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My House is Your House? What to Share or Not Share with Your Roommates

My House is Your House? What to Share or Not Share with Your Roommates
Alison Storm

After sharing a house with five-- yes five-- male roommates in college I feel like a bit of an expert on how to live in harmony with others. It taught me about the importance of grace, patience and knocking before entering a room. I also learned that some things are best shared by all, while others should be kept for personal use. Roommates are almost a rite of passage for graduates, whether in college or out in the real world. But what do you split with your roomie? Toilet paper? Milk? Shampoo? Consider these tips for living in harmony with roommates.

Share: Chores

My roommates and I came up with six weekly chores. They were things like wash all dishes in the sink, vacuum the main floor, and clean the bathroom. Since there were six of us, each week we were each responsible for one chore and the chores were rotated so everyone's job shifted. For the most part this method seemed to work, although no one was ever too keen on dish duty. Brenda Della Casa, author of Cinderella Was a Liar, says it's important for roommates to keep in mind that your idea of clean isn't always the same as those who share your living space. "Sit down and chat about what your expectations are and never assume that something is OK without asking," she says. "It all comes down to respectful discussions, flexibility and for goodness sakes--talk, don't leave notes!"

Don't Share: Milk and Most Foodpouring milk

Food tastes and needs can be a very personal choice so typically it will work best if most food and beverage purchases are not shared. It can be easy to justify pouring your roommates milk over your cereal in the morning-- it's only a little bit after all! But your roommate could be quietly steaming over her disappearing milk supply. Something small like that can build and eventually be a breaking point for roommates that aren't communicating or respecting each other's boundaries.

Share: Condiments

House sharing expert Annamarie Pluhar wrote the book on the subject: "Sharing Housing, A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates". She says food items that are typically used sparingly like mustard, pepper and hot sauce can easily be shared. But the key is communicating rather than assuming. "All of this requires negotiation and agreement before doing anything," she says. "[Expectations] should be talked about in the interview process."

Don't Share: Shampoo and Beauty Products

For the roommate who picks up shampoo at the dollar store, it may not seem like a big deal to share shower items. But for the roommate that spends big bucks on fancy products at the salon, sharing shampoo could be a big deal. It's best just to keep these products separate and if you run out-- ask before you simply just use.

Share: Dishes and Most Household ItemsRA Roommate

Sharon Rosenblatt and her roommate did something unusual, but smart when they first moved in together. "We treated our living situation as if we were getting married. When she was on a business trip, we created a registry so we could tandem shop online without having to worry about scheduling," says Sharon. This allowed them to split the cost of typical household items like a toilet brush or silverware. "Now, just about three months in, we're experiencing domestic bliss," says Sharon. "While splitting the cost of some items is important, we clearly know what's hers and what's mine."

Don't Share: Personal Space

While the living room, kitchen and dining room are likely considered shared rooms for you and your roommates, bedrooms typically aren't. "While you should not have to ask to eat a bowel of cereal in the living room," says Brenda, "you certainly should run it by your roomie if you plan to have company or need to go into their room." Bottom line, be respectful of your roommate's personal space and personal belongings if you want to experience harmony at home.

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