All of us grow up sharing bathrooms and kitchens. Granted, it’s with our families, but it’s still sharing.
So why does the thought of sharing with a bunch of other students freak some of us out? Well, it’s probably partly because they are strangers, and partly because we might not know all the rules about sharing these rooms with non-family members. So, let’s have a look at what to expect – the good and the bad.
The bathroom is probably the most intimate room you’ll have to share. It’s where you need absolute privacy, and it can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to student accommodation.
The plus side is that everyone is in the same boat, and that tends to lead to a general respect for each other’s privacy and products. But that’s not to say it’s always plain sailing, and you’ll need to come up with some ground rules if you don’t want things to escalate.
How long is too long? Five minutes? Ten? An hour? If you’re living in a one-bathroom student house or halls, one minute is too long if you’re the one waiting.
Between 07:00 and 08:00 on weekdays is the notorious timeslot for shower-hogging, along with Friday and Saturday evenings. To avoid stress, schedule your showers outside these times, and you should be fine. Otherwise, expect a knock on the door.
It’s good manners to clean up after yourself in the bathroom. That means after shaving, washing, brushing your teeth, and most of all, visiting the toilet.
It only takes a minute – so just do it. The problem comes when somebody doesn’t. No one wants to clean up someone else’s mess, so, what happens is you end up not cleaning up after yourself either. You can see where that ends.
A humorous sign on the back of the door reminds housemates about cleaning up, but with some groups, it’s definitely a problem. If you house-share with a genetics student, expect DNA tests. To save a lot of hassle, perhaps you could all agree on a cleaning schedule?
Moving out reveals the truth that toilet roll doesn’t magically appear in the bathroom. Someone has the backbreaking task of lugging a 24-pack from the supermarket for your convenience.
Now that you’re buying it yourself, you won’t take it for granted, and you’ll find yourself facing a couple of options:
This needs to be sorted out on day one. It’s of course much easier if everyone chips in and you share it, but remember — someone has to go out and get it, so you’ll probably need a rota.
If you have a combi boiler, you’ll be fine, but if you have a boiler with a hot water cylinder, you have to be extra careful about using too much, as it will run out. That means baths are probably out of the question, even if you’re desperate to try out that bath bomb you got for your birthday.
The kitchen opens up another can of worms (not literally, of course, although that does depend on your housemates). You need to decide how far are you going to share equipment, cooking time, and food?
Do you cook for yourself and slope off to your room? Or is your house more like Friends, with people who don’t even live there eating at the table? You’re about to find out.
When you get to know your housemates better, you could end up sharing cooking responsibilities. It’s a good way of socialising and saving energy, so it’s worth at least suggesting. And you can finally show off your signature lasagne.
From indispensable culinary gadgets and cookware to your knife, fork, and spoon, lines have to be drawn around what’s yours and what’s shared.
You might all club together to get a drawer full of eating irons and some pans, but then you have to be sure you wash up after yourself straightaway. That’s because, unfortunately, most people sharing a house cook just enough for themselves, even though it’d be more efficient to boil the kettle for two Pot Noodles.
One compromise could be to ask each person to bring a few essentials, so you know you’ve got everything but not too much. Kitchen gadgets are notorious for clogging up drawers without ever actually being used.
Landlords will usually generously provide a fridge, which will probably become the battleground of the household unless direct action is taken.
It is vital that rules about how much fridge space everyone is entitled to are ironed out very early on – perhaps even before the toilet roll – because this is the key to harmony.
You can do your bit by making sure you don’t buy too much on your weekly shop, or trading some freezer space for some room in the fridge. Encroachment is a serious kitchen faux pas. The same rules apply to freezers, cupboards, etc.
Hunting down clean crockery in shared accommodation is a highly developed skill, and at some point, you’ll find yourself giving up and eating pizza out of a cup or drinking soup straight out of the blender. It’s either because no one has washed up, or because the crockery is spread all over the house, under beds, and down the back of couches.
It’s not unusual for paper plates to become the norm, but try and avoid it – at least look after your own things. You can help by at least washing your cutlery after using it. It only takes a second, and your future self will thank you for it.
Most shared houses get along pretty well, and lots of students get a buzz from group living. By year two, you’ll probably have made some good friends who you can share a house with, but at the start, it’s a bit of a lottery. Just be a team player, hold your own, and maybe place a military-grade padlock on your kitchen cupboard.