Someone has been in your room. There’s a general sense of disorder – like things have been moved about, but you can’t quite put your finger on what. You go to turn on your hair straighteners and that’s when you notice – everything has been unplugged. Everything from your alarm to your straighteners to your phone charger. Did someone need to borrow everything at once?
No. Your flatmate is on one of her ‘must save money at all costs’ rampages and has taken to unplugging things in secret. If only there were a civilised way of showing her how ludicrous this is – a way to prove that your straighteners are not costing anywhere near as much as the heating she keeps blazing all day.
If only you had a smart meter.
A smart meter measures exactly what you’re paying for and when, in pounds and pence, in near real-time. This means you’ll be able to see exactly how much things on standby are costing, so you can unplug as and when needed. If necessary. Think of it as your ‘flatmate jury’. Check out the video above to see how it could help you.
No need for a terse flat meeting, leave a passive-aggressive note instead.
Stylist’s Alexandra Jones examines the failure in communication that pervades shared flats.
As far as I’m concerned, when living en masse it is our duty as civilised people to avoid fractious conversations at all costs. After all, it’s a delicate balancing act – small disputes can quickly bubble over into all-out war.
As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: 'Hell is other people.' Particularly when those other people use your shampoo and leave the TV on all night. So yes, sometimes disputes are unavoidable. But, I’d argue, there are more adult ways to handle disputes than by calling an uncomfortable ‘flat meeting’. Enter the passive-aggressive note. There are myriad ways these can be distributed – via a flatmate WhatsApp thread named ‘If we can all just be mindful of…’, via hastily scribbled sticky note left at key locations around the house (television, front door, the chocolate bar in the fridge) or via an old envelope taped to your bedroom door with a tally of how long you spend in the shower each morning. They are all brilliant in their own way; odes to the clenched-jaw propriety which holds together the fabric of modern British society. Here are four of my favourites…
The one about the dishwasher
“Hey guys, feel free to put more than just three plates and a cup in the dishwasher before switching it on. It’s a waste of hot water and electricity otherwise.” ‘Feel free’ notes are the crème de la crème of passive-aggressive missives. They’re so gloriously indirect. Despite the fact the dishwasher should be a site of minimal resistance (a machine that does your dishes), there’s always one flatmate who’s precious about how much you put in it. To be fair, they may have a point.
The one about the hot water
“Thanks to whoever used the hot water. Had a cold shower and will probably get ill.” To be fair, a cold shower at am has the power to put even the jolliest of us in a sour mood. But if you’ve ever had to set a ‑.am alarm so that you can get into the office early, you’ll know that the only thing that helps you get through it is the thought that you’ll be first in the shower – and it’ll be an indecently long, hot one.
The one about the landing light
Taped over the light switch: “Can we all just leave this off! No one ever remembers to turn it off at night and it’s a huge waste of electricity and, therefore, MONEY.” You can’t argue with this reasoning. But when you stumble home half-cut, tumble up the stairs, right yourself, then step on an up-turned plug, you can’t help but curse this person, probably loudly right outside their bedroom door. You then turn the light on anyway, to teach them a lesson. There must be a better way.
The one about the heating
“If you’re cold, may I suggest a jumper?” This is one I’ve been known to deploy. I stand by my words.
Say goodbye to energy-bill anxiety
Once you’ve got over that stomach-churning feeling of your energy bill making its way into your home, there’s the inevitable battle with your flatmates as you rightly try to put the blame on the guilty energy guzzler. They’re having none of it – that TV needed to be on all day when they were at work; the balcony door had to be open all night in the middle of winter. A simple way of avoiding this is to get a smart meter. It allows you to see exactly how much energy you’re using and how much it’s costing you, in pounds and pence, in near real-time. Installed by your energy supplier, it ends the drama of estimated bills, so you can finally put a stop to bill-phobia. Contact your energy supplier to ask about getting your smart meter installed.