In my first year, I lived in my university’s halls. By chance, I was allocated in a flat with 5 guys – one of whom was a foreign student, we didn’t see much of him, so he didn’t really count. Having grown up with only sisters, I didn’t realise quite how messy boys could be.
At least living with guys had an advantage…
When there was an issue, we could air it to each other, blow off the steam and move on. Although, ultimately, I was looking forward to the prospect of living with my female friends in the second year, when I moved into shared accommodation with the people I got to choose. However, as I head into my third year, here are a few things I’ve learnt about the realities of shared accommodation…
The myth that boys are messier.
I grew up hearing horror stories from my friends about their brother’s sub-standard living conditions, and I certainly experienced it first-hand living in halls. That said, I was unprepared for the harsh truth that women are capable of creating and living in the kind of mess any boy would be proud to call their own.
Ok, I appreciate that I am something of a neat-freak. Massive disclaimer: I don’t expect everyone to live to my standards, though that said there is nothing more disheartening than coming home from a day of lectures to find your shared accommodation’s kitchen, which you had cleaned just that morning, to be in a (somehow) worse state than before you attacked it armed with rubber gloves and disinfectant.
I was always grateful I never had to see the flatmates’ en-suites in first year. However, shared accommodation means a shared bathroom. And if I thought the kitchen could be bad, there’s nothing that can prepare me for the bathroom. I somehow feel dirtier whilst I’m in the shower than before I have one.
Learning to compromise.
This is a massive learning curve anyone will experience when living in shared accommodation, whether at uni, in a house share or when travelling. Compromise is key to a happy household (cringey but true) and in my experience, you’re only going to get as much as you give.
I’m the sort of person who can only watch a horror film in the dead of night, with the volume up loud so the jump scares really do their worst (I’m probably a sadist, I know). However, my horror film-induced screaming doesn’t go down well when your flatmates have a 9am lecture. The same goes for any screaming, including those coming from the bedroom. In regards to that kind of disturbance, consider alternating your date nights so that you spend as many time at their’s as they spend at your’s – the walls in student flats are never famously thick.
Making time for your housemates.
When I moved in with the girls in second year, it was a natural choice for me to move in with the girls I became really close friends within first year. As a five, we were really close, yet it took me longer than I expected to realise we weren’t spending much time together at all. Living with someone, you assume you’re spending time with them just because you eat your breakfast in the morning, or pass each other in the afternoon as you make your 4pm cup of tea. It took me half a year to realise I wasn’t actually spending quality time with these girls, and our friendship was suffering because of it. In turn, discussing touchy shared accommodation issues was more high-strung because at times, it would be the only communication we really got.
After this realisation, I made a point of spending quality time with my housemates, so that we went back to being friends who live together rather than housemates who resent each others’ questionable cleanliness standards. Whether this is a weekly film night worked around each others’ timetables, or a fortnightly pub quiz together, the whole shared accommodation will be thankful for it.