Being part of a friendly house share can really improve your university experience. So how do you make sure that you all live in harmony?
1. Don’t assume your friends will make great housemates
People are very different in their own homes, and if you want to stay friends with someone, it might be best that you don’t find out about their annoying habits or fall out with them over something as small as who finished the milk and didn’t replace it. A good way to find out if you can live with someone is to take a holiday with them. If you can handle three weeks inter railing around Europe with them then you’ll probably survive cohabitation.
A lot of people don’t consider it, but living with strangers can be a really positive experience. They will often have different interests and friends to you, so it really is a chance to broaden all different kinds of horizons.
2. Agree a rota for keeping the flat clean
It can be difficult to agree on this, as people have different standards when it comes to cleaning. The best way to make sure everyone agrees is to spend some time making a rota. Agree how often each task needs to be done, how long you should spend and then share the jobs equally between all flatmates.
3. Get to know each other
One of the reasons that housemates often fall out is because they haven’t been communicating very well. When you move in, make sure you get to know the other people you are sharing with. Find about their hobbies, interests, what they value and what really annoys them.
It’s worth having a flat night one day a week, where you all sit down and eat dinner or watch a film together so you can catch up. The better you know these people, the easier it will be to live with them.
4. Identify what is for sharing
Something that you will need to decide is whether or not you want to share food or not. Some housemates take it in turn to do the cooking, so they can do their weekly shop together and save money that way. Others prefer to cook themselves, and just share communal items like milk, tea and cleaning products for the flat.
However you decide to do it, make sure that you have a kitty and you all put the same amount in each week/month. Save any money that’s left over and use it to plan an evening out or an activity you can all do together.
If you need peace and quiet to study, don’t do it at the kitchen table or in the sitting room. Go to the library instead. These spaces are for everyone to enjoy, not for commandeering for you own purposes.
Be sure to check with your other housemates before you invite anyone over for dinner. Be respectful of the fact that this is a space that you agreed to share together, not necessarily with other people. Everyone appreciates being asked for approval, even if there’s usually no problem.
If there are quite a few of you living together then there will be times when the majority agree to something that you aren’t happy with. A shared house is like a mini democracy, so you’ll need to co-operate to keep the peace.
If you are unhappy about something then be sure to bring it up in person and involve all your housemates in the discussion. Notes or texts could be misinterpreted and the issue could stay unresolved.
7. Don’t be nosey
Don’t casually read postcards they get from home or wander into their room to borrow their laptop without asking. Some people might be perfectly fine with that but others prefer to keep some things private. Consider your other housemates’ rooms as their sanctuary. If the door is closed then knock and wait to be invited in.
To make things simple, each flatmate could take care of paying one bill or you could open a joint account. Do make sure that everyone is included on the bill though, because otherwise only the named person will be liable for the costs.
Agree with everyone else what you will do if one of your housemates is away for an internship or holiday for an extended period. You might agree that they don’t have to cover electricity during this time.
9. Have fun!
Ground rules might be important, but so is having fun, so try to relax, after all, this is your home. Falling out over who let the milk go off or what television programme to watch isn’t worth it. Respect your housemates and you could make friends that will last a lifetime.
Learning to live with people at university is great preparation for working as part of a team, something that’s really important to us at Enterprise. If you’re looking for a graduate job, then take a look at our management trainee programme.