Surviving Living With Roommates – The Do’s and Don’ts

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Living in a shared house with housemates can be challenging. You either really get along with them or don’t really ever have anything to do with them. Either way, my-oh-my, we have heard some horror stories in our day. A friend moving into a shared house only to discover that one of their housemates might be a little too open to nudity. Or you know, you’re certain that one of your housemates is stealing from you but you can’t confront them because of all the drama it could cause, so you live in constant paranoia. Moving in with someone whether it is somebody you’ve never really met before or a friend you decided to move into a new place with, there are always a set of challenges you face that can be uncomfortable to confront. It makes sense really, everyone is different; and everyone communicates differently. You could say one thing only to be greeted with a complete 360° response.

Apart from just mere communication with roommates there are a number of other issues that can arise, some of the most common ones include:

  1. Different standards of hygiene and cleanliness
  2. Use of personal items without permission or using them and not returning them in its original condition.
  3. Eating someone else’s food out of the fridge (the one thing we’re certain everyone has gone through!)
  4. Lack of boundaries; invading your personal space.
  5. Not paying rent on time and having to chase them up about it.
  6. Bringing over friends at inappropriate hours and making too much noise.
  7. Having to deal with housemate mood swings or unpleasant behaviours.

Here are some of the best roommate horror stories compiled by good ol’ Buzzfeed —–>https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliegerstein/these-college-roommate-horror-stories-will-make-you-want-to

Unlike many colleges and homes in the States, here in Australia, most of us are lucky enough to have our own room and only share communal spaces such as the kitchen and bathroom. But even so, problems tend to arise.

So, in the name of compromise and getting along with your roommates to ensure smooth living, here are some of the things you should do as well as things you should NOT do.

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Delegating expenses

Do:

If you live in a household where you and your housemate(s) share living expenses such as groceries and what not, it is extremely important to get this properly sorted. You really don’t want to end up pulling the weight of all the expenses, or even worse, letting someone else do it without realising! So, perhaps create a roommate agreement. This will cover all the expenses shared along with who’d be paying for what and when. Here is a handy little spreadsheet you can use as a template to sort out your expenses.

Don’t:

Assume everything will work out because you’re all great friends. Trust me folks, we have experienced this one too many times. You should never mix friendship with money, or your relationship can quickly turn sour. No matter how close you may think you are with your friend/ housemate, always have everything down on paper. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it and your housemates should not have a problem with it either. Because when living with housemates, especially at a younger age, it is all about protecting your interests above others to avoid getting duped. It may be as simple as your housemate forgetting to pay, but having it on paper, always makes it easy to keep track and avoid potential money related drama.

Dealing with mess

Do:

This shouldn’t be too tricky to sort out since everybody loves having their own space! So, fresh off the bat, you need to designate space for your things in all communal areas. Places like the kitchen and bathroom are probably best to begin with. Talk to your housemates and designate space. If you have a pantry with 4 shelves and you’re only sharing with one other, then it’s an easy split. If it so happens that there say 3 people and 4 shelves, well then maybe consider making the fourth shelf an all communal space, where everyone can store small things. If you are worried about somebody else using your things, mark it with your name so your housemates know not to touch it. The same goes for sharing refrigerator storage and bathroom space.

Now, once you’ve got that sorted, it’s time to figure out how everyone is going to contribute in cleaning! There are several different ways of dividing labour. You could assign one person to do all the cleaning for that week and stay on rotation, however, we’d advise against this option as some weeks are busier than others, and if the load of work from one week is significantly larger than the other, it could end up creating squabbles between housemates.

The second and better option you could go for is dividing tasks up. For example, if you are doing the dishes for the week then your housemate could be in charge of sweeping and taking the bins out for the week.

OR, the best option yet – clean as you go! This is the best advice to live by when living in a shared house. I mean, imagine if your housemate had a massive party with friends the night before and you’re in charge of dishes or cleaning for the week, it can definitely cause drama. However, if you have established a “clean as you go” rule with all your housemates then you shouldn’t ever have to worry about cleaning up other people’s mess or feeling like you’re pulling more weight than the others. If everyone cleans up immediately after themselves and their mess, there should be no reason for hygiene issues or an argument.

The “clean as you go” tip can prove difficult to follow depending on who you are living with and how many people you’re living with. So, if you do end up needing a cleaning schedule, click here to plan the most effective cleaning schedule yet!

Don’t:

If you have a more submissive personality or just choose to avoid conflict at all costs, you may be inclined to put up with the mess or clean up things you shouldn’t have to. We’re here to tell you – DON’T! While it may seem like the easier option to just give in, it can never prove to be a fruitful decision for you or your housemate. Having to constantly clean up additional and maybe unhygienic mess that wasn’t your fault can lead to you resenting your housemate, which is something you probably don’t want if you are close friends with them. And even if you don’t end up resenting them for being a slob, you’d feel exhausted by the end of everyday, having to clean up after yourself and others. This can start taking a toll on your life and activities outside the house too!

And the worst but most common result of constantly cleaning up other people’s mess? Your housemate may start taking advantage of this. Even if they don’t realise, they will subconsciously get more loose with their own cleaning and end up leaving a larger mess as they know it will still be cleaned up. It can be tough to be assertive sometimes, but if you are looking to live in harmony with your housemate then it’s important to stay strong headed and keep reminding your housemate of the rules if they forget.

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Bringing your boyfriend/ girlfriend over

Do:

So your housemate is going through their honeymoon phase with their partner. And we all know what that can be like. They just never want to spend even a second apart! While it is sweet seeing love blossom, it can get incredibly annoying too! It can almost start to seem like your housemate’s boyfriend/ girlfriend is officially a member of the house. While some may be alright with this, many are not as it can cause many issues. Issues of space, expenses, comfort – the list goes on. So whether it is you or your housemate, it is important to discuss how many partner visits are too many.

It’s time to break the honeymoon bubble and discuss situations where you or your housemate may feel that a significant other is overstaying their welcome. Here is a little article to get you prepped for this possibly awkward discussion.

Don’t:

Now we get it, your partner is the perfect person in the world for you! However, that’s probably not what your housemates think. Many assume that as long as their partner chips in with expenses such as replacing the toilet paper and whatnot, their housemates are fine with having an extra person in the house. And while it may seem logical, it is never advisable to assume. If you are living in a house with all girls and have a boyfriend over all the time, it could make your other housemates uncomfortable. Or, if you live in a moderately small house and barely have enough personal space of your own, then it could simply be about housemates needing their own personal space. In the end, it is important to be mindful of other people’s comfort especially if you are living in a shared house.

In saying that though, don’t be a Debbie Downer. Try to get to know your housemate’s partner. You never know, you could get along swimmingly. And even if you don’t, at least you can’t say you didn’t try!

Dealing with conflict:

Do:

Dealing with conflict doesn’t necessarily have to result in a duel or face-off. It can be a simple discussion between mature individuals, highlighting their concerns. Sounds real civilised doesn’t it? Confirm a meeting time when all parties are available for a sit down. Once, a meeting time is decided, it’s time to figure out your approach. You could either come prepared with little notes on concerns you may have or you could perhaps draw up a housemate agreement for everyone to follow.

If you don’t want to take charge of the discussion, then there are other ways to go about it too. Instead of just highlighting all the problems, maybe offer solutions that everyone would be happy with. Step 2? Learn to compromise. Living in a shared house, you will soon realise that compromise is an important tool for harmonious living. You can’t assume everything will go your way. It is important to keep an open mind and accept other solutions as well.

Don’t:

The worst thing you can do is avoiding something that is clearly bothering you. Avoiding problems constantly, whether small or big, will build up and end up blowing up, completely destroying your friendship with your housemate or significantly impacting the relationship you have established with your housemate. Many people don’t like confrontation and slowly but surely start thinking negatively of their roommate without establishing cause. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of what your housemate may be going through. Perhaps there is a reason for their odd behaviour or reactions. Either way, no problem can be found and solved unless you have an open minded discussion.

Other General Tips

  • Communication is key. Always try to maintain constant communication with your housemates. This helps understand them better and work better together.
  • Give heaps of notice if you’re planning on throwing a little soiree (or a massive one). And if you are, let them know that you will clean up the mess after. Oh and don’t forget to invite them too!
  • Don’t forget to exchange personal contact information and health details in case of any emergencies. Facebook Messenger might not cut it.
  • Agree on HOW things are done. To some, washing dishes is simply that – washing the dishes. To some, it’s washing the dishes, drying the dishes, putting them away, and wiping the bench down (Obviously the right way). So, if you have decided to assign cleaning tasks for the week, make sure everyone knows what washing the dishes actually means.
  • Stay on top of your finances and pay your bills! Sometimes unforeseen circumstances mean we don’t quite make the due date and have to ask for a favour. It happens – just don’t make it a habit. The best way to avoid getting into this problem is to always keep your rent money away from money used for expenses, so you don;t overspend and find yourself in a situation where you can’t pay rent.
  • Sometimes it pays to just be nice – the result may lead to a happier overall environment. Running to the grocery store? Ask your roommate if they need anything. Roommates can’t complete their designated chore? Tell them it’s all good and swap them for one of yours. Of course, be wary of getting taken advantage of.

Let’s have a look at what good ol’ Buzzfeed has to say about living with roommates. > https://www.buzzfeed.com/augustafalletta/how-to-live-with-roommates

Bottom Line

While we do everything we can to get along with housemates, sometimes people can just be vastly different from each other and no matter how much you try, it can be difficult to come to an understanding with them. In such a case, sometimes it’s healthier to just get out and run. If you think your roommate relationship is beyond repair, it’s time to call the removalists and find yourself a new place. After all, a home should be somewhere you feel safe, happy and comfortable.

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