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BeWell's 6 Tips for Housemate Success

Step 1: Find Housemates

·         Think about your decision wisely and then rethink it.  Remember, just because you have been best friends throughout this year, it does not mean they should be housemates.  Your best friend might not be your best roommate, but they can always be your best friend. 

·         Consider the implications of moving in with long-term friends.  Becoming housemates could put a strain on your relationship.  Really put some time into your decision making.

Step 2: Set House Rules

·         Establish a quick set of house rules and hang them up in the house so people don’t forget. 

·         Agree to buy your own personal food.  The last thing you want is your favorite food to be gone when you want or need it the most.

·         If you do want to borrow something, ask first and do your best to replace it right away so it does not become an issue later down the road.

·         Agree to always try and clean up straight after your meals.

·         Try to pick a day once a month to discuss problems or issues so they don’t make it onto an episode of the Jersey Shore.

Step 3: Organize Chores

·         Housework can often be a major bone of contention.  Set certain days for the cleaning and try to stick to a regular schedule.

·         Alternate who cleans each week. Make a schedule that works for your house, e.g., 2 roommates clean one week and the other 2 the next week, or make a chore wheel and everyone has one chore for the week.

·         Make sure everyone is clear on what cleaning tasks need to be done in each room –in case people are not sure, make a checklist

Step 4: Money, Money, Money

·         Bills are often a huge area of strain in most houses so make sure you talk about it right away.

·         Have each roommate be responsible for a different bill.  This way the responsibility does not always fall onto the same person because most companies will only talk to the person whose name is on the bill.

·         Paying bills on time is important for your credit ratings, so figure out how you are going to collect the money due on time. 

·         Talk about how you would like to be paid for the bills in your name.  Some people are OK with e-transfers; others might prefer to be paid with a cheque.

·         Look into having a joint banking account, or a joint money jar for household expenses.  By having everyone put in a certain amount each month to cover household expenses (i.e., toilet paper) you can eliminate any disparities.

·         Have a spot in the house set up for mail, keys, and a white board for displaying important information you need to share (e.g., Bill deadlines)

·         If one housemate makes lots of long distance calls on a landline, bring these issues up and clarify the amounts that need to be adjusted on bills.


Step 5: Relax!

·         Remember to keep your cool.  If you think you might say something you’ll later regret, get away from the house and go to the gym, the movies, for a walk, or do whatever else might help you calm down.  Then come back with a clear head to resolve the issue you have with your housemate.

·         Remember to get some sleep.  If you are sleepy and tired, you are more likely to be grumpy. 

·         Pick your battles and let some things brush off your shoulders.  If you and your housemate conflict on something, it’s okay to just agree to disagree. 

Step 6: Communicate

·         Remember that venting is okay, but don’t do it behind the person’s back.  If you do need to talk to someone else about the problem, consider picking someone who isn’t a part of your house.

·         Consider using the 48 hour rule in your house – after listening to someone vent, remind then that they have 48 hours to either address it or forget it.  After 48 hours check in to see what decision they have made and remind them you can help.  

·         Simple manners like “Please” and “Thank You” go a long way so don’t forget to use them. 

·         Try your best to deal with problems as soon as possible, and to follow the “rules for fighting fair” when you are working through a disagreement.

·         A simple way to express your concerns is to use the sentence: “When you (insert the issue, just the facts!), I feel (insert your feelings), because (insert any other concerns), so next time (insert a resolution).   E.g. When you come home late and are very loud, I feel annoyed and frustrated because I can’t sleep, so next time could please be a bit quieter. Thanks.  

·         If the issue requires a bit more negotiation you should state your issue and concerns, and then ask:  how do you see this issue?  Give the person a chance to response.  Then paraphrase to make sure you understand (“so what I hear you are saying is…”). Then you can ask “what would be a good compromise to satisfy us both?”

·         Sometimes conflict and communication requires outside help.  There are many resources at Queen’ HCDS here to help you!  Call, email or drop in!


Queen's Heath, Counselling and Disabilities Services

Queen's Heath, Counselling and Disabilities Services, Queen's University