Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Surviving a Uni House Share: The Rules

Ok so a bit of a different post today but something I think could be important around this time when people are thinking about living arrangements for the next year. Moving out of your parents' house and into a house share with your friends can be one of the most exciting times in your whole university experience. All of this new freedom, making your own rules (which probably means there are no rules!) and being around your friends 24/7. It really does sound great and for the most part it is, I don't want to put a dampener on what is a great experience but in reality it can be harder than it seems. I think it's important to remember being friends with someone and actually living with them are two very different things and that's something I really didn't realise until 18 months ago. You think you know someone but it's only when you're around them the majority of the day that their true colours show; whether that's their bitchy side, untidy side or any annoying habits that follow.

Here's some background on my own house share experience before I lay down some hopefully useful rules. I lived at home in my first year of uni, then second year I decided to move into a house with 4 other girls on my course. I knew some of them more than others but those I didn't know as well seemed nice enough. I was so excited and for the first 6 weeks we were all inseparable, best of pals, nothing could come between us. How wrong I was. Long story short, our friendships went downhill very quickly, resulting in one massive blow up where 3 of us decided to live together the following year, leaving the other two to make their own arrangements. This all made for a very frosty, awkward and frankly hostile atmosphere in the house for the remaining 7 months. Not ideal! So the three of us now live happily (ever after?) and they are some of the best friends I could ask for.

That brings me onto the rules, or rather the guidelines for surviving a uni house share:

1) If you have a problem with something someone has done or said, say something.
- If there are certain things you have a problem with that could be resolved by talking, definitely do it. If someone showers or uses the hairdryer at all hours of the night when you have to be up early or if they leave so many dirty plates lying around that you no longer have any clear surfaces, just take that one person aside, say politely that it bothers you and would they mind showering earlier etc. This was one of the biggest mistakes my first house made; we let all the little annoying habits get bottled up until we literally couldn't stand to be around each other anymore and then it all just exploded (tears and everything!). If we'd spoken up sooner, that person would've had a chance to take on people's advice making for a happier household.

2) Steer clear of bitchy post-it notes!
- It's all too easy to get annoyed by the highest pile of dirty dishes you've ever seen taking over your kitchen or people using your things and not putting them back where they found them and impulsively write a bitchy post-it note, sticking it where everyone can see, which will only cause atmosphere and tension and you will more than likely regret it later. It also starts off "Post-it Wars" meaning the only communication is through these snide comments on little bits of paper. Again that's not healthy and you're better off, firstly calming down, and then trying to talk to the person face to face.

3) Beware of food thieving!
- This is something that is all too common and, on student budgets especially, is really not fair. I know if you're in the middle of cooking and the one ingredient you're lacking is staring at you from your housemate's shelf, it is hard to resist. However with most student areas there are corner/convenience shops everywhere, you are never more than a 5-10 minute walk from one. If a 10 minute walk will save you potential days of tension, I'd say it is worth it. But if you do slip and use your housemate's food, just make sure you replace it, they will appreciate it.

4) Don't bother with cleaning/housework rotas.
- The intention is always there; to share out cleaning tasks equally and potentially rotate jobs for the sake of being fair. However, when talking to people from other houses too, we all start off with one and none of them have ever lasted more than a few weeks (I know ours didn't). Generally, people forget or can't be bothered to do their job, that annoys the people who are doing their jobs, resulting in arguments. The easiest solution is if you make a mess, you clean it up; just focus on your belongings and let other people be responsible for theirs.

5) Joint account for bills.
- Another annoyance for us, although all house shares work differently, was who was responsible for paying for the Virgin Media TV/internet. Since I was the first one moving in, I was in charge of sorting out and getting the Virgin Media installed, which meant I had to sign up using my card details. Everyone said they would transfer their share into my account monthly and I trusted that but it didn't always work out that way meaning at the end of the year I lost out on quite a bit of money. Learning from that, in this house we set up a joint account that we pay into on a monthly basis and Virgin take it from there so no one is out of pocket.

6) Balance your time.
- When you're living with people, a lot of the time you can feel like you're in each other's pockets. No matter how much you enjoy spending time with someone, if you're around them too much they can drive you round the bend. Make sure you have your own down time or alone time, just to be away from the others and do the things you enjoy doing.

7) Minimise the atmosphere.
- Ok so if things do go terribly wrong and you all fall out or form separate groups within the house I think it's still important to be respectful of them. Yes you don't like them but try not to create such a massive negative atmosphere that it makes the house horrible to live in. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable or intimidated in their own house, no one should have to sneak around avoiding people or walk on egg shells. That's what happened in my first house and really what's the point in paying rent on somewhere you can't stand to be? So even if you can't stand to be in the same room as them, just be civil. Smile if you enter the same room as them, say hi and ask how they are if you can muster it! You never know it may lead to rekindling friendships.

I know these guidelines may sound like the most obvious advice ever but when you're caught up in all these different situations it's easy to lose sight of even the simplest of solutions.

Hope this helps and I'd love to know your tips for surviving uni halls or a house share so feel free to leave a comment :)

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