14 Essentials for Anyone Who Lives With a Roommate
Make the most of your shared living situation.
Updated Oct 12, 2018 7:08 AM
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Late summer/early fall brings with it change, from daily routines—getting back into the grind of work and school—to living situations. The fact of the matter is that this is when many people move. It’s the most common time for renters to start a new lease and simultaneously, college students are descending upon campuses all across the land. So, this period is marked by quite a bit of transition and needing to adapt to new environments (i.e., dorms, apartments, fraternity, and sorority houses, etc.).
For lots of folks that means having a roommate. And this doesn’t just apply to collegiates. The number of grown-ups sharing an abode has increased substantially in the last couple of decades, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. In 2017, nearly 79 million Americans between the ages 18 to 24 resided in a double-up household. To put things in perspective, that’s 31.9 percent of the adult population in the country.
It’s safe to say, at one point or another, most of us have or will live with another person in a non-romantic scenario—whether that’s a pal, sibling, stranger, or mate we met through university housing. (Personally, I cohabitated with five friends at various times before occupying my own studio and eventually moving in with my husband-to-be.)
So, take it from someone with well over a decade of real-life experience on the subject, having a roomie can be great for alleviating financial burdens and lowering costs (splitting rent and bills is a major plus) and companionship. But it’s definitely way different than dwelling solo. And if you cherish privacy, peace, and quiet, which I think we all do to some degree, it can be an adjustment.
As you can imagine, there are also a handful of scenarios where having an extra person or two can make things…well…interesting, err tough to navigate. Not much can prepare you for coming back to your apartment after a late-night cram session at the library to find your roommate’s boyfriend rifling through the fridge in nothing but his underwear. Here’s another scenario: You walk in the door with the full intention of lounging on the sofa alone, only to trip over a pair of size 14 sneakers that were left there by the aforementioned fellow. (And yes, both of those did actually happen to me.) But I digress.
With proper planning and few purchases, it can be total smooth sailing. So, we tapped Lauren Makk, Yelp’s Home Expert, to get the scoop on the products that are super advantageous for anyone sharing a space. From mutual to-do lists and soothing sound machines to shower caddies and label makers, these essentials will help you stay sane and happy no matter how many peeps occupy your pad.
Surge protector power strip: How much electricity could you possibly require? Having a roommate or two means extra laptops, phones, tablets, and other devices that constantly need juice. Makk suggests investing in a surge protector power strip for common areas to keep everything charged. Score one with an extension cord for added convenience and multiple USB ports, so you aren’t left fighting over plugs. Because there’s nothing worse than a millennial with a dead cell battery.
List pad: Worried about running out of staples like toilet paper, toothpaste, trash bags? Establish a common to-do list on a cute notepad. “Fill it with communal items that both parties use on a regular basis.” If you cook together, this is great for writing down the ingredients necessary to prepare for your next gourmet meal. Remember to display it somewhere visible such as the refrigerator, so there’s no excuse for anyone to claim “I didn’t see it.”
Sound machine: A sound machine is a must for light sleepers, city dwellers, and cohabitors alike. Whether you’re looking to drown out car sirens or the melody of your bunkmate tapping his/her pencil on textbooks until the wee hours of the morning, serenity seekers recommend the HoMedics Sleep Solutions Portable Mini SoundSpa. This battery-powered device boasts four relaxing noises, including gentle rain and ocean waves. The auto-off timer can be set to 15, 30, or 45 minutes. It takes up minimal space—perfect for cramped quarters. Plus, it’s portable. And did we mention it only costs $14?
Label maker: Ideal for territorial types and folks who live with roommates that feel entitled to take everything—food, drinks, you name it—even if it doesn’t belong to them. The handheld DYMO LetraTag 100H Label Maker is lightweight and easy to use. It also prints in a range of different colors and fonts, so you can have a little fun while organizing.
Noise-canceling headphones: A sound machine is for snoozing and noise-canceling headphones are for literally every other occasion under the sun. Sometimes you need to study and your roommate is having a dinner party or blasting loud music, a pair of state-of-the-art Bose allow you to focus and avoid potential arguments. On the flip side, he/she might be cramming when you’re ready to kick back and unwind with some tunes. Do yourself a favor and spring for the wireless iteration that can connect to your television or record player for after-hours listening. You’ll thank us later.
Dishwasher magnet: A clean/dirty magnet instantly lets you know if it’s time to run or unload the dishwasher. It’s a smart way to communicate, even if roommates are on completely opposite schedules. And if your companion is a bit of a slob (perhaps that’s putting it mildly), it’s a little extra encouragement to pick up his/her portion of the expected domestic duties without having to be confrontational.
Shower caddy: When it comes to roomies, the perils of sharing a tiny bathroom can’t be overstated. One way to avoid a mess? Well, other than paring down your products spread, is with an in-shower unit. Depending on your setup, you can opt for one that hangs over the head or a tension pole model that fits in the corner, turning wasted space into additional storage. Pro tip: Divvy up the shelves between residents, so everyone has a designated area. Conversely, if you’re living that dorm life or shacking up with a crew (think “New Girl”), you might want to consider purchasing a portable bath caddy for your stuff.
Communal calendar: Communication is the key to success in any relationship. Being on the same page as your bunky is important, both literally and figuratively. Parents coming to town this weekend? Traveling for business or pleasure? Have a big test or meeting coming up? Buy a shared calendar to keep track of important dates. Again, this will curtail the good old “but I didn’t excuse.”
Mail sorter: In our increasingly digital society, the United States Postal Service still plays a role. Thus, a mail sorter is a wise idea when you live with someone. Not only does a chic design help keep bills, letters, postcards, junk mail, catalogs, and invitations tidy as well as accessible, but it also doubles as decor. Among our favorites is this vintage-style, wood charmer from Houzz. So adorable, right?
Decorative desk containers: If you’re sharing a desk, give each roomie a holder for school and office supplies. “Things like staplers, notebooks, rubber bands, and paper clips can easily fit inside a lidded container, keeping the area clutter free!” There are so many fun colors and patterns available these days, you can really show off your personality. Unless your bunky is a raging nightmare, you’re probably safe sharing writing implements. Anthropologie makes a metallic pencil trio that we think is worth its weight in gold (silver and copper too).
Letterboard: Sometimes life happens and even flatmates can find themselves feeling like passing ships. Haven’t seen your fellow domicile dweller in the past few days? Leave (non-passive aggressive) messages for each other the old-fashioned way with a letter board. Or if you know your flatmate has a massive exam or presentation, why not offer some positive motivation? Pick up a few extra packs of letters and the possibilities are endless!
Acrylic stacking boxes: One bathroom split between multiple people can be a war zone or a place of peace. The latter happens when you plan accordingly. When storage is at a premium (which it typically is when you’re living with others), you have to make every inch count. Stock up on acrylic stacking boxes to stash smaller cosmetics and toiletries.
Entryway organizer: For a home to be totally and utterly harmonious, everything needs a dedicated place. But what about these miscellaneous items that always seem to be strewn about? We’re talking keys, knick-knacks, sunglasses, and baseball caps. A wall-mounted unit to hang in your entryway is the move here. Make sure it has built-in hooks. Bonus points for a mirror. Because who doesn’t want to do a final face check before walking out the door?
Under-the-sink storage: Another area that’s most certainly not to be neglected? Under the bathroom sink. Expandable plastic bins help manage chaos, maintain order, and separate bigger stuff (shampoo, conditioner, cotton swabs, body wash, facial cleanser…well, you get the picture).
See more roommate advice:
Why More Adults Are Choosing to Live With Roommates
What to Ask a Roommate BEFORE You Move In