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How to Set Boundaries With Your Roommate

How to Set Boundaries With Your Roommate

When you go to college, you'll probably end up sharing a room or apartment with another student. One of the issues that can make or break your first year is how well you get on with your roommate. Sharing can be a lot of fun. You've got a new friend (hopefully) to have a chat with when you get home, and someone to laugh with. But everyone being different, you also have to deal with their quirks and habits (and they have to deal with yours). You've both got to get used to each other, and it's not always.

What if, like me, you end up with a roommate who eats all your food or uses your things without asking? Trust me - it can leave you feeling thoroughly fed up. It's also incredibly annoying if you come home after a long day, or need to study, only to find that your roommate has turned the place into party central. It's a common complaint among my friends that their roommate is as inconsiderate as mine and doesn't respect the fact that it's a joint space.

So how can you handle an annoying roommate? What's the best way to avoid problems arising in the first place? Here's a quick guide to agreeing on boundaries with your roommate, and dealing with problems that occur between you. They worked for me …

1. Sharing Space

The space is neither yours nor your roommate; it belongs to both of you. But you want your own areas, understandably. Some roommates treat the entire place as theirs, and you'll come home to find their clothes all over your bed and new furniture that you don't want. If they've piled their belongings in your space, discuss it with them and suggest a better way of storing their things. If you're sharing a room, a good way to make each zone feel more separate and private is to divide it with a screen.

2. Sharing Dishes/Food

Another common annoyance is when you want to cook a meal, only to find that your roommate has used all your food (and the stores are now closed) and there isn't a single clean plate. Some people take the view that anything in the kitchen is communal property. They may also leave dirty dishes piled up for days because they can't be bothered to wash them.

Rather than fuming in silence, agree some ground rules. Tell them that you don't mind them using things that belong to you, but could they please wash them straight away or the same day. Suggest that they buy some extra plates 'so that we have enough dishes'.

If you don't want to share food, ask them to avoid using your things without asking and say that you won't touch theirs either. It may actually make sense to share some food items, though; you can save money by buying in bulk and avoiding waste when food goes off quickly. You can also tell them that they're welcome to use your food if they need it, but could they replace things they use up. Me and my roommate actually worked out a deal whereby I would cook for us both 2 nights a week and she would cook 2 nights a week. The others nights, we were left to our own devices.

3. Inviting Guests Over

Another major conflict among roommates is the question of guests. What if your roommate is always inviting friends over when you want to study, or bringing their boyfriend over and getting loudly amorous? Don't be afraid to ask them to head somewhere else if you need to study or get some sleep. It's your home as well! And if their boyfriend practically lives there (and isn't paying rent), ask to limit how often they stay over. I also had to request that their friends didn’t go into my things when I wasn’t there.

My situation could have been horrible if I had not made the effort to establish boundaries. Don’t let your domestic situation cause you stress. There’s enough stress for students anyway.