5 Tips for Being a Rad Roommate

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Illustration by Alyssa Long | Staff Illustrator

Steven Jin

Unless you have enough disposable income to rent your own place and live alone while attending UCSB, it’s more than likely that you will live with a roommate. Be it a partner, friend, or a random person, living with another person reduces the cost of living significantly.

I have lived both with strangers and friends in dorms and university-owned apartments. From my experience, living with a roommate requires some maintenance and responsibility for the cohabitation to be peaceful. I’ve learned many lessons on cohabitation, both when living with familiar people, as well as new.

The most important lesson I’ve learned throughout the years is the importance of communicating effectively with my roommate. Regardless of who I’ve lived with, be it a total stranger or a close friend, being able to talk candidly about any issues, conflicts, and suggestions resolves any anxiety or stress.

You should give your roommate the benefit of the doubt. If they do something to annoy you, talk to them about the issue rather than letting the stress build up.

In psychology, there is a concept called fundamental attribution error, which theorizes that we often attribute fault to the person’s personality rather than to the external environment. For example, say your roommate left a pile of dirty dishes in the morning, clogging up the sink; you may assume that your roommate intentionally left the pile of dishes there because they are some sort of bastard after your own heart.

However, it may simply be the case that they had to rush off to take an important midterm. Now both of these scenarios seem plausible, but you never really know the truth unless you talk to them.

If you talk to them, you get to hear their side of the story, instead of just relying on your own interpretation of the situation. If it turns out they really did have an important midterm they just could not afford to miss, it’s harder to fault them for cutting corners for that. It’s better to give your roommate the benefit of the doubt, especially when you’ll inevitably need them to do the same for you at some point.

The takeaway from this example is that if you talk to your roommates about issues that matter to you, they are likely to listen. If they seem to be at fault, it also gives them an opportunity to explain themselves and make things right.

Aside from the importance of clear and open communication, here is an assortment of other tips I’ve accumulated from experience:

Tip #1: Share food

If you live in an apartment with your own kitchen, it might be a good idea to share common foods and costs with roommates. This gives you an opportunity to befriend a new roommate (breaking bread or opening a cold one) or bond with a friend. Plus, it’s convenient and provides an opportunity to go grocery shopping with an extra pair of hands.

Tip #2: Good friends are not always good roommates (and vice versa)

Just because you like your friend, living with them is a whole different story. You probably don’t love every single aspect of your best friend. For example, maybe you really like your friend Mike who takes you on all sorts of fun adventures, but he lives like a slob at home. Picking a roommate is a tremendous commitment and sometimes living with a friend may not be the best option.

Tip #3: Exchange basic, as well as emergency, information

Exchanging basic information such as phone numbers should be pretty intuitive and could be useful for when you lock yourself out, or if you need the room for a certain amount of time.

Exchanging emergency information is useful for life’s unexpected surprises. I got into an accident last quarter and my current roommate was the one who took me to the emergency room right after. Telling your roommate not to let stalkers in can also be important information to provide.

Tip #4: Be conservative and considerate of resources

If you have a shared resource such as utilities or toilet paper, it would be in everyone’s best interest to be conservative so everyone can save more. We are students after all, and every dollar makes a difference. Also, replace the Brita filter and toilet paper, we are all adults.

Tip #5: Roommate agreements

Roommate agreements can be a great resource for both unfamiliar roommates, as well as friend roommates, because it keeps everyone accountable for responsibilities and duties.

The key here is compromise. Roommate agreements often cover topics like quiet hours, weekly cleaning duties, guest policies, etc. It’s important to establish a roommate agreement so that everyone is held accountable, leading to a healthy and responsible environment.