First Week Priorities & Interacting With Housemates

Get to know your housemates

Building relationships with your housemates early in the year, makes it easier to discuss any conflicts that may arise. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Sign up for an intramural team sport together. 
  • Set aside a night of the week to eat dinner together.

  • Make a list of Kingston attractions you want to visit as a house.

  • Find a day of the week that works with your house to go on a walk together in one of Kingston’s many green spaces. 

Educate yourself and your housemates on local by-laws

Kingston, like other municipalities, has by-laws in place to help keep the city clean, safe and enjoyable for all. 

Be sure to click the links below to educate yourself and others of local laws, bylaws, and regulations.

Introduce yourself to your neighbours

Living off-campus provides you with an opportunity to connect with the broader Kingston community. Your neighbours will have come from a variety of backgrounds and will include working professionals, families, seniors, and other students. 

You can start to build relationships with your neighbours by offering to help rake leaves or shovel snow and sharing contact information in the case of an emergency. 

Knowing your neighbours has many benefits, including:

  • Making new friends. 

  • Avoiding bylaw or police involvement in conflict that could be resolved through a conversation.

  • Widening your social support network. 

  • Having someone to pick up your package if you are out of town.

  • Creating a sense of community in your neighbourhood.

Interacting with housemates

It is always beneficial to have conversations about living styles and expectations before signing a lease to assess compatibility with potential housemates. Once you have decided to move in together, it is important to discuss the following regardless of whether you are friends living together for the first time or acquaintances. 

Once you have moved into your new home, it is time to do your part to create a living environment that is inclusive and enjoyable. Review these tips ideally before the semester begins.

Decide on the best way to communicate with each other. Try to maintain open communication and bring up any problems as they arise. Having challenging conversations in person (rather than over text) can prevent misinterpretation and the creation of an uncomfortable living environment. Acknowledge that relationships involve give-and-take and try to make compromises when you can. If your conversation becomes emotional, taking a break to reflect can be helpful. 

Conflict is natural when living with housemates. However, ignoring conflict can result in damaging relationships, and could even compromise your living arrangement. That is why communication should be a priority in your household.

For resources to help you navigate conflict, Student Community Relations and the Off-Campus Living Advisor offer support and conflict coaching appointments.

Ensure that everyone in your house is comfortable with hosting a gathering before planning one. Do not pressure your roommates to host if they are apprehensive about it. Make sure to agree on the number of people to invite, how you will keep noise under control, and how you will deal with unexpected guests. See the Responsible Hosting page.

When are guests allowed in the house? How long can guests stay? How will utilities costs be handled with extended guests? How will you host responsibly?

Discuss individual expectations for how often common areas are cleaned. Create a cleaning schedule or chart of chores as a house. This may include cleaning bathrooms, putting out garbage and recycling every week, cleaning the kitchen, and picking up any litter in the front yard.

Use this Chore Chart Template to set expectations early on! 

Get informed as a house about waste management in Kingston. What will you do if you miss a garbage day? How will you rotate who puts out the garbage and recycling each week? See attached resource for waste management information.

See the Waste Management section of our website for more!

Who will set up the Utilities Kingston account? Who will set up the wi-fi? How will you organize and split bills? Discuss whether groceries will be shared or separate to avoid future conflict. Use a whiteboard, a shared document, or an app to keep track of shared expenses.

Have a conversation about who is bringing or purchasing shared items like a microwave, toaster, kettle, dishes, and cutlery.  

  • It is also important to discuss how costs will be split on communal items like laundry detergent, dish soap, paper towel, toilet paper, and garbage bags or if these items will be purchased individually. 

A house calendar can ensure everyone is informed about each other's schedules. When will the house be empty and in need of someone to come check on it? When are your exams? When will you be having guests? Is recycling paper or plastic this week?  

House meetings at least once per month gives everyone the opportunity to discuss issues which can prevent the development of large conflicts. Making this a routine with a fun activity like ordering your favourite takeout and watching a movie together encourages healthy communication.  

  • A housemate agreement can help keep you and your housemates accountable. Try utilising the housemate agreement template on the OCLA website. 

A group chat is a great way to remind housemates of important upcoming dates, bill payments, and guests! Discuss different options to find out what works best for your housemates. Make sure to bring up challenging topics face to face.