By Alyssa Clough

Published on January 6, 2016

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Photography by BRITTANY AMBRIDGE

Living with other people is hard—especially when you’re both crammed into a small space. And while being a good roommate isn’t hard, you’d be surprised how many people are really, really bad at it. So we made a guide to being the best roommate you can be, just in time for the start of the New Year.

Disclaimer: Even if you think you’re a really, really good roommate, a little refresher course never hurt. As far as we’re concerned, there’s always room for improvement.

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say thank you

If you notice the trash has been taken out, say thank you. If you left a mess and it’s gone, say thank you. If you notice some new, pretty home decor items, say thank you. This is an easy one that a lot of people neglect, but it’s so, so simple. Just say THANK YOU! Your roomie will appreciate it.

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always do your share

Without the reminder text! Doing things without being reminded or told is the first step to becoming the best roommate ever. If your roommate vacuumed the whole apartment last week, take the initiative to do it this week. Sending texts prompting your roommate to finish their “chores” makes us feel like a nagging mom. Not cool.

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do your dishes

Don’t be gross. Always soak your dishes and wash immediately. If you leave lingering dishes in the sink, send a courtesy text. This applies to you lucky people with dishwashers, too. Share the burden of loading and unloading and all will be well.

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be mindful of your noise

It’s great to not be on the same schedule as your roommate. It means more alone time in the apartment and no fighting about bathroom time. But there are downsides, too. Whether it’s blasting your music or the TV at all hours or loudly clanking around the apartment late at night or early in the morning, your roommate notices. Trust us. So turn down the volume, use headphones, and be better about tip toeing.

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exercise empathy

If you know your roomie has a hectic week at work, cut her some slack. We’ve all been there. If she’s super stressed, doing her dishes or buying her favorite candy would be a lovely gesture. But if being busy is more of a lifestyle and a “hectic week” turns into a reoccurring excuse, this rule no longer applies. 

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respect their space and belongings

Don’t use or take their stuff without asking, don’t eat their food without asking, and most of all, don’t break anything. If you do happen to break something, offer to fix or pay for it as soon as it happens. The same rules apply to space, too. As you get to know your roommate(s), you’ll start to understand when they want to hang and when they just need some alone time. 

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let them know you’re alive

This sounds like a silly reminder, but when you live with roommates in a large city, it’s always worrisome when someone doesn’t make it home after a night out. If you know you’re going to crash at a friend’s, shoot your roomies a text that night or when you wake up. That way everyone will know you’re alive and well. 

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establish open lines of communication

Being able to discuss what is working and what is not working is key to a successful roommate-ship. If mentioning something you’re upset about is too confrontational for you, shoot them a text. When sharing feelings (or what may feel like pointing out someone else’s flaws), make sure to prompt them to share how they’re feeling too. Everyone is different, so chances are if something is bothering you, something completely unrelated might also be bothering them.

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actually listen

Whether your roommate is telling you a funny story or that there’s no more toilet paper and it’s your turn to buy, listen. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll avoid miscommunications (where you’re the disrespectful one) and hurt feelings.

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split responsibilities and costs

If one person is in charge of paying all the monthly bills, make sure to pay that person immediately when they ask. Venmo, an app that allows you to send and request money on your phone, is a great alternative to writing checks or handling large amounts of cash. Yep, this means you can pay your roomie back in a matter of seconds. And—revisiting step 1—always say thank you. This also applies to household items like paper and cleaning supplies. Take turns buying—and when it’s your responsibility to get more, move the errand straight to the top of your to-do list.

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pay attention to the little things

Doing small things like never being the one to wash your shared towels in the bathroom and kitchen or always leaving toothpaste in the sink can get annoying—fast. Running a household (even if it’s just a tiny apartment) takes a lot of effort. So make sure you pay attention to the little ways you and your roommate both dirty and clean your space.

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if you make the mess, clean the mess

This should go without saying, but if you make it, clean it! If your food spills in the fridge, that’s your mess to take care of. The same goes for entertaining. Nobody wants their common space littered with Friday night’s party through Monday morning… NOTHING is worse than cleaning up a mess you didn’t make and nobody enjoys to feeling like the maid of the apartment.