Tips & Tricks: Living with grace in a shared space

Having roommates is often defined by sharing small spaces like the one pictured above. Remembering to be mindful of your roommates can go a long way in helping with situations. // Photo by Joey D’Adamio Student Publications

You can always tell the end of the spring semester is near by a few tell-tale signs: the students flocking to Tech Tower to take graduation photos, the impossibility of finding study spaces in the library and the resigning of leases or the frantic search for housing.

While finding housing presents many challenges in itself, the people who you are living with is often equally as important of a decision. For many, it can be the deciding factor between staying in their current living situation or looking elsewhere. 

To ensure the best relations with your roommates, here are a few tips and tricks on how to be a good roommate.

Be Mindful of Others

One of the most important parts of being a good roommate is simply being cognizant of the fact that you are sharing a space with someone else. For many students, college may be their first time sharing a small living space, like a dorm, so it’s difficult to remember to be mindful nearly 24/7. 

While it may be difficult in the beginning, the more you remind yourself that your actions impact more than yourself, the more it becomes basically second-nature. A great example of this can be found in a common dorm room staple: the water filter.

It’s easy to put back the water filter empty, and just tell yourself that you’ll refill it on the next use. However, when you share it with someone else, they may need to use the filter before the next time you refill it, so they’ll refill it. Then, when you go to use the filter again, you may just use it and replace it — forgetting about refilling it — thus perpetuating a cycle of resentment.

Keep Common Spaces Clean

What you do in your personal space is your prerogative, but in living situations such as dorms, it is hard to define the boundaries of where your personal space ends and where your roommates’ begins. Furthermore, when you live in such a small space, like a dorm or an apartment, any mess that is in your personal space can very easily bleed into others’ space. 

This is especially true with the issues of pests throughout the year. While you may not care about the open containers of food or a messy floor that attracts bugs, having pests in your room directly impacts those who live with you since their presence spreads very quickly. For example, in the dorms, it is extremely common that if one room has pests, then other rooms will also see the presence of pests soon after.

Small Acts of Kindness

This tip is not a required part of being a good roommate, but it does go a long way in helping foster your relationships with them. Even if it’s something as small as cleaning their dishes when you know they’re having a rough week or leaving a nice note on their door, taking time to show that you think of them in your spare time is meaningful, especially considering how little spare time most Tech students have.

Moreover, this can help defuse a lot of the tension that can build up in roommate situations. When your roommate skips on chores or forgets to do something they promised to do, it’s easy to take this as a personal attack; they are doing this to annoy you specifically or they are taking advantage of you by assuming that you will do it for them. 

More often than not, it is nothing more than a simple slip of the mind; something that they do completely by accident with no ill intent in their hearts. 

However, if before this incident, they had perhaps helped you with your chores or gone out of their way to show you they were thinking about you, it is much easier to forgive them and see the transgression for what it is: an honest, human mistake.

Know When to Move Out

Taking all of these factors into consideration, hopefully you will be able to salvage any roommate situation. However, sometimes there are simply cases where you need to accept that you and your roommates may not be fit to live together, even if you were great friends previously. 

When reminding someone to do something once becomes reminding them twice to everyday, it can easily cause friction that small acts of kindness may not be able to relieve — even in the strongest of friendships. It’s okay to take a step back from a living situation that is detrimental to your mental or physical health. 

Home is a valuable place. It’s where you work, make memories with your friends and unwind after a long, hard day of being a Tech student. You can do your part of being a good roommate, and hope for the same from others. But, if someone you are living with is taking away from that experience, it is important that you are able to recognize it and make the choice that is best for yourself and your wellbeing.