How to Set Boundaries with Your Roommate

At the very least, here’s how to start the conversation.

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How to set boundaries with your roommate

Now that you’ve had some time to settle in with your new roommate, you’ve probably learned that everyone has some interesting quirks.

If this is your first semester with your particular roommate(s), you’ve had to learn to interact in close quarters with an entirely new person. 

While it’s always fun to have someone to come home to, sharing space can often be difficult.

A couple of my friends have come to me complaining of difficulties with their roommates overstepping boundaries — whether it be using their stuff, hogging all the space, or inviting people over without checking first. 

If you’re wondering whether or not you’re being too picky, read on and find out how to set boundaries with your roommate and how to handle it when your roommate steps out of bounds.

Sharing Dishes/Food


Dishes and food are kind of tricky subjects. Many people don’t care about sharing their stuff, but it’s also disrespectful to just start taking things without asking. 

If you have a roommate that is using your dishes without asking and you do mind, one thing you can try is offering to take your roommate to get a second set, or explaining where you got them. This might clue them into the fact that you want them to have their own dishes. 

If you don’t mind sharing, make sure you indicate that you would prefer they wash and put the dish back where it belongs so you aren’t stuck doing chores all night. If you feel comfortable, you can say something along the lines of “those dishes were only $X so I don’t mind sharing. Maybe we could split the cost?” That way, you save money as well!

For food, it doesn’t usually make sense to have two milks, two eggs, or many of anything large and generic. (Although I know people who have bought separate containers and labeled them with each roommate’s initials.) 

If you’ve noticed your roommate taking your stuff without asking, you might want to say, “I don’t mind you using my milk or eggs, but next time you run to the store, could you pick up another gallon and carton?” so that you’re keeping things even and not being taken advantage of. 

If you don’t want to share your food at all, you can simply tell your roommate that you prefer to keep your food separate, but that you also won’t infringe on their groceries.

Related reading: 15 Items to Share With Your Roommates in College

Sharing Space


When you have a roommate, you obviously have to actually share the space. But with this comes dividing it equally and/or amicably

If you feel like your roommate is taking up the space unfairly, it definitely makes sense to talk about it before he or she adds more stuff to your side. You can ask if there is another place where an object may be better suited, or be more blunt and simply point out that since you are living as two people (or more) you should have a way to divide the room into halves (thirds, quarters, etc.).

Inviting Guests Over

Red solo cups

This one always seems to be an issue when it comes to having parties or significant others

If your roommate is being excessively loud at night and bringing in others without checking first, you can politely ask if there is another place they can go as you have an early class, workouts, etc. You could also play it from the safety angle and say that you don’t feel comfortable having strangers come and go while you’re sleeping/your stuff is unattended.

If your roommate has his or her significant other spending too much time in the apartment/room, you could ask if it’s possible for them to go to another apartment. You can also say that you don’t feel like it’s respectful for them to constantly be in the apartment unless they live there — aka pay rent. 

If you want to initiate the conversation you could try something like “I’ve noticed that Karlie is spending a lot of time in the apartment. While I’m glad you two are able to see each other, I don’t feel completely comfortable in my own home while she’s here since she is technically a guest. Is there anyway we could discuss when she can come over and leave?” Hopefully your roommate will be understanding of the situation!

How do you set boundaries with your roomies?

Have you had any roommates that overstepped their boundaries or put you in an uncomfortable situation? How did you deal with it? Please share your stories and tips in the comments to help other readers! We’d love to hear from you.

1 thought on “How to Set Boundaries with Your Roommate”

  1. This sounds tricky! I’m so glad we don’t share rooms in the UK – I know it can be a great way to meet people but I wouldn’t give up my personal space for anything!


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