Dealing with difficult housemates 101

flatmatesLAST YEAR we published a list of people to look out for when deciding on where to live next year, titled ‘Twenty flatmates you’ll come across at university and what to do about them’. Looking back, we noticed that we discussed simply what to look out for and whether or not to move in with them. If you’ve already taken the plunge and signed the contracts for next years digs, this is what you should do to peacefully live with them. Hopefully, if you got randomly allocated into halls this year, or are planning on moving into halls next year, this will help resolve any disputes before they snowball out of control.

1. The personal chef.
Since they enjoy cooking so much, they’ll be relatively easy to keep happy. In turn, they’ll probably help feed you when you don’t have the time to cook an actual meal. All you really need to make sure of is that the kitchen is decently stocked with the basics, like eggs, pasta, flour, and other cheap ingredients which can last for long periods of time. It helps if you offer to at least help clean up after dinner, but often just the appreciation of their hard work will put you into their good books.

2. The slob.
Have a full flat clean every so often, especially if their mess tends to spread into communal areas. If it seems to be only in their room, offer to give them a hand with clearing up – often they really want to clean, but have no idea where to start. On the other hand, if it’s gotten so bad that your eyes begin to water when you walk past their room, you may need to consider an intervention… or hiring a professional.

3. The neat freak.
Keep your messes to yourself, and in your rooms. I know this can be difficult, especially when you’re stressed and rushing around, but do your best. Usually they’ll let the odd mug or plate slide, but similar to the slob, the occasional full flat clean will do wonders to improve your standing with them.

4. The chauffeur.
Thank them every time they give you a lift somewhere. If you have anything you can offer as compensation, be it petrol money or a meal, offer it. Driving costs will rack up fairly quickly, and as a student the costs have an even bigger effect. Also, don’t ask them to drive you halfway across town at ridiculous hours – they need to sleep too, and often their insurance may put restrictions on when they should drive.

5. The ‘psycho’.
Good luck. Depending on the person, you might be able to read warning signs before they do something truly drastic, but you can’t always trust those signs to be completely accurate. Of course, those warning signs are only useful once you’ve identified the ‘psycho’, so if you haven’t managed to yet, then you may be in for a heap of trouble. Overall, just handle them with care, and hope for the best.

6. The ‘Richie Rich’.
Ask them for the occasional favour, but remember to pay them back when you have the money. If you don’t, they may start to resent you ever so slightly, and will most likely stop lending you money eventually.

7. The ‘Broke Betty’.
Depending on the person, they may pay you back in favours, but test the waters first. They will mean well, but try not to lend them too much too often – you’ll probably end up carrying their debts as well as any of your own, and that’s not going to help you in the future.

8. The alcoholic.
Keep an eye on them, even if it’s just to make sure they aren’t spending this term’s bursary on booze. They may be trying to drink their troubles away, so maybe see if you can get them to open up. If they really seem to have a problem, avoid lending them too much money, but help them with budgeting if need be.

9. The teetotaller.
Sometimes, there won’t be much of a problem at all; you’ll just need to provide extra mixers at house parties so that they have something to drink. If, however, they’re an extremist, and spend every other evening trying to convince you that you shouldn’t even have the occasional social pint, you may need to take a stand and ask them to examine their own life choices.

10. The recluse.
Don’t force them out of their comfort zone. That’s not to say ignore them completely – invite them to join you, and make sure that the ball is in their court. They may just be shy and/or socially awkward, and need a bit of a nudge to open up to others.

11. The night owl.
Adjust to hearing their music at all hours of the night. It may be that they’re struggling to sleep, or have coursework due in the morning that they’re pulling an all-nighter to finish, so don’t give them grief about it unless it starts to really affect your own sleep patterns.

12. The couple.
Don’t get involved in any of their spats. Don’t pick sides between them. If they’re having a fight in the middle of a communal area, just turn around and wait it out. And if they get a little heavy-handed with the PDA, spray a little water on them to separate them. And heaven help you if there’s a bad break up in the middle of the year. A rue of thumb: if you can avoid it, don’t move in with a couple.

13. The FIFA boy(s).
Funnily enough, in private digs, they’d be your best bet for paying for internet and electricity, since they really don’t want either to cut off while they’re playing. If they get too loud tell them, but if they don’t listen don’t be afraid to go over their heads – your sleep is far more important than their game.

14. The deep house enthusiast.
Again, as long as they aren’t disturbing your sleep, you shouldn’t have too many problems, taste in “music” notwithstanding. If they have the bass thrumming throughout the house at all hours of the night, however, you may need to have a few brisk words with them about when it is and isn’t okay to blare their music.

15. The North/South extremists.
Like with the couple, it’s best to just not get involved. Ignoring them will work to a point, but if arguments progress too far, it may be best to physically separate them until they learn to live with each other like civilised people.

16. The ‘Pass-Ag’ (passive aggressive).
Confront them face-to-face. If they want to spend time being annoyed at everyone, but not actually do anything productive about it, then have a house meeting to discuss any and all grievances in the house, and to find solutions which work for everyone without trying to guilt anyone into a corner.

17. The thief.
You won’t always catch them, but if you do be sure to confront them. They may not necessarily be stealing food, even just nabbing things like a little bit of fabric softener here and there, or the change you left on the counter earlier, but all adds up.

18. The home body.
It’s probable that they simply feel homesick while they’re at uni. Try and invite them out every once in a while to get them involved with you and the rest of the flat. If they still nip off home every other weekend, see if there’s anything you can do to help them feel a little bit more at home in Aber.

19. The stoner.
Set up a general rule of ‘not in the house’. They can smoke outside, but not in the building itself. This’ll give you some form of ignorance to plead if they get caught out by the landlord/agency, and prevent any resentment from building up too greatly.

20. The workaholic.
Remind them that uni isn’t just about your grades – it’s also a chance to make friends and have fun. Call it networking for the future, if you think that’ll help. You could also sit with them and let them use you as a sounding board if need be, because if they can understand what they’re doing, odds are they might be able to help you with what you’re meant to be doing for your course.