How to handle your housemates
Whether you're living with one or ten housemates, co-existing in a shared house can be tough. In big cities across the UK, rising property prices means many professionals carry on house sharing well into their 40s and sometimes even later. Living with other people can be stressful – questionable hygiene habits, hairs in the soap, fighting for fridge space, it can all take its toll. Our guide to how to handle your housemates (and keep your sanity) will help you survive co-habiting horrors with even the least desirable roomies.
We're not talking one unwashed plate in the sink – we're talking, you have to wash a whole sink full of dishes just so you can make dinner. Mess in communal spaces is no laughing matter, so if you have a housemate who can't or won't keep things clean and tidy, they may need a few gentle reminders. Don't become the person who leaves 'friendly' post-it note requests. Instead, set up a kitchen and bathroom cleaning day each week and throw out mess in communal areas if it stays there for days. If all else fails, take the culprit's dirty dishes and pile them on the offender's bed. This usually does the trick! Try to stay calm and handle the situation sensitively; some people are just tidier than others.
There will always be one housemate who 'borrows' your teabags and finishes the last of the milk – but there are limits. If you're planning to cook a healthy vegetable stir fry and your housemate uses all your vegetables, that's not cool! It's a good idea to establish ground rules for sharing when you move in. For example, will you all buy your own tea, coffee and milk or will you have a shared kitty? It's a good idea to divide up shelf space in the fridge too, particularly if you have allergies or are vegetarian or vegan. This way everyone is aware of their own space. If one of your housemates does use the last of your soy milk, try to reel in your anger – talk to them about it rather than stressing and silently stewing; that's bad for your health.
When you move into a shared house, there's sure to be an element of partying and socialising – that's part of the fun! Hopefully, you'll have asked your new housemates some questions to find out about their lifestyles. If you're in your 30's with a pressured 9 to 5 job and only find time to socialise at weekends, you probably don't want to live with 19-year-old students who go drinking every night of the week. Suss out these things before you move in – but don't feel like you have to put up with constant house parties and noise, be reasonable.
Weekends are a given – people kick back and relax from the busy week, but social gatherings on week nights are allowed too! Your housemates should let you know if they're planning a party or having groups of friends over, so you can decide whether you want to be there or make alternate plans. Blasting music at 4am every week night isn't fun though, so you might need to speak (nicely) to them if this becomes an issue. Eight to ten hours sleep most nights is essential for your health!
It's great having housemates you can really talk to and socialise with; they're not just your housemates, they're your friends. But sometimes, you need alone time. If you work from home, close the door and let them know you need some quiet time to get on with your work. It's best to do this before they start telling you all about their weekend. If you're the kind of person who likes a lot of alone time, opt for quieter housemates or those who work longer hours, which gives you more time to chill out, study or work.
Using your stuff
This doesn't just apply to food and drinks; there are housemates who constantly use your shampoo, conditioner, cleanser or even the last of the loo roll, and it can quickly become annoying. Rather than losing your temper, ask them in as nice a way as possible to please stop using your things, or to replace something if they finish it. If it comes down to it, you may have to keep your toiletries and a spare loo roll in your room – at least that way you know the only person using your things is you.
Hogging the communal space
If you have ever lived with someone who hogs the kitchen all evening, cooking for their friends or other half, or refuses to let you share the living room, you'll know how frustrating it can be. If you're shy or introverted, you probably don't want to barge in on a dinner party just to make yourself a zucchini omelette. Or you might feel rude asking them if you can have a shot of the TV remote.
Remember that you share the house, so you should share the facilities. The kitchen, in particular, shouldn't be hogged by any one person. Get in there, whip up your smoothie or courgette pasta, then tidy your mess and get out, leaving it ready for the next person. The same applies to the bathroom. If you're inviting friends, family or your partner over for dinner and expect to be spending longer than usual in the kitchen or dining room, let your housemates know so that they can fit around your plans.
Awkward sex noises
Most people are embarrassed to find out they've disturbed their house mates with awkward noises, so if you're having to resort to earplugs have a playful chat with your housemate the next morning – this generally solves the problem!
If you have a housemate who is always causing drama, or are caught in the middle of a couple or roomies who don't get along, it can make life stressful. Home is where you're supposed to relax, and you should feel calm and happy there, not stressed. If your housemate is always picking fights with you, try looking at things from their perspective. Be thoughtful of other people in the house, but don't get drawn into drama and arguments that are nothing to do with you.
The best way to deal with conflict is to talk about it – if you live in a large shared house and there are a couple of people who don't get along, encourage them to talk to each other in a supportive group setting; this can really help. Or organise a social outing; something fun and active like rock climbing can help ease tension and bring you all closer.
There are some people who are just more naturally introverted than others – they need their own space and time to process the events of the day or things happening in their lives. Maybe this applies to you, or maybe you're living with a housemate who seems anti-social. It's nice to try and include people in social events – suggest a night out or a film you could watch together – but equally, allow them their own space to do what they want. Don't take it personally if they turn you down, they might just be dealing with other things. It's always a good idea to get to know your housemates before moving in together, this way you'll be able to find people with similar personalities who can co-exist happily. That's not to say that introverts can't live with extroverts; in fact, this provides a nice balance, but it's important that you like the people you're sharing a house with!