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4 Rules to Establish With Your Roommate Before Moving In

Build a relationship of mutual respect and communication to minimize frictions.

Were you raised in a barn? No? Well, your potential roommate might’ve been. Before you make the big move, it’s important to set boundaries by establishing rules. Here are four types of rules you should discuss before you move in with someone.

1. Dirty dishes

A sink full of old oatmeal bowls is enough to make anyone cringe. It’s important to stack the dishes in your favor. Consider the following when making rules for dirty dishes and other chores:

  • Time limits. Talk about how long a dish should sit in the sink before it’s washed. It’s not always fair to assume your roommate has time to wash his or her cereal bowl right away, but leaving it overnight might be pushing it.

  • Common courtesies. Establish who should wash the dishes if one roommate cooks. Consider a rotation schedule or an agreement that whoever cooked doesn’t have to clean to avoid making one roommate feel unappreciated.

  • Dish drying. Once the dishes are clean, what’s the policy on drying? One roommate might prefer the drying rack while another prefers drying by hand. Create a system.

2. Overnight guests

Establishing a rule on overnight guests is necessary to be comfortable in your own home. Everyday rituals like walking around in a towel after a shower are embarrassing if your roommate’s latest hookup is lurking on the couch. When considering a rule on overnight guests and even long-term relationships, touch on the following points:

  • Who can stay. This is a matter of safety. Establish how long your roommate should know a guest before he or she stays the night.

  • An acceptable number of nights. Establish the difference between visiting and moving in. Talk about a significant other contributing to a share of the bills if he or she starts to use too many resources.

  • Copying keys. Explicitly discuss who can have keys to the apartment. Should the keys belong to you and your roommate only, or should long-term partners have ease of access?

  • Showering. Is it OK if an overnight guest uses your shampoo or towels? If not, you’d better speak up!

3. Shared household items

Talking about shared items means more than setting time limits on the TV. You’ll need to know who’s buying what and how it should be used. When putting together your guidelines, ask the following questions:

  • Who buys the toilet paper? There are several communal items that each roommate should buy. Create a system for these purchases. It may mean dividing responsibilities or taking turns purchasing each item.

  • What’s off-limits? Just because an item is in a common area doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. Communicate about who can use what to avoid resentment or arguments later.

4. Common space

Some lines are clearly drawn when doors are clearly closed. It may seem obvious that your bedroom is off-limits, but have you considered how you might feel about having visitors in the common rooms? There are a few other things to build rules around when it comes to common space.

  • Decor. Decide on mutually agreeable decorations for your common areas. Consult your roommate before bringing your neon-yellow chair into the living room or hanging your favorite poster above the kitchen sink.

  • Storage. Talk about closets and who has the right to what shelves and other storage space. Make it fair. If your roommate has a smaller bedroom closet than you do, offer the hallway closet for extra space.

  • Noise. Ensure that you both agree on acceptable noise levels for shared areas of the home. For late-night get-togethers, establish specific limits — including an agreed-upon hour that the music should be shut off — ahead of time, or move the party to another location.

Of course, even if you make rules, there’s a chance they will be broken. The important thing is to establish a relationship of mutual respect and open communication.

What are some of your roommate hacks? Share your tips in the comments below.