Skip to main content


The most common grievances to avoid with your flatmates

11 May 2022

Moving away from home can be a daunting prospect, though for many, their flatmates will end up being their closest friends. This is the best-case scenario, however even between such good friends there can be disputes, and how you navigate them can have a significant impact on how cordial your relationship remains with those whom you live. These are some of the most common disputes that tend to arise and how to de-escalate them effectively.

The kitchen, being the primary shared living space for most flats, is the scene of many potential disputes, though for now I will focus on food and drink. Working out who is responsible for the drop in the level of your milk since yesterday can turn students into full on detectives re-enacting their last game of Cluedo. Was it Scarlet, or Mustard, or was it your forgetful self? The safest policy on borrowing other people’s food (especially milk) is just to ask beforehand. There are different types of flat relationships, where in some everyone shares food and cooks together, whilst for others their food is never to be touched. It’s all down to the rapport that you have with your flatmates, though the safest option is simply to leave their foodstuffs alone until you know that they are fully comfortable with some milk borrowing every so often.

Remaining in the shared living spaces for now, let us have a dive into the topic of bins. Most accommodation and private houses will require their occupants to take out the contents of their bins at least every week. For most, this is an unenviable task and so it can be the case that bin emptying gets delayed or more commonly, you find that certain members will end up fulfilling the task far more often than others. There are ways around this such as implementing a rota for bins and tidying up in general. In my experience these work well for highly organised individuals, however in a house with varying temperaments, it only takes one or two people to forget or be unwilling to participate to break the whole. A more relaxed and seemingly effective system is to have a pseudo rota, where you do the bins as a flat every week, or at least try to help whenever you can. If you feel that your flatmate has done it a few times in a row, give them the week off and do it for them. They will greatly appreciate this!

Wrapping up the potential kitchen drama, washing your dirty dishes and swiftly removing them from the drying area once they are dry is the ultimate key to happy flatmates. Again, this is based on the temperament of your flat, but in general your flatmates will appreciate cleaner and clearer kitchen surfaces, and since a messy kitchen has been the catalyst for many disputes in houses myself or friends have lived in, I would highly advise that you don’t let your plates build up into a mountain of debris by the sink.

Concluding these more specific examples of causes for potential conflict, I will briefly highlight more general things to avoid. If you are fortunate enough to be dating somebody, be careful that any potential co-habitation at your accommodation doesn’t affect the lives of your flatmates. This includes things such as making sure their presence doesn’t prevent your existing flatmates from using the facilities such as showers when they usually would. Noise levels within your rooms should also be kept to respectful levels, particularly during exam seasons or late at night. In short, treat your flatmates as respectfully as you would wish them to treat you, but also bear in mind that potential mess and untidiness may bother them more than yourself. As usual, communication is key.