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Chore Wars: What to do When Your Housemate Isn’t Pulling Their Weight

You’ve just moved in with a bunch of new housemates, and you’re excited to make some friends and enjoy your time at university. 

But hang on – the vacuuming hasn’t been done, the trash is spilling out of the bin, and the dishes are piling up in the sink! What do you do if your housemate just isn’t pulling their weight? 

It’s important that your living space makes you feel comfortable – and this means clear and open communication between housemates from the start. Here are some tips to make sure you and your housemates can work together to create a clean, harmonious home.

Understand your cultural differences

As an international student, you understand that everyone is different. There might be a lot of diversity within your sharehouse, and different cultural backgrounds mean different perceptions of responsibility and cleanliness. 

It’s important to be empathetic and acknowledge that your housemate simply might not understand how their actions are affecting others, as it wasn’t an issue for them at home. Keep an open mind – their actions may not be intentional, and you might also have some unique habits you haven’t quite noticed yet!

Set house rules early on

Once you’ve all moved in and started to get excited about becoming besties, it’s time to sit down and have a chat. It’s best to speak about house rules and chore distribution early, so expectations are mutual and clear – and it’ll be less awkward if there are any issues later down the track.

Chat about everything that will need cleaning or maintenance around the house, and make a comprehensive list of chores that need to be done. Break it down into daily, weekly and longer term, deep cleaning chores.

Once you have all agreed on the list, it’s time to draw up a chore chart and assign each task to a different housemate. There are a few ways this could work – letting people choose chores based on what they prefer to do, randomising assignments, or having a weekly rotating roster. 

At this point, it’s good to chat about how you will maintain the schedule going forward – perhaps you’ll organise a regular meeting or make a checklist to be ticked off once chores are done.

Effective communication tips

If you’ve decided it’s time to sit down and chat with your housemate about their habits, let them know!

It’s best not to surprise them with a serious conversation – message or speak to them beforehand. Give them a heads up that you want to chat and organise a time when the two of you will be relaxed and calm – maybe go out for brunch on the weekend, or organise to get takeaway together during the week.

When you’re discussing any issues, it’s important not to throw blame around. Using “I” or “I feel” statements can open up the conversation a bit more – you are explaining things from your perspective and not accusing the other person. Active listening is essential too – make sure you’re not interrupting when they speak, giving them time and space to tell you how they’re feeling.

Compromise is key

Everyone’s lifestyle is different, and your household might have a few different perspectives on cleanliness and responsibility. It’s important to recognise that you might need to compromise on some things to maintain harmony within the group. 

If you have the budget for it and everyone is happy, you might consider hiring a regular cleaner for common areas. This could take some of the stress out of weekly cleaning, and ensure everyone is solely responsible for their own rooms.

When to involve a third party

Sometimes, an open conversation won’t quite work, and you might have to get an external party involved. If there is regular aggression or a buildup of tension between housemates, or there has been a lack of cleaning resulting in an unsafe living environment, it could be time to call a third party.

If you’re living in managed student accommodation, you should have access to a support team who will be able to help you. If you’re living in a house off-campus, your university or community might offer free mediation services. This involves a neutral third party (a mediator) being present during a conversation between you and your housemate, in order to help facilitate a healthy conversation.

Navigating problems and issues between housemates doesn’t have to be stressful! With clear, open communication and the willingness to compromise, you can live in peace in your new Australian household.