Living in residence is a great way to meet people, share university experiences, and build a community in your first year and beyond.
Sharing space with other students, whether that space is a washroom or a floor lounge, can be a lot of fun! It’s also a great chance to learn how to navigate the roommate and floormate relationships you’ll likely continue to have throughout university.
Living with other people is all about compromise. Nobody’s perfect, and everyone has habits that might seem quirky to someone else. But if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be able to take the quirk and make it work.
This is the most important rule. Whether you’re sharing space in a residence building or a Volkswagen camper van, the single best thing you can do to help things run smoothly is talk to the people you’re sharing the area with.
Communicating does not mean leaving passive-aggressive sticky notes or glaring at someone until they ask you what’s wrong. If something’s bothering you, be polite, but honest and specific about what’s happening.
2. Set up some expectations in the beginning
Start off with a conversation with your roommates or floormates about how they expect to share the space. Be mindful of specific needs people have that may differ from yours and find a way to meet in the middle (or accommodate their needs if you can).
For example, if you’re a night owl, but your floormate next door has to get up for an early class at 6:30 am every day, don’t stream Rupaul’s Drag Race at full volume through your speakers at 1:00 in the morning. You don’t have to go to sleep when they do, but you can be respectful and expect them to do the same when you’re sleeping.
Talking about these things in the beginning gets everyone on the same page and gives you something to refer to if there are any issues later on.
Attend the Shared Living boot camps held in residence at the beginning of term to start working these things out! You’ll get a postcard from Residence Life to let you know when these are happening.
3. Make a cleaning schedule (but be willing to compromise)
Other than noise, cleanliness has been the biggest point of contention I’ve experienced when living in shared spaces. People often have different standards when it comes to how often things should be cleaned, so that’s something you should discuss when you’re setting up.
You probably don’t need to vacuum every day, but find something consistent that works for you and the people you’re living with.
In a connected single, for example, making a cleaning schedule can help you ensure the cleanliness of your shared bathroom and hold each other accountable. If it was Roommate A’s turn to clean and you notice the sink is still caked with the expensive hand soap their grandma got them, you can politely remind them to do so.
But remember to be understanding—if Roommate A is swamped with midterms and you have a light week, maybe you can take on cleaning duties and Roommate A can help you out when you’re busy.
4. Decide what is and isn’t shared space
There could be cupboards, hooks, and shelves that you’ll have to share. Although you can leave these spaces as a free-for-all for whoever needs them, I’ve found that it works to designate so everyone has an equal amount of room to store their things.
Try to keep the space as evenly divided as possible and plan accordingly—sometimes you just can’t fit your extra-large Costco Vat O’Pickles in a shared fridge.
5. Be respectful when entertaining guests
Your living space should be one where you feel comfortable having friends and guests over, but be mindful of others’ needs. Some people need quiet time and may find having a lot of people around stressful, so check with your roommates and floormates if you’re having people over and you think you might be disruptive.
Communicating your living style gives others the chance to find another space if they need to (rather than feeling kicked out), and shows that you care about their feelings.
6. Build a relationship
You don’t have to be best friends with your roommates and floormates, but you’ll be spending a lot of time around them and it’s worth getting to know each other. Make time once in a while to chat, grab dinner together, study together, or attend a residence event.
Having a relationship with the people you live with makes it easier to communicate and make the space feel more comfortable.
7. Be honest and open when there are issues
Stuff happens, and people make mistakes. That’s okay! You’re not perfect, and neither are they.
Although it’s a good idea to be understanding when things are iffy, don’t wait too long to talk about your opinions and feelings. If someone is doing something that you find irritating or upsetting, stewing over the problem just builds resentment and makes things worse.
Have a chat with your roommate or floormate and explain what happened and why you’re upset. Work out what you can do together to resolve the conflict. By creating a space where you can have an open dialogue, you make it easier to bring things up in the future.
Over the past 5 years, I’ve been roommates or floormates with more than 40 people in various combinations of residence spaces and off-campus housing. It hasn’t always been easy—living with other people takes practice!
However, the experiences I’ve had sharing space have helped me understand how to communicate my needs better, compromise, and build healthy relationships.