Living with others can be harder than it sounds. Even the closest friendships are put to the test when two or more people share a living space. Passive aggressive notes, inconsiderate noise levels and even the direction of the toilet paper roll (let’s be honest, forward is the only acceptable option) can lead to arguments and frustration.

Living with others doesn’t just teach people new things about their roommates; it makes them more reflective of their own mannerisms. For example, someone might have a habit of leaving their laundry in the dryer for hours after it’s finished, which their roommates might not appreciate when they need to start their own loads. Shared living spaces shine a bright light on these habits, and it takes compromises and a good attitude to overcome personality differences when living together.

1. Lay Out the Rules

Stop disputes before they start with a clear set of guidelines that outline boundaries and responsibilities for every roommate in the apartment. Things to consider include dish duty, room cleaning tasks and fetching the mail. Besides chores and responsibilities, every resident’s personal boundaries should be clear from the beginning. If someone isn’t comfortable sharing certain items such as pots and pans, communicating these requests is essential. With the rules set in stone, arguments are less likely to occur.

2. Coordinate Schedules

In a perfect world, roommates would have schedules that align perfectly with each other. As soon as one roommate left for work, another would be starting their day and have the shower to his or herself. Unfortunately, roommates’ schedules often conflict. This leads to situations where one roommate may be out of luck if they need to wash up quickly or get out of a blocked garage space. Print out a calendar that designates times for each roommate to use these shared spaces. It’s easy to get into a rhythm that works for everyone, but you have to be willing to think through the logistics.

3. Get Proactive with Bills

Financial responsibility might not be the most fun topic to discuss with roommates, but it’s important to ensure everyone is pulling their weight on the shared bills. Since utilities and cable are usually in a single person’s name, the other roommates should make it a priority to get their money to this resident soon after a bill arrives. Technology has made excuses obsolete, since it is simple to transfer money using platforms like PayPal or Venmo. Set a reminder on your phone once a month to pay the bills, and your roommates will be thankful you’re so mindful of these responsibilities.

4. Respect Property

Most of us have been there — running late for work or school only to realize you have squeezed every last bit of toothpaste from the tube. If you lived alone, you’d have to go all the way to the store for more, but since you have roommates, that extra tube is practically begging to be squeezed. Be careful in these situations; it’s important to respect each other’s personal property and boundaries, and you don’t want anyone harboring feelings of resentment. The best course of action is to ask politely to use small items like this and make it a point to restock them later or return the favor. Making a habit of using other people’s things without permission can lead to confrontation, so be considerate with people’s property.

5. Spend Time with Each Other

No matter how different you are from your roommates, spending time with them can show you aspects of their personalities you hadn’t been aware of and may appreciate. That’s not to say you need to schedule a vacation together or become best friends, but you should at least make an effort to show interest in each other’s lives. Schedule a movie night and select a movie in a genre you all love. Finding common ground is enjoyable, and it’s easier to discuss household tasks when you’re enjoying yourselves. Make socializing with roommates a regular part of your weekly routine — it can make shared living spaces much more enjoyable.

Last Word of Advice

There’s no denying that living with roommates can be a challenge, but it can also be rewarding. When you start feeling angry at your roommate for something they’ve done, imagine how the situation will seem a year from now. You will likely be able to look back at petty arguments and laugh at how unimportant they were. Remember that your roommates are human beings, and people make mistakes. Try to focus on your roommates’ positive attributes, and daily life in a shared apartment will be much more enjoyable.