Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Natural Element: The Drama-Free Household

Sharing your space. Live in harmony with friend or faux pas.

The odd couple exemplified opposites cohabiting without killing each other. What are the keys to maintaining a drama-free household?

Negotiate Beforehand

"Your well-being depends on your relationship with your roommate," says Jennifer Crocker, a psychologist at the University of Michigan. Before living together, find out whether your roommate is vocal or passive-aggressive about problems, and set up rules in advance to avoid potential conflict. Determine when each person is responsible for doing the dishes or taking out the trash, and what noise levels are appropriate.

All Hands on Deck

Even with a plan mapped out, it's common for roommates to slack off. When that happens, it's time to enforce stricter guidelines: The sink must be empty before bed each night, or whoever goes to bed last must take the garbage out (or they may find the trash under their covers the next morning).

The Tragedy of the Commons

Respect the space you and your roommates share. One woman says her roommate used to leave dirty, wet sports paraphernalia in the hallway for up to a week. To avoid letting the issue fester, her roommates called an apartment meeting. "Instead of pointing fingers and saying, 'You need to do this,' we said, 'We're making a new house rule for all of us,'" she says. They reached a compromise that satisfied all: a 24-hour limit for personal items to remain in communal spaces.

Talk It Out

Scheduling regular house meetings is one way to maintain contact. Another tactic is to purchase a white board and call it a "passive-aggressive board." When something is not getting done, a roommate can post a friendly reminder to turn down the music, replace the milk, or clean the dishes. "It's not a big deal whether your roommate eats your food; it's whether you can talk about it in a constructive way," Crocker says. "If roommates avoid the conflict, that's when those small problems accumulate and become big problems."