Thursday, December 01, 2005

Roommate Rules

After a loong time, I have started sharing an apartment with roommates, since this past September. I have come up with the following "Roommate Rules" to help make roommate arrangements an easier experience. Most of them are based on my experiences during the past three months, and from prior roommate experiences as well. Some are based on the experiences I have heard from others. The rest are based on common sense.

Before I list the rules, I would like to say one thing first and foremost: Rules or no rules, finding the right people is the most important thing. It is about people, people, people!

1. All of the following rules shall be discussed, understood and agreed upon in advance.

2. We shall discuss, understand and agree upon in advance practical matters like the lease terms, living arrangements (which room belongs to whom, etc.), lease breakage, etc.

3. I shall have my own room and bathroom. I need my private space.

4. As far as possible, we shall try to maintain the apartment/house as a "home". That includes sharing good company, cordial conversation and meals.

5. There will be no meat or eggs (in direct form) cooked or consumed in the house. Eggs in indirect form - as in cookies, pastries, etc. - are acceptable.

6. All shared areas (living room, kitchen, dining area) shall be immaculately clean at all times. Immaculate also means, "a place for everything and everything in its place!" This is applicable for everything including footwear, CDs, shopping bags, magazines, letters, miscellaneous papers, etc.

7. We shall work out a schedule for equal division of labor for cooking, cleaning, shopping. We shall stick to this schedule without requiring explicit reminders from me. I don't want to remind someone and feel like I am nagging them. We can help each other out during those inevitable times when we cannot stick to the schedule. During such times, we shall give as much advance notice as possible.

8. All monetary accounts for shared expenses shall be meticulously maintained. We shall be accurate and fair, and allow no errors of approximation or "adjustment" in this process.

9. Any shared items (tools, furniture, etc.) shall be returned back to their proper place, immediately after use. We shall not leave them lying around haphazardly.

10. Any left-over food items, shared or otherwise, shall be put in the refrigerator immediately after we finish eating.

11. No food shall be left uncovered on kitchen counters or dining table. There shall be no food pieces or crumbs left lying around on floors, kitchen counters or stove tops.

12. We shall have a clear distinction between cooking items and eating items. Items such as vessels, plates, cups, spoons which are used for cooking, shall never be used to eat with or eat out of. Items with which we eat such as plates, cups, spoons, forks, knives, etc. shall never be used for cooking.

13. There shall be certain spoons, glasses, plates which shall be designated as mine. Nobody shall use them under any circumstances. Roommates are welcome to designate their own personal items.

14. We shall use serving spoons to transfer food to our plates or cups. We shall not do so with our bare hands as much as possible. If touching with bare hands is not avoidable (eg: to pick up a piece of fruit), we shall do so in such a manner that our hands don't touch that remaining pieces. We shall definitely not use our bare hands to break a piece of pakora or any other snack on a common plate, pop half in our mouth and leave the other half on the plate for somebody else!

15. We shall never spit in or wash our mouths in the kitchen sink. We use that sink to wash food items such as vegetables, fruits, etc. We also wash cooking vessels there. It is not proper to spit into that sink. We shall use the sinks in the bathrooms to wash our mouth.

16. There shall be no "borrowing" of each other's items (such as money, blankets, pillows, gadgets) without prior request and permission. Very personal items such as articles of clothing shall never be borrowed or lent. Please let's not even think of asking to borrow them.

17. We shall not mix our laundry. If I have left my clothes in the washer or dryer and the roommate wants to use it, I would appreciate it if he called me to remove them, rather than he removing and dumping them on the dining table.

18. We shall not open each other's mail. We shall avoid listening to each other's voicemail as far as possible.

19. We shall throw trash in the trash can. We shall not let pieces of paper, including used napkins and paper towels, lying all around the house. We shall dispose trash regularly. We shall not leave the filled trash bag right outside our door. We shall take it out of the house, straight to the trash bins.

20. Last, but not least, we shall settle monthly accounts soon after the end of the month, preferably before the fifth of the next month. We shall not wait until the 20th of the next month to pay up what we owe from the previous month!

Update on April 2nd, 2006: Did not like what I have written above? Before you decide to comment, kindly consider the following:
  • I did not just wake up one morning and make up these rules out of thin air. They were born out of necessity. Most of them have been made after something bad happened. Meaning, the rules came out of bad experiences.

  • I don't like or enjoy making up rules, or asking other grown-up adults to follow them. Everytime a rule is broken, it takes more effort and energy for me to correct another grown-up adult, than the effort it would have taken for that adult to simply follow the rule in the first place. So no, I don't enjoy these rules myself.

  • Some of the rules I have listed above may seem extreme. Before you just react to it emotionally, try and imagine the worst possible thing that might happen if that rule was not followed. Then you will realize why it is necessary to have that rule.

  • When two or more guys live together in a house, it can turn into a pig-sty very, very quickly. Now, some guys may not mind living in a pig-sty. I am not one of them. You need proper rules and good practices to ensure that a house is clean and comfortable to live in like humans.

  • Yes, I know that non-vegetarian food can be delicious. Yes, I know that some people don't mind sharing a bathroom. Yes, I know there are all kinds of people in the world with their own preferences, and you have your own preferences too. Similarly, I have my own preferences. So, let's not get into the "you are wrong, I am right" kind of arguments.

  • Remember that while these rules may seem too extreme or outlandish to you, there are people who follow these rules naturally, without anybody telling them. There are people who live like this without any issues. Respect them just as you would expect to be respected yourself.

Now, if you still have something to say, go ahead and comment.


  1. Good luck with the roomie. Its always good to be clear upfront. I have seen these guest houses which are in shambels and the rest rooms r so yucky. The dishes are never done n there r cigaratte stubs almost everywhere.

  2. :) Very thorough. Um...just this what actually happens in ur "home," or is it what u wish would happen?

  3. These rules would make a good poster.They'd help all the moms,wives,etc of all those spoilt sissy-boys who live amidst heaps of garbage.

    Just to prove my point,I have a friend who thinks her bf should read these rules.

  4. experience speaks , would be nice to see if it worked for u or not

  5. anonymous & anonymous - Most of the rules I have written above are working in my home. Sometimes there are lapses. Needless to say, I won't win the vote for the most popular roommate any time soon. :-)

  6. you sound my like ex roomate actually all these rules worked for me (actually he had even strict rules than these ) I was not even allowed to cut onions when he was home ,he did not eat onions.

  7. Anonymous - I am glad to hear that similar rules worked for you. I have come under criticizm about these rules. People don't realize that I did not make up these rules out of thin air or because I am some crazy person. There are reasons and anecdotes behind each and every rule. For example, I have a rule that people shall not break off a piece of some food item, like say a samosa, with their bare hands and leave the rest for others. I have this rule not because I am some hyper-clean person who does not like to touch other humans. I had to make this rule because I have seen that not everyone keeps their hands clean. I have seen roommates handle food, soon after they have handled their shoes, without washing their hands. I bet even the worst critics of my rules would not like to eat such food. I have similar reasons and experiences that have led to each of my rules. It is easy to critisize, but difficult to apply the mind and understand.

  8. when u dont get along with a person u live with, then only u need all these rules. if u r this inflexible, then it's better not to stay with anyone.

  9. Rules?

    Well...there are rules about so many things in life. But rules about how I should live my life in a place what I could call "home".

    That's rather ridiculous.

    There could be certain "norms" being laid out as a guideline. The moment you call something a rule, if that is violated, it mandates punitive action.

    After someone who has been under their parents rule for all those years, do you really think they need further rules from a roomie?

    Try and retrospect on the criticism you have received so far on this. Maybe you tried to be too methodical for your own good.

    It is OK with a roomie with whom you might share your life for a few months or maybe even for a few years.

    Think about a situation when you get into a relationship (am assuming you are still single by your other posts). Its not going to be easy to get away from such a "roomie".

    You mentioned something about privacy and needing a room and bathroom for yourselves. If you value your privacy so much, why share a house with someone else? I am sure they all share equal amounts in rent. What makes them inferior for you not to share your room and or bathroom?

    Probably its time to think it over...

    Good luck!!

  10. Thanks for your comment, yet another anonymous! I am not a great lover of rules myself. As I mentioned in a previous comment, all the rules here have born out of necessity. You know, like how traffic rules are? Someone did not just wake up one fine day and make them up. They were born out of necessity and they help everyone share the roads safely and courteously.

    Yes, I have already thought of all the arguments that you have put forth. Meanwhile, have you really given a thought to all the rules I have listed? Instead of just making a general declaration that rules are bad, why don't you tell me which particular rule you don't agree with?

    Thanks for your comment though. It has finally prompted me to publish an update to this post.

  11. Hey. I just wanted to say thank you for you insight on rules for a roommate. They helpped me make my rule list.

  12. Wow, Lea! Glad to hear these rules were helpful to someone at least! :-)

  13. no meat?
    chill out
    i hope i never live with you

  14. Anonymous - You eat meat? Then don't worry. Your hope is fulfilled right away. I will never live with you. :-)

  15. I would like to say Thank You for the list of Rules. It's helped me compile my own. Apparently those common sense rules are needed after all - unfortunatly, had to find out the hard way : (

  16. Anonymous - I'm glad these rules were helpful to you. I am even more glad to come across another person who thinks these are 'common sense rules'. Some people think that I am a hard-ass for having all these rules. But even I had to find out the hard way that these are needed. Good luck with your roommate situation.


  17. Amanda, Vanessa, Carrie, & Lena7/21/2008 11:11:00 PM

    Thank you so much for posting these! 3 of my friends and I decided to get an apartment a while back and we are finally doing it. This list has come in great handy!
    The four of us were looking around for common roommate rules when we came across this page and were smacked in the face with a LOT of what some would say are 'common sense' rules.
    We are so glad that someone other than us thinks that even though it may be called common sense, it doesn't mean everyone has it, therefore these rules still need to be stated. Guess we're not crazy after all.

    But again, thanks so much, this has helped us tons!

  18. Amanda, et. al,

    I'm glad you liked the rules. Do drop by after a few months and let us know how the rules worked out in your roommate situation. It'd be great to hear back from you.


  19. Hey Dude..
    How about stealing food.. Argh.. my stupid roomie is stealing my food!!! I can't confront him because he works night shifts and sleeps during the day!!! Any suggestions!!! I have left notes telling him not to steal my food.. but it hasn't stopped!!!

  20. Anonymous,

    That sucks, man! To have a roommate who steals from you... that's not good at all.

    My first instinct would be to kick the guy out. If you are living with someone, you gotta be able to trust that person. If not, life can become extremely difficult.

    But I have heard and read of other people in your situation, deal with it in more nasty ways. That included leaving bad stuff in the food for the thief to find. The idea is to hide it so that the thief discovers the nasty stuff after he has taken a bite of food or gulp of drink. I have heard at least two people mention pissing in the beer.

    But really... if you start a war in the house, where will it end? The house is supposed to be one place where you can be at peace, without having to be defensive or careful. So, kicking out the thief sounds like a better option to me.

    Hope that helps.


  21. I too don't eat meat but my roommate does, I wish he wudn't cook it at least when I'm around but that's never going to happen. I made the mistake of not sitting down with him before we moved in together to set strict rules. We discussed them but never set them in stone, now he acts like we never even talked.

    Basically I am saying that I understand why you need rules. Thanks for the post. You're not alone.

  22. Roger,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. At one point of time, I was with a meat-eating roommate with whom rules about food were agreed upon in advance. He still went ahead and broke the rules, despite being an Indian who should have understood my compulsions better. At the same time, I have lived with meat-eating Americans who were much more courteous and sensitive to me, despite no rules being agreed upon in advance.

    My experience in roommate situations is that, having rules and agreements is not enough if one person is insensitive and determined to be discourteous. Better to be safe than sorry and choose the right kind of person beforehand. My most peaceful times have been when I have lived alone. Great roommates can make life much better than living alone, but you have to be lucky to find them.


  23. I think these rules are can people know what is expected unless they have boundaries! your rules are very precise and if someone doesnt like them then they can find someone else to live with...your rules are great!

  24. I would love to have you as a roommate.

    Generally, most people don't comprehend the obviousness of some of the rules you mention (like cleanliness, respect towards others belongings, etc), and I myself have had to sit down with roommates and explain to them obvious things like that it is not okay to leave shredded carrots on the floor and on the counter and they should clean up after cooking.

    One would expect that everyone has a natural tendency to maintain order in life, but it is not the case, and just how you put it: these rules come out of necessity for a good and healthy living enviroment. I couldn't agree with you more.

    Thanks for the post, you have given me some ideas as well for writing up a small set of guidelines.

    One more thing...I am interested in knowing what are you thoughts about roommates having boyfriends/girlfriends over? I myself have a girlfriend that spends the night about 1-2 times per week; we are always extremely considerate as to not make my roommate feel unconfortable and to keep everything clean and in order. However, my roommate has a boy friend that's around almost every night, and tend to..."take over" the house as if it were theres. Not to mention that none of them know how to cook, and their repetitive failed attempts are really getting on my nerves because they leave everything semi-clean, and are slowly deteriorating the pots and pans because of poor handling.

    I'm not sure I should not allow visitors anymore, given that I would also like to have my girlfriend over every once in a while, and once or twice a month 2-3 friends over for dinner.

    Once again, awesome set of rules, and thanks in advanced for any advice you can give me!

  25. scherzo,

    It looks like not allowing visitors will not work in your case. You like to bring visitors yourself. Even if you didn't have your own visitors, not allowing the roommate to bring visitors might not be good.

    It's one thing if the roommate is having a bunch of people over frequently and they are trashing up the place partying. In this case, it looks like your roommate is only bringing her bf and they are just trying to cook for themselves.

    You could request them to do a better job of cleaning after their attempts at cooking. Or, you could have a pot and pan kept aside just for their cooking experiments. Ultimately, it is upto you to decide how big an issue this is. Is your roommate good in every other way except this? Then it might be worth talking to them, getting them separate utensils or even just putting up with them. But if this is just one of many issues, it might be time to separate from this situation.

    Hope that helped.


  26. Hi,My daughter is shifting with two other friends in an apartment.Thanks for the list.I fwd it to her.I wanted her and her friends to agree on this rules ,she is a kind of person who cannot say straight on anyone's face and as for me study is more important then fighting for little things and keeping your mind disturbed all the time.If you cant leave peacefully then she is better staying alone in her apartment now.

  27. What about guests? What if my roomie's parents are coming over from India for an extended stay (> 7 days) and we do have a spare room. Can I ask her to pay an increased rent/utility share, etc. How does the kitchen use, etc. work out? Thanks for replying.

  28. Ann,

    If guests are staying for less than a month, your roommate should pay for their food and utility use. But probably not additional rent. But if they are staying for more than a month, your roommate might want to pay more rent too.

    Having said that, it's good to be flexible when the guests are close family members. For parents, I personally wouldn't expect the roommate to share additional rent if they are staying for less than 3 months or if the roommate cannot afford to pay more. But if the guests are not family and / or the guests are able to pay too, I'd ask the roommate about paying additional share of rent if they stay over a month.

    Does this help?


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