University Survival Guide: The ‘Clean Freak’ Edition

Written by Polly Bowden

Illustrated by Lucy Lorimer

Freshers’ week is without shadow of a doubt an exciting opportunity to strike out on your own and take advantage of your new-found freedom away from home. Equally daunting and exciting, the hype surrounding it can be make or break for your inaugural week of undergraduate study.

Many of us arrive at university filled with the Fresh Meat-infused perception of drinking to excess, slightly grotty accommodation and the trepidation of living with strangers.

Fresh Meat, source: Den of Geek

But what to do if your misspent youth has made you a more introverted soul? What if the thought of forced-fun drinking games fills you with despair? What if your idea of fun doesn’t involve a round of shots? And what if you like having your own things in a tidy space? 

Presenting: the holy trinity of housesharing for the homebird.

1. In the immortal words of Courtney Barnett – “no one really cares if you don’t go to the party.”

Granted, it’s freshers week and you might want to get in the spirit of it. But it’s important to remember that it’s okay if drinking games, late nights and relentless hangovers aren’t your thing.

Freshers week is a good opportunity to find your tribe at university but if you’re not a party person, the chances are you won’t find your tribe in a nightclub. That’s not to say you can’t endear yourself to your new housemates. Perhaps offer to join for pre-drinks but call it a night when they head out, or suggest a hangover brunch the next day so you can sit down and have a chat rather than shouting “I’M FROM MANCHESTER” three times in someone’s ear over the sound of the DJ playing OMI’s Cheerleader for the second time of the evening. 

2. Cleanliness is next to godliness

Perhaps you’ve spent your teen years learning how to look after your goddamn self and are therefore lucky enough to be entering your twenties knowing the difference between rinsing something and cleaning it. Sharing accommodation sorts the wheat from the chaff in terms of who has basic cooking and cleaning skills and who falls woefully short of the mark.

Do not underestimate how poorly domesticated some budding students can be – prepare for dirty dishes piled in the sink, an obscene amount of takeaway (the packaging for which curiously never making its way into the bin) and a flatmate who will go a term without changing their sheets. Pick your battles to win your wars, there’s just no point in haranguing someone to do their washing up (more fool them when they’re eating out of a saucepan). But be bold. Make a bin rota. 

3. Some things are sacred

One of the most wonderful things about moving away for university is no longer having to explain yourself to your parents. If you want to go to the shops to buy a bottle of gin and a packet of biscuits you are free to do so without fear of judgement. That said, you may find yourself living in pretty close quarters with your new flatmates and struggling to establish boundaries. It’s always better to start sooner rather than later.

It’s easier to tell someone not to use your mug the first time they try rather than have to broach the subject after they’ve been happily violating your property for a good six months. Likewise, if you want to be a bit antisocial and head back to your room after making dinner to binge watch some telly – establish the precedent early on. Frustrating as sharing space can be, be as kind as your patience allows – everyone is different and no-one will respect your boundaries if you don’t respect theirs. 


In an era dominated by aesthetically pleasing quotes on Instagram, “you do you” has become an annoying, saccharine and somewhat overused mantra for the modern millennial and gen Z. But when you feel like a Monica in an overwhelmingly Joey world, you might as well embrace, nay, own it.

With any luck you’ll be moving from a smaller pool into a bigger one when you start university. You’ll be surprised at how many more kindred spirits you’ll come into contact with and it will give you the confidence to be your clean, tidy and slightly anally-retentive self. And you’ll be surprised upon leaving university how grateful you’ll be for developing some diplomacy, self-care mechanisms and big batch cooking skills. Enjoy yourself, make like-minded friends, look after yourself, but most importantly, you do you.

The Author

Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous and Ruby Hinchliffe

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