Ah, living with friends. Surrounding yourself with the people in your life you rate the most. The one who are the most fun on a night, the ones you find yourself calling up whenever things go wrong, the ones that never fail to make you smile. You can’t think of anyone you’d like to sit up drinking with until the early hours or spend Saturday morning comatose on the sofa with, groaning off the hangover from the night before. This is going to be brilliant.
What could go wrong?
Turns out, quite a lot. Many a perfect friendship has been ruined by the pressures of sharing the same small space – not to mention cleaning duties. Far from being a utopia of likeminded people having a bloody good time together, moving in with friends often turns out to be more like an ongoing Cold War of imagined slights, personal bugbears and passive aggression.
So how do you avoid it all turning sour?
First up: manage your expectations
Presumably, you’re not at your best 24/7. No one’s perpetually in a top mood and super-easy to live with (if you are that cheery all the time, that is, frankly, probably an annoyance in itself). So why do you expect other people to be?
If you want to keep things pleasant in the long run, it’s important to give your friends space to be crappy sometimes. When your housemates are in a bit of a grump, don’t make it personal – chances are, it’s nothing to do with you. Feel free to reach out and ask if they’re ok, make them a cuppa, gently suggest doing something fun together – but don’t push the issue. Just be your usual pleasant self, don’t make things weird and 90% of the time, the mood will probably just blow over.
Next – and this is really important – agree on your responsibilities
It might sound cringey, but a cleaning rota has saved many a live-in friendship from certain destruction.
Some people are cleaning-obsessives, some people won’t even notice the mess piling up until the rats are practically nibbling at their toenails. No amount of silent treatment or huffy hoovering-around-their-ankles is going to change the way the latter think. The only outcomes is that both of you will feel, irritably, that you’ve turned into their Mum.
If you’re a naturally tidy person and you’re living with your plate-hoarding, filth-wallowing arch-nemesis, you have to intervene early on if you don’t want to end up hating each other. It might feel like a bit of an awkward conversation to have when you first move in, but calmly coming to an agreement about cleaning on day one means far, far fewer fights further down the line.
It also means that when someone skips their (agreed) turn, you’re well within your rights to say, “Oi, mate, your day to clean the kitchen!” rather than fighting over whether or not they did in fact do their bit when they emptied the ashtray two months ago.
Communication is key
Being upfront with each other doesn’t only apply to handing out the Marigolds. In order to stay friends, you’ll have to learn to communicate properly about everything.
Fancy having a birthday party or boozy barbeque? Check with your friends well in advance to make sure it’s not going to clash with something important that they really need their beauty sleep for. Housemate’s penchant for playing Grand Theft Auto on full volume at 4am wrecking your pre-exam revision schedule? (Politely) ask them to buy some headphones.
That said, don’t overdo it. It’s important to be a little bit easy-going if you’re going to get along. At the end of the day, other people will do little things that annoy you, and you’ll do little things that annoy them – if it’s not seriously driving you nuts, affecting your work, study or ability to enjoy your life, ask yourself: is it really a problem? Don’t make a big deal of something that really doesn’t need to be.
And that, at the end of the day, is the big secret to living with friends. It’s all about being honest with each other about the things that matter, and learning to shrug off the ones that don’t.
Ever lost a good friend to a living-together disaster? Tell all in the comments below!