How to Be a Good Roommate

Sarah NantaisBlogs

About the Author
Sarah Nantais

Sarah Nantais

Sarah Nantais is a Virtual Help Desk Navigator at Campus Manitoba. She contributes to "The Navigator," our monthly blog focused on student life.

So you’re living off campus in a house with a bunch of people you’ve never met before. This is your first time experiencing the roommate phenomenon and you’re not quite sure how to be a good one. Maybe you’re worried about staying out of everyone’s way. Perhaps you know you’re a loud sleeper and you wonder if it will bother these people you’ll be living with. Then there’s the fact that the food you like to cook can have a strong odour or taste. Heck, maybe you can’t cook at all and you’re terrified that your roommates will call you on eating instant food constantly. Whether you’re a super clean nerd or a bit of a sloppy mess, you can be a good roommate. Whether you’re a party animal or a super quiet pineapple, you can be a good roommate.

Living with other people, even if you do know them, can be a challenge. You’ve got a mash up of several personalities and a house to take care of. How do you make sure you contribute to the house while also looking after yourself? As someone who has lived with strangers on more than one occasion, I’m here to let you know it’ll be okay. It can be done easily and all it takes is a little communication.

Talk To Each Other

A group of people sit around a table making plans

Face to Face Wins

People are a lot less likely to actually talk to each other nowadays. Sure, you can text all your questions and issues but there’s a lot that isn’t communicated through texting that is important. Your tone of voice and body language can give a lot of information in a conversation. When dealing with roommates about sensitive issues, like Margareth leaving her dishes in the sink again, sometimes texting it out isn’t the answer. So how do you make sure that chores and tasks are split evenly and that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to? Try some, or all, of these:

  • Plan a  roommate meeting on a schedule that works for everyone. This will allow you all to speak in a (hopefully) safe space without fear of seeming like a nag.
  • Chore charts aren’t just for little kids! The meeting is a great place to get this organized. Make sure you rotate the chores so the same person isn’t cleaning the toilet all year. Put it somewhere everyone will see, like near the kitchen or living room.
  • House rules are another important thing to discuss at your first roommate meeting. Not everyone can handle a house full of silence and not everyone can handle a party 24/7.

Take Care Of Yourself and Your Stuff

There’s one thing that tends to slip from the minds of most students. That thing is tenants insurance. You’ve got stuff in that house you’re living in, right? Computers, gaming systems, clothes, textbooks. Making sure your stuff is protected goes beyond getting a separate key for your room. Most banks will offer tenants insurance to their clients and it can cost as little as $30-40 a month. All you need to do is make a phone call to your bank and find out what the rates for your living space are. You can also connect with insurance agencies like CAA Manitoba to what they can do for you.

It was briefly mentioned before, but having a separate key to your room can give you a great measure of relief. It doesn’t mean that you don’t trust your roommates. We’re also not saying that your roommates don’t trust you either. It’s just a way for you to protect your peace of mind.

While taking care of yourself you should also mind your wallet. Check out our article on money-saving tips. As a student, stretching your dollar as far as it will go is essential. Living off campus and paying for your own food can add up too, so make sure you’re prepared. I once had to eat hotdogs and popcorn for a week. A WEEK. I wish I was joking.

Embrace the Experience

A group of friends stand outside in the sun with arms around eachother.

There’s so much to learn, and to teach

Living with strangers doesn’t have to be scary. The one thing you will all have in common is that you are students. You’re navigating this new chapter of your lives together, in a sense. Even if you’re in different programs and have different backgrounds, you’re experiencing this together. This is your chance to learn about the rest of the world. If your roommates are from different countries, you get to try all kinds of food. When you live with people outside of your family you can learn about different viewpoints which will only help you grow as a person. That is the point of university and college; to learn.

Your roommates can go on to be the greatest friends you’ll ever have. To this day, I still talk to some of the roommates I had in university. There will always be good experiences and bad experiences. You just need to take all of that and learn from it. Learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Maybe you’ll find out that you really can’t stand people leaving the shower curtain rolled up. You could even discover that you love cooking for other people. Treasure these tiny experiences while you can.


About “The Navigator”

“The Navigator” is a monthly blog about student life by the Campus Manitoba Virtual Help Desk. Check back monthly to find more tidbits of wisdom with “The Navigator”. You’ll be sure to find all kinds of information that will help you be successful in your educational journey. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news and information!