roommate roadmap

Folks who get along with their roommates are mostly folks who are good at sharing.

Good sharing does not mean sharing everything, nope, that'd be weird, don't do that. It means determining the best boundaries for your particular roommate group, then respecting them ASAP.

Minimal effort upfront is better than maximum anger and resentment later. You should NOT wait until someone gets seriously upset and everyone's feeling defensive to discuss appropriate boundaries for the very first time.

"Practicing The Golden Rule" is a good life strategy, particularly with folks you don't plan to see much. And you should do unto your roommate as you would have your roommate do unto you, that's true too. But if you already know you'll be spending more time with someone (like your roommate), and you already know something factors into most roommate situations (like this roommate map), sharing expectations up front is clever because it will reduce stress.

Don't just leave it up to your imagination, Golden though it may be. With roommates, it's best to find out.

Treat it a little like a prenup.

We know you'd rather avoid discussing anything negative, but just imagine the passive-aggressive notes on the fridge you'll likely be avoiding later and use that dread to locate your motivation.

. . .

Roommate roadmaps assume both collectively shared and private space, and leave all roommates on their own in their private rooms.

Your roommate roadmap should include anything you're willing to share with roommates outside your room. So if you have a TV but plan to keep it in your room and wouldn't appreciate anyone entering and watching without your permission, that's NOT for your roadmap. If you have a TV you'd like to keep in the kitchen and wouldn't mind your roommates watching without you, that IS.

You should roadmap the specific roommate rules on sharing what you'd both like to share.

You should keep well-respected boundaries around what you've both agreed to avoid sharing.

You should negotiate the discrepancies. If one roommate checks yes to sharing something while another does not, you'll know you need to work out a compromise . . . or accept the standard of the one with the highest level of boundary (less sharing/more privacy) as the agreement for your roommate group.


Most agree one roommate's guests shouldn't enter other roommates' private rooms when they're not home, that's basic. But it can easily get more complicated than that.

You'll probably have a problem if your roommate's guests . . . ?

  • hang out in our home when all official roommates are out?
  • have their own keys or security codes to come and go at will?
  • cook in our kitchen?
  • use our shower or tub?
  • invite their own guests?

Apart from a party agreed upon in advance, what's the maximum # of extra people your roommate could invite over during the course of a month before you'll become annoyed?

What's the maximum # of nights in a row your roommate's out-of-town friends or family members can crash? (Discussing where they'll sleep and a schedule for showering may be necessary for smaller spaces with multiple guests.)

Sometimes WHEN is a factor in addition to who and how many: When will YOU need an advance text to expect more than just roommates at home? Are you comfy with frequent coming and going on whatever whim even in the wee hours, or will you freak out if it's not lights out with the front door locked after midnight?

You'll need an advance text alert regarding your roommate's guests?

  • if it's past our agreed upon curfew on a weeknight
  • if I'm definitely already in bed
  • if they're more than just your significant other
  • if they're more than just your significant other and/or one or two friends I've already met
  • if greater than or equal to 12 rowdy revelers will commandeer your common area for drunken karaoke 'til the break of dawn
  • if it's your mother

You should already have settled collective smoking with roommates, but what if your non-smoking roommate invites a smoker over? Can they smoke anywhere in your home?
Only in the one room with a window fan?
Just on the balcony?
Stand around in the front yard or out in the alley?

May your guests smoke? If so, where?

Some roommates practice a "SIGNIFICANT OTHER EXCEPTION." Meaning, each official bill-paying roommate gets one exceptionalized companion that's mostly allowed most places most times rather than as a "guest" (with restrictions) or as an official roommate (expected to pay their share).

Other roommates do NOT appreciate any assumptions regarding exceptional people. If you stay, you pay. Anyone who doesn't want to pay their honey's way can sleep at his house instead.

There's no RIGHT answer here, but assuming your boyfriend can be at your house 5 or 6 days a week without your roommates noticing . . . or that if they let you know they noticed that's nothing but jealousy regarding your personal life? That'd definitely be the WRONG answer.

If only one roommate has someone over more often than not, the others may feel that relationship has non-consensually become costly in terms of utilities, privacy, and general household upkeep without also reducing their rent like another official roommate would.

If you don't want your single roommates resenting the additional burden your committed relationship imposes, you might need to split some of the difference with them, do extra dishes, clean the common areas or bathroom more frequently, or even pay more of the rent. It should still be cheaper than life without your roommates.

SO: Will you practice a "significant other exception?"

Should your roommates practice any "significant other exceptions?"

SECURITY - again with the guests!

After roadmapping guests above, who, when, how many, etc., for various other reasons (social imposition/mess avoidance/sleep obstruction, etc.), security is mostly more guest mapping, but now we're avoiding "guests" that might commit crimes.

So how do you do that?

Some roommates feel there's a difference between their roommate inviting over someone they've known a long time and well enough to "vouch for," like a good friend or family member . . . versus the crowd you just met late night last call at the bar. Or, anyone you met online/from an app you're inviting over for your first IRL encounter, or after you met them IRL the first time at a bar earlier that day.

Others don't want their roommates worrying about how long ago they met their guests, that's too conservative and too constricting.

There's a range, but we'd definitely advise bringing up any concerns well in advance, like roommate roadmap. Roommate relationships tend to derail when one roommate feels negatively judged, so you'll want to make it clear any collective guest guidelines are based on very general concerns, concerns you've had for a while.

(It's possible to avoid passing moral judgment on your roommate's social choices while still experiencing concern your roommate's social choices will steal your stuff after your roommate falls asleep.)

One popular guest guideline is your roommate can invite whomever as long as they met whomever IRL at least ONE other place first and at least 72 hours ago. If your roommate still wants whomever over after that, everyone will probably be fine. (Then same rules for all roommates.)

Minimally restrictive, but still dramatically reduces any potential under-the influence-impulsivity around guests. If you wanted more restrictive, you could increase the "ONE other place" and "72 hours" values to whatever's right for your roommate group.

SO: Do you have a minimum time in mind your roommates should have known their guests first?

If so, how long?


You'll want to decide how you'll keep your doors locked/alarm activated/ground windows latched/whatever else needs attending, and make sure that's happening at all appropriate times.

Whoever's the home owner or original renter may already have this established, unless an incoming roommate wants to make a contribution (any portable/subscribed security system or services)?

SO: When all roommates are out?

What about when all roommates are in?


Something SO much less stressful shared in advance: What should your roommates collectively do if none of them have seen or heard from you for longer than is customary?

"Customary" could vary widely depending on how often you normally see them, but most still seem to agree there's SOME upper limit of unexplained disappearance strongly suggesting SOMEONE should most definitely do SOMETHING.

But after exactly how long?

What should they do? / Who should they call? / Which authorities should be notified? / Where is the bat signal?

living room

You'll want to consider which items you currently own and/or are open to purchasing collectively and sharing with one or more roommates:

armchair, area rug, bookshelf, coffee table, couch, curtains, entertainment center, lamp, plants, speaker for mobile devices, TV, wall art


You'll want to consider which items you currently own and/or are open to purchasing collectively and sharing with one or more roommates:

air fryer, batteries, big pot, blender, bowls, broom, chef's knives, coffee or espresso maker, crockpot or slow cooker, cutting board, dish towels, dishwasher, fire extinguisher, first aid supplies, flashlight, food storage containers, glasses, kitchen table and chairs, kitchen trash can, lightbulbs, microwave, mugs, paper napkins, plates, refrigerator, regular oven, rice cooker, sandwich bags, skillet and spatulas, sponges, stand mixer, toaster, toaster oven, utensils, water purifier, wok

How often will you remove expired food from the fridge?

How often will you take out the garbage?

How many times a week do you normally cook at home?

Do any foods tend to offend you if cooked at home?

"My brain will explode if there are dishes in the sink > hours?"

How long will YOUR dirty dishes stay in the sink?


(Possibly not a concern if the roommates' bathrooms will be entirely separate? However, some "master bedroom" style layouts including master bathrooms still feature "guest" bathrooms as well. If your guests will use a guest bathroom you'll want to roadmap sharing that stuff too.)

If you share a bathroom and both need to leave for work at the same time, you may need a schedule for showering.

If you do declare you'll share a few or more items collectively (shampoo?), you may want an area too that's just for you (dental hygiene, razor, prescription medication) so no one gets confused before their morning coffee.

You'll want to consider which items you currently own and/or are open to purchasing collectively and sharing with one or more roommates.

bar soaps, bath towels, bathmat, bathroom trash can, body wash, liquid hand soap, OTC allergy/cold/flu medications, OTC pain killers, (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.), plunger, shampoo, shaving cream, shower curtain, hangers, tissues, toilet paper

cleaning supplies

You don't want to be stingy with your roommates when it comes to shared cleaning products. If anyone feels the urge to clean, make it easy! Find your inner generosity when it comes to chipping in for cleaning spray and vacuum bags. Even if they use those more than you, think about what they're doing and realize cleaning product generosity benefits collectively!

Everyone experiences the occasional need for a Cleanup on Aisle Five!

Many roommates pitch in for a cleaner.

Those who insist it's NOT necessary to pitch in for a cleaner will need to keep shared areas up to their roommate's standard of cleanliness or risk their increasing frustration with their environment. This may involve a schedule for wiping down the bathroom, checking the fridge, wiping away food splatters in the kitchen, mopping floors, vacuuming, and removing personal clutter from common areas.

You'll want to consider which items you currently own and/or are open to purchasing collectively and sharing with one or more roommates.

broom, cleaning spray, dish soap, dishwasher detergent, disinfectant wipes, dustbin, laundry detergent, mop, paper towels, sponges, trash bags, vacuum, vacuum bags, window cleaner

sickening scents

Are you sensitive to any commonly scented products? (nausea, headache, respiratory distress, etc.)

(Too many possibilities here for anything approaching a comprehensive checklist. If you want your roommates to take your list seriously, it's best not to make it longer than necessary, but you do want to warn about anything that could harm you!)

sounds and schedules for sounds

Most roommates expect different intentional sounds are more or less appropriate at different times.

This is more or less applicable based on how large the space you'll share shall be. The smaller your space, the more often you'll need to check in with your roommates. If you're not certain your roommates want to hear whatever you're playing loud enough to be heard outside your room, headphones and/or a lower volume would probably be more harmonious.

Sharing well with sounds just means making a list of the louder noises you both tend to make, then finding out if your roommates would appreciate you restricting when you'll make those loud enough for them to hear, whenever possible.

Would you appreciate a restriction on when you'll likely listen to your roommates' "X?" If so, when would you rather not hear that?

TV shows, movies or videos, music, phone or videoconferencing calls, talking with friends IRL, opening and closing doors or cabinets repeatedly, hairdryer, dishwasher, laundry machine, clothes dryer


Most pet owners say they don't expect their roommates to care for their pets, just be sweet to them and careful for their safety . . .

. . . which is just fine the vast majority of the time, just less so if something totally unexpected (flight delay, traffic jam, work emergency, friend in crisis) severely delays the pet owner's return home.

So it's best if your roommates have a basic sketch, and it's always best shared ahead of time.

If Lucky gets low blood sugar if not fed every 10 hours and he's now unexpectedly without his primary human for 9 1/2, one of Lucky's other roommates can confidently close his temporary care gap, since they'll already know Lucky's needs.

(If you have a pet, you'll need to share info on feeding, watering, snacking, eliminating, and medicating.)

utilities, services, other recurring bills

Could be any recurring charge apart from household hard goods (mapped above).

Homeowners or original renters probably have a lot instigated already and should share that info with incoming roommates, but incoming roommates might indicate anything mobile they'd like to share (streaming media, meal delivery, community farm box, etc).

All bills you anticipate sharing should be stipulated with as much detail as possible and agreed to in advance. You'd like to share the benefits and the bills for the following:

housecleaners, community farmers' produce box, electric, garbage, gas, grocery delivery, internet connection, prepared meal delivery, streaming media, renters' insurance, water

What temperature would you prefer your shared thermostat?

collective purchasing and bill paying

You'll want to elect your most organized to keep track of all details and pay all collective bills. Your Organized One may even use an expense tracking app or spreadsheet, and should keep a "paper trail" (at least digitally) to show anyone curious about exact expenses.

But while other roommates may want to REVIEW the spreadsheet, if everyone is allowed to EDIT the spreadsheet, eventually everyone will become CONFUSED by the spreadsheet. It is a Law of Nature.

Whatever all roommates consume regularly, you could set up a household delivery, so no roommates run out. Often cheaper too, if you can handle some buying in bulk.

You could also set up a household communal supplies fund or digital equivalent to which everyone donates. You might rather chip in as you go at first, but after a few months you might be able to figure a good average amount, then Your Organized One won't have to keep asking. All roommates could donate a set amount of money per month for whoever likes to shop and/or the delivery service plus tip for whoever is delivering.

We'd also recommend either a communications board literally in the kitchen (blackboard, dry erase board, bulletin board, etc.) or an ongoing group text where all roommates can drop reminders about what very important stuff they just used entirely up (super helpful for the next roommate shopping).

How are you comfortable receiving funds from your roommates?

cash money/physical legal tender, digital check, money order, paper check, peer-to-peer money transfer apps/software/websites

dietary staples

We've mapped food and clothing near the bottom because they're different. A successful roommate arrangement will likely involve most of the sharing above. But not necessarily food, and definitely not necessarily clothing.

While it might be an unusually tense household that can't manage to share a roll of paper towels or a Wi-Fi connection, more than occasional meal sharing only works for roommates with very similar diets, no matter how compatible and how well they share otherwise.

Most don't imagine they'll nitpick or cheapskate at the outset . . . but if your roommate eats more expensively or a lot more than you, such that you're often "picking up some of their tab," you may feel resentful. And if you did, that'd be normal.

What's less constructive is pretending it's not, then waiting until everyone's upset and defensive before addressing food for the first time.

With food we see a wider range in how different roommates spend, not just how much food they prepare or tend to consume at home, but the cost per ounce of the ingredients?

Think of your friend in college who practically lived on generic mac and cheese vs. . . . somebody who regularly employs a personal chef who wouldn't dare feed them anything other than exotic baby vegetables . . .

. . . OK, that last is likely a bit much for anyone into saving money with roommates (like us), but even among the people you already know personally, there's probably a pretty good range there in terms what they tend to spend on food, right?

Returning to the paper towels, like the most expensive paper towels you've seen vs. the cheapest, there's not a HUGE difference there, they're all affordable. If you can afford to move or already live in a residence that could welcome a roommate, you can probably also afford all the paper towels you could reasonably use, any local brand (and this is true of many non-food household staples).

Not necessarily so with food. It's different.

Hence, we recommend any initial arrangements regarding food sharing past basic staples below be considered more "on a trial basis," with any roommate feeling the arrangement wasn't in the best interest of their diet or their wallet can go back to greater boundaries with no hard feelings.

Particularly if you're sharing a number of staples but maybe even if you're not, if your kitchen is large enough, create a "free for all" area that's for items you got tired of, or will expire before you can finish them, or whatever else anyone wants to encourage their roommates to devour late at night.

That way no one has difficulty finding the communal items . . . and hopefully also no difficulty determining what's NOT communal, when you also have items you'd prefer your roommates NOT devour. Hopefully.

We'd recommend when sharing staples which ones should be decided in advance, along with exactly how they'll be replaced p how often. This helps make it clear to all roommates if one roommate is consuming more than they've paid for, but with an emphasis on cheerfully correcting that before your next collective shop, if necessary.

You'll want to consider which food staples you're open to purchasing collectively and sharing with one or more roommates:

beer, butter, cereal, coffee beans, communal condiments, EVOO, other cooking oils, granola, milk, other dairy expiring soon, oatmeal, pasta (bulk), single-serve beverages purchased in bulk (sodas, carbonated water, juices), spices, wine


In our experience, sharing clothing between roommates almost never goes well longer-term, it's just too fraught with potential controversy. Clothing is too personally particular for most, so collective sharing tends to go poorly.

There's a maximum number of pieces you could potentially share with a roommate after which one or more roommate's feelings will inevitably get hurt, and it's probably lower than most who've never shared clothing before imagine.

It should go without saying that it's unacceptable to "borrow" your roommate's clothing without permission.

BUT EVEN IF everybody agrees the borrower had permission to borrow the piece in question, that it was returned within a reasonable time, and undamaged . . . was it clean enough?
Did it smell funny?
Was it wrinkled?
"Mysteries" in pockets?
If laundered, using what products at what temperature?
Should the piece have been dry cleaned instead?

If a roommate seriously covets a piece of your wardrobe, you'd probably be happier just giving it to them (if you're no longer attached) or buying them their own copy for their birthday. Lending it out then expecting to get it back on time exactly the way you like it just sets you up for unnecessary grief.

Hence: I will not beg or borrow my roommates' clothing!

  • I will not!
  • I might. You got me. It's true.

medical alert information?

In an entirely different direction: your medical alert information, or please just explain anything your roommates might need to know about you medically. Please be specific, meaning what your roommates might encounter and exactly what they should do, if this situation sounds like it might apply to you.

Good luck!