How to Peacefully Share Space with Roommates

By Heather R. Johnson

Whether you only have one in college or several throughout your life, you are likely to have a roommate at some point. Living alone is expensive, and sharing space in a dorm room, off-campus housing, or apartment is a great way to split the cost. To make sure you have all the essentials without overstuffing your space, create a furniture game plan with your roommates.

Communication Is Key

Before you move in, make a list of everything you have, from furnishings to kitchen utensils, and then make a list of everything you need. Meet with your future roommates — in person, on the phone, or using WhatsApp — to compare notes. “Communication is the most important element to having a successful living situation,” says Sarah Lamb, a blogger for “Figure out what everyone has and budget from there.”

Look at the Floor Plan

Measure each room if possible to figure out how your furniture will fit. At minimum, roughly sketch out your apartment’s floor plan to figure out what will go where. If you have two sofas between you but only have room for one, decide which sofa to use. If you discover your combined inventory lacks an essential item, such as a television or a microwave, write it down as an item to budget for later.

Be Flexible

If your roommate shows up with a velvet Elvis poster for the living room, be tactful when voicing your objections. You don’t want any hurt feelings, especially if your roommate is your friend. “You could say something like, ‘this doesn’t really fit with what we’re doing here’,” suggests Lamb. “If he insists, just flex with it. Your friends will know it’s not yours.”

Flexibility also comes in handy in situations where you have more stuff than space. If your roommate really wants to bring a favorite chair, it’s okay. For her third and fourth years of college, Lamb lived with three other women. “There were a lot of personalities,” she says. “You had to pick your battles.”

Shop Smart

Especially in college, you may not have much of a budget for furniture. Get what you need by first asking family and friends for hand-me-downs. Once you have an idea of what you can acquire for free, look for additional items at garage sales, thrift stores, and online classifieds. Some colleges have their own online marketplaces where you can find free or low-cost furniture sold by moving or graduating students.

“Stick to basics,” says Lamb. “Use funds only for what you know you’re going to use, not for what’s cute or nice to have.” As an alternative to bargain shopping, you can rent furniture and split the cost with your roommates. With CORT Furniture Rental, you can completely furnish an entire room or apartment or rent only a specific item you need, such as a bed.

Plan for Your Departure

At the end of the school year, you and your college roommates may move back home or leave for jobs in other cities. If you rent furniture from CORT, it’s easy to return everything with a simple phone call. If you own some of the furniture and plan to use it again, ask a friend or family member to store everything, or rent a storage unit. If you will have the same roommates when school resumes, split the cost of storage between you.

If you don’t need the furniture you own anymore, sell or donate items through online classifieds, school bulletin boards, social media sites, and your school’s online marketplace. “Underclassmen moving into apartments need furniture just like you did,” says Lamb, “and they might come pick it up, which makes your moving day easier.”

Keep a flexible attitude, communicate openly, and have fun when furnishing and decorating an apartment with your roommates. To find out how CORT can make moving day simple, check out available student packages.