We’ve all been in this situation: you move to a new place, ready for a student life filled with (excessive) socializing and living life on a budget. You prepare for everything, reading student tips and tricks, looking for the coolest bars, deals and study places. Yet nothing prepares you for the roller coaster called shared housing. It comes in many forms ranging from university dorms to student apartments, but no matter how many people are involved it can either be the most amazing time or the worst. So here are a few ‘rules’ on how to survive your time in shared housing:
1. Get to know who you’re living with
It’s easier living with friends than with strangers. Get to know each other! From whether they shower in the morning to whether they could cook dinner because you have a late meeting. Getting to know your housemates is key to harboring a prosperous and amazing relationship.
2. Respect people’s space (especially the common areas)
Some people have a thing for spotless kitchens, some have a specific way things should be stored, but in the end everyone has one habit that has to be respected. At the end of the day, what better way to unwind than in your living room on a couch that is free of stuff? By respecting these common areas you naturally enable a positive house environment, where you can together relax after a long day.
3. Cleaning day
Yes. Cleaning aka a student’s worst nightmare. Avoid the standard blame game of cleaning and set one day a week (or a month) that all of you clean your house. It doesn’t have to be housekeeping of a hotel level, but play some music and next thing you know your house will be spotless thanks to your upbeat dance-cleaning technique.
The only reason why problems fester and grow is because of lack of communication in a house. Have an issue? Talk it out. Think someone is being a less than decent person? Talk it out. Someone woke you up because they keep coming home late? Talk it out. By not doing so you simply hold grudges which will exaggerate every little thing someone does wrong, which leads to drama, fights and all things not nice.
5. House bonding (have fun!!!)
Besides getting to know your housemates, you have to form a proper bond with them. These bonding activities can be as simple as movie nights or as complicated as going to a festival and losing them to find them 4 hours later. Everything can be a bonding moment, even the most inconvenient things like returning a mattress to IKEA but having to take public transport to get there.
6. Determine the shared products
Gone are the days of people stealing your food! How, you may wonder? Determine what is shared and what is for each their own. For example, things that can be (or should be) determined as shared include: your carbs (pasta, rice, cereal, etc.), cleaning products and more. This will not only save you the headaches of splitting money, but also save your money! By sharing the costs, you make your wallet happy and also makes you feel more like an adult your parents can be proud of. Additionally, this helps in planning your meals of the week (personally the Albert Heijn Bonus booklet is my favorite thing to read every week) and by putting everything in an cost sharing app (I use Splitwise) you avoid the “I paid, you paid” situation.
7. Learn to make compromises
Let’s be real; not everyone is a neat freak. Some people can go days, or weeks, on end without a clean kitchen. Personally, the kitchen is a sacred place and must be ‘spotless’ for me to actually enjoy my meal in. Everyone has their pet peeves, their habits, the things that make them special. It is here where setting the ground rules of the house is important but most importantly determining the compromises that have to be made to live in somewhat harmony. Is your housemate a morning person while you are a night owl? Don’t make too much noise when you come back. Is one person constantly busy, running from one activity to the next? Don’t leave your key in the door. Make compromises, and deal with differences because at the end of the day we’re all our own person.
8. Be classy
No one likes hearing things they shouldn’t hear, especially certain late evening sounds. It scars you memory, and leaves you in that awkward position knowing how that person is in bed. So either: keep it down, tell your housemates you will be having a fun time or just go to the other person’s place. Simple as that.
9. Take care of each other
The best advice I ever got in my life was from my old roommate when I was homesick and was the following: “Throw yourself into everything you can, join a group, check out new places, go crazy! But if you still feel that even after all these things you need to go home, it’s time to pack your bags and visit home.” It is with that advice I knew we would be good the whole year. When you come back home after a long day, you’re not only returning to your bed, but also to your new ‘family’ and as a family we look out for one another. Having a difficult time in school? Maybe your housemate who is a tutor can help you. Got way to drunk? A true housemate will support you while you look into the abyss of a toilet bowl… again. Have the common school spread flu? No worries, your housemate already bought lemons and ginger for tea. Since the majority of people are semi-far away from their families, it is in your new house where you find your new family.
10. Determine the roles
It is (not) scientifically proven that in every house people can be categorized as one of three types of housemates: the crazy one, the rebel and the parent. Of course, these roles change based on the situation however they mostly stay the same. Of course people can’t be categorized into one box, but by understanding the foundation of a household and it’s individuals will save you a world of pain, and help you understanding the way they think and the way they act.