere on campus, you have to be careful about carrying clothing around. You don't want the inspectors to think you are trying to sneak something by them.

Although Cooking and Cleaning (with laundry often being associated with cleaning) are the two biggies when it comes to household chores among roommates, they are by far not the only chores people should think about in shared living situations. Nearly everything you do around the living space outside of homework and entertainment could be considers part of chore. Make a list of them as your living situation is being settled and figure out how many actually need to be divvied up.

You might be surprised what some people think of as possible chores that need to be handled. Keeping a collection of often used books, CDs, DVDs or games organized could be something of great import to one or more roommate, so that might be a chore to think about. Helping with hair and make-up could be another. Hell, even other kinds of help or aid to one another might be something that is important to one or more roommate. If there is something that you think you want to have regularly done as a chore around the share living space, bring it up when having the chore discussion near the start of the roommate relationship.

The only two ways something is going to become a problem is if it was not discussed or it was something that was clearly discussed and agreed upon, but then those responsible for it neglected it. The first can become a serious problem with no clear resolution, but the second could easily be handled if agreements were made at the start and the required roommate level punishments were in place.

A person's bedroom is to be considered a private space for those who live there. They should be respected and treated as such, even if their whole living space is just the one room. This means that even a roommate should let a person be themselves and do their own thing within their own room (as long as it is not completely disruptive or harmful to others around them). Although this may sound like an excuse for the person to let their room become a slovenly mess or crazy loud party room, it often means quite the opposite.

Remember, in a roommate situation the bedroom is often a shared room with at least one other person. That means that respecting their space means keeping your stuff from cluttering up and making a mess of the place. If you are lucky enough to have a private room, then by all means thrown your clothes on the floor all you want, but in a shared space you should show enough respect to their private space to keep your clutter to a minimum (which is turn means they do the same and you share a neater space).

When it comes to how one acts within this space is another deal though. Although you should still show respect to your roommate (since this is their personal space too), it doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to live how you choose. If there is something you enjoy doing and want to spend some time in your room doing, you should be allowed to. If things you both want conflict, you might need to work out some kind of schedule that allows you both to do your own thing in the space, but at different times. Or perhaps you can share in each other's interests and both enjoy the time together.

For example: Charlie likes to play racing games on his X-Box and Lilly wants to do a video aerobic workout each day. Both of these things use the television in the room and can't be done at the same time. They may agree that Lilly can use it in the morning to get her workout done before classes start (and Charlie won't complain about being woken up early), and Charlie can play his games in the afternoon, after classes and until it's time for dinner. Perhaps they can even join the other in their pursuits, with Charlie getting some exercise and Lilly having some fun.

The next thing I want to mention is something that mostly seems to be an issue among the female population, and that's sharing of clothing. To some people their roommate's closet is as much theirs as it is their roommate's, while the roommate may not see things the same way. This can lead to some serious conflicts between roommates, especially if something happens to an article of clothing while being worn by another.

As with most things discussed so far, it's important to talk about these things before it becomes a problem. Often sharing is not a problem, as long as people ask permission first, but don't assume this. In fact, it's usually best to talk about all these things right up front in the first few weeks of the living situation. That way there are no (or at least far fewer) surprises down the road. If you are cool with sharing your clothing, let them know. If you have some limitations about sharing, let them know. If you are totally against it, let them know. Not matter where you stand on the subject, you should discuss it and make sure the feelings are known before anything happens.

If sharing is something one of the roommates is not comfortable with, you should respect this and not go through their things. You can still ask, from time to time, to see if they changed their stance at all, but never assume and always accept their position and respect it once they make it clear. If they are open to sharing, this can often become an area of shared fun, where trying on each other's clothing could be a way to pass time and become better acquainted with each other.

As with everything else, however, the problems that can arise should also be discussed ahead of time, as well as how to handle things if one should happen. This is another place where roommate level punishments should be considered and arranged before hand as a deterrent. Even unexpected trouble (like confiscation of clothing by an inspector or accidental staining from an outside source) might lead to a punishment. That risk should make people try harder to be careful with other's clothing and just be a part of sharing outfits.

Finally, there is the subject of friends. Having friends over, either just to hang out (like to do homework together) or to have a big party (with lots of friends), is another bit part of having a place of your own. But when you have a roommate, you have to consider their need and wishes too. Make sure that when and how nay friends are allowed over is something that was discussed and agreed upon up front. This is especially important if you are planning to have a lot of friends over at once, especially to party.

If your roommate is not comfortable with a lot of people over, try and respect that and work out some time you can do it when they won't be around or would be more comfortable with it. This is especially true if they have certain times they like to study or work on homework or something else that requires a calmer, quieter environment. But, in the same vein, don't expect your roommate to never have friends over just because you like being quiet and alone. It is there place too. Find some middle ground you can both deal with and make that part of the agreement.

The final thing to think about when having friends over is who is responsible for them. The answer to that is pretty simple. The person who invited them over is. If your friend causes any problems, makes any messes, or breaks any rules of the living area, it's your responsibility to handle it (and take any punishments that may be associated with that). That's just one of the things you have to accept when having friends over to a shared living space.

In the end it all comes down to the same things I was talking about near the start: Respect and Preparation. Make sure all these things are talked about ahead of time and all sides show the others respect for their feeling and wishes. Do your part of keep things clean, safe, fun, and happy. And remember that it's probably their first time away from home and living on their own too.

To get help on other subjects see the Help Guide List.
Last modified on 2014/6/3 by Admin
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