This is the time you’ve been dreaming of since the beginning of high school, if not earlier. You got away from your crappy high school, got into the perfect college, went to crazy parties, met tons of hot guys or girls, found amazing friends and found yourself along the way. Now you’ve got the perfect new job and you can’t wait to start the next part of your life.  But then reality sinks in: your new job doesn’t pay a lot and living in a big exciting city isn’t cheap. It’s time to get a roommate.

Most twenty-somethings have had experiences with roommates. Some have had amazing roommate who became friends, while others lived with a crazy person from hell. I’ve had both. And although it might seem ideal to live alone, sharing a house or apartment with somebody else may be more practical and economical.  In a perfect world, our roommates would be awesome and become our new best friends.  But this is the real world, and things don’t always work like a dream.  So when you find yourself shacking up with some strangers post-college, here are a few tips on how to keep the peace like the mature adults we are.

To share or not to share? There’s half a pack of bacon in the fridge and it’s calling your name. But did you buy it? Figure out early on with your new roommates how you’re going to deal with food. Are you going to share everything? Will you have assigned shelves? Will you all contribute a certain amount to a grocery fund or buy your own food individually? As for the bacon issue: if you really want it and nobody else is around to immediately claim it, eat the bacon. But make sure you buy some replacement bacon. It’s the right thing to do.

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Your roommates are not your besties from high school, your brother or sister or your sorority sisters or frat brothers.  Leave their clothes alone. If you become friends and go out for a night on the town and want to borrow your roommate’s sexy mini skirt or dapper tie, then you can maybe ask and get away with it. But as a general rule of thumb, leave their attire alone.

The rule for personal possessions is the same as the one for clothes.  Would you want your roommate using your computer? Your gorgeous guitar? The blanket your grandmother knit for you? Again, ask if you really want to use something, but you should probably stay away from their stuff otherwise.

Clean your own room. Seriously. As for the rest of the house or apartment, help each other out.  If you have your own bathroom you should treat it like your room.  Otherwise make a schedule, take turns or designate one day of the week as a cleaning day. However, if you make an epic mess in the kitchen or living room, clean it up yourself.  It’s your mess, not someone else’s.

Or course you should be able to have people over, but always remember to be respectful.  If you have a party or social gathering, keep the noise level reasonable, clean up afterwards and maybe throw in a thank you to your roommates for being cool with you hosting.

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The bottom line: communication goes a long way and be respectful of each other. If something’s bothering you, talk about it with the rest of your roommates.  Talk about things as they come up and address any issues in a straightforward manner.  And as for respect, treat your roommates the way you’d like them to treat you. You don’t all have to become best pals, but you do share a home, so you should at least feel comfortable around them.