House-mates and Hazmat SuitsAugust 24, 2012
As part of the generation at university now, it is increasingly likely that we are all going to be sharing rented houses until we are well into our twenties and, for the unfortunate few who decide to remain in the world of academia for any longer, all the way to our thirties. From groups of undergraduate friends, to postgraduate acquaintances, to employed professionals who you barely know; house-mates can vary wildly.
Sources of contention between house-mates are just as wide ranging. Fights can break out over anything from who sits where in front of the TV to why someone feels the need to hide all the teaspoons in their wardrobe. But these rows can really be boiled down to three basic root problems. They are money, food and cleanliness. Everyone has different ideas as to how to manage these three minefields based around their own upbringing and personalities. And as always, their way is the wrong way when compared to yours.
All of these issues, as with any problem, should really be tackled sooner rather than later but they rarely are. Instead house-mates are often seen to sink into passive-aggressive note writing and the light bulbs that break in the first week will never get replaced. Some really good advice can be given as to handling these issues, though it is unlikely to be taken. Instead here are my three top tips to dodging your way through the bigger issues (relatively) unscathed.
Money – Sort this out early on as it’ll only get more complicated as time goes by. Bills are the biggest spend in a shared house so it is important to make sure that they are all covered and not in just one person’s name. A responsibility shared is a damn good way of making sure fewer people successfully avoid their bills.
The bills themselves can either be dealt with as they come, or people can each pay a little money into the kitty once a month and the bills paid out of that lump sum. This latter method has the added advantage of all the remaining being money split between you on moving out day. As for shared shopping (covering everything from toilet roll to light bulbs), always get a receipt but try not to niggle over the pennies. Ten pence here or there will not bankrupt you.
Food – Don’t eat anyone else’s food. Simple. Ideally this would mean that they will refrain from eating your cereal, bread, fruit and precious, precious Nutella. That is however, not how the world works. If you know who it was who ate your last chocolate pudding, it is best to ask them to cease and desist with their eating habits as soon as possible. This may work, but you will be better off buying a mini-fridge and starting to hoard anything particularly yummy in the safety of your own room.
Cleanliness – Now, many people recommend setting up a household rota for chores such as vacuuming and scrubbing the shower as early on as possible. If your house-mates are all sane, reasonable humans then this should work. You would also be one of the lucky, lucky few with normal sane housemates – the rest of us aren’t so lucky.. Instead, do your best to keep your own personal area tidy (bedroom, kitchen cupboard and the like) and in extreme cases, you may find yourself having to keep your own stash of crockery to save it from being left to rot in the washing up pile.
Some people will have just left a home where their mothers clean everything and tidy up after them; these people will need help in learning how to use a vacuum cleaner and will not be aware as to what actually constitutes washing a plate. They may even be useless layabouts, but try to avoid becoming that one person who always does all the washing up because you will be vulnerable to being taken advantage of. However, remember that it is not below you to rinse out someone else’s coffee mug on occasion; they may then do the same for you.
The one thing that must be maintained in a shared house above all else is communication. Don’t sulk in your room because someone is playing their music too loud or have left two day old takeaway in the sitting room. Go and ask them to turn it down or pick it up. They will not resent your for it, and it will prevent your soul from becoming pickled in a sea of hatred for your house-mates. If the worst comes to the worst, you will all be able to bond over a shared hatred of your landlord.