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Tips for getting on with your housemates

Friday 16 September 2011 Making Friends/Settling In

Starting uni and moving away from home comes with the added worry of living with complete strangers. When a group of people live on top of each other for a lengthy period of time conflicts and awkward situations are bound to arise no matter how well everyone gets on. That’s why for all you freshers moving in to halls we’ve devised some simple tips to help any household remain peaceful and harmonious.

 Respect the belongings of others

You might be used to sharing everything at home, or completely don’t care if people use your stuff without asking. Congrats, you’re extremely chilled out. However, some people just aren’t used to that sort of behaviour and will find it weird if you use their pans without asking, or borrow some shower gel. Eventually you will adjust to their way of doing things and all of you will know your boundaries. Initially, just show a little respect. This also means looking after the security of the house by locking windows and doors and protecting everyone’s stuff.

Make a rota

It’s the classic suggestion for helping you and your housemates share the load in terms of the boring tasks (yep, you’ll be doing plenty of boring tasks) that need doing. These of course include tidying up, doing the washing, paying bills, buying the milk/bin bags/tea and taking out the rubbish. Sadly these tasks can’t just fall on one person because that’s when these conflicts kick start. Chip in, do your bit and everyone will get on like a house on fire. Of course, you could all just do nothing, then there wouldn’t be any problems. But we wouldn’t recommend that…


Talk to your housemates

Seems unbelievably simple, but not communicating the things that upset you is a big problem in housemate relations. Keeping problems bottled up, like when your housemate keeps using your favourite mug, or keeps leaving everything in the sink, will only cause resentment and, more than anything, will simply mean nothing gets sorted out. No matter how big or small the problem is, talk to your housemates. They’ll respect your honesty and it will open them up to the idea of speaking more freely with you. But address the problems politely! Ranting will only make people defensive and less willing to help you out.

 Listen to your housemates

Again with the simplicity… I’m sorry you have to hear this, but it might actually be you that's causing the problems. Perhaps at home you’re used to wearing your shoes in the house and don’t realise your housemates find this completely unacceptable, or perhaps you just don’t mind living in a really messy house and don’t realise they just can’t stand it. Something you don’t even think about might leave your housemates grinding their teeth. So just be aware, and listen to them if they’ve got an issue. Or alternatively, ask them if there’s anything you do that annoys them, skipping past the awkward situation altogether.

 Get to know your R.A.

Residential advisors are there to sort out any problems you and your housemates have. This could be problem neighbours or it could be an in-house dispute. It should hopefully never get to this, but if things aren’t going to plan and you and your housemates are continuously coming to blows, you can get your residential advisor to try and mediate a conflict resolution. That sounds fancy, but basically it just means that they will organise a discussion to find some compromises in your living habits. With them present the discussion won’t dissolve into a slanging match and, hopefully, you will be able to sort things out, even if it means both of you giving up something you like.

Housemate conflicts are rare but they can really put a dampener on your university experience. The good thing is they are easily avoided. Just be conscientious and caring and hopefully your housemates will be too.

If you're a Fresher worried about uni, you can read more advice articles in our Freshers and Settling In section.