When you’re a student, sharing a living space makes sense in terms of sharing the cost of living and domestic responsibilities. However, it also means that you are now co-responsible for running a household, which takes work.
You will have to re-adjust your living habits to some extent as you move into a new environment, filled with new people.
The productivity of your student life will be affected by how safe and comfortable a study and living space your new home is. As a housemate, you will naturally contribute towards the atmosphere and running of the house, which will in turn affect your productivity.
Here are some tips on how you can be a productive housemate:
1. Draw up a joint schedule
Manage shared responsibilities by drawing up a schedule for dealing with the realities of ‘adult’ life such as paying bills, doing the laundry, the cleaning and the shopping. Give each other a copy of your study and exam timetables so that each of you knows when the other is available, and when he/she is likely to be busier.
2. Keep to your end of the bargain
Pay your share of the rent on time, and do your share of the responsibilities without constantly having to be reminded of them by your fellow flatmates. This fosters goodwill in the house, and wards off tension and conflict. Also, it is only when you do your bit that you can expect the same in return.
As the Prophet said:
“He who desires to be rescued from the fire of Hell and to enter Jannah, should die in a state of complete belief in Allah and the Last Day, and should do unto others what he wishes to be done unto him. [Riyadh as Saliheen]”
Living with fellow students means you can pool resources to save on time, effort and money. As one of my course instructors loved to say: “Work smart, not hard!”
Here are just a few ways to do this:
- Make a joint effort to save on costs, wherever possible. This can be done by being more aware of your consumption as a household in terms of electricity, water, and other expenses
- Where possible, share study material with each other
- Take turns for errands, such as grocery shopping or going to the dry-cleaners, and make a list to get as many done at one time (once a week for example)
4. Be open
Communication is key to any successful relationship. If you can be friends with your fellow flatmates, that would be the ideal. If not, at least strive to maintain respect and open dialogue. This is especially important when you feel that for any reason, you are unable to fulfill your responsibilities. Your flatmate should feel comfortable enough to discuss the same with you.
5. Flexibility and compromise
When situations in which your flatmate cannot meet certain responsibilities occur – and they will – be open to compromise. Discuss possible alternatives and come to a new agreement, even if it is a temporary one. When one of you has a major exam coming up for example, the other can pitch in to do a bit extra that week, and the one who has compromised can enjoy the same privilege when they are in that position.
6. Be considerate
Be considerate of your fellow housemates at all times, in terms of the space you take up, and the noise or mess you may make. It is after all a shared space you are occupying. Again, if you feel you need more or less leeway in this regard, talk it through and reach an understanding.
7. Give and take
Give generously, and receive graciously. We can do this in so many ways. You can give of yourself by offering an attentive ear or lending a helping hand, for example. Consider and treat your fellow flatmates as family, and hopefully you can receive the same treatment and support from them. After all, we only get what we give.
8. Share and grow
We learn from the people we live with, and they from us. If you’re lucky enough to be doing the same courses as your flatmate, you can study together or compare notes. If not, you may be able to learn new study methods, and share your own. This can make your study-time more productive, while also promote bonding in the house.
When you’re not studying, share common interests and do leisure activities together, or learn new skills from one another. If your housemate is an excellent cook for example, ask them to teach you a few things, instead of simply relying on him/her to take over preparing meals. You on the other hand, might be good at a sport which you can invite your flatmates to learn and participate in.
9. Maintain balance
While change can be good in many ways, we also risk the danger of getting carried away in new and unfamiliar environment. Learn and share with your flatmates, but don’t lose yourself in the process. If you are in the habit of performing all your prayers on time, don’t be influenced to give this up for anything. Rather, keep to your devotional habits and you may soon become a source of good influence, with Allah’s mercy. On the other hand, do observe and learn from the good of those you live with.
It is our duty to encourage one another to good deeds, and away from evil, as Allah tells us in the Holy Qur’an:
“Help you one another in righteousness and piety; but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is severe in punishment.” [Qur’an: Chapter 5, Verse 2]
Having said that, strive to maintain a balance between study and leisure. Plan your study time well, so that you don’t end up stressed and cramming in last-minute studying as the end of the semester approaches. Also make time for a bit of regular relaxation to ensure that you don’t suffer a burnout when you need the energy most.
10. Be pleasant
The Prophet said:
“Shall I not tell you who is kept away from Hell and from whom Hell is kept away? From everyone who is gentle and kindly, approachable and of an easy disposition.” [Tirmidhi]
This is especially important if you’re living with or in close proximity to non-Muslims, as they will notice your general behavior, and in this way we can either become callers to, or away from the beauty of Islam. Though we often forget it, we are all performing non-verbal da’wah in our daily lives as Muslims.
All in all, your relationship with your housemate is much the same as any other in that it requires mutual respect, openness and understanding in order to work well. As for the daily mechanics of a student’s life, a little bit of planning and discipline, and a whole lot of faith will go a long way towards productivity, insha Allah.