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Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Housemate Agreement

Unless you are a very lucky student who is not sharing living space, most likely you have to put up with other people where you live.  One great way to make the process less painful for everyone is to come up with a good Housemate Agreement – this way, everyone is on the same page and agrees to the same ‘rules’.

Cleaning: obviously (or not – you may want to point this out!), each person should clean their own room and clean after themselves in the kitchen and bathroom after they use it.  However, there is lots of clean up to be done in common rooms, such as the entry way, the hall, the kitchen (just cleaning after cooking and eating is not enough), the bathroom, etc.  Make a list of what should be done weekly (including shoveling the snow and mowing the lawn if you are responsible for some outside areas) and divide it up.  A tip: if everyone chooses to be in charge of cleaning the room/are they are the most ‘picky’ about, the cleaning will be done very well.  For example, I’m picky about bathroom cleanliness; I don’t like touching the toilet seat if there are any hair around or on it.  I don’t like the soap muck around the sink.  Therefore, in a shared house, I’d be happier cleaning the bathroom, not for the act of cleaning it, but because I trust myself to do a job I can be happy with.  Make sure people are accountable for their cleaning: once a week should be a minimum (since many people are sharing these spaces) so a check list is not a bad idea – put a check mark after your chore when you are done.

Bills: it’s not a good idea for one person to have his/her name on all the bills and for others to give that person money each month to pay the bills.  Why? Because every time someone is short of money, the same person suffers.  Have each person handle one bill and have one person calculate who owes what to whom every month.  Or even better, find a place that charges rent inclusive of everything1

Noise: if you know the people who are sharing a house/apartment well, you probably know how much noise these people make.  Sometimes though, we know people a bit and have to make a quick decision about sharing a home.  Have an honest discussion about noise: would it be all right if everyone tried to be quiet (in case someone is trying to study or sleep) after 11pm and before 8am?

Food: decide together if you want to share some food (such as salt, pepper, flour for baking) or if should all foods should be individual.  It can be a little silly to have 6 salt shakers in the house; however, it can be frustrating to want an omelet and find no eggs left.  A bit of both is probably best.  Share what lasts a long time should be shared (you can share the cost).  And label what is yours or others won’t remember if they finished their chocolate chip cookies bag and they will eat yours.  A tip: buy plastic bins, label them with your name, and put your food in them in the fridge, freezer and pantry.  You can also keep some pantry-type food in your room if there are no issues with pests.

Car: if one of you has a car, find a way to get a ride to the grocery store without taking advantage of the person who owns the car.  Let’s say Bob has a car.  Yes, Bob would be paying for gas, maintenance of the car, insurance and such even if nobody else ‘bummed’ a ride to where Bob is going.  However, it’s not fair that everyone gets the convenience of the car but nobody except Bob pays for it.  Put a jar in the kitchen and put in $1 or 2 whenever Bob gives you a ride.  He’ll appreciate it and will be more likely to make a small detour to drop you off next time he goes out.  And make sure the responsibility of shoveling the driveway is not added on to Bob’s list: he should not have extra work to do when everybody gets rides.

Laundry: if you are lucky enough to have laundry facilities in your house or apartment, be considerate of others and only start your laundry if you can take it out promptly and dry it, so you can leave the appliances empty so others can use them.  It is frustrating to always have to take one housemate’s wet stuff out of the washing machine on a regular basis.  Make sure you empty the lint catcher (on all dryer, and some washer) so that the appliances run efficiently, saving you money; as well, you landlord may not have to replace an appliance if it was not used properly or if it was neglected.

Overall, be kind and put expectations forwards so that there are no misunderstandings between housemates.

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