Housemate Drama

March 20, 2014 2:18 pm

A student house – in theory, a Utopian-style existence: you are free to live with your chosen few, are free from the shackles of living in Halls with the messy/weird/loud/argumentative student who you’d never be compatible with in a million years, there are no more dreaded fire drills, and there will be an actual living room to hang out in instead of being forced to sit on the hard kitchen chairs or in people’s bedrooms.

student households

However, as with everything in life, moving to a student house rarely lives up to this perfect ideal. After all, sometimes logistics and the nature of friendship groups dictate that we end up living with some people who we perhaps wouldn’t choose, and this can be difficult. Little things (or maybe even big things) that people do can niggle and irritate until we end up with some explosive situations and unhappy people. But with a bit of thought and pre-planning, it is possible to pre-empt at least some of these difficult situations before they arise, and work out best how we are going to deal with them.

student housematesFirstly, it is important to work out what type of person you are: are you someone who will go storming into your housemate’s room screaming obscenities every single time they leave an unwashed cup on the side, or are you so terrified of confrontation that you’ll silently brew about everyone’s annoying habits and end up resenting your housemates? In my experience, modifying your reactions so you end up somewhere between the two is ideal. For example, if you find yourself living with someone who NEVER does their washing up (or plays loud music, leaves spillages on the kitchen floor etc.) then it is going to be more conducive to a harmonious household if you sit back for a few days and gauge exactly how bad the situation is, and then if you feel a point does need to be made, say to a general room of people, “Guys, the kitchen’s been so messy lately, I think maybe we should make a washing up rota/clean as we go/all make sure everything’s washed up by the evening” (the solution you suggest will be dependent on your relationship with the people you live with of course). By not singling someone out, even if you really want to, the chances of having a washing-up ‘stand-off’ will be dramatically reduced.

If this doesn’t work, then no matter how angry you are, still stay calm, and wait until you can get the person on their own. Then you can say something like, “Hey, I’ve noticed that your plate of uneaten food has been left on the side for a week and it’s starting to grow mould. Could you come and wash it up because I’m just wiping the sides down in the kitchen?” or “Hey, I’m just trying to go to sleep and have a 9 o’clock lecture. Would it be possible for you to turn your music down?” By involving yourself in the activity somehow and not embarrassing the person in front of others, it feels less like an accusation and the housemate is less likely to feel cornered, which can sometimes result in more of the same behaviour in order to prove a point.

It is also important to bear in mind that you must wait until you have something specific to criticise. Walking up to someone out of the blue when they are watching TV in the middle of the afternoon and saying, “You keep me up every night with your music!” is a recipe for disaster. So even though it can be difficult, being calm but assertive will always pay off in the end.

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