Living in a house-share, whether it be with other students, young professionals or interns - can be a stressful experience, especially if you've never shared a house with people before. We've all heard the horror stories: passive-aggressive note posting, jenga-style bin piles the size of the Empire State Building, and all out silent-treatment. But no matter whether you're sharing with your best friends or people you've never met before, here are a few tips to help you settle in and have a stress-free home life!
1. Make an effort socially
It's easy, in the hectic first few days of moving to a new place, to want to sort out your life and then pass out exhausted on your bed after a tough day
. That's fine; everyone has days where there's just not enough time to socialise. But it's important to realise that the relationship with your housemates will be one of the most important in your life
while you live there, because at the end of the day, you have to return to the place you live in and housemates can make or break the atmosphere. You might live in Buckingham Palace, but if you know you're returning to a war zone
every night your quality of life will drop
- it's that simple.
What you can do to make your home a cosy one is to never let it get to that stage. From the very start, the simple act of asking someone about their life
previous to this house-share can ease you into a comfortable relationship
. Even if you don't become BFFs, it's so much better not to have to share a house with someone who is, for all intents and purposes, a stranger.
Imagine this situation: Your housemate has cooked a steak in an oven dish, and has left the dish filled with soapy water on the stove. For the first day, you let it go, but on the second day you see that the dish is still there. You think to yourself that your housemate is being irresponsible - other people might want to use the oven dish, or the stove, and you shouldn't have to clean up after them
. On the third day, you've had enough. You take the dish, soapy water and all, and leave it in front of your housemate's door. They will definitely have got the message then.
Now consider it from the other angle: You've cooked yourself a nice steak for dinner, and feeling warm and sleepy and full of steak, you don't have the energy to scratch away at the oven dish, so you fill it with soapy water and leave it on the side. The next day, you've slept through your alarm so you're running late for work, and then in the evening you go straight from work to have dinner with colleagues and by the time you get back in it's gone midnight and you crash straight into bed, forgetting about the dish. The next day, you open your door, potentially to clean the dish, and put your sock in a dish of soapy, steak-y water. You're not happy.
Personally, you might identify with one housemate
more than the other, but in fact both housemates were in the wrong
. The first should have spoken out when the dish started to annoy them
instead of bottling it up and then going from 0 to defcon 5 in 10 seconds with the dish manœuvre. The first step would have been to say, 'could you wash up the dish please? I need to use that space/dish/it will attract mice.'
The second step would be to, after a suitable period of time has elapsed (not 30 seconds) to repeat
the request. After that, you can get a bit more creative
, with Facebook messages, sarcastic tweets and then eventually, I suppose, put the dish outside their door. But at least, by that point they will definitely have deserved it.
The second should have left a note, or sent a Facebook message
out to all of the house the next morning saying 'I know I haven't cleaned the dish yet but I've not been in/I've been busy/I'm too hungover. I promise that I will get round to it soon!' plus profuse apologies. That way no one gets any nasty surprises.
3. Pick your battles
You might consider yourself to be head and shoulders above the rest of your housemates where housemate rankings are concerned, but it's important to make concessions
where possible. However messy or insensitive your housemates are, if you complain too loudly or too often about them playing Fifa really loudly in the evening, your voice will fade into the background
. The most important question to ask yourself is: will this matter in a week? If they're playing music loudly on a Friday night you can probably let it slide. If it's the night before a job interview
, no one's going to have a problem with you asking to keep it down.
4. Learn to let it go
Sometimes, your flatmates just aren't interested. They just want to sit in their rooms and get on with their own lives and do that really British thing of nodding your head at each other when you pass in the halls. You might love being sociable and making friends, but you can't force friendship on people
- if they aren't interested, they aren't interested.
5. Do slightly more than you think you should do
This is probably the least obvious, but probably the most important
. It plays on the fact that being pleasantly surprised can happen very rarely in a house-share, whereas unpleasant surprises sometimes happen too often. However, little things like taking the bins out
when it's not your night or washing up someone else's pan
while doing your own give don't take a huge amount of time, and they can earn you a lot of gratitude from your housemates
. That way, you earn the reputation as the 'nice' flatmate (even if it's not completely deserved) and more importantly, you own slip-ups will be far more easily forgiven.
So there you have it - five simple ways to avoid an ever-escalating battle of passive aggressiveness that can make a flat-share at the very least tolerable, and at best, home sweet home!