At one time or another, pretty much all of us will have cohabitated with someone else—whether it was living in your childhood home with family, sharing a dorm room with a random roommate in college, living in an apartment with friends, or taking the plunge and moving in with your significant other. No matter the scenario, if you've lived with someone else, you know that it's not all smooth sailing. Fights can happen. Passive aggressive behavior like shouty sticky notes may appear. Friendships or relationships could turn sour. When you live with someone, you see how they are when they're on their A-game, and, well, when they're not.
While all of these stressful situations might arise from cohabitation, there are some ways to avoid them. Communication and some ground rules are key. So to help, we polled our staff and Facebook group for their rules for living with someone else. Take a look at our list below, and if you have some you'd like to share with us, send a DM or comment on our Instagram @thethirty.
1. Talk About Routines and Preferences
You'll want to do this even before move-in day, that way everyone is on the same page from the get-go. Be upfront about your preferences and non-negotiables, and hear the other out. Can't stand the sight of dirty dishes? Now's the time to let that be known. Is your roommate, partner, or family member an early riser who needs to shower first thing? They should let you know so you know how to share the bathroom in the mornings.
One person in our Facebook Group said, "I think it's helpful to have a conversation early on before you both head into a routine—makes it much less awkward and helps avoid letting any pent-up feelings brew."
2. Keep an Open Mind
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Another tip from our Facebook Group: "Be receptive to feedback and adjust your own routine! You both come from different backgrounds and have your own habits (good or bad), so be open to bending your own rules once in a while. It'll make you a more flexible, easygoing person overall and likely improve your relationship with your roomie." If the other person is going to great lengths to abide by your rules, you should do the same, too.
3. Don't Use or Take Anything Without Asking First
Sure, it might be tempting to eat those leftovers your roommate left in the fridge. Or to use your sister's fancy shampoo because you're too lazy to get your own. But, sooner or later, you'll be found out, and what happens afterwards might not be pretty.
One person in our Facebook Group said, "Respect each other things and wishes! Food, clothes, perfume. Don't borrow anything without asking—and getting an answer—first."
It might help to have a conversation about shared items in the home like food (cooking oils, spices, etc.), toiletries, or cleaning supplies—even for other items like someone's Amazon Echo or hair dryer. You never know what's up for communal use and what's not, so it's better to talk about it first.
You might already know how you're splitting up rent or the monthly mortgage payments, but what some people forget to talk about it is how you're going to split up shared expenses like utility bills, household items (toilet paper and cleaning supplies), and other extra services (like a monthly cleaning service). It might help to have everything in writing and in a communal area so everyone's on the same page—and make sure you know who's in charge of paying certain bills and how to pay them back and vice versa.
If you're living with family, it would also be helpful to see how you can contribute to the household financially, too. Right now, since I moved back to Los Angeles from New York City, I'm living with my mom for the time being while I find a new apartment. Before I moved back, I made it a point to ask my mom how she wanted me to contribute. She's graciously let me live with her rent-free until I find a place, but I've been picking up the utilities and groceries tab.
5. Try to Touch Base Frequently
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You don't have to have a meeting every week, but make it a point to check in with whomever you're living with—whether it's a text or just a chat when everyone is home. It gives you time to catch up on each other's personal lives and what you going on at the moment at work or socially, and lets you discuss any issues or concerns. Sounds very grown-up, right?
This is especially true for any couples who are moving in together. You might not want your partner to bring his or her poster or artwork from their former place to your new place, and they might not want you to bring your favorite (but ratty) chair. Before you move in, talk about your décor styles and what you really want to bring into the new space. Be prepared to make some compromises.
And this rule doesn't just apply to partners but holds true if you're living with roommates or family. Before making any big purchases or new additions to a communal space, have a chat with whomever you're living with first. While you think it might be awesome to get a fancy new couch, your roommate might not love it and probably won't want to split the purchase price, either.
7. Talk About How You Want to Use the Communal Spaces
Is it okay for your roommate to do yoga in the living room? Are you allowed to take over the whole fridge for meal prep? Can your partner display whatever collectables they have next to the sitting area? These questions and so many more will come up. It's helpful to discuss how and what you want to do with the communal areas, like the kitchen and living room.
8. Always Give a Heads Up Before Having People Over
No, it's not cool to have your sister crash on the couch for three weeks if you haven't gotten the okay first. Even if you plan on having a friend over for dinner or just an afternoon coffee, you should ask first.
9. Communicate With Your Family
Sometimes it might feel a little too casual and comfortable living with your family, so it's nice to set some boundaries and open the lines of communication. One member of Facebook group lives with her parents and gave this smart idea (that I'm tempted to try while I'm living with my mom): "To keep everyone on the same page, I send them 'briefing' emails before I leave for work (super early) with the dinner plans, reminders, and agenda for the day, plus funny stories or articles that I think they'd like. It keeps us all in the know, connected and sane without being overwhelming."
10. Split Up the Chores
This one's pretty much mandatory—things can get really tense when the dishes pile up, or the bathroom tile starts sprouting mushrooms (sorry for the gross visualization, but this actually happened to someone I know). If you need to make a chore chart, do it—but we're all adults here, so everyone has got to do their share.
In that same vein as number 10, even if you're not the tidiest person in the world, try to pick up after yourself. It's not just your space, it's also someone else's. And if you consider yourself a neat freak, don't be too hard on your roommate or partner if they don't share the same passion for extreme cleanliness that you do. If Monica and Chandler from Friends could successfully live together without that many mishaps, then you can do it.
12. Discuss Any New Additions to the Household
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It's definitely not a good idea to get a pet without conferring with whomever you live with first. If you are living with a pet, make sure you set up some ground rules for responsibilities—if it's your roommate's dog, are you responsible for cleaning up after it? Or, if you're co-parenting with your partner, who's in charge of the morning and evening walks?
13. Find Ways to Keep the Romance Alive
Okay, yes this sounds like cheesy relationship column speak, but it's true. Your relationship may change a bit when you move in with your partner. So keep that in mind as you're going about your days—surprises like a home-cooked meal, a bouquet of flowers, or even a spontaneous date night can make a big difference.
14. Prioritize Alone Time
Some solo time will do everyone good, so make sure you fit some alone time into your daily routine. If you have roommates or family, maybe it's letting them know that if your door is closed, you don't want to be disturbed. If you live with a partner, that might mean deciding on a time where you both can do your own thing in different parts of the space.
15. Establish Quiet Hours
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This can help avoid any ragers at 4 a.m. While they don't have to be set in stone, setting up some boundaries when it comes to quiet time can make a world of difference, no matter who you live with. As for noisy neighbors, well, that's another problem.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.