The Pros And Cons Of Living With Roommates

It is true that having your own apartment can be liberating, and can feel like you’re officially shifting into that state of “adulthood” your parents won’t stop talking about. But for many of us — especially those of us living in big cities where the real estate market is essentially laughing at us — this is not an option. For the time being, many of us will have to make do with roommates. And while this can be an incredibly fun, youthful experience, there are certainly some downsides. Here, some pros and cons to help you weigh things out.

Pro: Cleaning is not a solitary endeavor. A home serves two purposes in life: to provide you essential shelter from the elements and prevent you from constantly contracting pneumonia, and to teach you responsibility by constantly giving you something to clean. Living with roommates means that, at the very least, you won’t be the only one holding a Swiffer and breaking down into tears while you look at your disgusting sham of a kitchen. You can even, if you are the kind of Brady Bunch-style organization capable of such a thing, make a little chart on the refrigerator dividing up the chores based on which one makes you want to kill yourselves the least.

Con: You always think there is someone else to clean up. Though you can help each other by divvying up the cleaning experience and attacking it all together, there is also the strong chance that you will all collectively walk by overfull trash bins, pans that have been “soaking” for four days, and shelves so dusty you can no longer see the contents, all in the assumption that someone else will get to it. The more of you there are, the less of a chance there is that someone will actually take it upon themselves to initiate a decent cleaning session. It essentially becomes a game of Cleaning Chicken, in which the mess progressively gets more and more intimidating, until it is a stand-off of principle and you more or less have to Hunger Games-style kill each other before one of you caves and cleans it up.

Pro: You can end up having built-in best friends. When you live with people you actually enjoy hanging out with, and look forward to seeing when you come home, few things are better. There is always someone to hang out with, to talk to, to share your life and struggles with, even just to dissuade you when you’re drunk and trying to text your ex about how much you don’t care about them. It can make the workweek fly by, as you are guaranteed to at least have someone interesting to see at home when you’re tired after a long day. In general, having awesome roommates enhances every part of your life, and it really makes you feel like home — something temporary living spaces can often lack.

Con: You can end up living with the human equivalent of a cold sore. There are usually two version of the proverbial Worst Roommate Ever, and it’s hard to really decide which is more offensive to our collective humanity. On the one hand, there is OCD-Riddled Parental Figure/Full-Time Party Pooper, who will basically spend all of his/her time telling you to turn music down, yelling at you to clean up after yourself, asking that you not invite people over, reminding you that it is a weeknight, and cleaning up around you while making exasperated sighs. Then you have the Overgrown Area Rug Who Contributes Nothing To Society And, By Extension, This Apartment. This is the person who refuses to clean up after themselves, has no respect for anyone else’s food/alcohol/worldly possessions, treats the place like a train station motel for all of his/her equally bogus friends, and shows zero interest in actually making the living experience something remotely enjoyable for everyone else. Also, in their spare time, they like to use all of the hot water in the entire building. And not to point any fingers, but both of these people are usually found on Craigslist. Oh, Craigslist.

Pro: Rent is usually cheaper. Again, this is largely dependent on the city you live in, but generally speaking, you can expect to pay a little less if you’re dividing up the living space. I have lived by myself before, and let me say that the sacrifice made in square footage was so drastic as to make me long for the days when I would have to go into a shared bathroom to shower/get ready directly after a 6’3, 250 pound man viciously abused the toilet. While living by yourself can offer a lot of freedom, it often comes at a very literal price. If you can tolerate it, it always almost makes more financial sense to live with others.

Con: Everything is shared. Part of the unwritten, often unaddressed cost of living with roommates — and certainly part of what drives the price down considerably — is the fact that, aside from the tiny morsel of space that is your room, nothing is sacred anymore. And let’s be honest, we’ve all probably had at least one room who did not respect the boundaries of your room, even though it was your last bastion of privacy and sanity. But even putting aside the errant asshole who will mosey into your personal space any time of day to find a pen or a hair tie, there are still so many things about this living space that are no longer yours. Get some food at the grocery store you are really looking forward to enjoying? You had better squirrel that sh-t away with a quickness, or you are going to watch it get magically eaten by everyone in the house that isn’t you. Have some shampoo that make your hair silky and manageable, and costs 1/3rd of your monthly salary? Yeah, enjoy your roommate washing his balls with it the second he runs out of soap. Have a television show you’ve been looking forward to watching all week? Look forward to essentially having to kill someone to get access to the remote. Only the strong will survive.

Pro: You will have people around you to prevent you from turning into a bridge troll. Let’s be honest, when we live alone, we kind of become gross. We stand naked in the kitchen, stirring our macaroni and reading a magazine at the same time. We watch endless, unadulterated hours of horrendous Bravo programming. If it’s raining one long weekend, we may spend the entire 4-day period indoors, wearing the same grimy pajamas and eating Froot Loops out of the box. We basically just throw all manner of propriety and social conditioning out the window and devolve into whatever animal is above monkey, but below “person who will occasionally take out the trash instead of just squishing it further down into the can.” It’s ugly, and roommates can somewhat prevent this. With people around, even people we don’t really care about, we’ll at least keep some semblance of humanity.

Con: You can’t just walk around naked whenever. Despite its tendency to start the slippery slope into living like an animal, there is something to be said for the pure joy of spending an entire day in the buff. How awesome is it to just go about your daily routine, only without any constrictive and heavy clothes all over your body. Come summer time, especially if you don’t have central air, you are going to break down in tears over your inability to just strut around the house nake nake, occasionally rubbing your neck with ice cubes and drinking some lemonade. Being naked in your own house is awesome, and if there were one solid reason to avoid roommates, I think that would have to be it. TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • Bre

    I have lived with room mates before… 3 actually. It was hell. I have had the “Great” roommate, the “dirty, those dishes have been soaking for a week, omg is that mold on your food?” roommate and the “slut” roommate (strange men coming in, all hours of the day and night) 

    I live alone now though and I am happier than ever. Although, there are times when I become a bridge toll and cry when I have to pay rent… its worth it in my eyes.

    • Anonymous

      Couldn’t agree more with your last sentence. I once had a room mate who would leave her dishes for so long she’d have to use laundry detergent to soak the crap off. Living alone beats roommates hands down.

    • Anonymous

       I’ve tried all kinds of roommates in all kinds of numbers with all kinds of people and living alone is still preferable. I even think it makes me more social because I’m not projecting my roommate issues on to my friends.

      • Jessica Baumgartner

        similar situation, i once lived with someone who, instead of cleaning my dishes she’d used, threw them away because they’d been dirty for “too long”

      • Anonymous

         That’s horrible in so many ways.

  • Andrew Rowland

    The turning into a bridge troll thing… pretty much happens on the short term when my wife is gone for the day… only boxers (boxer briefs if you’re really lucky… ladies), cereal for every meal, and a healthy dosage of sitting on the damn couch followed by a frenzied cleaning of the dishes when shes about 30 minutes from being home.

    “What do you mean ‘what did I do all day?’ You see that dish? It. is. SPARKLING!”

    • asdf


  • Summer Gillen

    Having roommates is one topic that will never be discussed enough. So many stories to be shared. This was great. 

  • Summer

    Living alone is the greatest luxury on the planet. 

    • JoAnna


  • Parades

    I have lived with allll types of people, and I have to say that all things considered, I love it.  I’m really close with my current roomates, we help each other out, most of us work together at the fry truck downtown and it’s just really great. The house gets pretty bad. The game of chicken thing is true, but we usually all break at the same time with a “THAT ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT” and we all clean together until it’s immaculate. I don’t know, it would be so much more expensive to live on your won that its insane. I would never do it. 

  • EarthToNichole

    Living with a significant other is the perfect in-between. You still get to split the cost of rent, have someone to come home to, but don’t have to deal with any of the typical roommate drama.

    • Tony F.

      until y’all have relationship problems and break up, that is

      • Anonymous


  • yvonne

    Life’s better when your housemates become drinking mates.

  • Anonymous

    “We stand naked in the kitchen, stirring our macaroni and reading a
    magazine at the same time. We watch endless, unadulterated hours of
    horrendous Bravo programming. If it’s raining one long weekend, we may
    spend the entire 4-day period indoors, wearing the same grimy pajamas
    and eating Froot Loops out of the box.”

    i lived alone in a sublet last month and basically became this — if you substitute saved by the bell for bravo programming and granola cereal for froot loops. now i come out of my room at 4pm in my pajamas and i’m like good morning! and my med school roommates are like, heyyy…  and i’m like what i work from home i do what i want

  • Jenny

    this is absolutely awesome. 

  • guest

    Living with roommates is great, they become really good friends. Until you talk of money, splitting the cost of this and that, down to the cent…

  • Guest

    I live with 7 roommates, and at times it can get pretty cray. And by cray I mean disgusting. Thing is, we’re all pretty passive-aggressive about asking people to clean up their shit, so the house usually gets pretty bad before some ninja cleans it up in the middle of the night. Every time my parents come to visit they have that
    stank-face that civilized people wear when they come across the gross living habits of university students.What I LOVE about having so many roommates is that I almost never have to go to campus alone, and having guys living with us (I’m a girl) prevents me from (entirely) turning into a swamp creature. I may just miss the roomies when I move out. End long comment.

  • Lak

    I beg to differ about the bridge troll thing. Some people don’t even have the slightest social conditioning even while they live with five others.  I actually had a roommate who never bathed, woke up five minutes before class began, tossed the sheets onto the floor, stripped, changed into something more college appropriate, and proceed to run out of the house leaving the sheets and discarded nightclothes on the floor which would then be used again at night. Sometimes she wouldn’t even brush her teeth. The Roommate From Hell. I got the hell out of there.

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