On my way home from the supermarket a few hours ago the recognition that it’s no longer summer suddenly hit me. It wasn’t the weather, but the simple fact that it was 20:10 and it was already dark. I frowned inwardly and continued my prayer for endurance to the ridiculously thin plastic bags with groceries. Happy autumn everyone!
But this post is actually about something else.
This is a topic, which has surely been discussed many times before – in blogs, in conversations with friends or just muttering to yourself under your nose, while you grudgingly take out someone else’s laundry out of the washing machine in an effort to free space for yours. Yes, it’s the “do”s and “don’t”s of living with flatmates. Those have become particularly relevant to me again, as I might be out of uni, but here in Barca I’m sharing a flat with 4 other people.
One would think that these things are common sense, but one of my favourite sayings is that “common sense is not that common” and nowhere does it shine through as much as in the flatmate situation. All problems come from the fact that different people perceive different things as “normal” and “ok”. BUT there is a certain set of rules, which tend to keep everyone happy and preserve the peace. Here’s the list that my 3 years of flatmating have thought me (Spellcheck tells me that “flatmating” is not a word, but I’m making it one. In fact, it’s a proper skill.).
1. Be a ninja.
That does not mean you should hide and not socialise with your flatmates, in fact I’ll talk about that in a bit. What I mean is: leave the common areas (aka kitchen, living room and bathroom) in a state as if you’ve never been there. Read that very carefully. I did not say “leave them clean”. If you find the kitchen in a state of complete mess and destruction and you did not take part in making it like that – my honest advise is DO NOT CLEAN IT. If you did take part – do clean, but NOT ON YOUR OWN. Why? Flatmating is nothing if not politics. Clean it once and I guarantee you that from that moment until the end of your living there you will always be the one cleaning it after other people. Do not be mislead by the idea that if you do it once or twice that will score you good points in the eyes of your flatmates. It probably will, but it will also deprive them of the realisation that mess is difficult and tedious to get rid of. You will soon find yourself in a deja-vu, where the kitchen once again looks hurricane-struck and no one will be in a particular hurry to clean it.
Bottom line: Don’t clean after other people, BUT always clean after yourself. Your flatmates will appreciate and respect you for it.
2. Be clear about ownership
This goes for things you and your flatmates purchase together. It’s all good when you’re buying that huge-screen TV that you’ve always wanted but you’ve never been able to afford on your own. But what happens after everyone goes their separate way and you no longer live together? Who gets the TV?
Here’s are my suggestions:
a) Sell it and split the money.
b) Let one person buy the TV, another the speakers, another the grill and so on. At the end – everyone will know to simply take their own things.
You might think this is unnecessary, or only applicable to expensive things, because pffff who would argue over a toaster, right?
You’d be surprised. You never know what the situation will be when people are moving out. They might be in a bad financial situation, on bad terms with other people from the house/flat, or simply petty and in a bad mood. Simply, don’t end up having to dispute property ownership.
3. Open a “house supplies” fund.
Here’s the idea: instead of trying to keep track who bought the bathroom soap or the toilet paper last time – why don’t you all give a certain equal amount of money and put it in a jar/open a bank account. This is the money with which all house supplies will be bought. As soon as it finishes – again, everyone pitches in with the same amount of money and so on. All’s fair and there’s always toilet paper.
4. Do not leave your things in the washing machine for longer than it’s needed. Or your food in the oven.
It just so happens that every time one person decides to wash their laundry – everyone remembers they have to do it as well. Don’t be the annoying one, who puts the washing in and doesn’t remember to take it out until the next day. I’ve been on the receiving end of that stunt one too many times and I can tell you – it’s effin annoying, especially if it becomes a habit. Same goes for food left in the oven. It’s not a big deal at first glance, but trust me – it’s the small issues like that, which eventually end up rocking the boat of peaceful flatmating.
I can’t stress enough how important and beneficial it is to be on friendly terms with the people you’re living with. Not just polite, but friendly. I’m sure you don’t need me to go into a detailed explanation about the benefits of friends.
A simple way of braking the barrier is leaving the door to your room open, while you’re inside; or hanging around in the common areas (not all the time – that would be creepy). Just enough to show people that you don’t mind sharing your interests or activities with them.
Another way is cooking for everyone. If there’s one thing I learned here in Barcelona is that sharing food makes people closer. I don’t know why, but it just works.Here it’s actually a cultural thing to sit down to a “tapas” meal – those are large portions of the same thing (for example: a whole plate of shrimps, a whole plate of spicy potatoes etc.). People order several and everyone shares them, so that each person can try a little bit of everything.
Back on the subject of friendliness, of course this does not work for everyone. If you’re just not a sociable person and prefer your privacy – fair enough, but at least keep it polite and all will be well.
The same goes for the other side – if someone doesn’t want to be friendly with you, don’t push it. It will just make things awkward/unpleasant and that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid right?
6. Be considerate to other people’s needs
Wow, what a shocker, right? Yes, I know it’s obvious, but come to think of it – they all are, and yet in my experience, those are the most common issues.
So what I mean is: if your flatmate is asthmatic – don’t make him do the hoovering; if it’s a school-night/work-night – don’t be noisy after 11pm. The irony is that the obvious things like that are seldom appreciated, but as soon as you stop being considerate – they spawn the biggest issues.
So that’s all I can think of right now. All 6 rules are actually 6 advices from me to you, based on my personal experience, which of course makes them subjective. I don’t claim they will give you the solution to eternal flatmate happiness, because life is full of crazy/weird/unpredicted situations and people will always find something to fight over if they want to. But at least they will spare you some frowns and that’s something, right? :)
Or maybe I’ve just given you a full set of instructions on how to annoy people…
Anyways, thanks for reading this far! Feel free to comment and pop back soon hopefully! :)
Btw, there is one very important name I must mention – Mandie Manzano! She is the fantastic talent responsible for the beautiful background I’m using at the moment, as well as for my avatar. I’m completely in love with her work, so go check it out on: