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Is Your Flatmate Stealing From You?

Is your flatmate stealing from you?

Your things keep vanishing and you’re hoping your flatmate isn’t the culprit, but some random act of magic…

It starts with small, obscure items; the magazine you just bought, your beloved coffee mug or the Ferrero Rochers you were saving for a rainy day. Then it evolves to bigger, more valuable belongings like your headphones and favourite jeans and you begin to question yourself – did you lend them to a mate? Leave them somewhere? Is early dementia setting in?

Then as you come home from work one evening, you catch your flatmate red handed rummaging through your closet. They look startled, back away, “Sorry,” they say, “going out tonight and I’ve nothing to wear, was hoping you could lend me something.” And you look at them a little bemused – you might have believed them had they not been a size 8 and you a 16. Oh, and that other minor matter of you being of the opposite sex (unless…).

If you catch your flatmate stealing from you, you feel betrayed, violated. These are your personal belongings – how dare they? The situation needs to be dealt with swiftly – but how?  

Firstly, be sure – are they really stealing?

What are we talking about here – the odd blob of milk or a 15-carat diamond ring? In a flatmate scenario, it’s common to share inconsequential items like toiletries. There might be a valid reason why things keep disappearing. For example, if you’re replacing toilet roll quicker than you renew your underwear, it’s possible you’re not dealing with a thief, but a flatmate with irritable bowl syndrome. And if food keeps vanishing from your fridge, it might come down to the simple fact that your flatmate is a pig.

Be careful not to jump to conclusions of thievery too quickly.

Establish boundaries.

Discuss with your flatmate what items you’re prepared to share with each other – Groceries? Clothes? Shoes? Underwear? (Unusual, but who are we to judge). Or maybe you’d prefer to keep everything separate to rule out confusion. If you establish boundaries, you’ll have a stronger case should you catch your flatmate taking items you haven’t agreed to.

Look before you accuse.

Before you bellow, ‘Stop thief!’ as your flatmate leaves for work one morning in a pair of sunglasses that look decidedly similar to the pair you’re missing, consider the possibility that they really do have the same sunglasses and yours aren’t technically missing, but perched in a location that’s difficult for you to see… like on top of your head.

On the other hand…

Ok, so the sunnies do happen to be yours… Now you have every reason to chase your flatmate down the street and rugby tackle them to the ground. Your flatmate will probably give every excuse under the sun; they thought the sunglasses were theirs, that you didn’t want them anymore or it’s a bright day and they have a hangover…

Fall for none of it.

If they refuse to hand your sunglasses back, honk them on the nose, grab your sunnies and make a run for it. (If they do happen to look pale and squinty in the sunlight, it’s possible they really do have a hangover and you may like to take pity).

When your flatmate is a thief.

Ok, so you’ve established there are no magicians hiding in your closet and there’s no mysterious hole in your floor swallowing up your things. The plain truth is, your flatmate is stealing from you.

Plop on the kettle and make a nice strong brew – it’s time for a heart to heart. It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be one of the cringiest things you’ll ever do, but if you’re to uncover the size and scale of your flatmate’s problem and the number of items they’ve stolen from you, you have to confront them.

The secret is to not show too much hostility – you have a greater chance of them opening up to you if you’re not holding them down by the throat. Swallow your bitterness and tell them you’re not angry, that you understand, these things happen. Then tell them you want your things back… pronto. If they refuse – and you happen to have a handy pair of handcuffs – cuff them to the nearest secure object and make a dash for their bedroom. Here’s your chance to take back your things (while you’re at it, you might like to grab a few extras – there’s probably very little that actually belongs to them anyway).

Final advice.

In all seriousness, we don’t advise handcuffing people or tackling them to the ground (although the odd nose-honking is acceptable if they have stolen something particularly sentimental).  One should always attempt to resolve these matters amicably with the end goal of showing your flatmate the door (or, if it’s not your house, making a quick exit with all your belongings in hand).

Over to you – have you ever lived with a flatmate you suspected was stealing from you?

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