Whose trusty button-up shirt do you always ask to borrow for job interviews?
Who never judges you for the slightly strange meals you throw together late at night using random pantry finds?
Who’s seen you in the pits of exam season stress and the highs of post-finals freedom?
Who do you care for like a best friend and argue with like an ex-spouse?
Love ’em or just live with ’em, roommates are a nearly inevitable part of student life.
However, even with the best bunkmates, sharing a living space is never easy; there are some squabbles you just can’t avoid.
Here’s IGNITE’s roundup of six fights you’ll probably have with your roommates – and how to solve them:
The bill-splitting fight
Should the roommate who makes the most money front most of the bills? Should you divide the rent based on bedroom size? Is it best to split everything evenly? Well, then, what about your roommate with their own TV who’s constantly binge-watching Netflix and never shuts the lights off?
How to split expenses is best decided before you move in; that way, when the first of the month comes around, there are no surprises. However, if talking money with your new roomies slipped your mind – or if what you originally decided is no longer working for you – it’s a good idea to have a sit-down discussion where you go over all your costs and determine who pays for what.
Try making a spreadsheet laying out all your bills and allocate payment responsibilities as you and your housemates see fit. And, once you’ve decided, write it down and have everyone sign it – it may seem intense, but it’ll spare you a future argument where someone claims they never agreed to pay their share.
The groceries fight
Is it OK to eat your roommate’s leftovers? What about sharing spices and condiments? Is prepped food off-limits but ingredients and snacks free game?
Communication is key when it comes to the kitchen. Student budgets tend to be tight – so, many co-occupants find it fairest to keep food separate. That way, nothing gets complicated when your roommate splurges on snacks for a dinner party or when you develop a love for boujie baked goods.
Things like salt, pepper, sugar and flour are usually safer to share – unless one of your roommates is a pro baker.
The guests fight
Do you need to give your roommates a heads up before bringing someone home? How many guests is too many? How frequent is too frequent? Are overnight guests OK? If so, how often?
There’s no harm in sending out a quick warning text before bringing home a friend – especially if you know your roommates will be home. Specifics like how many guests and how often are a little harder to specify; different roommates will have different opinions about what’s “too much” and those opinions might change over time.
When in doubt, etch out some ground rules – and when those ground rules stop working, revisit them.
The noise fight
What time do you need to quiet things down? Does that change on weekends? Are headphones for music always necessary, even in your bedroom? What do you do when your roommate’s late-night FaceTime calls are constantly keeping you up?
If your building has noise regulations, it’s a good idea to use those as a baseline for your house rules. For example, Humber’s student residence hosts quiet hours from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekends. If you live off-campus and/or in a detached unit, setting up quiet hours for your own place can help keep everyone in a good headspace.
Generally, things like headphones and late-night phone calls are best discussed on a case-by-case basis. Like with most other roommate-related matters, respectfully speaking your mind is key.
The bathroom fight
Who showers first? Do you share shampoo and shower gel? Do you keep towels in the bathroom or your bedroom? What happens when your roommate hogs the vanity space? How do you ensure everyone has enough time to get ready?
If you share a bathroom with more than one or two other people, everyone having their own products could make for a crowded shower – so it may make sense to share. However, not everyone is comfortable using communal conditioner; chat about bathroom products and storage before you assume anything.
Time spent in the bathroom can complicate things even further (name something more frustrating than getting ready to shower and, just as you’re about to leave, hearing your roommate shut the bathroom door. We’ll wait.) During the school year, when you and your housemates are on-the-go, it’s a good idea to share your schedules with each other so no one has to be late for class because they couldn’t brush their teeth.
The chores fight
Do you take turns cleaning your space? Should the person who works the least hours be responsible for the most chores? Or is it the person who spends the most time at home? What do you do when one roommate neglects all housekeeping responsibilities? How often do things need to be cleaned?
Like the guests fight, getting around this one can be tricky – everyone has different opinions about how often things need to be cleaned. At first, you might try a simple “clean up after yourself,” rule to suss out how you and your roommates fare at equally maintaining a shared space. And, then, if you find responsibilities are falling disproportionately to one person, ask if your housemates would be open to a chore schedule.
These solutions are great jumping off points for solving spats with your housemates. However, some disagreements go beyond the basics. In those cases, IGNITE’s Dispute Resolution Clinic (DRC) is your best bet for curating a compromise.
The DRC is a free, confidential student service designed to help you resolve your toughest roommate (or classmate, or landlord, or instructor) arguments. When you book an appointment, IGNITE’s conflict resolution experts will listen to both sides of your story and guide you through proven mediation strategies to bring you to a consensus. Plus, the tactics you’ll learn at the DRC can be applied to any area of your life – so, in the future, when you have an issue with an employer, partner or friend, you’ll be equipped to respectfully work through them.
Virtual meetings with the DRC are currently available every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT and every Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT. You can book yours through the DRC’s simple online booking tool.
When living with roommates is tough, the DRC helps you be tougher.
The DRC isn’t the only on-campus service you can take advantage of from home – here are four others.