Living With a Stranger

I’ve been in share accommodation for almost seven years, and besides from a stint at the University of Adelaide Village, I’ve never lived with a stranger. My houses have been populated with best friends, significant others or, at the very least, people I knew before sharing a bathroom and a postcode.

In March of this year, all that changed. My ex moved out, leaving me with too much rent and too little money to pay it. One of my close friends came to my rescue at the last minute. An acquaintance of hers was looking for a new house. She put us in contact. We hit it off (luckily for my bank balance) but living with a stranger is still a steep learning curve.

Make sure you get along

An interview sounds too formal but meeting beforehand and making sure you click is important. I invited my prospective housemate over, showed her the house, and we bonded over a cup of tea (and our shared love of feminism/ writing/theatre). It’s basically a first date, except the person moves into your personal space immediately afterwards. Put your best foot forward but also don’t lie too much about your terrible qualities. They’re going to find out.

You don’t have to be best friends

While getting along is vital, remember you don’t have to be besties. For one thing, it’s more difficult to follow friends up for overdue rent, or demand they do their share of the house inspection cleaning. I’ve learned how easy it is to damage a friendship by living together. Let your new housemate have their own space. Maybe you only see each other in passing; maybe you have an Indian takeout and trashy television night every week. When you live with a stranger, take it slow, like you would any new relationship.

Align expectations

People have different standards of cleanliness. I’m a ‘do-your-dishes-every-second-day’ kind of girl, and like to wipe down counter tops and bathroom surfaces at less than frequent intervals. I also have a dog, who makes a house dirty simply by existing. Some people are messier than me or do their dishes less often. Some people are far more hygienic and can’t bear a dirty bowl in the sink for more than ten minutes. Living in a house with clashing cleaning expectations can be difficult and create housemate conflicts. If you’re living with a stranger, be upfront about how much cleaning you do (or don’t do).

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