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zookeeny's avatar

Creating a friendly house community - how should we go about it? Any advice for flat sharing? ...

Asked by zookeeny (875 points ) December 11th, 2009

I am looking into moving into a rented house with some people who range in ages, some I know, some I dont. We are wanting to move in to a large place and create a really nice community sort of feel. We are going to set firm house rules about certain things so that we can really get a nice place to live. Probably about 7 bedrooms. We have all lived with others before and some of us have also lived alone. We just want to create a funky ‘utopia’ (clearly that isnt going to happen – but its good to aim high!) where we feel part of a community type house but with respect for each others space and stuff also.

What advice would you give us for this plan? What are your experiences of living with others? Did you share meals? Chores? How did you divide stuff up like that? What did you find worked and didnt work?

Thanks :)

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16 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Way back in the 60’s, I lived in a commune, and we found that what worked best for us was that one person was pretty much in charge, and he took ideas from the rest, but made the final decisions. When you live with people and no one is in charge, very little gets done because a consensus is hard to achieve.

When the ‘leader’ decided to move on to a different life, the rest of the group broke up after a short time. The final straw that broke us up was when the owner of the property we lived on sold the land and the new owners made us leave.

Janka's avatar

I have shared a house with people for over ten years now, though never as many as you describe.

My main advice is this: You will be irritated by people. People will be annoyed by you. You will need to learn to identify when you are irritated, and then separate the irritations to two separate cases: 1) where you can just teach yourself to accept the whatever it is that irritates you, and go along, and 2) where trying to “accept” and “tolerate” actually just builds more and more resentment in you. It is crucial that you do not bitch to others about every little thing, while still talking to them about those small things that if left alone will grow into major sources of anger. This is not easy and everyone will make a lot of really stupid mistakes into both directions. Hopefully since a lot of you have lived with others before the majority already realizes this.

What I have found in the end the best way to deal with stuff is that everyone is responsible for their own things (meals, laundry, whatever), but they are free to share as much as they like. If you have few enough people, an informal system of “I was planning to make curry tomorrow, who all will be here to eat?” will be enough to co-ordinate. I have no experience from co-ordinating cooking with larger numbers of people. Accept that such sharing is a gift, not a trade.

As to chores, there is basically two options: have a system™ where everyone is expected to do certain things, and have some people bitch about how other people do not do their share or do it wrong, or have no system other than “he who is bothered about it will fix/clean/mend it” and tolerate the fact that occasionally everyone is bothered but no one can be bothered. (We do the latter now and it does work for us, while no System™ ever really did, but that might be just my personality.)

Respect for space vs creating a community is mostly about realizing that they get to decide when they want their space and when they want the community. You might have an idealized pictures of this in your head, but that’s too bad. “Giving them space” is about giving it to them when they want it, even if “the community” thinks now is the time for some communal work.

Oh boy, writing this brought back ever so many memories. >_<

gemiwing's avatar

Keep food separate. Someone will always be a milk hog or drink the last Dr. Pepper and replace it with Ducktor Thunder. (eeew)

Agree on a toilet paper and make everyone pay for it in a communal jar. Paper towels, dish soap and cleaning supplies come from the jar too.

I agree that it’s important to give people their space. There will be times you swear you’re living alone because you never see anyone- yet see their dishes in the sink.

Cleaning- oy. There’s no one system that will work for every household. There will probably be one person who’s clean, one that’s a slob and one who’s never there. I’ve found having one person who’s not super-picky, nor a slob, and having them say when a cleaning job has been done right helps eliminate in-fighting.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I agree that someone needs to be in charge, if only for the landlord to have a “go to” person, and the utilities will have to be in one person’s name.

Spell everything out in writing, including what will get you kicked “off the island.” It may sound ridiculous, but no matter how well you think you’re screening roommates, it’s possible to get someone who’s extremely difficult to live with, and who will take advantage of other people.

With 7 people, you will probably need two refrigerators to keep food straight. Very often there is one or two people who hog the refrigerator, leaving no space for anyone else’s food. Likewise, decide about pets. Roommate’s pets can destroy your furniture. What happens if the couch that belongs to one person is shredded by the cat belonging to another person? All of these types of things need to be accounted for up front.

The person who supplies most of the household goods should get a break on their share of the rent because people are using their possessions, and they will become worn out and ruined much faster. Likewise, people who are not on the utility bill should be required to pay a utility deposit to the person whose name is on the bill. My daughter got stiffed for about $400 by people who had moved on, and there was an error in how the bill was calculated by the utility company. Once people moved on, they viewed it as “not their problem.”

Parking arrangements for that many people can be a problem, and should be worked out beforehand. It’s likely that everyone will have a car, or may have guests with cars. Who gets the parking spots, do they pay extra for them?

kevbo's avatar

My situation was a little different than the above, because I lived with a family who rented to others, but here’s what I remember…

1. Appreciations- keep a list in a public place for people to write down reasons they appreciate other housemates (if someone did something for someone else or whatever—it can be for anything. The idea is to express gratitude.) Make that the opening segment of any house meeting.

2. We generally had the four adults cook dinner once a week. Whoever cooked also cleaned, since cooking styles varied.

3. We did have a rotation of assigned chores. I was bad about doing them and that was a source of frustration for the dad/husband, but he just kind of did them without holding too much of a grudge. I don’t know what you want to take from that.

I suppose the main thing to keep in mind is that everyone is signing up to live with some intention in a community, and that is different from just a bunch of people who are renting rooms in a house. So, it’s about more than paying rent and that should be reiterated if people start to fall off the wagon.

jaytkay's avatar

Don’t use transparent containers & wraps for your food in the fridge. If they can’t see your tasty leftovers, they are much less likely to eat them.

Yes, this is trivial and sounds petty, but I think it really cuts down on poaching, which seems to cause an inordinate amount of roommate friction.

Shegrin's avatar

It’s better if you know the people you’ll live with well. I am sharing a house with a friend/roommate now and although things are what they are, it irritates me to no end that she will not scrub the bathroom ever. She has very curly hair and uses a ton of gel to tame it. It all collects on the bottom of the tub and gets slippery. It stays like that until I scrub it. She only does dishes when she’s expecting company. I do everything else, including 95% of the cooking. I cut the yard and I do house maintenance. If I’d known how this was going to work out (with me doing all the WORK), I wouldn’t have moved in with her. It’s a good idea to make sure everyone will pitch in and help.

nebule's avatar

I lived in community for years… as a child…it was horrendous…regardless of many discussions, compromises and team work….it was a nightmare… enough said

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’m thinking get a label maker and a money jar that everyone contributes $5–20 bucks a month (for unexpected small expenses).

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I’ve lived where it’s a few couples sharing a place and also several couples and a few singles thrown together. What made it work was we all basically socialized together, a few of worked together, we shopped, cooked and ate together, enjoyed the home together all out of choice. A list on the refridgerator to keep up with what’s getting low in the home works well. I liked to being responsible for your own bathroom things, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, towels and stuff. Everything else was pretty much just observed and spoken about, like “the carpet needs a shampoo” and someone would volunteer to rent it who hadn’t before. Food shopping was pretty easy, there’s always someone who’s kind of in charge like @YARNLADY says, someone who does better shopping than the others and you give that person your money towards the purchases. If we knew one was going to the butcher then we also knew it was going to be about $200. and everyone give a share. In one househould I liked that each person had one table place setting kept in the kitchen and they either cleaned up after themselves or they were out of luck, no one got stuck with dishes and there was a posted list of house chores division for each month.

wundayatta's avatar

I lived with four people. We bought the food in common. I think we split all the bills equally. Also the rent. We didn’t have house meetings. We just figured out who would do what, and that’s how it went. We didn’t have any problems due to those issues.

The problems, when they came, oddly enough, were as a result of someone never being around. How stupid was that? I wish I had let the time when she was paying rent but not staying there go on and on. Subsequent roommates were not so good.

LuckyGuy's avatar

If it is communal stuff, fix what you break and everyone chips in.
For example if the toilet starts running all the time – Fix it. Take the repair money out of the communal jar that pays for supplies. Toilet paper, paper towels, soap. Make sure to get a receipt and put it in the jar. There is always one person who does not trust the finances of others. One cheapskate can ruin the whole thing.
Before you do it, go out to dinner once in a group and see how people behave. It is indicative of what you can expect. Does someone order two drinks and the largest meal and then suggest splitting the bill? Delete that guy right now. It will only cause headaches later. .
The first person to say, “I ordered the large steak so I’ll put in extra to make up for it. And give Leslie something because she only had the salad.” should be voted the leader.
The first person to say, “I have a calculator with me. Let’s divide it up.” gets to be treasurer.
Good luck. It is the people mix that can make or break the relationship.

Janka's avatar

It is good to agree on some things beforehand, but believe me, agreeing on stuff beforehand will not stop you from fighting about it; it will simply make the fighting about the interpretations of the agreement, and make people be frustrated by other people’s “rules-lawyering”. ;)

Oh, and to add: regarding toilet-paper etc we have a system where certain goods are considered “common”; whoever buys them notes the sum on a list on the fridge door and periodically the guy who’s volunteered to do it takes the list down and calculates who owes what. The people who have paid more than their share in common goods pay less rent the next months and the people who have paid less pay more in rent. We have all sorts of stuff on the list (Sunday newspaper, TV channels, internet, certain groceries such as milk, bread, flour, etc, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, repairs…) but the main thing is we edit the list whenever we feel like it. If even one person says he/she does not want that item to be shared, it’s off the list and everyone’s responsible for their own.

zookeeny's avatar

I am really liking reading everyones experiences and advice. Things we hadnt thought about yet are coming up so its great!!! We are looking to getting it together next year so all these ideas are going to come up in the meeting!!! yay! Im very excited its going to be awesome – hard and stressful but definatly an experience!! :)

dabbler's avatar

Make sure it’s clear up-front who’s responsible for getting stuff done, like cleaning, like cleaning the bathroom(s) especially.
Will the yard need maintenance? Who does that?
How about kitchen cleanup?

I like @LuckyGuy‘s suggestion of a group dinner to scope out your housemates. Screening is your best chance of assuring a compatible time living together. You don’t all have to be the same, you need to be able to get along smoothly.

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