Housing is one of the three major expenses for most people, so sharing housing is a smart way to minimise this cost, whilst getting the benefits of sharing the housework and (hopefully) building great friendships. I currently live in a four bedroom house with a nice garden, in one of the most expensive cities on Earth, about 15km from the CBD. My housemates include a teacher, bike shop owner, performing arts educator, lawyer and renewable energy engineer, which brings a nice diversity to the skills, knowledge and interests in the house, which is especially good for crosswords.
I wanted to share a couple of great things about how our house operates that has developed over a decade of sharehousing with friends. These approaches to important elements of the house give us all more money for our future and more time to enjoy our lives (read: spend on wine).
Cleaning – we each have one major area/task in the house that we focus on and ensure is kept to an agreed upon standard (bathroom, kitchen, chooks etc)- this means that we become efficient at doing the related tasks and only need to focus our attention on one main chore, saving lots of time and energy. And when people get over cleaning the bathroom, usually every few months, we switch it around!
Meals – we each have a cook night that fits in with our schedules in which we cook a meal for the whole house. With our focus only on cooking one evening, this gives us each lots of time to spend on our other projects, as well as allowing us to have cheap, home-cooked meals every night (and often leftovers for lunches the next day). It also means we often have big ‘family’ meals during the week which is a great time to debrief about our days, catch up on news and bounce around ideas.
Groceries – everything in the house cupboards and fridge is communal, except things that are specifically bought by person for themselves beyond the food kitty (and they have their name on it!). We each spend $40 per week on food for the house, and add things to Wunderlist as we need them. I highly recommend Wunderlist for keeping track things like groceries, especially amongst a busy group of people. We also have five chooks which provide us with eggs every morning and an expanding garden that provides herbs and greens. Another great thing about a big house is that things can be easily bought in bulk, significantly reducing the per unit cost of food items, making it very cheap to eat.
Tidying – everyone is responsible for their own stuff. That means cleaning your own dishes and laundry, as well as keeping communal areas junk-free. Fostering open communication (and choosing housemates willing to take on board a little healthy constructive criticism) is key to ensuring this works well!
Communication is the key to all of this. Fostering open and supportive communication based on common interests (happy home, healthy pockets) is critical to making sure all of these work, and no one feels like that are carrying all the load in terms of money and time. You need to be upfront with housemates right from the beginning about what is and isn’t acceptable and discuss that fact that you are keen to address issues before they become unhealthy and costly problems.