6 practical tips for living together in a flat share
Shared flats are great! They are like a cross between living at home with your parents and living all by yourself. There’s someone there to chat, cook and if you don’t know how to make a bechamel sauce for the lasagna, maybe a flatmate can help.
I have already lived in several flat shares with very different people and of course very different characters all come together. This is where the early riser lives with the night owl, the obsessive clear with the queen of chaos or the fan of loud heavy metal music with the lover of classical music. With so much diversity, it is clear that sooner or later problems can arise, especially in the “shared zones”. X doesn’t wash the dirty dishes for days, Y’s hair clogs the drain and Z never buys the groceries shared in the flat.
In order to avoid too many clashes in the extremes, it is advisable to think about who you are moving in with in advance and to be honest with each other.
Your dear school friend may be the greatest person, but if she has a completely different idea of living together and doesn’t take things as seriously as you do, arguments can arise that can ultimately threaten your friendship. So that it doesn’t come to that, here are a few tips on how to organize living together.
Some find it unnecessary, but more often than not, one of the flatmates suffers when they feel like they’re always cleaning by themselves because their sense of order is greater than that of the others.
In my shared apartment, we have divided common areas and take turns cleaning them, with chores changing each week. In addition, we do a big clean together at regular intervals, such as cleaning the windows, clearing out the fridge…
Everyone is responsible for the order and cleanliness of their own room.
Shared laundry such as tea towels, cleaning scraps or towels, but also bed linen, we collect in a basket in the bathroom (note: never throw wet textiles in!), and wash them when the basket is full. This is better for the environment and also for the budget!
It is most practical if the refrigerator has at least as many compartments as there are flatmates, so that everyone has their own compartment. This way, there is no food that cannot be assigned and then slowly goes moldy because nobody can remember buying it. Everyone is responsible for keeping their compartment clean.
On the subject of mold: If something walks towards you out of the fridge because it is so moldy, all flatmates are allowed to remove it! Nobody can be expected to live with something like that.
As a rule, you don’t help yourself to things from your flatmates without asking them first! If you take or use something from someone else, you buy it as quickly as possible without having to be reminded.
If you know you’ll be gone longer and still have groceries left, you can ask your flatmates if they want them. Closed food that would expire while you are away can also be divided fairly as a way to avoid food waste.
In every shared apartment there are costs for things that all flatmates use, such as cleaning supplies, toilet paper or basic groceries. These costs should be shared fairly between the flatmates and there are several options for this. For example, everyone keeps the receipts and then bills are settled at regular intervals and differences are balanced out.
My shared apartment uses the practical (and free) app flatastic for this, on which you can write a shopping list that everyone can then see, but you can also enter what you have bought. You can choose whether you bought it for all flatmates or just some of them and the app automatically calculates who gets how much money.
It is not necessary, in fact very impractical, for each flatmate to have their own packet of salt. It’s the same with other foods or cleaning products that everyone uses. In my flat share it has proven useful that we buy and use basic foodstuffs, spices and cleaning materials together. On the one hand, this saves space, but it also helps to avoid waste and reduce costs.
We also share washing and cleaning agents and toilet paper.
When shopping, it is important to ensure that the same person does not have to buy everything and that individual preferences and possibilities individual are discussed. If one flatmate prefers to buy everything organic, while the other looks after every cent and is not willing to pay more, you should agree on a compromise.
The great thing about a flat share is that you quickly get to know the friends of the other flatmates and they often become friends of your own. Social evenings together are an enrichment for everyone, but it becomes difficult when one flatmate constantly has guests and this becomes uncomfortable for the others.
This applies in particular to overnight guests. While one flatmate may be happy to rent out their room to Couchsurfers, the other may find it annoying to have strangers in the apartment all the time. Even if the flatmate’s girlfriend has practically already moved in, the boyfriend should discuss this with the flatmates of his own accord.
After all, in a 3-person shared flat if everyone has a guest there are suddenly six people using a shower instead of three. Besides the increased running costs, this also becomes a logistical challenge when everyone has to leave the house in the morning.
Arranging things here and, for example, specifying visiting days or non-visiting days helps to avoid trouble, whereby mutual tolerance is particularly important.
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Talk to each other if you have problems
If you’re angry with your flatmate because their dirty dishes are lying around again, or if they’re listening to loud music when you have to study, it won’t help to swallow your anger because it won’t improve the situation.
It’s better to talk to your flatmate about it.
But: Set the right tone! Accusations and generalizations should be avoided, they tend to create a reaction of defiance or poison the atmosphere in the home. “You never put away your dishes!” will only trigger anger in the flatmate. It would be much better to say: “Please wash your dishes soon, guests are coming later/I would like to cook now.” You can also try it in a humorous way, for example: “Will you wait until the plates do the washing-up by themselves? I think the blue plate will arrive first.”
There are many different facets to sharing an apartment, many pleasant ones and a few annoying ones. Ultimately, you also learn a lot about yourself. You get to know your weaknesses and strengths better, you can learn from others and make friends for life. I definitely don’t want to miss my time in the flat share.