College Etiquette Rules for Sharing Your Space (and Your Fridge)

Having a roommate is part of the college tradition that creates memories — good or bad — that last the rest of your life. Believe it or not, this experience is about more than sharing space; it also is equipping you with important life skills, such as conflict resolution, respecting someone else’s tastes and lifestyle, and how to share a small space.

Negotiating the use of space can make a big difference in how well you adjust to life with your college roommate. Whether you live in a dorm, an apartment on campus, or in off-campus housing, setting up ground rules from the beginning is crucial to how well the relationship unfolds. That means negotiating everything from who gets which bedroom (or bed, if you’re in a dorm) and how you’ll divide chores.

The way you handle these situations can have a lasting effect on your future relationship with your roommate, so keep in mind the other person’s feelings and perspective as you negotiate. Then, consider creating a system for sharing space to help avoid conflict and create ground rules that make it easier for both of you.

Here are four important tips for successfully sharing your space with your college roommate.

College Etiquette

Share Furnishing Ideas

Both of you have your own memorabilia and, probably, your own design style. Remember that this is about negotiation and it’s important to agree on what works (and what doesn’t) in common areas. While you both probably have your own bedroom sets, you might find that you need living and dining room furniture.

One way to furnish your space is to rent the furniture you need instead of buying it; you can share the monthly cost and, when you decide to no longer live together, the furniture is picked up and there’s no argument about who owns it. Another plus? You can change out your look or amount of furniture as your needs change.

Respect What is Yours, and What Isn’t

Sharing space does not mean “what’s yours is mine.” Keeping clear boundaries about what you’re willing to share in terms of food, clothing, and personal items can prevent hard feelings and misunderstandings. You may think it’s fine to use your roommate’s printer, but he or she may not feel the same way. If you’re tempted to borrow (or eat) something that doesn’t belong to you, always ask first.

Sync Up Your Schedules

Are you a night owl who comes alive around 11 p.m.? If so, your early-rising roommate might not appreciate having your friends around just as he or she is turning in for the night. Likewise, you don’t want your roommate to blast the music at 7 a.m. Create ground rules about what is acceptable for both of you in the morning and evening hours. Set and respect study times that will give both of you the kind of down time you require.

Remember the Fridge

Refrigerators can turn into battlefields if rules aren’t created and followed. Create guidelines for sharing your refrigerator; the smaller the fridge, the more important it is for you to have set rules. Among the things to establish up front are:

  • How much space does each person get? This should be divided as fairly and evenly as possible.
  • What is the rule on sharing food? To avoid misunderstandings, make this clear right away. Consider implementing a “replacement rule” that says whoever eats food belonging to the other person is responsible for buying replacement food as soon as possible.
  • Who is responsible for keeping it clean? Each person should take responsibility for immediately cleaning up any spills in the fridge, but you’ll still need to clean it out regularly to get rid of food that’s past its prime or is particularly fragrant. Decide how often you need to tackle that task, and then create a schedule so each person is sharing the duty.

College living arrangements may not be what you are used to back home, but they can easily become your home away from home with the right attitude and a good plan. CORT Furniture Rental provides the furniture you’re looking for to help make it feel comfortable for you. With a good game plan, you and your roommate can enjoy sharing a space.