How To Live With Other People In Your 30s

How To Live With Other People In Your 30s

With rents soaring and house prices out of reach for many, it’s often not possible for people to live alone in today’s economic climate, even when they reach their 30s. So, once you’ve long left your uni days behind, how can you live harmoniously with other people as an adult? We asked the experts…

Picking The Right Person

When choosing a new housemate, it’s important to be thorough – you have to live in close proximity with this person. So how do ensure you don’t make a horrible mistake? Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare, says you need to do your research and ask those uncomfortable questions that might seem personal now, but could potentially undo the relationship later on. “If you’re always cold, there’s no point in living with someone who’s going to be furious at the expense of running a heater in the winter months,” he says. “The trick is to ask open-ended questions and get their point of view on certain things, without sharing too much about your own expectations and what you’re looking for.”
Key questions to ask include:

  • General questions about their life: Include their work, interests and plans for a future to gain a greater understanding of who they are.
  • Their views on the big issues: Be sure to include topics such as cleaning, paying the bills, parties, smoking and people staying over.
  • Their response to real-life scenarios: This will help you see how they manage conflict and problem solving, as well as how they conduct themselves generally.

“Pay attention to their communication style and their ability to express themselves,” Winwood adds. “And don’t forget to check references. Always ask for someone you can ring who has previously lived with the candidate – don’t rely on written references.”

Avoiding Arguments

Tensions can run high when it comes to menial chores like paying bills and cleaning. Unlike your student days, you’re too old to be leaving passive aggressive notes on dirty dishes in the kitchen and you have to learn how to pay the bills yourself instead of calling your dad when you get a final warning letter about the heating.

Winwood says laying out ground rules as early as possible when it comes to bills, cleaning and shopping will help to avoid any unnecessary arguments. Here gives us his tips for each: 

Shopping: Most of the time it makes sense to shop for your own things, but sometimes it works better, particularly financially, to come together with your flatmates on certain items. Try making a list of essentials that everyone in the flat uses – washing up liquid, hand soap, toilet roll, bin bags – and take it in turns buying them to avoid any arguments. Apps like Splittr make it easy. Alternatively, you could have a shared house budget that everyone contributes to each month, then you can use this cash to buy the essential items.

Cleaning: Nobody enjoys doing the washing up, and often this means dirty dishes tend to pile up. Lay down some ground rules as early as possible – establishing a system for chores can be tough but there are a few options to choose from: clean as a group when necessary, make a cleaning rota or simply agree to clean up your own mess.
Bills: If you’re living in a house without bills included, you need to make sure everyone is paying their share. There’s a lot of money on the line with bills, so it is really important to make sure that they’re split fairly and paid on time. There are a few different options for sorting out your bills. However, a lot depends on how well you know the people you’ve moved in with, and how reliable and trustworthy you deem them to be. You might decide that one person takes charge of the bills or divide the bills amongst you all. Whichever option you decide on, again, just make sure you all agree on this in advance.

Getting To Know Your Housemates

Back at university, the best way to get to know your new housemates was on a big night out. And after a week or so, it was probably fine to walk into their rooms, flop on their beds and chat until the early hours. However, once you’ve got a full-time job and a little more responsibility under your belt, having people bursting into your room at all hours is the last thing you want – personal space becomes far more important the older you get.

So, how do you get to know your flatmates without being intrusive? “It’s important to respect each other’s personal space,” Winwood says. “While respecting each other’s personal space sounds easy, it involves recognising and understanding what the term means to the other person. Allowing each other to settle can go a long way in establishing the beginning of friendships. Why not try some simple things such as making them a cup of tea if you’re boiling the kettle or asking if they want anything when you’re ordering a takeaway? Or just use your intuition: simply ask how their day is going and gauge from their response whether they want to engage.”

Dealing With Stealing

There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing that someone’s been stealing your milk or nibbling on your cheese. But can we really get away with the pettiness of drawing lines on everything we own? It’s not a great look. Winwood says its key not to overreact in these situations: are they just taking a little bit of your food every once in a while, or are they eating your food as if it is their own? The former doesn’t really have much of an impact on your life in the grand scheme of things. But if it’s the latter, he advises approaching with caution.

“Bring up the topic close to the time it happened,” he says. “Mention that you’d noticed some of your food had been eaten and you’d appreciate if you were asked first. Be considered in your approach, especially if you’re not 100% certain on who is taking your food.”

Personality Is Key

Openness, diplomacy, fairness, equality, kindness and honesty are the top personality traits Winwood feels makes a great housemate and creates a happy and harmonious house. And while, of course, not everyone’s perfect, it’s important to make sure you and your housemates share a similar outlook and values. “That’s why it’s so important that once you’ve learnt about a person, you can talk through the house rules, the dos and don’ts, and openly discuss whether you’re both happy with the situation.”

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