Living with housemates

Some housemates get along like a house on fire. Others are so fraught with tension you fear they may actually set the house on fire. Get the lowdown on housemates, including common causes of tension, tips for keeping the firemen away and what to do if nothing's working.

Read this if:

  • You keep locking horns with your housemates
  • You want some tips to make your household more pleasant
  • You’re about to move out with some people and you want to be sure it’s smooth sailing
  • You’re thinking about moving out
two guys playing video games

Hello, housemates

Moving into a place with housemates can be excellent, but it can also be really hard to adapt to living with a new group of people. You might be moving in with friends who you get along with really well, or people who you’ve never met before. You and your housemates might have really similar lifestyles, or theirs might be totally opposite to yours. 

There’s a whole bunch of things that will influence how smooth sailing everything is with your housemates, but if you’re aware of the common causes of tension and the tips for overcoming them, you’ll feel like the gang from ‘Friends’ in no time. 

All up in my grill

There are some common things that tend to cause tension between housemates, but if you’re aware of them from the get-go you might find it easier to manage them:

  • Money and bills
  • Chores
  • Cleanliness
  • Socialising or hosting at your place
  • Invading their personal space

How to keep a happy household

Sometimes, however, it takes a bit more effort to get along with housemates. Check out some tips that you can follow from before you even move in together:

  • Have a good think

Think carefully about your housemates before you move out with them. Just because someone is a good friend, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be a good housemate. At the same time, you should feel safe and comfortable around potential housemates that you don’t know very well. Organise some hang time with potential housemates before moving in to suss out the group dynamic.

  • Mo’ money, mo’ problems

Money is at the root of a huge chunk of the world’s problems, and sadly, housemate problems are no exception. Lay everything out on the line when you move in: who’s responsible for each bill and when does each bill need to be paid? Check out apps like split-a-bill to help you keep tabs on who owes what. 

  • Avoid food fights

We don’t mean the fun kind that you see in the movies where food is flying everywhere. We mean the kind where someone steals your leftover spagbol and you feel all kinds of fury. Figure out if you’re going to do individual shops, or group shops and consider assigning each housemate their own special spot in the fridge/cupboard for their own stuff. 

  • Hosting social stuff

Sometimes you just want to nap or watch some TV, but your housemates will have their buddies over creating some very distracting noise pollution. If there’s ever a time you reeeeeeally don’t feel like hosting, let your housemates know. Sometimes you will have to compromise, in which case you can always escape to your bedroom, the gym or a friends place.

  • Keeping things spotless

If you’re really lucky, everyone will tidy up after themselves and do a bit of cleaning and vacuuming whenever they get a second. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. To make things even more complicated, everyone’s got their own idea of what ‘clean and tidy’ means. Put together a cleaning roster so that everything gets done. If your housemates don’t stick to it, give them a friendly reminder. Check out some more tips for getting the cleaning done. 

  • Manage conflict
Communication is key. If something is bugging you, tell your housemates about it; they probably weren’t even aware that it was getting on your nerves. Choose a time when you’re alone and bring it up in conversation. Be open and honest as much as you can, and check out some more tips for effective communication.

It’s not working

If you’re having ongoing issues with a housemate, talk through your different options with a trusted friend, family member or counsellor. They’ll be able to give you a fresh perspective and help you plan what to do next. If ever you feel unsafe, there are steps you can take to manage the situation.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 17 August, 2015
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