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July 29, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Nigella Lawstudent – A Guide to the Good Life

I am Flat Mother of my household. My flatmates attest to this. Successful flatting’s not all about how clean the bathroom is (although if my flatmates could learn to replace the toilet roll when they use it all, I’d probably love them more) or who eats the most delicious food; it’s also about having a nice group of flatmates in a house that’s not rotting or 30,000 km away from Uni. To help you through this ritualistic quagmire, here’s my handy flatting guide—just in time for the upcoming flat-hunting season.

1. Spend time finding a good flat.

Down in Dunedin, flat-hunting has already started for some. I don’t know anyone perusing the TradeMe listings daily up here yet, but that said, the earlier you start looking, the better. We went for Brooklyn, which is about a 30-minute trek to Uni and 20 to Cuba St, but we got a nice four-bedroom with study and lounge for $600 per week. Regardless of your situation, make sure you spend time hunting around. There are plenty of homes to go around, and you need not live in a crap-hole merely because you’re worried you won’t find anything better.

2. Don’t live in Hataitai. 

It’s too far from Uni.

3. Have good references.

This is hard if you’re a crappy person to live with or you got in a lot of trouble at your first-year hall, but try to pick someone who likes you enough to give you a good reference. They are vital to getting good flats.

4. Pick good flatmates.

This is hard if you don’t know your flatmates before you live with them. We’ve all heard the story of the guy who moved in with randoms only to find a flatmate had been using the kitchen scissors to trim his pubes, and not bothered washing them—my friend moved out the day after this very incident. Ask potential flatmates why they’re moving out of their previous flats; it’s a good way to find out if they’re a totally unreasonable nut-job or not. Common advice is to not live with your best friends, but there are exceptions. You need to be critical of whether your best friend really is going to be the best person to live with—it doesn’t mean you can’t still be bfflz if you don’t live together.

5. Have a cleaning roster.

Decide as a collective how clean you want your flat to be. If, like in my flat, you have one clean freak (i.e. me), then they will need to accept that if they want the flat to be sparkling-clean 24/7, they will need to do it themselves. Talk about the cleaning plan at the start, and decide on clear expectations. Here, we have a roster which works relatively successfully, but we also all know basic rules to do our own dishes after cooking and wipe down the surfaces when we’re finished in the kitchen. During exams, I made a cleaning roster with legal terms involved as a lame way to procrastinate/pretend I was revising; I am Nigella Lawstudent, after all.

6. Delegate bill-paying.

Have a flat card so everyone can take turns buying toilet paper and dishwashing liquid. Make sure you know who’s paying which bills and organise it so you have enough money to pay them—whether you each pay an extra $20 a week to go towards power and internet, or you split the bills as they come, make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them.

Lots of banks have tertiary-student options with flat cards that can have multiple signatories as well as jointly held flat accounts. Tertiary-student packs often come with the option of a low-interest credit card, but I advise against this unless it’s absolutely necessary.

7. Decide how food’s going to work.

Every flat does this differently. Maybe you buy shared food but cook separately (I’d warn against this as people will get mad at you for using all of the mozzarella in your pasta when they’d wanted it for pizza) or you take turns cooking, or you all do separate food, or you do shared dinners but separate snacks. Whichever way you do it, make sure the boundaries are clear. Don’t be a dick and eat food that you know isn’t yours, even if you promise yourself you’ll replace it because we all know you’ll forget.

8. Don’t leave passive-aggressive notes.

Your flatmates will grow to hate you. Similarly, don’t text people to nag them about things when they’re in the next room. It’s annoying.

9. Don’t live with a couple, particularly if it’s their first year living together for realz.

They’ll break up. It’ll be awkward. You’ll never see it coming and your entire world will be changed when you get that text at Meow where you’re watching jazz with your Mum and you need to go lie down somewhere to cope. This happened.

10. Think carefully before you live with your significant other.

‘nuff said.

11. Use University services.

The Uni has an array of services and tools to ensure your flatting life runs as smoothly as possible. This includes the Counselling Service, the Accommodation Service, as well as Student Hardship financial support and advice. These services are free for Vic students. VUWSA has a partnership with the Uni to provide food-bank parcels for students in need, and you can collect free bread from Kelburn campus every Wednesday and Friday. Check and for more details on these services.

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