Before you pack your, or their, bags though, read on…
Set some ground rules
To help avoid reaching the stage where you want to, well, kill your flatmate, make sure there are ground rules in place from the offset. If you are moving into a house share, ask what the rules are and if there’s something you think is missing, suggest it. If you are moving in with friends, before you even sign anything, have a chat about what you expect from your arrangement.
Karen Meager, a coach at Monkey Puzzle Training & Consulting, suggests you ask: “Why do you want to share? For money reasons or social? How long are you looking to share for? What is your attitude to tidiness and cleanliness, your possessions – sharing or mine is mine – other people staying over, personal space, and so on? The more similar you are in these respects, the easier life will be.”
Founder of Think Confidence coaching and author of Brilliant Self-Confidence, Mike McClement, adds, “You should discuss in advance how you’ll let each other know if you’ve got an issue.”
On the front line
Generally in a group of people there is one person who is more organised and better at dealing with conflict than the others. This person can, officially or unofficially, become the household ‘manager’. To work out who this is, thinkconfidence.com has a number of free questionnaires that you should all (honestly) complete, and use the results to help assign different tasks of the household to each person.
If an issue does arise, first of all suss out if it really is them who has the problem, not you. “Look at yourself first. Are you over-reacting or being too fussy?” McClement asks. Perhaps drop it into a conversation with your other housemates, but be careful not to ‘gang up’ on the person in question.
If they agree it is a problem, elect someone to address the situation. “I suggest you start with a low-level intervention,” Meager adds. “Address it early so that resentment doesn’t build up, and try to see it from their perspective too.”
Rafael Dos Santos, author of Moving Abroad – One Step At A Time, says the time and place you approach the matter is also very important: “Invite them to the pub and have a chat over a beer or glass of wine. A relaxing environment will make it easier to have a difficult chat.”
Alternatively, you could hold a regular house meeting where you address any problems and resolve to come up with a solution there and then. “It sounds very serious, but this is the best way to solve conflict when a lot of people are involved,” Dos Santos says.
The dirty housemate: Dirty dishes, bath scum and smelly socks can cause riots in any household. If you are friends, turn it around so it almost sounds like your problem, suggests Meager. “Try saying, ‘You know what I’m like about cleaning!’; that way they might change their ways out of respect for you.”
Even if you are foe not friends, you should choose your words wisely: “‘You are so untidy and messy’ makes a problem behaviour personal and so is more likely to upset or antagonise the other person,” says Meager. “Try, ‘When you leave your dirty dishes, I feel annoyed’ instead.”
The noisy housemate: If it’s a case of conflicting work shifts meaning one person’s up while another one’s trying to sleep, put a rota up to remind people when they need to make an effort to be quiet. When you go to bed, announce it so that people know you need some peace.
Most people don’t actually realise when they are being noisy, so don’t be quick to get mad. “Stay calm,” McClement says. ”Don’t play your music even louder to compete, be polite and explain how you feel.”
The freeloading housemate: They ‘forget’ to pay rent and you have to practically beg them for money for the shopping and bills. If you are the understanding type, Meager suggests you ask, “Are they disorganised or forgetful? Do they assume you are in charge of these items? Do they have money trouble?
This will then give you the information to help things run more smoothly, like setting up direct debits.” Otherwise, Dos Santos suggests you lay down the law: “If you have to chase more than twice it’s time for your flatmate to go. It sounds harsh, but if they don’t respect the rules, it’s not your job to teach them.”
The thieving housemate: Your milk, your eggs or, the cardinal sin, your beer. If a housemate nicks your food or drink it can make your blood boil – and your belly rumble. “Go shopping together so that the person understands whose is what and have a shelf each in the fridge,” Meager suggests.
If you ever want something of theirs, always ask first and replace it as soon as you can – then hopefully they will follow suit.If all of the above fails? Complain to the landlord and get yourself a new housemate. Sorted.
“I just let a difficult flatmate be and stay out of the house as much as possible, which is probably a good thing anyway.”
“I’d try to make a compromise. If not, someone’s got to go – at the end of the day, you’re not married to your flatmate.”
“I’m the difficult flatmate. I do lots of smelly farts to piss them off.”