By Tanner Weber
About a year ago, I moved from Southern California to DC and quickly found a home in the form of a group house full of young professionals with varying hobbies, professions, and standards of living. Here’s how I survived the first year:
1. Don’t expect to be friends with everyone— There are many group houses that are formed by people who are already friends, and that’s great! But if you move into a house that you found on Craigslist, be aware that you aren’t always going to get along. Make friends with the housemates you like and do your best to be kind to the ones you don’t.
2. Clean up after yourself, and occasionally after other people too— When 6 people share a kitchen, it gets messy. The big shared appliances tend to collect crumbs and grease faster than you can imagine, but they hardly ever get cleaned since everyone thinks the mess is someone else’s. Do more than your fair share of cleaning if you want to maintain a tidy household.
3. Be aware that everyone can hear you— When I have to make a personal phone call, I go for a walk. It’s easier to have strangers walking by hear me discuss less-than-pleasant aspects of my life with my friends or family than it is to have my roommates question me about it later.
4. Respect the difference between public and personal items— Unless you’ve already discussed it with your roommates, anything in the fridge that you didn’t buy is not yours to eat. While you might not be BFFs with everyone you live with, you don’t want a rivalry either. Also, be sure that your whole house agrees on common items–we have communal paper towels for the kitchen, but I buy my own for messes in my room.
5. Bring up your pet peeves— This is super important and will save you a lot of stress. If you can’t stand a pile of dishes in the sink but your roommates don’t seem to mind, you are going to go crazy while everyone else decides to let their cereal bowls soak until they get home from work. Have a house meeting and let everyone know whatever it is that bugs you; if it’s pretty simple and you’re nice about it, they should be understanding.
6. Establish a communications system — My housemates and I use GroupMe, a group messaging app, to let each other know that we’ll be having friends over late on a weeknight, or that we took someone’s laundry out of the dryer, or that there are leftover cupcakes on the kitchen counter that are up for grabs. If emailing, facebooking, or leaving post-it notes around the house works better for you, go for it. Just make sure you have a way to get your message across.
7. Love your home— Sometimes I cry because my walls are a yellowish-beige-tan and my closet isn’t deep enough to hold standard hangers so I currently use the world’s ugliest garment rack, but I live two blocks from one of my favorite concert venues and my job is a 15 minute walk from my house. This isn’t a permanent situation, so fall in love with it. You’ll miss the chaos when you leave.
Tanner Weber is a writer, talker, teacher, and coffee drinker who currently lives in Washington, DC. Hobbies include organizing and reorganizing the tiny bedroom, eating chips and salsa, and browsing the websites of local dog rescues (even though the lease says No Pets).