Tips for Staying Sane While Co-Living with Roomies


Felix Unger and Oscar Madison from TV’s The Odd Couple. One was a neat freak, the other a slob. which one are you?

Household rules may seem draconian, but they make it far easier to split a home with others. Here are some simple strategies to keep the peace.


Being roommates is sometimes hard work, but in an era with increased financial stress all around, having roommates can make the difference between you actually living life and just getting by.

“Rules of the house” might seem like a draconian way to live, but they’re the best way to ensure happy people and fair practices.

And the best way to make sure those happy people and fair practices become reality is to have rules set out, then when looking for new roomies, having the rules in the ad. Why have unsuitable people apply in the first place?

“We’re all vegetarians. We don’t eat meat in this household.” Well, okay then, me and my cheeseburger will look for another apartment, right?

Here are some strategies that worked well for me back when I had housemates.

Quiet hours

There’s no need to follow typical quiet hours. Instead, what works for everyone in your house? Are there odd shifts to accommodate? Talk it out and set out a communal guideline for how loud is too loud and between what hours. Maybe you’ll have awesome luck like on Grey’s Anatomy where Meredith, George, Christina, et al, all magically had the same crazy shift hours. But likely not. Because: Reality.


If anyone’s in school or doing work projects that require focus, it’s easy to come up with a way to let each other know that extended quiet hours would be appreciated for this special situation. For times like those, everyone can create a saner space with little steps like keeping smart phone ringers on “vibrate,” using headphones for watching personal media devices, closing the door when playing music in the bedroom. Will a note in the foyer do? A text fired off? A sock on a door? Whatever gets the message out there.

Splitting up chores

Some people like to cook. Others like to clean. Some enjoy yardwork. Others like finances. Still others just enjoy spending money. Find out what everyone likes to do, then see if they’re willing to take on their preferred chores.

Dog and cat on couchCooking, cleaning, laundry, paying the bills, acting as treasurer for everything from grocery to utility money, actually buying the groceries — these all need to happen. By divvying up work in a smart manner, household management will be a breeze — provided everyone’s doing their share. This is why having a system in mind is important when you’re seeking roomies in the first place. Make sure they’re on board before they’re in a room.

Groceries, cooking, and meals

This is where nearly every roommate situation explodes at one time or another. We humans do so love our tasty treats. Hell hath no fury like the roomie whose Oreos go missing.

I made the mistake of saying, “Sure! I’ll split groceries with you” with roommates once and discovered how much money they blew on overpriced crap. My grocery bill more than doubled that first month. By the next month, we all had our private food cupboards and individual shelves in the fridge. We did agree on “community property,” though, and that included staples we all agreed upon — things like ketchup, flour, butter, milk — and we bought those from shared funds. Communal fridge stuff, we kept that on the door, in case you’re wondering.

We also agreed to do communal meals, and for those we would estimate grocery costs for what was used, and pitch in with weekly payments. The main cook often picked up the costs for those meals if there was anything needing to be bought, and they’d be reimbursed at the end of the week. This resulted in tasty big batches of curries, soups, chilis, and other foods perfect for feeding an army. There would be a few such soup-kitchen meals a week, but also a lot of cooking for ourselves and unprompted sharing with others.

Date nights

When it comes to romance and roomies, there’ll need to be understanding about how much is too much when it comes to public displays of affection, and also how often is too often for sleepovers. Where should they keep their hands off each other? How many nights a week does someone’s partner crash at the home before they’re becoming a drain on utilities and communal food?

And then there’s the relationship with your roomies. Do you just want to live together, or do you want to be in each other’s lives as friends too? If so, they might be friends you keep for the rest of your life. Think about planning ahead to have board game nights, movies, communal meals, or even parties. I may not be in touch with any roomies from that one awesome year I lived five to a house, but some of those barbecue and board game nights stand out in my memory as the most fun I’ve had at home, even now, and I’d greet any of those roomies I ran into with a big smile and a hug even now.

Roomies & the new frugality

Your homelife is your biggest expense. Probably 70% of the money we spend revolves around the home. It’s a different time. We stay single for longer but life is more expensive. Finding flatmates and roomies are a way to live a more connected and social life while saving money in doing it.

From sharing meals to splitting rent, roommates could make the financial difference in you just getting by versus having enough to save for your future. With practical guidelines and common respect, there’s no reason roomies have to be a compromise or a burden.

If you’ve been crunched with financial pressure, look into all the creative ways people are sharing homes today. It might be the answer you need.

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