The Lost Elegance of Etiquette: Being a Gracious Roommate


Being a roommate is not something we are born with. I was a twin, so being a roommate for nine months helped in many ways, but this is something we must learn. I grew up with four siblings, and I have been a roommate twice, so I have definitely learned a few dos and don’ts when it comes to living with someone. I have made my fair share of mistakes simply because I didn’t know what I was doing. So after the fact, I have decided to take the opportunity to share a few helpful tips!


My occupation is property management, and I see roommate situations fall apart every day. You have to KNOW who you are moving in with to have a higher chance of it being successful. I highly suggest going over to visit your potential roommate before you make the move for the full-time commitment. You can see how they live on a normal day-to-day routine. Try to visit a few times. You can’t learn about someone just by visiting, but this can give you a better idea of who you’re moving with and how they live. Ask them questions about their routine. Do you take showers at the same time each day? If there is one bathroom, this could be a problem. Here is a little questionnaire to discuss before making the move with your potential roommate:

  1. Who is paying for what?
  2. How can we divide up the bills?
  3. Will our food be combined or separated?
  4. What is your schedule? (This can be a bit nosy, but explain your reasons for it. You just want to make sure  you are both aware of each other’s schedules so you don’t conflict - you will have conflicts simply because you live together, but its best to avoid grave conflicts)
  5. If you can’t pay for your share of rental costs, what is your back up plan?
  6. What are the “rules” for having friends over and how often?

There definitely may be more questions to ask, but this questionnaire should be according to the appropriate roommate situation. There are collegiate, sibling, family, or friend roommate situations and different appropriate behaviors for each. Now onto the helpful tips to being the best roommate you can be.

Whether you're living in the dorms or moving in for the first time with your significant other, these tips are gold


  1. The Golden Rule applies. Treat your roommate like you want to be treated. However, some people don’t mind stepping over their own clothes or shoes lying around the floor. But even if you personally don’t mind a mess, there are other things that you wouldn’t appreciate. Find out what your roommate’s pet peeves are and avoid them. Make sure you’re considering them AND that you’re being considered.
  2. Talk. Asking questions before you move in is a great idea, but also check up on things a little after living together. If you feel there’s an issue, or something seems to be “up” with your roommate, make sure to find out and settle the problem. Discussing an issue before it gets out of hand is a great way to keep a good roommate and a happy living situation. Let your roommate know you hear and understand what they are saying and that you’ll do your best to amend the situation.
  3. Too clingy or too apart. Give your roommate space. Moving in together does not make you instant sisters or BBFs. People have their own personal lives and routines, which may or may not include you. If you are very close friends, it is good to do things together to maintain that friendship. It can be easy to lose a friend in the process of being a roommate, simply because a friend can easily change to a co-inhabitant partner. If you move in with a friend, keep them a friend and roommate. Many friends move in together and end up hating each other. If you follow these guidelines, you are less likely to face this dilemma.
  4. Keep your lips sealed. When you move in with someone, it's like entering into a secret chamber of their world. You learn all about them; their strengths, weaknesses, habits, quirks - these are all to be confidential as a roommate. People will have a habit of asking nosy questions about your roommate if they know you live together, so its best to act like you don’t know anything even if you do. This is respectful to your roommate and if you do, they will respect you!
  5. Personal touch. When  my husband and I moved in together, we each had to sacrifice things we loved. I couldn’t decorate in pink anymore - after all, we can’t live in a doll house. He couldn’t live in a spaceship. This is normal and expected when you move in with someone. Ask what styles they like before buying items. Be open about each other's likes and offer to pitch in buying items. Make sure you’re on the same page when decorating the place and be flexible. Get something you like, and let your roommate pick out a few things they like--basically it’s give and take.
  6. Clean and considerate. You could have guessed I would talk about being clean, but this is so important. Pick up after yourself, and make sure to pitch in to clean. Don’t leave your roommate hanging when all the towels need to be washed or bathroom tub needs to be cleaned. Pitch in whenever you can. And consider them before making decisions. If you’re getting food, offer to pick up something. Most likely, they will return the favor. As roommates you are to help each other when you can, as long as you aren’t being taken advantage of.
  7. Lighten up. Don’t forget to take time and have fun. Get your roommate a random gift just for being a great friend. Don’t over think too much. Give them the benefit of the doubt if they “break one of the rules” and I can guarantee, it will come back around. The most important thing is to enjoy the experience!

If you enjoyed this column, check out Gelina's etiquette series on her blog - from being a gracious guest to elevator etiquette, this young woman is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration!

img_0603This article originally appeared on Gelina Reed's blog. She wrote it especially for Tirzah girls so of course, we had to share it with y'all. Gelina is a 23-year-old newly wedded wife, writer, aspiring photographer, and community manager. In 2010, she self-published "Crowned at the Cross," and in her spare time she also enjoys cooking, decorating, crafting and spending time with her husband.