Dean Fitzgerald gives his tips on living collectively.
By now, basically every third level student is settling into lectures in their respective colleges. For the majority of these students, they’ll have become acquainted with new or existing housemates to some degree. Some of you may now be thinking ‘What have I got myself into?’, and already be sick of their supposed inability to wash their plates, keep things clean, or even wipe the toilet seat.
The ‘bad housemate’ is a bane in the early life of many college students, as it not only lowers the quality of your college experience, but increases the likelihood of arguments and tension within your living space. If you live in such a predicament, here are some pieces of advice to follow to address your housemate woes.
1. Set rules early on.
This may be slightly problematic if you have been living with these people for a few weeks at this stage, but for those who are in the very early stages of their accommodation, the best way to fight potentially annoying housemate tendencies is to set standards from the start.
Insist that everyone washes their dishes when they are finished with them, create a rota of cleaning for different rooms, or hand each housemate responsibilities that are reasonably to attain. You can come off as pushy and a bit controlling, so be careful not to be too forceful in this instance. Just be honest that you want everyone to contribute so the house is kept in somewhat decent shape.
2. Don’t be passive aggressive.
There are few things more annoying than seeing a post-it note with a passive aggressive message on a fridge. It’s not only quite annoying, but has the opposite effect than it intends, as it completely demotivates the reader to do what they are told.
If someone is, for example, taking your food, don’t leave a note. Tell them exactly what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, and that you want them to stop. Otherwise, the post-it note will only serve to annoy both you and your housemates.
3. Find out what your other housemates think.
If you think you're alone in your annoyance about other people's behaviour, you're probably not. Slyly try to suss whether your other housemates feel the same frustration, and then approach the problem carefully.
4. If absolutely necessary, have an argument.
Sometimes, there is no other way around it. Some people can’t be gently convinced or persuaded and require a, let’s say, less subtle approach. If you have been reminding and badgering them to put the toilet seat back down when they’re done, or that they keep leaving their dirty clothes all over the place to no avail, then perhaps you need to confront them seriously.
If they begin to argue, don’t back down. Stay composed and stay on the point you’re making. Don’t let it get personal and don’t allow it to devolve into a shouting match with no relevance to your original problem. Once the dust settles, maybe then you’ll gradually begin to see changes occur.
5. Recognise that you can’t change everything.
Always try to change what are absolute musts, e.g. eating your food, not doing any housework, etc., but also realise that the smaller things aren’t always in your control, so don’t worry about them too much. Sure, they might have left a spoon in the sink, as long as it’s not constant and doesn’t eventually become all their dishes, let it slide.
Everyone has stuff going on and there's always going to be something a little messy in the house, so don’t sweat the small stuff. At the end of the day, everyone, including you, has quirks that others may find a little bit weird, but it’s part of your personality.
Overall, the key to a harmonious house is communication. A house where people talk to each other and everyone knows what is expected of them is the right kind of house in which to live. Bad housemates manifest from a lack of communication most of the time.
Of course, these little bits of advice are for reasonable situations. If they are serious problems, such as stealing your belongings and causing damage to the house, don’t hesitate to be more assertive, make no allowance for these actions at all.
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