It is back to college and living with roommate’s time of year. The idea of having to share a living space with people other than your family is daunting and unnerving to say the least. And while this blog is a couple weeks late it still works.
While I never went away to college I did live with roommates before I met my husband. Fortunately for me, I had great experiences living with my roommates as we followed the three golden rules of cohabitating: honesty, respect and responsibility.
However, horror stories abound about the most AWFUL roommates most of which are blown way out of proportion. Here are some of the story themes: the roommates boyfriend/girlfriend has basically moved in but pays nothing towards rent; the roommate uses your stuff without asking, eats your food without replacing it, ruins your things and does not pay to replace it; the roommate parties all the time at your place and keeps you up and my favorite… roommate is a neat freak who decides that vacuuming at 6 a.m. is the best way to start out their day.
From my own experiences and from hearing the horror stories of many others I offer this list of rules or as I like to call it: HUMAN DECENCY CODE OF ETHICS WHILE LIVING WITH ROOMMATES.
The basis of each rule falls within the guideline of these three essential unwritten, but common sense laws: honesty, respect and responsibility. (Yes, these are important enough to repeat them.)
When you live with one or more roommates, you automatically have to SHARE space with each other. If in a dorm, then you have to divide the room equally. If you rent an apartment or house then each of you has your own bedroom but you have to SHARE the living quarters, bathroom (if only one bathroom), kitchen and storage space. This means you have to divide the space up equally whether in halves, thirds or quarters, etc. The refrigerator and freezer also have to be divided this way as do the cupboard spaces in the bathroom and kitchen.
Before you and your roommates go over this list, agreeing to obey the rules and sign it, designate above said areas for each person. This needs to be done right away to help with move in, etc. Once you all have established and agreed upon who gets what areas for storage, including refrigerator, freezer and cupboards, then you can go on to the rest of the rules. In case common sense is forgotten, the reason you have to divide these spaces equally are because you all pay equal rent and bills. This means none of you can overrule the rest; you are all EQUAL.
On to the list.
1. Establish boundaries.
a. Who gets which bedroom
b. What household items are to be shared by all. Examples:
– Cleaning items
– Pots, pans, kitchen items, etc.
c. What belongings of each person are off limits to roommates: (unless person offers or permission was given)
d. Are boyfriends/girlfriends/friends/family allowed to spend the night
– If so, said person’s things stay in said roommates room, not to infiltrate the rest of the house
– Said person may not help themselves to other roommate’s food, drinks, booze, personal items, etc.
– Said person needs to clean up behind themselves if they make a mess or take a shower, etc. Roommates should not be expected to clean up after other roommate’s guest(s).
– Said person is not allowed to continuously and consecutively spend the night, move their stuff in, etc. as they do not pay the rent. If this happens, roommates have right to call the superintendent and report it.
2. Decide who turns in payment for other bills such as internet, cable, etc.
3. If all roommates are planning meals together, then all roommates split grocery expenses for those meals or for shared items such as eggs, milk, condiments and bread. (This works well to eliminate waste and using up treasured real estate in the refrigerator).
4. Label all own groceries with your initials so roommates know those groceries are yours only. This eliminates miscommunication and hard feelings. Keep own groceries in your designated cupboard space and keep shared items in their own space. (Remember, the division of storage real estate in shared living and kitchen spaces.)
a. If you do eat or drink roommates food or drink then be honest about it, confess you did it and replace it immediately or
b. Give the roommate $ immediately to replace it. (This is where honesty and responsibility come into play. Like using a credit card or checkbook, if you don’t have the $ to pay for it, you don’t eat, drink it, use it or break it.)
6. Do not go into roommate’s room for any reason unless roommate asks you to do so.
7. Keep your bedroom door closed when you are not at home.
a. This makes it easier for your roommates when guests are over so they don’t have to worry about them going into your room. (Landlords should provide locks on the doors for each renter so you can keep your room safely locked when you are gone for long periods of time, i.e. Weekend, spring break, etc.)
b. This keeps boundaries established that your room is not a free for all.
8. Clean up after yourself in shared spaces.
a. The bathroom, when you are done showering, using the toilet (especially if messy things come out of you), doing your hair, etc. clean up after yourself. This means wipe down the shower, spray the bottom of the shower with cleaner (stops athletes foot before it can start), wipe down the toilet seat (including the bottom side of it) and scrub the inside if dirty (Nobody enjoys scrubbing poop remnants or puke off of the toilet seat or the bottom side of it or cleaning a toilet in general so get in the habit of cleaning it after you leave these remnants) and wiping down the sink area or counter area and put your personal items away when done with them.
b. You made food, dirtied dishes, then wash them, dry them and put them away and wipe down counters. Do not leave crumbs to entice insects into your home because they will find you. They thrive in dirty environments.
c. You spill something in the refrigerator or the oven or the microwave or anywhere then wipe it up.
d. You track mud into the house, etc., sweep it up and mop if necessary.
e. Pick up after yourself. (You learned this as a toddler. If not, then google the term or ask your roommate).
f. Do not leave your laundry in the washer or dryer. First, if you leave your laundry in the washing machine longer than about 8 hours, your clothes will smell like rank, dirty feet and when you dry them, the smell remains. The clothes then have to be rewashed or else you will reek when you wear them. Your roommates need to be able to do their laundry as well.
9. Designate one day of the week where you both or all get together and do shared cleaning.
a. Clean out the refrigerator, clean out the oven, vacuum, dust, sweep and mop the floors.
b. TIP: Dishcloths and dishtowels should be changed every day as they harbor bacteria. (Dishcloths should be washed with all other towels, washcloths, etc.)
c. TIP: All cleaning rags should be washed in hot water separate from all other laundry including washcloths, towels, etc.
d. TIP: Rinse all mop heads and sponges out with hot water and let air dry before storing them to keep bacteria at bay.
10. Respect each other’s privacy and establish guidelines for quiet hours etc.
11. Tell your roommate where you are going and when to expect you back or leave a note. This is just to be courteous. Make sure you exchange phone numbers with your roommate and hang emergency numbers on the refrigerator.
13. Remember to be honest, respectful and responsible and you will have a great roommate experience.
Each roommate: Sign here and date it to say you accept these terms:
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Tune in tomorrow for useful tips for cleaning while away at college (because your Mom isn’t there to do it for you)