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How to Handle Bad Housemates at University

20th October 2015 Posted by: Francesca Turauskis

THEY eat your food, they leave dirty dishes and they listen to awful music. It might be a friend you thought you knew, or it might be a random person placed with you by chance. Whoever it is, a difficult housemate can make a home a hell. But how can you deal with the situation without making things worse? Whether you’ve been thrown together by chance or choice, here is our guide to the best and worst ways to deal with a difficult housemate.

The Messy One

Don’t leave notes. No matter how many smiley faces there are, it will seem passive aggressive. However, if you do their dishes without saying anything they might think you like to do it.  Don’t leave things until it becomes unsanitary, but try not to nag them to do things straight away. If they are clearly busy, don’t insist they drop everything. And remember that you are not their mother – it is never appropriate to invade someone’s privacy for the sake of cleanliness.

Do create a rota. You could arrange trade-offs of hated jobs. (I would quite happily do a load of dishes if someone will take the bin out for me!) Try doing housework together. It is a good way of splitting the chores and getting to know each other a bit more. Some people are happily messy (myself included) so do acknowledge it if you like things clean. Let them know why you want things that way and agree on ‘deadlines’. If they don’t stick to an agreement, it is okay to remind them.

The Noisy One

Don’t be personal. They’re music might not be to your taste, and their laugh might sound like a foghorn, but insults are only going to aggravate the situation. Likewise, the noises may be keeping you awake or disturbing your work, but consider whether the volume and time is truly inconsiderate before confronting them. Don’t turn your own music up, and don’t ask them to “never listen to that stupid track again!” It might be helping them to relax or concentrate.

Do be specific and factual. Let them know your schedule so they can understand why you want quiet. Sit down together and decide on time boundaries and volume levels. If the noise is disturbing you during an agreed ‘noisy time,’ consider studying somewhere else or buying some good earplugs. And if they are being noisy in a ‘quite time,’ do knock on their door and give them a quiet reminder.  

The Bill-Dodger

Don’t get yourself into debt. If you keep paying for things, their debt and yours will add up. Don’t lose track of the money situation yourself. Never leave it until the last minute to ask them for the money. And never talk about any debt on a night out – drinking and money-matters do not go together. 

Do show them what needs paying and when. Give them plenty of advanced notice. If possible, have a house bank account in everyone’s name so it’s not just one person handling everything. Keep receipts for any emergency payments, and get it recorded whenever anyone pays/doesn’t pay their due (my boyfriend was awful with money until I put him in charge of a spreadsheet!) And get them to take charge of something: if they like TV, get them to organise that payment – they might learn something.

The Living-Space Hog

Don’t hide in your room. But don’t hide the remote either. If someone is using the shared space more than everyone else, you don’t want to drive them completely out. But you shouldn’t let them control that space either. Don’t disturb them unnecessarily.

Do join them! If they are watching a program you like, watch it with them. If they are drinking with their friends, bring your friends too. They may be in there all the time because they want to be around people. If you do want the living room for something specific, let them know in advance when you would like it: They might want to join in, or they might escape for an evening.

The ‘Borrower’

Don’t steal back. There is no need to get into a cycle of secret stealing. It is also good to avoid labelling too much. Putting your name on everything suggests you don’t trust your housemates (you might not, but you shouldn’t provoke them.) Make sure you don’t accuse someone – you might be certain, but you could be mistaken. And don’t be too subtle when talking about it. If they say something or apologise afterwards, don’t say ‘it’s fine’ if it isn’t.

Do have clear-cut boundaries. Having set shelves in the fridge, or separate cupboards, is always a good idea. It is always worth telling them, calmly, if you don’t like someone else using your things. Before accusing someone, ask a general question to everyone: “Has anyone seen my sweater?” is much better than “You thief, give it back!” And if it continues to be an issue, you can always lock your things away.

Things to Remember

If something about your housemate annoys you, don’t let it simmer until you have an argument. The majority of housemate disagreements can be resolved by a simple chat, so make sure you address issues before they become a big problem. That conversation may seem more awkward, but it is a better option then having an argument by notes. And if things really get unbearable, there will always be rooms available elsewhere.    


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