Living with roommates can be a lifestyle choice, or a temporary obligation to save on rent while you move to a place of your own. In many case, I was contemplating yesterday the price of having a roommate and concluding that it was a small sacrifice compared to the huge savings in rent, utilities and other house bills.
I have had pleasant and horrible roommates. When I moved to the UK, I had a hard time in my first house, and in the second one too. In the first one I had a terrible relationship with one roommate, and in the second one I didn’t socialize with anyone, everyone came there to sleep and we barely knew each other.
This happens when the roommates don’t chose their other roommates, or can happen too if you were too quick to find a roommate and took the first one in without asking about tastes and lifestyle. You can end up with rude, dirty, noisy people, or all of the above.
So what to do?
In those big houses, where the landlord chose random roommates, I would stick to myself, and make sure my room was as cozy and comfy as possible, since I would spend more time there than in the common areas.
In one of the houses, I actually kept my food and kitchenware in my room! Or I would not find my food the next day, and my pan would always be dirty when I needed it. You can install some kinds of lockers if your kitchen is big enough.
To me, it was a temporary solution. I had just moved to a new city and taken the first room. I was stuck with a six months rental contract, so I paced myself and waited. I also tried to communicate with the others to see why no one was taking care of the house and respecting the place where they lived. They didn’t seem to care much, can you believe that in 6 months I never did a cleaning turn? And no one else did either.
So I made sure my little world inside my room was safe and nice. I bought a desk, where I would also eat at night. I planted some flowers by my window, I cleaned regularly. If I couldn’t change the outside of the room I had to make the inside as pleasant as possible.
Of course most roommates won’t react like this when presented with the option to better their living conditions. If they don’t want to clean, you can offer to take their cleaning turn, and in exchange they can take the garbage out for a week, or you could all chip in and pay for a cleaner to come regularly.
After almost 10 years and many different living arrangements, I have found out that it comes down to two things
We all pay rent, but sometimes utilities aren’t included. And whose turn is it to buy toilet paper? Why do I have to pay for cable if I don’t watch TV? Money matters between roommates can worsen the relationship. Have a regular talk with your roommates. If no one is watching cable, ditch the subscription. Get better broadband if everyone agrees. And in order not to count pennies, you can say that when the dish soap is finished, the next person has to buy it. Doesn’t matter the brand, if they go for a better one, it is their problem, the thriftier roommates don’t have to pay for the brand.
Cleaning is another touchy subject when you are living with other people. Even if you have turns, some will have higher standards, some will actually clean better, and others think they clean well when in reality they left the place as dirty as they found it.
Communication is the most important. Tell people what you expect, encourage a visible effort, and make people accountable for what they did. If it really can’t be solved, ask everyone to share a cleaner’s fee, that is a small price to pay to live in harmony, trust me.
Decide what is important for you
Because you live with roommates doesn’t mean you have to live like a poor student. I have actually seen beautiful house-shares, with lots of room for everyone, sometimes a guestroom, art studio, garden… The tenants could cramp more people in there but chose not to, in order to live well. They could each get a small studio of their own for a slightly cheaper rent, and again, chose to live together to enjoy a big living room and a big house.
House-shares can actually be a really good thing.