Ask LH: What Rules Should I Follow With A Housemate Of The Opposite Sex?

Ask LH: What Rules Should I Follow With A Housemate Of The Opposite Sex?

Hi Lifehacker, I’ll soon be moving in with a female friend as a housemate (as friends, and just us two). Neither of us has lived with a member of the opposite sex before. What should we both know about living with someone else? Thanks, Purely Platonic

Housemates picture from Shutterstock

Dear PP,

The first point we need to make is this: it’s far more important to worry about being a good housemate overall than being too hung up on the specific issues that occur between men and women. Don’t spend too much time stressing over that detail. Concentrate on being a pleasant human being instead.

To fully answer this question, we tapped into the wisdom of our colleagues at Allure Media. Special thanks to our awesome night editor Elly Hart and Shopstyle Australia country manager Laura Yeomans, both of whom offered lots of detailed advice based on their own hard-won experience.

Even if you’re already friends, you need to set expectations up front. “On the first night, have dinner together and chat through your pet hates,” Laura advises. “No matter how petty they may seem at the time. if the person is aware of what your bugbear is they will hopefully refrain from doing it.”

That approach is worth maintaining over time. “Spend one night a week either eating dinner or on the couch together,” Laura says.

When disputes do arise, don’t take the easy (and passive-aggressive) route for dealing with them. “If something has annoyed you, don’t leave notes or writes emails — try and talk about it and laugh about it,” Laura says. “It’s amazing how a seemingly trivial issue can become a huge elephant in the room if the situation is not spoken about early on and diffused.”

A common area of dispute is over home maintenance. In this area, there’s no substitute for having a well-defined rotor. “Divide up chores and make a schedule you can both stick to,” Elly says. “This is really important to prevent resentment over the state of the home. Decide upfront if it’s OK to leave dishes in the sink or not, and when the dishes will be done and by whom if you do.”

Similarly, make sure there’s a clear schedule for bill payments, and an agreed procedure. “No matter what happens, pay rent on time, every time,” Laura suggests.

You might feel grumpy first thing, but simple courtesy makes for a much pleasanter environment. “A simple ‘good morning’ or ‘have a nice day’ goes a long way,” Laura says.

Respect that you’re living in a shared space. “Do what you want in your own room but be tidy everywhere else,” Laura says. “A cleaner every fortnight can be some of the best money you’ve ever spent.”

In terms of gender-specific issues, there’s one key point: don’t leave the toilet seat up. And the other obvious issue was neatly summed up by Business Insider’s Simon Thomsen: “No matter how drunk you both are and how lonely and how long it’s been, a mutually convenient shag is never a good idea.”

You also need rules for other forms of coupling. “Set rules regarding houseguests so that you don’t wake up one morning to find two half-naked strangers sleeping on your couch,” Elly says.

What rules have readers found useful in similar situations? Tell us in the comments.


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  • I could never understand the whole “never leave the toilet seat up” thing

    Is it really so hard to put the seat back down if it’s up?

    • The correct way to leave a toilet is with the seat and the lid down.
      It’s really not difficult.

      • But why? I personally like the seat and lid down for neatness. There is no more convenience to having it up or down – either way someone has to do the opposite. Either way it’s not particularly difficult.

        Is the “rule” to have the seat down a chivalrous tradition? Does the lid have a “rule” as well?

      • I agree. It’s about keeping the bathroom in a clean and presentable state, but it’s not just the toilet seat, it’s about the whole area:
        1. Toilet Paper goes OVER the roll. Seriously, have you ever seen it under the roll at the Hilton? (*note: if you have small children or cats that love spooling paper off, then this rule can be negotiated)
        2. Seat Down, and if you piss on the floor, clean it up.
        3. Lotions, Hairdryers, Straighteners, Curlers, Moisturizers, Perfumes and Deodorants live IN THE DRAW OR CUPBOARD, not on the vanity.

    • haha. I had a roommate keep having a go at me for putting the toilet seat and cover down everytime. She had to lift the cover up… I told her its equality. You like it down, I like it shut so you and I get the best of both worlds equally.

    • I think that both the lid and seat should be put down at all times. But I agree that if you’re going to be leaving the lid up anyway, it makes more sense to just leave the toilet as-is. This means that each time a person uses the toilet, the minimum amount of fiddling has to take place. If the toilet seat is put down each time, that means if a man uses the toilet twice in a row, the seat has to go through 2 unneeded movements, whereas all the rest of the work is the same.

      Can’t see why everyone doesn’t just close the lid though, that’s what it’s there for.

    • That’s what I don’t understand. The seat is on a hinge.
      If the seat is up, and you want it down, put it down.
      If the seat is down, and you want it up, put it up.

    • What everyone seems to be forgetting is the toilet seat has a giant hole in it. Leave the seat down, aim for the middle and watch the arguments get flushed away….

    • Women in my brother’s office used to complain about him (the only male) leaving the seat up, because it meant they had to put it down.

      Now, to a logical, rational mind, this makes absolutely no sense if you do things their way, because it means he has to put it both up AND down, and they don’t have to touch it at all.

      That is exactly what they wanted, apparently. Not to have to touch the toilet seat.
      So he put the seat AND its cover down. They HATED that too.

      So I guess the general idea is, only icky boys should be touching icky toilet seats.

        • Lacking some logic skills and an awareness on the particulars of transmission of bacteria?

          I can understand preferring not to touch something with your hands compared to your ass, given that your hands spend a lot more of the day in close proximity to if not IN your face, compared to your ass… but this is why hand-washing is important.

          • Every time I use the toilet, I wash my hands. What’s so hard about that? BTW I always put the cover down.
            I’m sure there are better areas to get bacteria from, like handles and money.

          • It’s true, toilet seats are actually very low in bacteria compared to other heavily-traffic places and things.

            But like I’m saying… the complaint isn’t logical. It’s just there, for some reason. Because people are weird.

    • Everyone seems to be debating the effort or convenience of putting the seat up and down. The real issue is that the seats come with a lid for a reason – You should flush with the lid down.
      If you flush with the lid up, a polluted plume of bacteria and water vapour erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl. The polluted water particles float for a few hours around your bathroom before they all land. Some of them will land on your tooth brush.

  • “Spend one night a week either eating dinner or on the couch together,” Laura says.

    Sounds a lot like a “date night” that could lead to “a mutually convenient shag”.

  • “Set rules regarding houseguests so that you don’t wake up one morning to find two half-naked strangers sleeping on your couch,” Elly says.

    For example, implementing a rule that all houseguests must sleep totally naked would be a very effective way of solving the problem of half-naked strangers. Speaking of which, it’s also worth talking about the issue of house-parties and if it’s cool for her to hit on your friends and vice versa.

    She’s going to be much happier to learn you shagged her best friend if she was playing wing-man for you the night before, than if you surprise her with it when you both walk out of your bedroom in the morning.

    Just sayin’ … communication is the key.

    One last thing, if you’re not a fan of cleaning, take it upon yourself to hire a cleaner to do the bathrooms and floors fortnightly. It’s going to piss her off if you never do it, and she’s never going to let you hit on her friends if she thinks you’re a lazy slob.

  • a well-defined rotor?
    Not sure what a propeller has to do with anything – perhaps your mean rota (or roster)?

  • If you’re into each other, bang them as soon as possible. This whole, “But that makes things awkward!” shit is boring. You were probably going to get sick of them or hate them bringing dates around and find someone else to live or get a new roomie anyway; embrace the mess.

    Most folks lying on their deathbed tend not to regret all that sex they had.

    • I read someone that on their death bed men tend to regret all those missed sexual opportunities

  • Rule #1 for men… Don’t show her your doodle.
    Rule #2 for women… Don’t laugh when you see his doodle.

  • If you find out you are into your flatmate, its better to shag them early rather than get sent to the friendzone.

    We all know how that worked out for Ser Jorah.

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