How to Be an Actually Good Roommate

Follow these 20 tips and you, too, will live in domestic bliss with a bunch of strangers in a tiny rental.
Young roommates hanging out on sofa and kissing
Photo: David Stewart / Getty Images

Every shared house is a delicate ecosystem: Each roommate added and subtracted from the pond threatens to unbalance and destabilise the precious algae, bacteria and what kind of cheese is being kept in the fridge (“Sorry, what the fuck is Morbier?”).

Sadly, you are also in the mix, here, and you are arguably the worst one. You know this about yourself: the stumbling home at 2AM with a clanking bag of Tyskie, the weird weekly routine you have where you lock the door and have a three-hour bath, that time you were sick in the kitchen sink and didn’t clean it up for a day and a half.


You are the bad housemate, sorry. Here are some vague tips to stop you getting that dreaded three-hander e-mail where they all ask you to move out. 

1. Clean that pan in the sink

I know, I know: It’s had egg on it so long nobody can remember who cooked the egg and subsequently who burnt the egg and who left the egg-crusted pan “to soak” and who keeps moving it in and out of the sink to do other, easier washing up. But it was probably you, let’s be honest. A Dishmatic® and some actual, undiluted washing up liquid will fix it in minutes. 

2. Don’t get a new hobby

I know, at this age, that the temptation to suddenly acquire a new hobby and get too into that hobby and spend all your money on a hobby and only talk about your new hobby is overwhelming, but if you’re going to buy a kayak off eBay don’t just assume you can keep it in the front room in that bit where the laundry rack normally is. It can’t go there. It’s a kayak

3. Don’t have sex with your roommate

It always goes weird and then poisons the well of the entire house and then you all have to pick sides and, realistically, they are not going to choose yours. There are lots of people you can have sex with who don’t also, for instance, know that your favourite lazy weeknight meal is “a waffle out the toaster”. Go find one of them. 

4. Don’t subject your housemate to the person you’re shagging

Similarly, if the current person you’re having sex with is annoying, minimise how much your housemates have to deal with them. A good way of finding out if they are annoying: Let them stay over six consecutive nights one week, and if one of your housemates sends a delirious e-mail threatening to “charge them for every shower they took”: They’re annoying.

5. Buy more chargers

One of the cheapest quality-of-life investments you can make is three more phone chargers, ideally with long cables. Do this now and save yourself having to have an argument with your roommate about why their brand-name iPhone charger that they lost six months ago has been found plugged in next to your bed. 

6. Don’t steal food – or at least be nice about it

Milk, cheese, butter: the dairy triangle of most stolen fridge items. I think “thou shalt not steal” is a bit much – come on man, it’s a bit of cheddar, calm down – but a good rule with milk is always this: Take enough for a weak cup of tea, but always leave enough for them to have a bowl of cereal with.

7. Don’t take the afters to your house

If you come in late, that’s fine. If you come in late with people, that’s fine. If you come in late with people and you all start playing obscure YouTube remixes off your phone while opening and closing the front door constantly to go and smoke or pick up, and also it’s a Tuesday, less fine. The wise man came down from the mountain and said: “Sesh at other people’s houses during the week; sesh at home on the weekend.” 

8. Pay your bills

I know, I know: It’s so small time to have to ask someone to pay one-fifth of the broadband every month. But you have to do it, sorry. The only thing more small time than that is having to be asked twice to pay it!


9. Don’t buy a tattoo machine

I know you feel the urge to do so. You’ve been looking at them online and you’re surprised at how affordable they are. You filled three pages of that sketchbook you bought especially with Sharpie-scrawled flash. But don’t buy the machine. It brings a dark energy into your home that you can never sage out. 

10. Don’t hog the kitchen

— Try not to do that thing where you go on Bon Appetit and decide you’re that kind of person now and then spend an entire weekend and two shelves of the fridge making slow-cooked ancho chilli pork. You clogging up the sink with rendered fat is quite annoying and you’re in the way anytime someone wants to boil some gnocchi to eat in their room. 

11. Turn down your music

Personally I like your music but that speaker you bought off your mate is technically too big for even a 300-capacity venue so if you could just. Yeah if you could just turn it down a bit mate it’s. Yeah it’s just because yeah it’s 11 o’clock and Roxy’s got an early start in the. Yeah cheers mate cheers mate thanks

12. Don’t “become a DJ”

Hey mate, sick controller, you getting into DJing? Yeah yeah yeah yeah cool cool cool cool. Have you ever done it bef – ? Couple of YouTube tutorials that you didn’t watch all the way to the end, cool one, nice. So you’re just going to learn very loudly not even on headphones? Ah. Amazing mate. Definitely not going to e-mail the landlord about this and rat you out. Definitely not. Selecta! 

13. Develop some showering etiquette

Showering in a houseshare is an oddly fraught affair: if you all leave the house in the morning you do have to stick quite rigidly to your pre-approved time slot, or chaos ensues. And try not to have a long giggling 45-minute shower with that person you just started sleeping with, because it locks up the only toilet in the house and Tom got so desperate he went and angrily did a piss in the garden. 

14. Learn to recycle

There’s a loose recycling system in the house and you have to respect it. This means: Throw the obvious stuff in the recycling, throw the unobvious stuff away. If you care too much about recycling you have lost. If you care too little about recycling you have also, somehow, lost. You have to care about recycling the *exact* correct amount. 

15. No group emails

If you have a grievance with the house, please don’t e-mail everyone about it, especially when they’re all at work. Nobody cares that “there’s a big pile of unopened post”. Shut up, man. Just say it out loud with your mouth with a normal person. And never, ever be the one to call a “house meeting”! Come on! 

16. Don’t ditch your housemates

If you are going to leave the flatshare, please at least try and give people a bit of warning first, because there is no worse stomach-dropping-out feeling than being told three weeks before rent is due that you need to find a new housemate and anyway, bye. I know “having consideration for other people” isn’t cool, but it will avoid you actively making enemies who will hate you for the rest of your life. 

17. Don’t become a recluse

Mm yeah quick note: Don’t do that thing where you stay in your room all the time and eat in your room and have a really elaborate desktop PC set-up in your room and have all the curtains drawn in your room and your room, the room itself, has started emitting a very dark energy that makes people scared of even walking past the door of it. Really try and avoid that. 

18. Do not, under any circumstances, get a pet

Don’t ever say “guys we should get a pet!”. You’re never going to get a pet but everyone’s going to remember that time you said you might get a pet. They’re going to talk about it when you’re not there and laugh at you. None of you are ready for a “cool lizard, or something”. 

19. Don’t hog the TV

I’ve been told that apparently it’s “uncool” to lock up the only TV in the house by playing three hours of FIFA online because you’re on a really good winning streak, especially if it’s the day the new episode of something on HBO comes out and everyone wants to watch it with their bolognese. Not my advice, just what I’ve been told. 

20. Stop stealing the mugs

How many mugs are in your room right now? Be honest. What about plates? Yeah, plates too. Take a couple downstairs, will you? Everyone’s baffled by where all the plates are. Do it under cover of darkness, if you have to. But last week Al had to have a cup of tea out of a bowl.