Anybody who’s had a housemate knows that even the best of friends can have a hard time living with one another if there are basic incompatibilities in how they approach household tasks.

Learning how to be a better housemate is mostly a question of empathy – seeing the world through the eyes of another person and how your actions affect them – but there are a few skills that you’ll need to also have.

Note: Don’t rise to a task beyond you. Being a good housemate also means not burning the house down trying to do the job of a professional. If something’s out of your capabilities, know them and call somebody better suited!

1. Basic Pool Maintenance

If you’re lucky enough to be living anywhere with utilities, the last thing you’ll want is a green, algae filled mess where the pool used to be.

Create a house checklist of important tasks (not just for the pool, you should try and do this for any regular or semi-regular thing; some places can make do without a roster for who takes out the bin bags, but some people find it easier to have notation). General things to do on the regular include testing the pH levels, inspecting electrical devices, emptying the skimmer basket, removing floating leaves and cleaning the filter.

Have somebody who’s job it is to scope out the basic tasks and general maintenance level of your pool for 30 minutes on a weekly basis is going to save you a lot of bother in the long run.

A household is about order and not stepping each others toes, and letting chores pile up is a good way to break that balance; remember, people have different tolerance levels for neglect and dirt, and it shouldn’t just be the job of the person with the lowest tolerance to constantly clean.

Make sure the pool tiles and the walls are free from any grime in order to prevent dirt building up over time and causing problems for you in the future as well

2. Wall Plastering

Things break, accidents happen, and while there’s not always somebody to blame for it, somebody has to clean up. Learning to do some basic wall plastering means being able to do basic handywork when somebody trips and chips.

All you’ll need is a trowel, some plaster, and some basic safety equipment for your eyes and mouth. Most plaster kits from your local hardware store come with it’s own trowel which is easy to store. You can get all of these from any hardware store in the planet.

Start by washing down the area you’re going to plaster, then combine a small amount of plaster, enough to fill the hole or gap, in a bucket or other container. Smush it into the hole in a compact way, using the trowel to glide across and make sure it’s flat across the rest of the surface of the wall, then use the edge to wipe off any remaining plaster. If the dried plaster is a little uneven, use a light sandpaper to even out your job.     

For a more indepth look, check out this guide

3. Gardening

Helping another living thing grow is a great life skill to have, but if you’ve never done it before your green thumb might actually hurt more than it helps.

Knowing the basics of gardening means you’re ready to care for any plant life that might be in your vicinity, whether it’s a communal garden or vegetable patch.

Plants need a few things to survive: sunlight, water, and a few chemicals (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium).

Sunlight means direct sunlight, which means that simply being in the light isn’t enough, it has to be physically under the rays of the sun, not behind a window or other obstruction and not artificial light (unless you have specialised lamps…but if you’re at that level you probably won’t need this guide).

You should water your plants daily for most types, but do a quick google on the conditions that your particular one likes to be under. The same goes for their soil and nutrients, which need to be treated like food would be for a human.

4. Paying rent and utilities on time

Budget, budget, budget!

Running out of money before paying bills doesn’t just mean that your rent or utilities will be late. If you keep doing it, you’ll eventually draw the ire of the other people in the household.

Not having the money for reasons that you can’t control, such as an emergency, unexpected bills, or the like, is fine. Running out because you spent a few too many nights partying might be funny the first time, but by the fifth time in a row it ends up being a chore for those around you.

Paying on time often conveys discounts or loyalty points for certain places, and it’ll prove a massive load off of your back to know that you’re you’ve got your affairs fully in order.

5. Conflict Resolution

The final thing you should learn is how to de-escalate anger and fights. There’s not a human relationship in the world – father and daughter, brother and sister, partner and partner, housemate to housemate – that hasn’t been strained at some point.

Add living together into the mix and sometimes fights will just happen. Sometimes it’ll be one person’s fault, and sometimes it’ll be a conflict of opinion where nobody is ‘correct’. Either way, the first thing that you should do is learn how to handle fights rather than how to ‘win’ them.

Sticking up for yourself is important, but it’s more important to get to the crux of an argument and diffuse the core problem at hand than it is to get annoyed at every little thing.