How not to be the housemate from hell
Whether you’re heading off to uni, getting a job in a new town or you’re just sick of your mum telling you that you ‘treat this house like a hotel’, moving away from home can be a seriously exciting prospect. But, unless you’ve got tons of cash lying around or you’ve inherited some bricks and mortar, chances are you’re going to have to share.
Living with other people can be amazing. It can also be hell on Earth. Whilst we can’t guarantee your housemates won’t be passive-aggressive clean freaks with a thing for all-night raves, we can give you some pointers for making the experience as positive as possible.
Is it normal to feel homesick?
The best way to increase your chances of harmonious communal living is to make sure that you and your housemates are on the same page right from the start. Whether you’re moving into a room in an established house or you’re setting up from scratch with a bunch of buddies, communication is key. Ask yourself just what sort of experience you’re looking for and whether this is the right group of people to offer it. A hard-core hedonist is going to struggle in a house of introverts in the same way that a bookworm will rue the day they moved in with a gang of 24-hour party monkeys.
Ask the people you’re thinking about living with what they like to get up to and figure out if it’s compatible with what you want. Do they keep themselves to themselves? Do they all hang out together? Are your Netflix binges going to drive them up the wall and are they likely to be throwing epic all-nighters whilst you’re trying to tackle a mountain of essays? We’re not saying you have to become BFFs (in fact existing friends can make lousy housemates) – it’s far more important to make sure you all want similar things from the space you’ll be sharing.
Whilst your newfound freedom is likely to inject a large dose of awesome into your existence, it can also be a shock to the system. Being away from your family can take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re used your parents picking up after you, lending you cash, and basically making sure you don’t starve to death.
It’s perfectly natural to feel a bit lonely and cut off from your old routine at first but there are no rules to say you have to put yourself into total exile. Skype your mum for a chat every now and then, pop round for Sunday lunch, maybe give your BFF a bell. Bring a few mementos from home to make your new place feel a bit more familiar. On the other hand constant contact with your family can actually make you miss them more so it might be that you need less interaction with them rather than more – it’s all about finding your feet and figuring out what works for you.
Independence can be hard work but learning to fend for yourself makes you feel like a total boss. Plus you can now have ice cream for breakfast and nobody’s going to tell you off for it. If you are worried about feeling homesick checkout this handy article from TheSite.
Finding people you want to live with is only half the battle. Making sure you don’t end up killing each other is the other half. This all comes down to simple courtesy and common sense – play nice and hopefully other people will do the same. Here are some top tips for becoming the sort of housemate that everyone wants to live with:
Talking dirty - Untidiness can be the enemy of a happy house. Whilst you might be used to your mum picking up your dirty undies and putting the hoover round, your housemates aren’t going to be so generous. If you create a mess, clean it up. If the communal areas get a bit minging, do your bit to muck in with the chores. Pubes in the shower and mountains of dirty dishes are likely to put you on the fast track to domestic conflict. And for God’s sake replace the loo roll.
Avoiding the cash clash - Money is another potential flashpoint. If there are bills to pay, agree on who owes what in advance and then make sure you pay up in full and on time. Failing to cough up your share can cause major headaches for the whole house and can make you public enemy number one. It can also be a seriously bad idea to lend money to someone you live with or to borrow cash from them, even if times are tight. It’s easy to lose track of who owes what in these situations and when finances cause a rift, things rarely end well.
Hands off my stuff! – People really hate it when you nick their stuff. Whether it’s pilfering their cereal, using their shower gel, stealing their WiFi or raiding their wardrobe, people don’t take kindly to housemates stealing their things. Ask permission before you decide to ‘borrow’ something (or at least have the decency to replace it before it’s missed). Also, think about creating a communal kitty that everyone can chip in to for the household basics such as bin bags, bleach, toiletries and milk that always get used up. This should help you to avoid those angry post-it notes that end up on the fridge accusing you of stealing Melissa’s Coco Pops.
Sound advice – Antisocial noise can really drive people up the wall (and we’re not just talking about playing drum ‘n’ bass at four in the morning either). Whether it’s blazing rows on the living room phone or embarking on energetic sex sessions whilst your mate is trying to get some kip next door, being noisy is a sure-fire way to get in someone’s bad books.
Space invaders – Living in a shared house means that you have to learn to respect public and private spaces and to pay attention to the things happening in each other’s lives. This includes knowing when it’s cool to pressure everyone into a ‘house night out’ and when to leave people to their own devices. It means knowing when to make yourself scarce if someone’s planning a romantic meal with their boyfriend and when to turn the stereo down because they’re studying for a big exam. It also means that you should always knock before bursting into someone else’s room and that you should NEVER lounge around the living room in your pants.
Guest intentions - Whilst it’s great to have people stay over, it’s always best to check that it’s OK with everyone else. Even if your housemates are cool with guests, it’s definitely not a privilege you should abuse. The odd sleepover with your significant other or an occasional visit from a mate from back home shouldn’t hurt but filling the place with randoms every night or moving your lover in on a permanent basis is likely to ruffle some feathers.
Flag up the problems - Of course, just because you’re playing by the rules, it doesn’t mean everyone else will be. But, whilst an inconsiderate housemate can be rage-inducing, it doesn’t mean things have to end up in a slanging match. Sometimes people simply don’t realise they’ve got bad habits. In fact you might be doing some seriously annoying things yourself that are winding other people up. Again, communication is crucial. If someone’s causing a problem confront them with it calmly and politely and explain why it upsets you. Try and keep things as friendly as possible and tackle it quickly before it escalates into a major issue.
We’ve condensed all this into a handy list of 'Ten Commandments’ for being a top housemate that you can print it out and stick on your fridge (right next to Melissa’s note about you nicking her Coco Pops you dirty freeloader…)
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