Do’s and Don’ts in the Kitchen With Roommates

August marks this magical time of year that college town residents know so well: the descent of students. Across the country, hordes of young people are signing leases, looking for furniture in Goodwills and IKEA stores, and preparing to live on their own for the first time. God help us all.

It’s orientation week for freshmen at Lifehacker! This week, we’ll share how to break out of the summer fog and plunge into the autumn burst of activity, whether you’re heading to campus for the first time, getting your kids ready for school, or looking for ways to simply be more productive in school. So buckle up your Trapper Guardians with Velcro, apprentices. The class is now in session.

It’s easy to fool naive schoolchildren, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if I stayed in the dorm. At the time, splitting rent per home in Portland was much cheaper than room and board, so I lived off campus for three of my four undergraduate years. (Less than a decade later, the estimated mortgages on all these houses were three times what my friends and I once paid the rent. Party!) Crappy, poorly equipped rental kitchens were where I realized that no matter what where life has taken me, I want cooking – a huge part of it.

This is not to say that they were all rainbows and butterflies. The kitchen is truly the heart of the home, and anyone who has lived with roommates has, one might say, a finer grasp of this old cliché. The kitchen feeds resentment and bitterness as easily as it feeds joy, and if you and your roommates don’t communicate directly, you’re in a very bad time. Here are some tips to help you get on the right foot.

Establish clear, easy-to-use ground rules

The first thing any group sharing a kitchen should do is communicate their expectations for cleanliness. Everyone has different definitions of cleanliness, but basing cleaning standards on usability is a great place to start. “Used” means you can use the space immediately – a few dirty dishes in the sink is not a big problem, but if you leave dirty cutting boards, knives, pots and pans on every usable flat surface, the next person forces them to clean up before they can cook.

Clearing shared utensils, wiping countertops, sweeping or wiping up any large spills along the way should be enough, but talk it over and come up with standards that will work for you, including how to split deep clean. Once you figure it out, write it down and make the document easily accessible through Google Drive or Dropbox. (This is a good place to store digital copies of your bills for rent and utilities.) While you’re doing this, make a playlist on YouTube with the methods of cleaning and maintenance, such ascleaning the filter of the dishwasher ,dumping of waste recycling options , and so on. D., load dishwasher machine ,properly heat a stainless steel pan and clean yourgas orelectric stove – and share it with others.

Don’t do a damn routine wheel

In an ideal world, each family member would spontaneously contribute equally to the care and maintenance of the shared home. In theory, routine wheels bring us closer to this egalitarian, utopian dreamland; in practice, they shift the responsibility for maintaining cleanliness to (usually) one person who not only has to define and assign tasks, but also remind everyone else to do their job. This person – not @ me – is almost always a woman.

If society’s attitude towards domestic work is a cut artery, then routine wheels are akin to striking a plaster and praying to stop bleeding. Don’t use them. Instead, define what “cleanliness” means, and politely and respectfully take yourself and your roommates for maintaining it. It will take some patience, but in the end it will be worth it.

Talk directly about money

College is expensive, and your neighbors’ families probably pay differently from yours. Sharing costs equally is only fair if everyone can afford to invest the same amount. If your food budget is very tight, keep your boundaries in mind and stick to them. If you have access to the family’s wealth, use it for good: cover most of the common household items, buy gas for roommates to take you to the store, treat the house to pizza during the finale, or all of the above. Regardless of where you come from, it’s your responsibility to know what you can afford and be honest about it – and never judge the financial situation of your roommates.

Don’t go full co-op

It’s tempting to be idealistic about family meals and a shared refrigerator, especially if you’re living with close friends for the first time, but if everyone isn’t committed to a cooperative lifestyle, you’re setting yourself up for frustration and resentment. … The DIY approach to eating provides the flexibility that busy student schedules sorely need. However, living with a lot of people can make the pantry cluttered and redundant. Whenever possible, pool your money and separate economy-sized packages with staple foods such as rice, oil and spices, as well as cleaning products and paper products to optimize storage space and save money.

Don’t buy expensive dishes

In colleges, common kitchen utensils turn to shit, making fancy, copper-plated headsets and fragile non-stick low-level pans equally gruesome in their own way. Dishes that require special care will not receive proper care; Cheap non-stick pans will scratch and dents in just a few weeks. This is why I prefer stainless steel cookware , especially for people with roommates. It’s affordable and oven safe, works great on even the crappy electric stoves, and is nearly impossible to tamper with.

Cheap knives are there too. As a true culinary expert, I swear by Kiwi knives that are incredibly sharp, light, well thought out and cheap – almost perfect in every way. Their thin stainless steel blades tarnish a little faster than heavier ones, but on the other hand, they mostly sharpen. If you can’t find kiwi knives in your area, any available stainless steel chef’s knife will do – just get a good steel andlearn how to use it . (A pull-through sharpener is also a good idea.)

While you’re worried about bakers, ditch the pretty non-stick pans and go straight to food serviceable food. Aluminum corrodes in the dishwasher, but is otherwise unbeatable when it comes to durability and heat distribution: all you need are two or three half-size baking sheets, a few tart or pie tins, and parchment paper. On the hardware side, get a rugged handheld mixer – stand mixers are great, but totally unacceptable for packaging and shipping, and digital scales.

Designate absolutely everything

So many kitchen communication problems can be solved with a few rolls of masking tape and a pack of Sharpies. Buy them, put them somewhere conspicuously, and make it your internal policy to label everything in your fridge – from condiments to takeout and leftover food – with your name and opening date. Oh, and don’t forget the plastic soup containers : sturdy, stackable and cheap enough to be lost or thrown away, they are ideal for general food storage.

Any guide to living with roommates would be incomplete without discussing emotional labor, but unfortunately, this is a life skill that you learn by doing, not by reading an essay. As hard as it is, try to remember that not everything is about you. Your roommate who leaves the dishes is probably not actively trying to ruin your life, so don’t talk about the disappointment in your voice when asking for it. Likewise, asking you to clean up your mess is not a personal attack; just do it and take care of it next time without asking you. (If you’re struggling with not being an asshole – which, frankly, most nineteen year olds do – the iconic MetaFilter thread on emotional labor is available in a handy .pdf format. It should be considered a must-read summer reading.)

The whole point of college is to meet and learn from people other than you. Communal life can be exhausting, but it is a valuable crash course in what it means to participate in society, which is more important than any degree. Have fun, clean up your mess and don’t be assholes; that’s the least you can do.


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