Alexandra Hayward | Contributing Writer | Sunday, 15 March 2015

How To Get Shit Done When You Live In A Shared House

How To Get Shit Done When You Live In A Shared House

The Debrief: The definitive, nitty-gritty guide to cohabiting like an adult

You're so over the fetid eight-bed student terrace of yesteryear, now living with two or three other  'professionals' in what you envisaged as a picturesque, harmonious adult home share... only to find all the same problems remain.  

It's tedious but so familiar when you meet a friend for dinner and they start off on a ten minute tirade against their house bins system. You sit there, sympathy waining as you realise you can't get a word in until they've finished venting, let alone order your food. The worst thing is that we recognise this rant only too well, guilty of a) being this disgruntled, whining mess just last week, and worse still b) not taking the bins out very often.

What's the difference between respectful, organised co-housekeeping tactics and socially-aggravating militancy? Let us help you passively but non-aggressively retain domestic bliss in your pokey, overpriced rental.

ISSUE: Disposing of empty loo rolls

Keeping the bathroom stocked with bog roll is a whole other story. Small case in point: when the roll is running low and I'm waiting to see, once again, if I'm going to have to be the one to fork out for the gross perfumed stuff in the local newsagent as a matter of urgency. My teacher flatmate will bring home weird massive industrial rolls of the cheapest, roughest paper your butthole has ever felt - leaving me wondering why his school is skimping so drastically on quality, and how exactly he extracted it from the Fort Knox-like locked cubicle loo roll holder in the first place.

What REALLY makes me a mixture of puzzled and exasperated is the others' inability to dispose of empty cardboard loo rolls. There's a bin about two feet from the loo. There's a recycling box just out in the hallway. Sometimes I feel without me and my bathroom litter-picking skills, the tiles would be invisible through a sea of  cardboard and whatever else the others deemed unworthy of their transferring-to-the-bin time. I wonder sometimes if they will stop flushing the toilet and wait for me to do this after them, too.

SOLUTION: it being toilet-centred, comedy is the only way. Create a Turner Prize-worthy sculpture of the discarded tubes, placing it pointedly on the closed toilet seat. Alternatively, install one of the industrial loo roll boxes on your wall and wait for your mate Houdini to keep it stocked up.

ISSUE: The fridge diaries

You've just done a big shop to follow those incredible GLUTEN-FREE ROSIE recipes, get healthy and save some cash. As ever, it's always you having to be the one to clear black bananas or the month old leftover pasta that now sports a green fur. Whilst your groceries wilt and melt on the floor, you set to clearing the long-expired garbage of others and defrosting the freezer than features a three-foot block of ice housing what looks like an exploded Prosecco.

SOLUTION: When something has been left to rot and cleared by only you, let the object in question begin to generate a mould that could be penicillin. When your flatmates get sick, kindly offer them the free antibiotics your refrigerator has been stocking. Alternatively, eat everyone else's food before it has a chance to go off, and act none the wiser. A friend of mine gets particularly annoyed when her milk is drunk and not replaced, so only buys full-fat blue milk to scare the others off (she then waters it down with… water. I mean obviously this just makes her really petty and tight but it’s kind of genius at the same time.)

ISSUE: Living room like a Chinese laundry

Most people seem to get equally furious when the shared washing machine is full of someone's wet shit for over a day, forcing them to graciously hang out that someone's stuff instead of leaving it a damp heap on the kitchen floor.

Right, so I may be on the more anal side of houseproud, but I really, really hate laundry being hung in the communal living space. What's the point in splashing out on a decent coffee table and hand-poured candles when the table is scooted aside and the candles knocked to the floor to make way for a gargantuan clothes horse of fraying boxers? This resentment also goes for the socks and pants being hung all the way up the stair banister. It looks fucking awful, and whilst in a student house it didn't matter, I'm paying about 75x more rent now.

SOLUTION: If washing is left in the machine, for God's sake hang out their stuff like a decent human. Don't be a petty dick and subject their garments to mildew. But use this action it to make your point on the clothes-on-display issue. Carefully curate an exhibition of their belongings around their bedroom: make full use of the curtain rail, picture frames, lampshades, bedknobs, broomsticks... Create a real Aladdin's cave. When they come home, you can smile sweetly as they enter the clutter-free living room, telling them 'I needed the washing machine, but don't worry; I've hung your washing out for you.'

ISSUE: Antisocial racket

You've survived a stressful Monday back at work, and you're relishing your slumber when your flatmate, who works in a bar and is ignorant to the paper-thin walls of your crap flat, crashes in at 3am, slamming every door that stands in the way of the loud, waterfall-esque pee they've needed all the way home, their late dinner/snack, and their hunt for their laptop charger and a million other items, apparently.

SOLUTION: This is one of the instances where you're just going to have to talk about it. Weekends are sort of always going to be a noisy free-for-all. But working patterns need to sit comfortably next to one another. In the same way you sit bolt upright, raging like The Earl of Lemongrab (image below article headline?) when they wake you like this, they probably don't care for you pottering about at 7.30am on Tuesday morning when they've pulled a late shift. The same goes for loud sex in shared houses. Depending on your boldness, you could try out-moaning the happy couple with your own lover/alone - or just go for the classic Marnie-from-Girls repeated door slam; though this may counteract the productivity of the civilised noise control chat you've just initiated.

ISSUE: You have too much fun at home to get any of your work done

Alongside working long and arduous hours in an office you kind of resent to pay to live in this house, you have a number of pipe dreams you’d like to take out of the pipe and bring to life. But for all their flaws, gross habits and rowdy sex, your housemates are also your best friends and you adore living with them. They make you piss laughing when you’re both happy and sad, and there’s no one else you’d rather stay up chatting with over tea/whisky/a mixture of both talking about your latest brainwaves/existential crises. Just how you get to realise these brainwaves however is a different matter, when the ultimate distraction is your wonderful live-in best friend and your joint penchant to fritter away the hours on Spotify/YouTube/Netflix.

SOLUTION: Get rid of your WiFi. This is seriously something everyone struggling to be productive in a shared home should do, and I can vouch for this to the absolute fucking hilt. Without this luxury, you are unable to stream anything, communicate much better with those around you, and will soon discover how quickly Tinder eats into your 3G limit. Suddenly it’s face-to-face chats without an iPad/iPhone to distract, early nights, books and an archaic freedom that will make you more patient, a better listener, on the path to being the bestselling writer you know you’re destined to be and – most importantly – a good housemate until that day you can be a real grownup and live alone.

Like this? You might also be interested in...

How To Move Out Of A Shared House Without It Feeling Like A Breakup

I Felt Like A Maid: A Cautionary Tale Of Doing Your Flatmate's Washing Up

What's Worse: Nightmare Neighbours Or Horrible Flatmates?

Follow Alex On Twitter @AlxHywrd 

Tags: Housemates Head To Head