8 Tips on How to Share a Kitchen with Roommates

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Sharing any space can prove difficult, but the kitchen requires constant maintenance and attention. After an exhausting day of work or school, it's hard to make cleanliness and organization a priority. When you're hungry and tired, it is easy to forget that another person shares your kitchen, and even easier to neglect after-dinner cleanup. Here are a few tips to put every member of the household's mind at ease.

  1. Provide equal food storage. Sharing storage space is difficult in any room of the house, especially the kitchen. Food, dishes, cleaning products and other necessities often take up more space than you have. When storing your stuff, try and be fair. Don't leave your roommate with one shelf to pile all his or her kitchen necessities. You may love to buy in bulk, but when you share a kitchen, large food items crowd and clutter. Keep these purchases down to a minimum, or only buy large quantities of the food you know you and your roommate will both eat.
  2. Be generous and hospitable. There's nothing more unpleasant than a stingy roommate. When you find yourself with a family-sized green bean casserole all to yourself, invite your roommate to share your home-cooked meal. Not only will you save yourself from a mountain of leftovers, but you also might find yourself enjoying friendly conversation, and being relieved of dishwashing duties. Also, fruits and veggies have a short shelf life, so if you notice that some of these items are going to waste, then share them with your roommate. They may return the favor!
  3. Consider joint grocery shopping. If you're comfortable hitting the market with your roommate, then shared shopping can be a money-saving, headache-sparing expedition. Staple items like bread, cheese, milk and toilet paper can all be split down the middle. If you both know when something was bought, then you'll know when and by whom it should be replaced.
  4. Designate personal fridge sections. You open the refrigerator door, and reach for your brand-new jug of orange juice, only to discover it's nowhere to be found. You search high and low, hoping it's hidden somewhere between the milk and last night's Indian food, but you reemerge from the fridge empty-handed. Your juice-thief roommate has struck again. Assign separate sections of the fridge to you and your roommate. If you have an item that you don't want to share, then place it in your section. Some people set up a one-day rule. If you eat all of something that belongs to your roommate, then you must replace it within 24 hours.
  5. Hang a chalkboard or a whiteboard. This is one of the easiest ways to keep your kitchen organized. Shopping lists, chores and quick reminders can all be scrawled or tacked on. Not only can you keep inventory of what you need, but you can also remind your roommate when the cable bill is due, and whose turn it is to take out the trash. These items are also fun if you're planning a party or small gathering. Use it to write down the full menu of beverages and dishes. They're easy to find, and they're affordable ($10 to $20).
  6. Wash your own dishes. Walking into a dirty kitchen can be frustrating, particularly if it's not your mess. Ideally, you should wash your dishes immediately after use, so the sink doesn't start looking like a bad horror movie. However, setting a time limit of a few hours should prevent the situation from getting out of hand.
  7. Share joint kitchen-cleaning duties. Dishes speak for themselves, but common duties like sweeping, mopping and cleaning the stove should be shared. If you find a chore chart helpful, then hang one on the wall or the front of the refrigerator. Make sure that each person's duties don't conflict with their schedules. If cleaning turns into added stress, then it is more likely to be neglected. When it is your turn to clean, don't be lazy about it. Make sure you cover all the necessary areas, and throw away or wash your used cleaning materials.
  8. Don't keep expired food. If you've ever taken a big gulp of sour milk, then you understand the risks involved with keeping your food past its expiration date. You have to be exceptionally cautious of this when you're sharing your space with a roommate. No one wants to wake up to a kitchen that smells like expired food, especially when it isn't your own. Try to make a habit out of purging your refrigerator, cupboards and pantry once a week. This will also make you more aware of how much of your food goes to waste.

Keeping the peace with your roommate isn't easy. So, when it comes to proper kitchen etiquette, use common sense. Don't be disrespectful, and always clean up your own mess. You'll find that sharing space with a roommate can actually decrease the amount of time you spend on kitchen maintenance, and increase the time you spend enjoying your home.

Last Updated: January 18, 2012
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