Credit to Author: Geneviève Beaupré and Susan Qadeer| Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2021 21:03:49 +0000
The joys of living with people can be endless. There is companionship, shared expenses, help with cleaning, maybe new friends and more. The pains can also be endless. There is the possibility of unpaid rent, coping with different lifestyles, broken rules, no privacy, unwanted houseguests, etc. While many students claim to have had the housemates from hell, others have found long lasting friendships or at least someone tolerable who will share the rent. Here are some ideas for making the experience workable.
Even with the best housemates, there is a need for clear communication to avoid upsets and misunderstandings. It is usually better to set up some guidelines at the start. This may include what will and will not be shared and expectations of each other. If your housemate is away for the weekend, is your visiting friend welcome to use their room? Who buys the toilet paper? Who cleans and how often? Can you ask for quiet when you are studying and they are entertaining? If you have lived with brothers or sisters, you may have appealed to a parent for correcting behaviour. Now you have to rely on good will and the guidelines you agreed to when you made them, so it is better not to skip them.
Adjust your expectations
Consider if there are some things that you might adjust to make the situation. Can you ignore what bothers you? Should you try harder to tolerate differences? Would a full airing of your concerns be productive? If they leave their dishes unwashed overnight but do them in the morning, can you accept that? If they talk too loudly on the phone, can you use earplugs? If they have to be reminded not to borrow your things without asking, can you think of a good way to solve that without having a full out war?
Living with someone can be an opportunity in practicing your skills of negotiation, persuasion and creative problem solving. It can also help develop your appreciation and tolerance for people with lifestyles that are different from yours. Learning to live with someone is an opportunity for reflection on what matters to you and expanding your people skills.
Review the arrangement: Does it needs to end?
You don’t want to be preoccupied with your housing arrangements when you are a student. It can be not only bothersome but time consuming. Small problems can be overlooked or tolerated so you can get on with your studies. When problems are not small, when they impact your physical or mental well being, when your grades suffer, or you feel concerned for your safety, you will need to take some action. Renegotiating the agreements, offering or accepting apologies, clearing the air, explaining your concerns can all be tried. But if nothing changes and serious problems persist, it may be best to end this shared arrangement.
Sometimes it is not possible to leave because of a lease, bad timing with exams, lack of funds or other issues. You may need to look for other places to study such as the library, a café or a friend’s house and just use the shared housing for sleeping and quick cooking. Minimizing your time at home doesn’t entirely solve the housemate problem but it may be the best option when other solutions don’t work. Having problems with housemates can be very stressful and negatively impact your mental health and academic performance. These issues can be talked over with a counsellor at your school. They may also be aware of other options open to you through your school and the community, particularly if there are safety concerns. One consolation is that housemate problems are time limited. You just won’t sign another lease with someone who gives you trouble.
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