It's challenging to "lay down the law," yes, but it's also necessary for the sake of roommate harmony to establish ground rules immediately upon the obtainment of sets of keys. You very well could have endless fun times with your roommate and make a best friend forever! But it is acceptable practice to have apartment ground rules set first because they ensure that you and your roommate will be comfortable living together. With ground rules, you will have a great understanding of what your roomie can and cannot accept in terms of habits and behavior from their roommate. Plus, the laying of ground rules means that you can have a say in what you want the apartment life to be like--as opposed to all of those years spent living in the oppressive shadow of your parents.
So, here are the 8 ground rules everyone should have with their roommates:
1) Clean your own dishes
This makes the top of the list because this will come into play multiple times during every single day you live with your roommate. Nobody likes to do the dishes, even if they're your own. So, don't make your roommate do your dishes for you so that only then they can have space in the sink. Just eat your meal and clean your dishes and silverware right away. Then, no one has to worry about them anymore. Plus, there will be fewer dishes to wash each time out.
Yeah, this is along the same lines as the first, but it deserves its own spot on the list. Cleaning the bathroom, kitchen, and living room needs to happen every once in a while. Again, nobody likes to do it, but it needs to get done, and it's virtually impossible to measure how much of a mess was created by which roommate over a period of time in those rooms. Mold and dust just happen. It's nobody's fault. As you go about your day, like in the example with the dishes, take care of your little messes that you leave behind, but also schedule weekly elaborate cleanings of communal areas. Rotate with your roommates who gets what room to clean and on which week so that it doesn't feel completely monotonous or unfair. While you're at it, figure out how often the garbage needs to be taken out and by whom as well.
3) Schedule bathroom time
You each have your respective schedules for work, school, etc. Figure out the best possible times for each of you to use the bathroom so you can get yourselves ready for the day. Then, mark them off on a daily planner, and stick to them.
4) Schedule quiet time
Without trying to imply that your apartment should closely resemble a jail or an army barack, there should be a type of "lights out" policy in your residence. Your roommate might not actually need to be asleep when you have to be, but you should establish a timeframe where, at the very least, they will be quiet enough to make sure you can get your much needed rest.
There's no set guidelines for these. They're up to you and your roommate. But it would be prudent for you to discuss with your roomie how you feel about house guests and parties--when they're allowed, how much notice should be given, how long they will last, etc.
6) Create a "Needs for the Apartment" fund
Your place is going to need cleaning products, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage can liners, utensils, and other items refilled or regenerated periodically. This can be handled easily. Figure out about how much money it will cost to purchase these various items over the course of a month and split the total up evenly among the roommates with each donating the same amount. The fund can be contributed to regularly at the discretion of the tenants. Again, maintain open communication on this one! Don't make someone pay too much and don't make them have to be the one to go to the store over and over again.
A lot of these entries have to do with scheduling things, we know. But it's important to get into good habits and a routine because then everyone in the apartment will have established expectations. This one is a no-brainer and, if done repeatedly, will keep a lot of headaches from happening.
8) Allow amendments to the rules
This might seem counterintuitive or contradictory to all of the rudimentary scheduling we just advised you to create. However, your residency with your roommates will (hopefully) last a long time and it is virtually impossible to know exactly what rules need to be established on the first day the two of you live together. So, the last and, arguably, most important rule is that the rules, through open communication, should be allowed to change or be added to if necessary.
Feel free to let us know some others we might have missed in the comments section below, and may you live happily and peacefully with your roommate forever more...