With the rise of coronavirus, things students have typically held dear seem a long distant memory. Social distancing measures have waved goodbye to lectures, house parties and the hungover debrief the morning after. For new arrivals this can seem pretty daunting. Not only are you dealing with moving to a new city and trying to make friends, you now have to worry about staying within the ever-changing guidelines.
However, this doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and your new student life can still be something to get excited about. To help you make the most out of your time at university, here are 14 tips for living in a shared flat during these uncertain times.
1. Follow the Guidelines
The most important advice for living in shared accommodation during these times is to follow government guidelines. You might not agree with them, but be respectful to those around you and don’t put your flatmates under any unnecessary risk. This means wash your hands regularly, wear face coverings when out and about and maintain social distancing.
Social distancing does not have to apply to the people you live with. However, be sure to check with your flatmates what they are comfortable with and respect their boundaries if they’d prefer their space.
2. Be Polite
As with any situation, communication is key when living in a shared flat. Common courtesy and polite manners are a definite must, especially during these times. So, ensure you respect your flatmates’ space. You’d also be surprised at how simple things like “please and thank you” can get lost in everyday hustle and bustle, and the difference these can make in establishing a comfortable flat atmosphere.
3. Communicate Often
For quick and easy communication with all members of your shared accommodation, having an established method of communication is vital. A Facebook or WhatsApp group can work well but be mindful that not everybody uses Social Media – yes, those people do exist. Regardless of what kind of communication you pick, make sure it suits everybody.
Make sure that you communicate early and clearly. Don’t wait until the situation becomes out of hand and frustrations and emotions build up. Make your concerns and requests heard from the start, and as long as you stay polite and clear in your requests, nobody should bite your head off.
4. Share the Work in Student Accommodation
Living in shared accommodation, it is important to make sure that no member of the flat feels like they are being taken for granted or carrying all of the load. It’s worth considering a rota for flat tasks like taking out the trash and emptying the dishwasher. What matters most is that effort is recognised and appreciated by the whole flat. So maybe send a quick thanks in the group chat or leave a nice note in the kitchen when somebody does something that benefits the whole of your shared flat. As silly as it sounds, it can make a big difference and can perk up somebody’s day.
5. Respect Privacy
From time to time, tensions are likely to be running high given the current situation. So, give each other space. Shared accommodation in London should be fun! However, not everybody is a morning person, and not everybody is particularly keen on company late at night. Sometimes a flatmate may simply want to go into the kitchen to grab a quick drink or bite to eat, not have an epic discussion about how their day has been. Basic etiquette and friendly smiles should, of course, be maintained, but try to gage each other’s moods and rhythms, and do not try to force a conversation during a simple chance meeting in the kitchen.
6. Keep Things Clean
Most importantly, with hygiene being at the forefront of everyone’s minds, ensure you clean up after yourself. Always make sure to leave the kitchen and common space how you found it. Don’t leave Nutella stains on the counter, wipe down and discard your crumbs, if you’ve had visitors around, disinfect any surfaces they’ve used. This may sound like things a nagging mum would say, but we are all adults by now. Even if deep down you don’t feel the need to clean or do these things, remember that this is not your area and you are sharing with other people.
7. Embrace Differences
Take a step back and recognise that you are not on your own anymore, you are in a house share in London. For those of you who prefer things a little more messy, but especially for the neat-freaks: a shared flat will never be as sparkly clean as you’d like it. Compromise is a must and you need to be willing to meet somewhere in the middle. Try to overlook the little things.
8. Split the Bill
Most shared accommodation comes with independent payments for the residents, so you only have to worry about your own rent. But there’s more expenses than just bills. That’s why we recommend having a shared expense sheet. There are even apps that can simplify the process, such as Splitwise and Venmo. Record even the little things like dishwasher tablets and kitchen roll. It may seem silly, but these things add up, and only if everybody is clear on recording even the little things can expenses be shared fairly.
9. Buy in Bulk
Try to buy things in bulk. We don’t mean ransack the toilet roll aisle, but try to minimise the number of times you all go to the shop. If you know your flat mates before moving in to shared accommodation (urbanest has a private Facebook group for you to interact with your flatmates), try to coordinate the purchasing of essentials, such as dishes, cleaning supplies, spices/sugar, and even – if you get along really well – milk, butter, and other basics can easily be shared. Just be sure to keep track of the expenses and be clear of what the flat agrees to share and what individuals would rather purchase themselves.
10. Ask Before You Borrow
Another self-explanatory rule, but worth mentioning nevertheless. To me, this is one of the most important rules of living in a shared space and it’s never been more important to respect people’s boundaries. If there’s something of your flatmate’s you’d like to use, such as a little butter or milk, ask them. As they may not be comfortable with you touching their things. If they don’t mind, be sure to be respectful and wash your hands beforehand.
11. Find New Ways to Socialise
Late nights out and big group gatherings are off the cards, however that doesn’t mean your social life has to dwindle. Your first few months in your shared accommodation are the best time to meet new people and make friends, so consider ways you can spend time with them without putting anyone at risk. This can include indoor activities such as baking, watching films or playing board games together. Or you can venture out and go on walks, explore your new city and enjoy food or drinks out with the allowed number of people.
Read More: Things to do in London During Coronavirus
12. Be Considerate with Visitors
Discuss such things by giving your flat mates notice or warning in advance, especially during Covid-19, as they may not be comfortable with unexpected guests. This is especially important when you are planning on having many people over or if you have somebody staying with you for a few days. Whatever you do, ensure you stick to the government guidelines by not going over the recommended number of guests and social distancing.
13. Be Open-Minded and Flexible
Living in a shared flat is an amazing experience and exposes you to a variety of different cultures and experiences. Everyone is unique and different in shared accommodation. Living in close quarters with anybody will bring challenges and difficulties without being in a pandemic. But try to embrace the differences and opportunities this offers, rather than getting caught up in little everyday hassles.
Related – Imperial College Student Accommodation
14. Remain Positive
Finally, but most importantly, is to try and remain upbeat. While it may feel a lot of your freedom has been taken away from you, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your time at university. Be sure to be open and honest with those around you when it comes to your mental health, and vice versa checking up on people who may need it. Try to schedule in something every day that will keep your, and your flatmates’, spirits up.
Now you know the best ways to get on with your flatmates, check out our guide to the 7 Types of Student You are Bound to Meet at Uni and the rest of our Student Journal for the best general and London-specific advice and guidance.
If shared student accommodation isn’t for you, check out our student studios in London.