How to be a great housemate

Private Property South Africa
Veronica Logan

Sharing your space with other humans is not for sissies, especially if you don’t necessarily know the people you are moving in with! But what does being a great housemate mean and what behaviours promote a peaceful co-existence on a practical, day-to-day level?

Living with people that aren’t family can be tough, especially if it’s your first time living in a rental property with a housemate or two! While finding a great housemate can often prove challenging, little is often said on how to actually be a great housemate once you’ve moved in. Adjusting to a way of life that takes into account other people, their thoughts and actions doesn’t have to be a challenge if you’re willing to extend the same behaviours you expect. With this in mind, we’ve identified a few key tips on becoming a great housemate yourself:

Be upfront

More often than not, we tend to assume that people know what we want without us telling them or having them ask. That said, don’t assume that your new housemates know your habits, patterns or routines. It’s your responsibility to be upfront and clearly define what does or doesn’t work for you as well as what you need from a living arrangement in order to avoid any miscommunications or confusion later on. If you can, make a plan to meet up with your housemates either before or just after you’ve moved in to chat through what each of you needs and wants from the communal living arrangement.

Be committed

Once you’ve identified what each of you need or want, suggest laying everything out in writing either in the form of house or ground rules or if you prefer, a formal document. Be sure to also document any boundaries you might have so that everyone is on the same page and aren’t too confused if conflict arises down the line. Take into consideration things like which items are to be deemed communal and which items are off-limits (especially food!) together with what you need from a space in order to feel safe, considered and appreciated. Once everyone is clear on what is needed or expected from each housemate as well as what has been agreed to, be sure to keep a copy somewhere close by and easily accessible, like on the fridge.

Similarly, being a good housemate is about sharing responsibilities, including chores and bills so make time to sit together, plan and commit to who is responsible for what and how certain roles can be designated. For example, if you love to cook offer to make dinner if your housemates do the washing up. Also take the time to outline a list of chores as well as a cleaning schedule you’re happy to commit to in order to ensure that you are doing your fair share. Don’t forget to add this next to the house rules on the fridge for ease of reference!

Be respectful and willing to compromise

Harmoniously sharing a space with other people requires the ability to compromise and co-operate wherever possible so remember to take heed of this more often than not. While your needs are important, so are those of your housemates so being able to meet people halfway at times in order to avoid unnecessary conflict is an important trait to carry as a responsible and pleasant housemate.

Respect for your housemates, including respecting the communal areas, is also crucial in promoting a sense of peace and harmony within the house. For example, be sure to be aware of your noise levels when it’s late or you know your housemates are working, treat communal areas as you would if they were your own and always respect each other’s privacy by knocking or not infringing on their personal space. Where possible, consider how your actions will affect the rest of the household - a simple text message informing your housemates that you’ve invited company for dinner shows that you are considering them in your decisions.

Be prepared to resolve conflicts asap

As with most conflict situations, dealing with them quickly and efficiently allows “the little things” to diffuse without them building up and boiling over into a massive issue later on. Resolve any conflicts then and there if you are able to and preferably face-to-face. Remember clear communication is key so be sure to respectfully communicate with your housemate when you have an issue and be sure to communicate to the relevant party (and not behind their back!). Try to avoid blaming your housemates for something that you are having an issue with and rather opt to find a solution together, even if it means compromising along the way.

The traits of a great housemate are part and parcel of being a decent and pleasant person to be around, which is exactly what people are after when entering into a communal living arrangement! At the end of the day, focusing on how to be a decent housemate before expecting others to be one is the first step to harmonious communal living, so do well to remember that being a great housemate really does start at home!

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