Holly Williams | Contributing | Sunday, 12 July 2015

How To Deal With Your Noisy Housemates

How To Deal When Your Housemates Stop You Sleeping

The Debrief: If every night is punctuated by your flatmates' loud shagging, late-night Skype sessions and impromptu house parties, it might be time to take action

It’s 11pm. It’s been a long day and you’re just drifting off to sleep, when a repetitive thudding starts coming through the ceiling. Your Horny Housemate is at it again. The grunts kick in, soon followed by a descant of high-pitched yelps. 

Midnight. Through the wall comes the sound of a Skype call connecting. Long-Distance Relationship Housemate yells ‘Hi babe. Can you hear me? HELLO! Can. You. Hear. Me. NOW?’ You wish them well, but you also sometimes wish she’d just move to bloody New Zealand. 

3am. There’s a booming from below, as Sociable Housemate bangs on the new Major Lazer record while rinsing the cupboards for stray booze, while 28 or so of their closest friends shriek as they do shot after shot of ancient ouzo. 

6am. Whirr goes the juicer! Bang go the cupboard doors! Morning-Person Housemate is up, and seizing the day. You’re impressed they’re energetic enough to do an eight-minute high-intensity workout – you just wish it wasn't happening one flimsy wall away from your head. 

OK, in real life you’re unlikely to find yourself in quite such a layer cake of housemate hell, but we’ve all struggled with noisy roomies at some point. And there’s nothing like tip-toeing round awkwardly after a housemate’s mega-bonk session or being kept up before a really important work day by a dance-party downstairs to make you feel irritable in your own home. 

But you live with these people, so no matter how many nights are disrupted when they stumble home and can’t find their keys, the lightswitch or – groan – the bathroom, you all still need to play nicely together. 

That doesn’t mean being more wet than the communal bathmat, however. We asked some experts for advice on how to broach the volume question without, well, raising your voice. 

Why bringing it up is better than suffering in, er, silence 

Dr Rachael Scicluna, from Manchester University’s Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life, recommends telling it like it is. ‘Be direct when things are not exactly working out.’

From their research into shared housing, she says that when it comes to noise issues, housemates are often ‘very co-operative’ about sorting it out. As Scicluna points out, it’s often the layout of the house that’s partly to blame, and ‘thin walls and creaky floorboards’ can’t be helped – but their research finds that happy housemates have actually been ‘quite direct by asking the person involved to be more attentive to noise – and the same goes for loud music.’

If you don’t tell, they may not even know they’re driving you slowly insane.

What if it’s late at night – should you interrupt then, or wait until morning?

‘Probably best to deal with it then and there, because otherwise you’ve got the rage of a sleepless night on top of how much you hate them and their noise,’ says Francesca Leung, whose The House Rules Book is out in September. Can’t face the confrontation? There’s this amazing invention called headphones, she points out… 

Should you speak in private, or make it a communal issue with a house meeting? 

One-on-one is best. ‘Try and sort one problem at a time, just the two of you, and it’s likely to go a lot more smoothly,’ says Leung. ‘House meetings remind me of the show Survivor. It will feel like you’re trying to gang up on someone, and kick them off an island.

‘Inevitably a whole bunch of other issues come up, apart from the problem you wanted to discuss, and it gets out of control.’

What if you’re a massive wimp – is leaving a note OK? 

It’s a common strategy – Dr Scicluna says that in private houseshares, they see ‘a lot of conflict avoidance going on and passive-aggressive strategies such as leaving notes.’ Does that make it OK? Sadly not.

‘No-one wants a note to tell them to do stuff – man up and talk face-to-face at least!’ insists Leung.

And even if you’re the kinda gal who likes order, structure and getting designated ‘quiet times’ down in writing: desist.

‘House agreements’ and ‘contracts’ are a no-no, says Leung. ‘That starts to sound a bit Fifty Shades of Grey…’

But how on earth do you talk about the problem if the noise is… sex?

It’s a tough one. Dr Scicluna’s research is finding that, while we’re happy to ask for quiet in other areas, sex ‘is the issue people [are] less vocal about.’

It may be a case of lumping it: it’s awks to discuss, unforgiveable to put down in writing and you’re never going to stop people from doing it anyway. Recognising this, Leung has some not-entirely-serious tips for dealing with things that go grunt in the night.

‘Either get some earplugs, or see if you can talk them into staying at the other person’s place and bother their housemates instead.’

What if the housemate gets angry when you confront them? 

‘Differences in personality are more difficult to deal with’ than straightforward mistakes or squeaky floorboards, acknowledges Dr Scicluna. ‘Personality issues tend to cause a lot of tension within the household and often to the breakdown of communication.’

And then you’re really screwed. So try to keep the conversation calm and neutral, about finding positive solutions rather than descending into personal attacks.

‘People get defensive if you’re critical of the way they do things, because it sounds like you’re criticising them personally,’ says Leung.

Don’t vent while in a full steaming-ear rage, and always talk about the noise, not the person.

And finally... be aware that you might be the problem

‘There are undoubtedly a lot of things you do that annoy [your housemate] as well, so it’s always worth bearing in mind you’re not perfect either before unleashing a tirade,’ adds Leung. ‘Even if it’s completely justified.’

And if you’re reading this in a blissful state of smugness that there are no noise issues in your flatshare? Sorry – it’s probably you. I suspect if any of my former-housies are reading this, they’ll be rolling their eyes. I’ve often been the late-home, dance-party initiating, noisy-sex-having, pain-in-the-arse.

Guys: I’m really, really sorry.  


Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Apps To Make Living In Your Shared House Bearable

Living With All Girls Versus Living With All Boys

How To Soundproof Your Room In A Shared Flat

Follow Holly on Twitter @Holly_bops

The House Rules Book by Francesca Leung is published by Spruce; octopusbooks.co.uk

Tags: Housemates Head To Head