I wouldn’t honestly have thought this would be required as a lot of it in my opinion is common sense, but apparently people skipped the lessons on how to not be a nightmare to live with and judging from my experiences of shared living this last year (which I'm for some reason repeating next year) and the pictures I have seen of the different properties, this is very much required. So here is a crash course in how to be the perfect flatmate/housemate, or at least not be the worst one to live with, what to do and what not to do, and if you’re still a nightmare to live with after this – I suggest you write an apology to the poor mortals living with you 😊
But let’s get into it.
A - arrival, arguments and appliances
Arrival – arrival is probably the most nerve wracking part, you likely don’t know who you are living with and if you do know them it’s still nerve wracking, my advice? Arrive at a timely manner – not where you are going to wake up the entire neighbourhood, and move in quickly (yes, even if you have a ton of stuff), claim your cupboards/fridge/freezer space and get used to your new surroundings – and if you’re playing music while unpacking, most shared living walls are thin so it’s probably best not to annoy your new housemates in the first five minutes (you can start annoying them after about half an hour).
Arguments – yes inevitable, act like adults (not the childish rubbish of ignoring someone just because they don’t agree with you or being a spoilt brat because daddy also pacified you with money), listen to their feelings (you don’t have to agree with them but there is usually something we can all learn) and don’t reduce to screaming, pushing fingers in faces or physical commotion, no one wants to call the police on their housemates but it’s an option.
Appliances – yes they are shared, yes that means you are ALL responsible for keeping them in a decent state and not melting plastic into them, leaving them filthy or just in general being dirty (more on this in hygiene) it isn’t ok to leave appliances in an useable state, just consider how you want to find those appliances to use and then treat them accordingly, it’s not that complex. It also means you are responsible for reporting them when they are faulty rather than letting someone else discover it when they come to make food – most likely when a maintenance person can’t come out
B - bratty behaviour, budgets and beds
Bratty behaviour – ah yes, I'm sure many of you would expect that living in shared living means you’ve long outgrown the bratty behaviour and would expect that people are responsible for themselves and don’t expect a cleaning fairy to turn up to follow them round. Unfortunately, you would be wrong, the bratty behaviour that you would have thought wouldn’t have lasted past 10 does in fact last past 18 and rears its ugly head in shared living, quite badly too. From the entitlement complex of ‘why should I clean up my mess in the shared living space’ to demanding attention from flatmates over the most ridiculous of things, to temper tantrums that Taco Bell (other fast-food chains are available) dared to leave the cheese in the taco, yes it has happened. Shared living is the grown-up version of Toddlers in Tiaras except the toddlers are in adult bodies and the tiaras have been replaced with designer brands but the entitlement brat complex is still the same. My suggestion is buy a pair of earphones and keep them on you at all times to put in, and if there are complaints about food places not doing a meal right, suggest they might like to work there (as they are most likely unemployed following their gap year of sun tanning) – that will shut them up quickly, you’re welcome. 😊
Budgets – something that is rarely covered in school and apparently not taught to many of my friends, budgets are so important in shared living. So, is paying bills first – which apparently isn’t a priority for a lot of people? Very strange. Moving to new cities and towns offers a lot of opportunities to spend a lot of money in very short amounts of time (and most specifically in clubs and bars where paying through phones is apparently too easy), and spending beyond your means is way too easy! I suggest a budget on what you have to buy, what you want and what can wait. I know multiple people who could blow anywhere between £500 a month up to £2000, it is so easy to be swept up in the keeping up appearances of continually going on European holidays, expensive clubbing events in other cities (usually miles away) and paying for rounds of drinks for people you don’t know. Just remember that debt is a real thing and you can have fun without blowing the same amount as other people – who likely are living off their parents’ money and have very little interest (or understanding) for people who work for their money.
Beds – beds do creak, and yes the walls tend to be thick enough that you can’t hear it in the rooms either side but let me just assure you, you can most definitely hear the beds above and below you (special shout out to the girl in the room above me who was getting action every week and made no secret of it), good for you if your bed is creaking, sucks for the rest of us though, especially when we are woken up by it at 4am just saying – even worse if it includes a soundtrack that goes through the floor and ceiling. By all means enjoy shared living without parents but for the love of my sanity, please remember the rest of us didn’t sign up for a soundtrack subscription, let me assure you no one is interested in hearing your rendition of Fifty Shades!
C - cooking and celebrations
Cooking – a necessary part of self catered living and yet still so difficult to master. I for one despise cooking, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be able to use the kitchen when its time to eat, no you can’t leave your jacket(s) on the breakfast bar or your laptop and books all over the kitchen table, yes you do need to clean the grill after using it and please stop fusing the kitchen. Don’t comment on what other people are eating, be considerate about how much space you are taking up in the kitchen to allow other people the space to cook and please don’t poison your flatmates (no matter how tempting it may be)!
Celebrations – a social ‘fun’ part of shared living (especially in student accommodation) is the insistence to celebrate nearly everything. Halloween is the big one that comes to mind and how I spent over an hour stood on the horrible plastic chairs sticking little plastic confetti bat after bat onto the cupboards, my haunted memories of this aside, living in shared living offers a great opportunity to meet new people who are invited to celebrations and enjoy the various festivities throughout the year – even if it does include dressing up in often cringe basic themed costumes – I lost my fairy wings in a club to the dismay of my mum! I think she secretly wanted them!!
D for deliveries and departures
Deliveries – it is almost inevitable that shared living will mean you’ve either forgotten something or it has miraculously grown legs and left the communal space where you are certain you put it, and so you will likely spend a disproportionate amount of time sat on Amazon, eBay or anyone else who can possible help you find what you’ve lost, buy that textbook that the module insists isn’t mandatory but will ‘make your studies easier’ or buy that housemate you don’t consider injuring a birthday gift as a reward for not being a total nightmare to live with (a rare occurrence). Of course chasing couriers around is a great form of exercise but if your housemate has had something delivered just be a considerate human and take it inside with you – same goes for mail and other parcels – and leave it in the communal space, it’s a little act that takes maybe two minutes extra but is a welcome relief to not have to scramble over other parcels and through dozens of letters to find something addressed to you that hopefully isn’t covered in footprints. But if you are planning on stealing mail – for whatever reason – just remember its against the law to open letters not addressed to you! 😊
Departures – put simply this is an easy one, pack up your stuff, clean your spaces in the communal area (cupboards, fridge shelf and freezer drawer), leave your room better than you found it (you want your deposit back don’t you?) and move out efficiently. Yes loading cars/vans takes a while but if international students can be packed in less than an hour you don’t really have an excuse. Take your rubbish to the bin (and if you haven’t found the outdoor bins by now I'm outright concerned), clean the floors and all surfaces (Covid19 is still a thing and I don’t want to know what you’ve gotten up to for the last however long), to be frank I don’t care if you take UV light to the entire room, just make sure it’s’ clean to a high standard. If you are moving out last, it’s your responsibility to check the house/flat doesn’t look like a garbage bin vomited over it, hand back your keys, sign out officially of paperwork and be goneeeeee!
E for eating and eejits
Eating – this one is a big one to me at least, not everyone is comfy eating around unknown people, and people commenting on food is really not helpful. If your flatmate isn’t eating or not food you personally like, etc. then please don’t make a big deal of it, you never know what people struggle with and asking pointed questions about why they won’t eat around certain people or in the kitchen, etc. is not the helpful polite question you think it is.
Eejits – aka idiots. And a lot of them live in shared living – get used to it soon or you’ll never stop being amused by the level of stupidity that is possible to stoop to. Yes people do cook meals of pasta hash browns and fish fingers, no I'm not joking, yes people faceplant the floor from someone’s shoulders when drunk and yes some people play Overwatch while under the influence at 4am – this is normal for a lot of shared living, in the real world it sounds stupid but trust me you get used to it, and surprisingly fast – at least you’ll have interesting memories and stories for after you move out
F for faulty appliances fuses, fire alarms, flatcest (university students), and human fuses
Faulty appliances – friendly request, if you know your appliance is faulty and/or isn’t necessarily in ideal state e.g. will fuse the kitchen every time it is used (yes this happened to me – multiple times a semester), kindly don’t bring it to shared living with you. I cannot explain how annoying it is when someone’s faulty appliance (that would fail a PAT test with flying colours) fuses the entire kitchen – and this is even more annoying when you don’t have access to the fuse box to flip the switch and get the kitchen back to normal. If it doesn’t work or not to the standard where it would pass a PAT test, don’t bring it. Simple.
Fire alarms – I’d like to begin by saying whoever set the fire alarm off in my block three times in one week at 4am, 5am, and 6am respectively – you are a horrible human being. Yes our fire alarms were incredibly sensitive, the steam from the showers set off the alarm (interestingly smoking certain substances indoors didn’t, as tested by other people not me), and of course they are a necessary irritant (a bit like certain flatmates), when moving into shared living – similar to getting on a plane – tampering with the fire alarms, can incur a fee and irritated accommodation representatives, as well as flatmates who are fed up of the kitchen stinking of weed at all hours (or worse our rooms – my neighbour hotboxed his room when I had gone out and I couldn’t clear the smell from my room for over 4 hours, my flatmate was also affected who was suffering from a migraine at the time). Just be sensible, leave when the fire alarm geos off, ignore (and learn) the test time, and don’t tamper with it, it might just save your life (because if its your fault the building is on fire, I won’t be volunteering to go back in and find you).
Flatcest – (uni students rise up) this is a word I cannot stand but is pretty important from stories I’ve been told and what I’ve witnessed, for those of you who are innocent to what flatcest is. It's starting a relationship with your flatmate and it usually ends in tears and the flat not speaking for a while! Not to be confused with blockcest – which is also a disaster. It’s a miracle people still think this is a good idea, and after hearing the stories of heartbreak I don’t know why anyone would bother but people do.
Human fuses – I'm going to honestly suggest if you are easily bothered by other people, their mess and their personalities, shared living is not ideal for you, you have to be incredibly patient even when someone is sitting and bouncing up and down on a huge neon coloured space hopper right on top of your last nerve and keep your fuse for as long as possible otherwise it’s going to be a very difficult term of however long your contract happens to last, good luck if your flatmate/housemate gets off on annoying the living daylights out of everyone in sight just remember prison uniforms aren’t a good look.
G for gripes (and charts and graphs)
Gripes – complaints, irritation and annoyance, all normal parts of shared living that can escalate incredibly quickly if someone isn’t pulling their weight. Some people simply don’t care to listen to the gripes that revolve around their lack of helpfulness – in which case I suggest piling all the crap they have left out/refused to tidy/’forgotten about’ into one of their bags – which will no doubt by lying about – and leave outside their room for them to fall over whenever they materialise from their room. Yes it’s annoying tidying up after people and no you shouldn’t have to, but if actual conversations aren’t working, I suggest you just go right ahead and tidy up their stuff, it’s a win for the rest of you as the communal space won’t look like that person’s room had diarrhoea all over the communal space and it might get the message through finally. If not you could try the idea my flat came up of which was a box to put all the flatmates stuff in and dump it outside their room every week. Good luck, you are going to need it!
Graphs and charts – (pertaining more towards student shared living) another one for my uni students, the graphs and charts which feature but are not limited to shag, cry, gone home, kiss, left club first, funnels (I don’t wish to explain this one please ask google) and chunder (vomit) (other ideas are available). They can be a bit of fun or hellishly annoying and if your chunder is over 15 in one semester, perhaps lay off getting so drunk. The chart is also usually in the kitchen (or at least was for us) and I’d suggest you perhaps don’t want your parents having clear insight into what you’ve been doing when you said you were too busy to come home. Our flat started with chunder and cry and then added all the others – much to some parents shock, maybe don’t leave your parents unattended in the kitchen where the chart is clearly visible, and can be helpfully pointed out by the flatmate who is fed up with you.
H for hygiene (of you and the place you are living) and heating
Hygiene – this is something I really would’ve thought most adults would be able to understand without explanation but apparently not. So let me make it nice and clear, keep communal space clean, do your washing up in a timely manner, if you make a mess clean it up and don’t leave it for someone else to discover. If you choose to not shower or whatever – grim but it’s your decision and if you are a particular fan of Lynx Africa, please remember some of us have shoddy lungs and the smell makes our lungs clog up and us feel sick, thanks for the attempt at personal hygiene and the liberal use to mask the scent of sweat from a gym session but your vapes are enough to screw with my lungs, we don’t need to add aftershave and various sprays on top.
Heating – I'm sure by now we are all aware that the heating bill cap is coming off and this of course means people are going to need to be even more careful with their heating bill use, and in the worst case decide whether to heat or eat. But in shared living being careful with heating is even more important, especially if the tenants are in control of the heating, it should go without saying don’t have it on high and leave the building or open the windows (yes, I know people dumb enough to do this), just remember you are going to be the ones paying the bill at the end and if you are happy to pay the bill for unreasonable usage then by all means, but I for one wouldn’t be
I for illness, ironing and its not fair (tough luck)
Illness – an inevitable part of shared living, from freshers flu, to every cold going to the dreaded C-19 word, they all happen in shared living (and I'm not covering STIs – google your clinics) and yes they suck when one member gets every cold going and brings it back to share the love with everyone else! Take multi vitamins, wear a mask (controversial I know), and go to the GP when you clearly aren’t getting better, and if said person keeps getting colds, ask them to keep away from you. It’s inevitable and no one likes being unwell so be nice to the unwell person, offer to get their shopping for them when you go or pick up cough syrup (especially if they’ve woken up the entire building with their coughing) and in general treat them how you’d want to be treated if it was you who was unwell – plus you’ll probably be unwell in a few days anyway from all the sickness particles so best to get on their good side so they’ll return the favour further down the line.
Ironing – irons need water. Please remember that. That’s it – our iron wasn’t used very frequently.
It's not fair – if I got a pound for every time I heard this saying in 9 months I wouldn’t need to be at uni, I would have retired to my own private island and be living it up on luxury yachts, unfortunately I don’t get paid a pound (sad times) but did have to listen this a lot. Sure, life doesn’t go your way all minutes of the day but the whining about everything is going to grate on peoples’ nerves eventually – especially if it’s your own fault that whatever it is isn’t going your way. Friendly reminder, you’re entitled to a moan but if that moan goes on for days on end at the expense of others, maybe get a diary to whine to instead the rest of us, we aren’t therapists and don’t wish to be for free either, however counsellors can be obtained through a simple google search – and if you insist on using me as a therapist, my hourly rate starts at £45 an hour 1
J for juices (and probably not the kind you are thinking of) and jokes
Juices – ah yes, I'm sure this raised a few eyebrows (namely what the heck is this girl going on about) well I have a particular uni story about juices, chicken juices. Defrosting chicken for dinner to be specific. I couldn’t care less what people eat in the evenings, I really don’t care as long as they don’t fuse the kitchen (as discussed above) but one thing I cannot stand is bags of defrosted chicken with the chicken juice sweated off, left on the side like someone else is going to clean up after it. I wish I was kidding but I'm really not. It’s grim and I don’t want to catch something off it. Deal with it yourself and don’t leave it around for the rest of us to catch something off. As for the other form of juices (that I'm sure everyone assumed I was talking about) if I don’t have to hear it, see it or clean it, I couldn’t care less. But defrosted meat juices is something I really cannot stand or wish to deal with (especially not the following morning) – put simply, don’t be an unreasonable jackass.
Jokes – everyone has their own strand of humour and some will have a darker sense of humour, fine, but when your ‘jokes’ are hurting people its time to stop – I didn’t think I would have needed to spell this one out but after being fetishized for a year, and jokes made at the expense of my ethnicity it felt relevant. If it’s not something people can change in five min e.g. lipstick on teeth, sweat patch, etc. don’t mention it and if someone is even remotely hurt by it then stop. And apologise. Simple. I don’t know why this is so complex to people in shared living but if you are one of the people with a habit of taking jokes too far, now might be a good time to reflect .
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