Living with people is difficult, but avoiding conflict shouldn’t be stressful. I’ve had my fair share of flatmate drama. Here are my tips for coping with flatmate conflict, and making your university off time as stress-free as possible. (If you’re still looking for your next flat, check out my advice here.)
Be up front from the start
I’ve found from my own experiences, and from friends’, that being up front about expectations is the best way to avoid conflict. You need to know how everyone feels about parties, over night guests and tidying communal areas. You’ll be less likely to have issues and you’ll be more comfortable bringing it up if someone is being unfair. Maybe make an agreement that everyone needs to be given a week’s notice (or whatever suits you) before having a party or more than one guest over. It’s easier to prevent a conflict than undo the mess it will leave.
Have a chores rota
The chores you make a rota for depend on your group. My flat all do our own washing up, but had a rota for putting the bins and recycling out. We’d all forget to do it otherwise. Maybe take turns to buy kitchen roll and washing up liquid, or washing tea towels. They’re easy ways to prevent one person feeling like they’re doing everything. Messy flatmates don’t leave mess to cause conflict, and a rota might be all they need to remember that their pile of washing up takes up space someone else needs to prep dinner.
Make sure you aren’t doing something they don’t like
This sounds ridiculous, but it’s possible. You might be getting annoyed that they don’t wash up for three days, but they’re annoyed that you never change the toilet roll. Assess how good a flatmate you are before bringing up other people’s shortcomings. Discussions can get off track if you’re all just listing things you do or don’t do.
Don’t be passive aggressive
I had a flatmate who would leave post it notes around the kitchen with things like ‘this needs wiping down after use’ on the hob. It’s not helpful. People will just hate you. If people are leaving mess or being difficult, speak to them about it. A message in a group chat is easiest so you can rehearse your message and not say the wrong thing. Remember to listen to the other person too. Maybe you hate them leaving their cereal bowl in the sink, but they’re always running late for university and think that they’re putting it out of other people’s way. Be understanding, not everyone works the same way.
Don’t single people out
This is linked to not being passive aggressive. If someone repeatedly leaves washing up, leaves lights on or slams doors late at night, put a more general message in the group chat. A message saying ‘can everyone remember to turn lights off before going out’ is less confrontational than asking someone specific, and makes it less likely that they’ll lash out in embarrassment for being called out. It also means (hopefully) other people won’t start doing the same.
If all else fails, grab another flatmate who agrees with you and have a chat as a group. Just don’t start doing things for them. It won’t help your stress and they won’t learn to be a respectful flatmate.