Anyone who has ever lived in a student house knows exactly how challenging it can be to keep it clean. Let’s face it: there are other priorities, which include studying and having a great time.
But when a student house descends into filth and chaos, relationships and academic achievement can suffer. Maintaining a reasonably clean and tidy living environment doesn’t have to be too taxing — if you take the right approach.
Share the work
All too often, cleaning in a student house is left to the person who simply can’t live with it. While others might be prepared to live in squalor, certain people will be so stressed and uncomfortable they’ll have no choice but to take on the responsibility single-handedly. This will inevitably lead to resent and confrontation.
Write a list of all the essential cleaning jobs in the home, and divide them equally among all the members of the household. To make sure everyone has to clean everything, rotate the responsibilities every few weeks or so.
As well as sharing the work, you’ll all need to work out the best ways to share the cost. You’ll need cleaning tools, agents and gadgets such as vacuum cleaners and steam cleaners. Start a cleaning kitty at the beginning of the year, and assign someone to manage it — which will include asking people for more money if it runs out.
Clean as you go
Everyone should get together for a house meeting, and agree to take equal and shared responsibility for the cleanliness and tidiness of the house. Decide as a group on a house rule of cleaning proactively and throughout the week. If you create the mess, you clean it up. You’ll be surprised at how effective this approach can be if everyone sticks to it.
Keep on top of food and waste
Students are famous for their weird and wonderful eating habits, but not so famous for their food safety controls. Every Sunday evening, go through the fridges, freezers and cupboards, and throw away perishable food that is past its “use by” date. Clean out the fridge with lemon juice, white vinegar and water, and place a small bowl of baking powder in there to absorb any unpleasant smells.
When it comes to perishable waste, the simple rule should be to take it outside immediately. Student houses are notorious for being in a terrible state through the week, and taking out the trash isn’t going to be a priority. If old food is taken straight outside, it will never attract pests and become a general hazard to health.
Embrace steam and antibacterial wipes
Even with a concerted effort and an organised approach to cleaning, students are highly unlikely to spend sufficient time on essential cleaning jobs. Anything that can speed up these jobs and make them easier will be embraced, which is why there should always be antibacterial wipes and a steam cleaner in a student home.
Antibacterial wipes are great for cleaning surfaces in a hurry. Fast, effective and disposable, they don’t require spray bottles, cloths and other cleaning-related paraphernalia. Steam cleaners clean everything from windows to carpets, and they do so with the minimum of effort.
Whoever uses it cleans it
This rule should apply to every room in the house, but particularly in the bathroom and kitchen. Students tend to live parallel lives, even though they live under the same roof. It is not acceptable to leave mess for someone else to work around — so everyone needs to take responsibility for their own mess.
If dishes and pots have been used for a meal, the house rule should be to clean them immediately. Whenever anyone has a bath or shower, they should be the person to wipe the area down afterwards. This approach will stop arguments and keep the home in a relative state of order between cleaning days.
Very few student houses will ever be spotless. However, by communicating and cooperating, students should be able to maintain a reasonable level of cleanliness in their home.