August is upon us, which means that it’s only a month until a wave of teenagers leave their hometowns and go off to university. Also, lots of new graduates will be leaving their university cities and moving away from their friends and all that has become so comfortable. Therefore, it seems like a good time to post a ‘housemate’ article. Hopefully some of this will be useful to you!
- If you’re moving into a currently empty flat, try to make a group chat with your future housemates before you move in, to coordinate communal things such as bin bags, cleaning products etc. When I moved into my first flat, all 8 of us had brought one of everything and we didn’t actually have the cupboard space to store it all!
- Have a one off meeting at the start to establish rules/preferences. In my old house, these things included; deciding that one fridge was for communal food, the other was not, friends were always welcome but the house needed to be informed if there was a large group coming over, who was responsible for paying for gas, internet and taking the bins out…things like that. Things I regret not discussing included letting my house know how often my partner would stay over. This lead to a bit of an awkward situation where my housemates assumed that whenever he was over, we were ‘on a date’ and shouldn’t be disturbed, whereas this was definitely not the case! I should have explained more clearly.
- Do your washing up as you go. You won’t believe how many arguments you’ll avoid by doing this.
- Consider creating a bills account for the house. I didn’t do this for the first year I was in charge of collecting money for gas and electricity and it drove me bananas. My personal bank account fluctuated so much that I couldn’t keep track of my own finances, and it was difficult to see whether I’d been footing the bill for people who were late with their payments. Any money left over in the bills account at the end of the year can be divided between you, simple as.
- Be around during the first couple of weeks. If you’re happy staying in your room, that’s fine, but you can’t expect to form strong friendships with your housemates if you never venture into communal areas. In hindsight, I was too reserved when I moved into my first flat; this was evident by the polite yet distant relationship I had with my flatmates. The second house was better, I was rarely out of the living room, and by third year, my own bed became a kind of second communal area. Firm friendships were formed during those years.
- If someone’s upset you, be polite but honest. Obviously they need to be made aware that what they’re doing is unwelcome, but they probably don’t deserve an aggressive verbal attack. They might not even realise there is a problem, so be nice.
- On the other hand, it’s normal if you find yourself on the other end of this. Try to be understanding, for example, if you’re told that you’re too messy. Remember that you’ve all been brought up in different households with different rules. Someone who has been brought up by doctors will have different hygiene standards to someone who grew up living an alternative lifestyle. It’s good if you can reach a compromise.
- If you’re not sure about something in the house/flat, ask. A great example happened to me last week. I opened the bread bin to find that that unopened load of bread I had bought a few days ago, was nearly all gone. I was a bit miffed (though prepared to believe it had been a mistake), only to find out the next week that the bread bin was for communal bread. Personal bread was kept in cupboards! See, a simple misunderstanding, all because I didn’t ask. It’s almost impossible for your housemates to tell you all the rules, especially if they’ve been living there for years, so you have to take the initiative and ask.
- Be prepared to give and take. I’m sure people have differing opinions on this one, but I’ll explain using another example. I went to the fridge the other day to find that my milk was half gone. I asked, and was told that milk was not in fact communal. So I grumbled a little, before realising something. I had myself been using a lot of things I had not paid for; toilet paper, washing up liquid, bin liners, sponges and kitchen roll to name just a few things. So really what did it matter if someone used a bit of my milk? It certainly cost less than all of the cleaning supplies. So in my opinion, unless you run a very tightly budgeted household, it’s all about give and take.
Some of this isn’t exactly conventional advice, I know, but they’re definitely things I’ve come across and struggled with from time to time.
If you’re moving into a new house soon, good luck, and enjoy!