Starting out in university is stressful enough, but now you have to share a flat with someone you don’t know? Well, don’t truly know. Everyone knows everyone after a week or two of lectures and student parties. How are you supposed to share your student flat with someone you don’t know? Isn’t it going to be awkward? How do you politely set firm boundaries? And what if they sleepwalk because that’s horror-movie type stuff? It’s not the easiest thing in the world but, and you’ll soon discover this for yourself, you’re all here for the same reason and the fact remains that most of what is in this flat is yours (or, well, your parents’). It makes sense to share your student flat for a variety of reasons. Firstly, student budgets are tight and you’d rather split the responsibilities than spend your entire allowance on flat related things. Secondly, it’s safer to live with someone else than on your own and, thirdly, it’s an easy friend/study-buddy to make. Now, you might not know them very well just yet, but after living together for a few weeks, you’ll get to know them almost too well. As for the awkward early phases, here’s how to share your flat.

Set flat rules

It’s important to have this conversation with anyone who is interesting in being your flatmate. They need to know what they’re agreeing to by living here and you have every right to be picky about the type of stranger you’re allowing to live with you. A few flat rules you might want to set can include:  
  • Notice before having more than one or two guests over. Especially if your flat is small and you both decide to invite people over and it turns into a tin of sardines situation.
  • No walking around the flat half-dressed or leaving intimates and laundry lying around.
  • No entertaining of guests until late at night during the exam period.
  • No eating or drinking on the white lounge furniture your parents bought for the flat.
  • And always use a coaster for glasses on the wooden dining room furniture.
You can set the rules according to the student lifestyle you’re comfortable with living and if you can find a flatmate who respects these rules, you won’t have any reason to find a replacement flatmate after only three days.

Take turns to share responsibilities

This is important. Yes, your flatmate is paying rent but the groceries, electricity, water, WiFi and dinner doesn’t happen on their own. There are more costs to living in a flat than just paying rent and, considering that you aren’t the only person living in the flat and using its features and furniture, those extra costs should be shared. The easiest way to settle it is to include what can be included in the flatmates’ rental rate and take turns to pay for electricity. You can also set up a chore schedule to make sure the dishes get washed, the toilet and shower are cleaned, the dustbin is emptied and the flat is dusted and wiped down. Alternate on a daily and weekly basis and it can be deemed “fair”. But you both need to pull your weight. Unless you’re willing to scrape around for a few extra bucks and hire someone to do all of that for you. Then again, student budget. But things like laundry and cleaning the bedroom (even cooking if you’re still getting to know each other) can be done by and for yourself. Not everything needs to be shared and that certainly goes for personal groceries, which leads us to the next point.  

Label everything

There’s nothing worse than knowing you bought a special food item for your diet and come home one day after class to find that it’s been eaten already. “I didn’t know, I thought it was for the flat.” There are certain things that are obviously shared in a flat, like the lounge furniture, dining furniture, mugs, WiFi and cleaning supplies, for example. But food and groceries should never be assumed as “for sharing” and, therefore, always need to be labelled. Especially if there are more than two people living in the flat, but even with just two, you will find the need to label your yoghurt. Usually, in your list of shared responsibilities, groceries such as eggs, milk, bread and butter are bought and used on a shared basis. You just alternate who buys in bulk every time and it stays fair. Eventually, you will get the hang of who buys what and what’s okay to borrow. But when you’re starting out, write your name on what food belongs to you and anything not labelled is fair game.