Opinion pieces

How to stay sane in share houses

I moved out of home three weeks after my 18th birthday and have spent the last two and a half years living with eight different people. I’ve done and witnessed enough to have learnt a few things about some of the dos and don’ts of staying sane in a share house.

When I first moved into share house accommodation, the reality of it boiled down to miniscule bedrooms and constant parties. Unfortunately, however, I’m no party animal. In actual fact, some of my happiest Saturday nights were spent knitting in rocking chairs, while watching Jurassic Park with my housemate.

When I escaped into a proper house with three other people, it was immediately better. And my bedroom was at least three times bigger than my previous shoebox. It also helped that I became best friends with one housemate almost instantly, and that we all genuinely wanted to spend time with each other.

But we’re not all so lucky. In the name of helping you avoid mass conflict over missing cutlery, carpet stains and broken wine glasses, here are seven tips to help you keep your sanity in a share house.

Set ground rules

Whether it’s establishing chores, party rules or who gets what cupboard, sit down with your housemates and just get it all out in the open.

Chore rosters sound infantile, but most of the time they do actually work. In my current house we’ve had times where the roles have disintegrated, and passive aggressively cleaning a bathroom mirror doesn’t make anyone feel good. It’s also a good idea to organise a house kitty; if it’s used communally by the household, then there shouldn’t be one person funding the entire cleaning cupboard. Toilet paper is surprisingly expensive.

Be picky

I’ve only lived with one ‘nightmare person’ who we didn’t interview before moving in. Cue six months stuck on a lease with someone who drove everyone partially insane. It took us seven days to suspect we’d made a horrible, horrible mistake, and this was cemented once posters about beating up omnivores began appearing in the hallway.

Be completely honest with each other

Yes it’s your house too, but when someone tells you it’s not ‘safe’ to come home it’s generally a good idea to listen to them. Because your housemates have sex drives too, you know. And if you don’t listen to them, all emotional scarring is your own damned fault.

Don’t lock yourself in your room

It’s no fun living with a hermit, and you want to build relationships with people you live with. You don’t have to live in each other’s pockets, but it’s bloody lonely in a house where people only emerge for food and hygiene purposes.

Don’t use your housemate’s hairbrush

I found out a few months ago that every single person I live with had decided my hairbrush was communal. Other things that aren’t communal also include my mouthwash, you gross people! Sorry, fresh wounds.

Realise that people will lie through their teeth

One housemate claimed that no dishes, ever, were theirs. Until, of course, we started piecing together clues based on various ingredients that were burnt onto the bottom of pans. If you have to turn into a CSI agent just to get everyone to pull their weight, it’s clearly time for something to change.

Forgive each other

Share house living is stressful, and at the end of the day these guys are your adopted family. Sometimes you’ll shout at each other, sometimes household pets get savagely stepped on (that one’s a long story), sometimes favourite mugs get broken. There’s no point in holding grudges for accidents — if apologies are present, accept them and repair your relationship. If you’re the one who’s screwed up then do something nice.

Living in a share house has been one of my favourite things. There’s nothing like creating your own little functioning team who go through experiences together.

(And maybe you shouldn’t get another rabbit until you move out.)

Jasmin Ashton

Feature photo: Miranda Rush

Originally published at hijacked.com.au.

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