Sharing a house with other people can be a blast – whether you’re with mates or with people you’ve just met. Best case scenario, you’ll make friends for life, learn heaps and have a ball.
Maybe you keep your tomato sauce (or ketchup for the Yanks) in the cupboard, but your flatmate likes it in the fridge? Perhaps she hates the toilet seat up? One of you leaves the pegs on the line, the other prefers them put away?
Remember, keeping the peace is a good goal, so try to take the higher ground – in the big picture, does it really matter if your ketchup’s cold?
Ok, so it’s different strokes for different folks, but you need to make sure your strokes fit together…if you know what I mean.
Some stuff is pretty essential to get sorted early so you all know what to expect, like, for example:
What stuff do you all need to do?
Be fair and do your share, for example. Don’t expect your flatmates to pick up after you, or you should expect trouble – your flatmates aren’t your slaves. Change the toilet roll. Pick up your own dirty clothes. Use the toilet brush and wipe the seat if you need to. Remember, if you don’t do it, no one else will – Mum’s not going to do it, is she? Just like you probably don’t want to pick up your friend’s undies, or clean up their toilet bowl leftovers (eeeww!), they probably don’t want to sort out yours either. Check out how to get your basic cleaning done without too much effort, plus how to sort out who does what, in simple steps to clean your house.
What will you buy together?
Will you share food? What about other stuff like laundry supplies? Or do you prefer to get your own stuff and have separate shelves in the fridge and cupboards, say? Maybe you prefer to buy your own toiletries but get things like soap, toothpaste and washing up liquid in a joint shop? It’s up to all house members to work out and agree on what suits your household best.
But what’s the harm in a little shampoo here and there, you say? Well it quickly adds up; ditto for the non-smoker that’s always grabbing a ciggie; or the person who expects everyone else to grab milk but always uses the last of it up.
Bottom line? Get your own stuff, or put in money with your housemate to share theirs.
What should house-guests pay?
If a lover or friend stays over regularly they should chip something in. It’s a real pain if the boyfriend constantly uses the last of the toilet paper, for example, and never buys any. If partners can’t afford to pay some of the rent, they should at least buy some food and/or pay some bills. Talk about it as a household and work something out so you’re all happy, or stay at their house instead.
What’s the deal with partying?
Is it ok? Can you just rock up with your guests or do you need to give notice? How many people is ok? What times are ok? Someone with early starts isn’t going to be stoked about parties all week, are they? The main thing is to have a basic idea of what everyone needs to be happy.
Get things out in the open early on if they are important to you. Even things like using the bathroom for long periods can turn into a problem, so if you need it for a quick shower at 7.30am each day to get to work on time, let people know so they don’t regularly settle in for the long haul at 7.15am, say (last night’s curry permitting, of course).
Compromise, compromise, compromise.
The thing is, no one’s perfect (yep, not even you!), and moving out for the first time is a huge change. We’re all different, and even if you know your housemates well, they’ll still surprise you (even freak you out) with some of the things they do (pimple squeezing on the mirror, anyone?). If it’s not hurting or seriously worrying you, try to see their perspective and/or work something out with them (ask them to shut the door and clean the mirror – sorted).
Dealing with conflict
Have a plan to handle trouble before it happens – like a regular meeting over dinner or a coffee where you get to bring up problems. Or, if you’re a scaredy-cat and hate confrontation, get a chalkboard you can all write things that bother you on (just don’t make it too petty, or you’ll piss people off and nobody will listen when you have a real problem).
People fight, that’s normal, but only you control your actions – own them. Even if someone’s provoking you, you’re in the wrong if you lash out and hit a wall (plus it’s expensive to fix), and someone can die or be permanently disabled from one unlucky punch (jail time, anyone?). Take a breath and walk away. Solve it with a cool head.
Don’t rush to blame your housemates for stuff.
Your memory isn’t fool-proof, and neither is theirs. So, your wallet’s on the table then it’s gone? It might not be your housemate, thieves pop in and out of houses in a flash. Police once rocked up with my wallet (found in a drug raid) and I didn’t even know it was missing yet. It’s hard to get along once you’ve accused someone of stealing or something else bad.
Struggling to find common ground with your housemates?
If it’s getting out of hand, try mediation, for example, from your local community justice centre (you can find some links to mediation and free or cheap legal advice at useful websites: renting). Mediation or counselling is often free, and is always worth a try before more serious measures such as taking someone to court (which usually costs a bomb, often even if you win).