How to deal with difficult housemates
In the second of our entries in an Irish Independent student journalist competition, in association with Campus.ie, SOPHIE McDERMOTT tackles the bane of house-sharing.
When we first set off for college away from home, we’re excited about being out of the house and living in our own environment for the first time.
Away from those nosey parents, and being told what to do. Initially, it’s easy to forget that it won’t be solely our environment, but shared with four to seven others too.
When we first meet new housemates, it's not easy to quickly figure out if these people will be your new BFFs, or just some people that you will regularly want to kick in the face, repeatedly. It’s all smiles and excitement for the first meeting, with lots of gushing about their lives at home and their chosen courses.
However, after the first few weeks, every habit becomes noticeable. It could be that one housemate who leaves tea bags on the sink, the Romeo who brings a new girl home every night, or the odd, quiet girl who never leaves her room. After the first few months, every habit becomes head-wrecking and a slappable offence.
But no-one is habit-free. You could also be a repeat habit offender. You could also be…the difficult housemate.
No two people are alike, and when put into college housing at random with strangers, there’s a chance that you will have next to nothing in common with your new housemates. As the college years progress, tensions can get pretty strained in the house, and at least one person is prone to blow.
So how do you deal with a difficult housemate?
Sit down and discuss your problems with them; not the other housemates, but the specific one you have a problem with. People tend to think that leaving notes may be the best alternative to actually talking, but this may just worsen the situation, or make it easier to ignore.
For example, a housemate that plays music too loud will only understand if you say ‘hey buddy, can you just turn down the volume a little bit?’ Chances are, the music will be lowered significantly and any angry confrontation will be spared.
If you’re the difficult housemate, then cop on to it. Don’t try and avoid it and blame it on the others. If it’s your music that’s too loud, or your dishes stashed in the sink everyday, then admit it. Apologise and accept the fact that you live with other people. It's important to take their feelings and perspectives into consideration.
One of the most volatile situations between housemates comes from house parties. We’re all guilty of throwing them before the nightclub (or after), with no real warning to the other residents of the house. This can cause serious tensions, as housemates try to sleep, and eventually wake up to a bunch of randomers crashed out on the couch with beer bottles scattered everywhere.
In this situation, you are most definitely the difficult housemate. So what can you do? Promise wholeheartedly it will never happen again and convince someone else to host the next party. Living with housemates doesn’t have to be a ‘tear your hair out’ affair. Keep communication lines open and reach compromises as best you can.
Housemates don’t have to be your best friends, but they can be pretty good companions when you’re hungover. Maybe your once-unfamiliar housemates will become the people you take with you beyond your college years.
* Sophie McDermott is a journalism student at the University of Limerick
* If you’re a student who can write concise, topical stories and is deeply engaged in student life, join the Contributors’ Competition and your stories could be published on Ireland’s most popular news website, Independent.ie, this semester.
See www.campus.ie for more details.