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How to Survive Living with Housemates for the First Time

While there are many wonderful reasons to live with housemates, moving out of home for the first time will be an eye-opening and occasionally challenging experience.

But, never fear! Once you’ve covered off the essential steps to living in your new home, there are eight easy things you can implement with your new housemates to ensure a happy, healthy home!

Come with an open mind!

Start with practising communication and being open to hearing what your housemates have to say. Most housemate problems stem from a lack of communication or understanding from the other person/people’s perspective. You weren’t raised in the same way and will therefore do things a little differently. Be open about what you expect from your housemates and what they think it means to be a great housemate. Schedule a weekly or fortnightly ‘housemate meeting’ to discuss any issues together and make suggestions about how the house could operate more harmoniously. It’s important to keep conversations like these light-hearted and positive rather than scolding or blaming your housemates.

Establish housemate rules

Part of your ‘housemate meetings’ should be spent collaboratively agreeing on some house rules for everyone to follow. You could potentially prevent future disagreements by speaking in a calm and friendly manner about some basic housemate etiquette. Each household will be different, but some things to consider and discuss include:

  • Noise curfews on weeknights and weekends
  • Having people over
  • Partners staying over
  • Blocked-out quiet study time
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • House maintenance and cleaning (more on this below)

Develop a cleaning schedule

One of your main responsibilities as a housemate is to keep communal spaces clean and tidy — to the standard agreed upon by you and your housemates, not to your own standard (especially if you don’t mind things a little messy!). The general rule of thumb is that areas you all share – kitchen, living room, dining area, outdoor areas and bathroom(s) – are cleared and tidied each time they are used by each person. Then, perhaps once a week, you could take it in turns to deep-clean each area. Some households prefer to create a schedule or a roster to ensure duties are shared equally between housemates, whereas others are happy to handle the cleaning as it comes up – another thing to discuss at your household meetings!

Discuss shared finances

As well as rent and bills, there are plenty of opportunities to further reduce your personal expenses by sharing other household costs with your housemates. You can split common expenses such as groceries, cleaning products, streaming services, and furniture between housemates to reduce the impact on your own wallet. However, it is important to discuss your preferences and expectations of product quality and price before deciding to split costs. For example, you might value organic and cruelty-free cleaning products but your housemate may prefer the cheapest option available. In this instance, it would not be fair to expect your housemate to pay more for your chosen product, so it would be best to purchase your own.

Decide what food you’ll share

We all know that buying food in bulk and sharing the costs between housemates is a great option to save money but you will still need to discuss, as a household, what you are happy to share and what is off-limits. For example, basic items like milk, flour, salt and pepper may be fine to share, but it may be a different story when it comes to the bottle of red wine your housemate received for their birthday! Similar to staying in a hostel, your housemates may implement the sticker rule: If someone has stuck their name on a food or drink item, do not touch it!

Determine what personal items you are comfortable sharing

Similarly to food, it’s important to set boundaries by having open conversations about what you are happy for your housemates to use of yours, and what is special and should be left alone. For example, one housemate may be happy for his gaming console to be used by anyone in the house, but another housemate might be quite attached to her book collection and would prefer that you ask her before grabbing a novel to curl up with. Establishing rules like these ensures harmony and that you and all your housemates feel comfortable and ‘at home’.

Create some housemate traditions

Take some time to get to know your new roomies! You will all be juggling different priorities – study, work, social life, or downtime – but try to schedule in a Sunday night housemate dinner, Wednesday trivia night, or simply some time to watch an episode of your favourite TV show together. Being housemates with someone often progress into lifetime friendships but, even if they don’t, it will make you all feel more comfortable to know the people you are sharing your space with. Housemate gatherings are a great way to combat homesickness during holiday periods and birthdays, too.

Don’t feel guilty for taking some ‘you’ time

As important as it is to get to know your housemates, it’s equally as important to schedule time for yourself to relax and unwind. There is nothing wrong with closing your door for an evening or two and enjoying time on your own. Remember, not all housemates need to be friends and not all friends need to be housemates!