Love, Life Stories, Advice

How to make the most out of living with housemates

No matter how well you know your housemates, these tips will help.

Over a year ago I moved into a house with two of my best friends.

Finally, I was free of the constraints and rules of living in my university residence hall. Plus, I got to move in with my best friends! The dream right? Yes, this is the dream, but, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Shared households teach you a lot about compromising and seeing beyond your own habits and preferences. While living with friends has been an overall positive experience, I have learned a lot about ways to make shared households happier and more functional for everyone involved.

1. Learn how to communicate

A woman saying "no one wins unless we communicate respectfully".
[Image description: a woman saying “no one wins unless we communicate respectfully”]. Via Giphy.
In the past, I usually let my friends make decisions. This is fine if the decision is about where to eat or what movie to watch. However, when it comes to living in a house, speaking up is important.  I struggled a lot with this because of my introverted personality. Not managing to communicate often creates unresolved tension about trivial things. For example, you might find it annoying when your housemate leaves the dustpan out. There’s a good chance your housemate isn’t even aware they’re doing this. By communicating constructively, the issue can often be resolved easily. While communicating about specific issues with my housemates didn’t come naturally to me, I’m so glad I did anyway. 

2. Lay your boundaries

A man talking says "boundaries" and uses hand motions to show this.
[Image description: a man talking says “boundaries” and uses hand motions to show this]. Via Giphy.
Think carefully about what’s important to you in a living situation and discuss this with your housemates early on. Preferably before you even move in. You may hate noise late at nights, or, housemates may love having guests over. In this case, it can also help to draw up some basic rules for the house. It’s important that you agree on these boundaries so that when disagreements arise, you can refer back to things you mentioned at the very beginning. Laying boundaries early on also helps your housemates get a sense of where you stand and how to respect your needs and interests. 

3. Set a cleaning routine

Three men arounda dinner table and one man says "you have not done the dishes in five years!"
[Image description: three men around a dinner table and one man says “you have not done the dishes in five years!”]. Via Giphy.
I cannot emphasize this enough when it comes to chores! No matter how clean your housemates are, you should still set a cleaning routine. In my first year of living with my housemates, we had a pretty laid back approach to dishes and household chores. What ended up happening was that the kitchen was dirty most of the time and the chores were not split evenly. Now, we have a weekly cleaning roster which means the house is a lot cleaner and chores are shared fairly. A schedule also helps with accountability and not merely putting chores off (which I was guilty of). Before moving in, try discussing a cleaning schedule with your housemates.

4. Find a budgeting system that works for you

A man pointing to a graph with Obama's 2015 budget.
[Image description: a man pointing to a graph with Obama’s 2015 budget.] Via Giphy.
This might be something you haven’t thought about before. Without a budget system in place, some of your housemates are going to face the brunt of household expenses more than others. Some shared households set aside money each month for expenses like cleaning supplies and electricity. Because my household expenses differ from month to month, my housemates and I use an app called Splitwise. Whenever one of us spends money for the house, we simply record this on Splitwise and it does the math of who owes who. Talk to your housemates early on and to find a method that works for everyone.

5. Listen… And be willing to compromise

A man exclaiming "I don't compromise. I'm metal!
[Image description: a man exclaiming “I don’t compromise, ever. I’m metal!] Via Giphy.
I don’t know of any shared household that doesn’t have the odd disagreement. My housemates and I most certainly have had our fair share of disagreements. When disagreements arise, it’s important that you are open to compromise. If you’re inflexible, there’s a good chance what would have been a minor disagreement will develop into a full-blown fight. This may also put your friendship in jeopardy. The thing about living in a shared house is things will not always be ideal. In these cases, it’s important to compromise and find a balance that accommodates everyone’s preferences.

The greatest shock of moving in with friends is that while, yes, it’s the dream, the dream also requires a lot of hard work. As long as you and your friends put in the hard work, communication and planning, you can prevent turning a dream into a nightmare!