Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and for young people looking to channel their inner Snooki or Kyle Cooke, it’s the inaugural weekend for seasonal share houses. From Cape Code to the Hamptons, Dewey Beach to the Jersey Shore, the summer share is a time-honored tradition for young city dwellers seeking a beachside escape on the weekends. Housemates frequently secure a rental from Memorial Day to Labor Day and divvy up weekends among a large group of people to defray costs.
If you think this sounds like a recipe for disaster, you’re not necessarily wrong. But the truth is that the share-house experience differs greatly from one community to another. With some solid organizing and a respectful approach, a group share can be a ticket to the best summer of your life.
In my memoir Out East I chronicle a summer I spent in The Hive, a Montauk summer house I shared with 31 other people. I was 27 at the time, living and working in New York City, and struggling with intense feelings of loneliness. When my grandmother died that winter, I received a check in the mail, an inheritance of $2,000, the exact cost of a half share. I took it as a sign and joined the house my friend was organizing. Over the course of a few months, my social circle expanded in a way I hadn’t experienced since college. I met lifelong friends, and fell in love unexpectedly—for the first time—with a guy. In the shimmering swirl of that summer, amid a profusion of housemates, far away from the buttoned up world of the city, I began to do the introspective work I’d been putting off for the better half of a decade. It was less Jersey Shore and more Call Me By Your Name, but with less fireside crying and more tequila.
That summer I learned that ours was just one in a constellation of share houses. Every group had their own specific rules, customs and systems for weekend assignments. But in general, the houses that tended to run smoothly struck the right balance between structure and flexibility. And the happiest housemates were those who approached the experience from a place of gratitude and respect.
As we count down to summer, here are seven tips for surviving and thriving in a summer share house, whether you’re a beachside veteran, an apprehensive newbie or an all-star guest.
1. GO IN WITH AN OPEN MIND
If you’re new to a summer house, the communal lifestyle can be overwhelming. You’re often sharing tight quarters, even bunking up, with people you’ve never met. Remember that the share-house experience is less about Big Little Lies-style beachfront glamour and more about economy. It’s an awesome privilege just to wake up near the beach. If the social aspect is making you feeling awkward or intimidated, chances are your housemates are also navigating similar feelings. In my experience, the tight quarters helped accelerate new friendships. Embrace the summer with realistic expectations and a flexible, open outlook.
2. DON’T BE A D-BAG
Respect is the single most important component of any successful share house. Respect your housemates, honor their personal space, and look out for one another, especially if you’re planning a big night out. Remember, first and foremost, that the house you’re occupying is not yours. Have fun and make memories, but treat the property as you’d want someone to treat your own apartment. Extend the same level of respect to the community you’re entering. Clean up after yourself, at home and at the beach. Following guidelines about parking. Support local businesses and get to know the local people who keep the town running. It may be your summer playground, but for year-long residents it’s home.
3. START A HOUSE POT
At the beginning of the summer, start a communal fund for house expenses like cleaning supplies, toiletries, food and booze. A weekly professional cleaning can do wonders to eliminate group tensions and keep the house sparkling. Factor these costs into your budget up front so that everyone knows what to expect.
4. FIND A BUDDY
When you’re sharing a house with a big group of people, the communal energy can be intoxicating in the best of ways. Together, your housemates can form the perfect social safety net. Yet sometimes the constant profusion of people and the collision of different personalities may become too intense. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, find someone in the house that’s on the same page and break away, whether it’s for beach walk, an ice cream cone, or a night out when the rest of your housemates are looking to stay in.
5. KEEP A SECRET BAG OF SUPPLIES
During my summer in Montauk, I’d keep a little bag under one of the beds with some go-to essentials: an extra cell phone charger, a good book, sunscreen, Advil, an extra pair of flip flops, a baseball cap, a deck of playing cards, and lots of non-perishable snacks. Leave this bag at the house all summer and you won’t have to worry about packing these items every weekend.
6. START PLANNING EARLY
Finding the right house and coalescing the right group of people takes time. Many groups start to organize their houses in the winter, working with realtors and collecting money for the down payment. Familiarize yourself with the community where you’re planning to rent and study up on any relevant housing laws or restrictions that might make a summer share problematic. By locking in a spot early, you can establish house rules and expectations for the summer and avoid drama down the road.
7. SAVOR IT!
If you’re joining a share house, chances are you’re at a unique time in your life when your friends are your family. One day you’ll look back on these summertime memories with great fondness. Put down your phone and soak up every minute!
John Glynn is the author of Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer published by Grand Central Publishing.