Group development in a share house

I have lived in share houses since 1993 and lived in one long-term rental since 2003. Professionally I also work with groups and have recently realised how valuable it could be to consider group development in a share house context. Looking back I can see how considering the group development of a household would have been useful to create a more functional home environment.

This information supports all housemates to understand how groups develop. It is useful for long term housemates to support new housemates to integrate them into the household more smoothly.

The 5 stages of group development was created by Bruce Tuckman: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning and another stage was added by Timothy Biggs which is Reforming and then back to the Storming and so on. In discussion with a friend these titles have been changed.

Emerging (beginning of household)

This is the time when the group is first coming together and a new household group is emerging. If housemates don’t know each other well they might avoid conflict as there is a strong desire to be accepted by others in the group.

The important focus for this time is to

  • become familiar with each other
  • create a group purpose


  • defining group purpose
  • who will be responsible for what
  • clarify group guidelines

Re-emerging (new members to household)

Often in share houses a housemate leaves then another housemate joins the group. The group needs to reform again similarly to the original re-emerging stage. It is also important to recognise that the new member is joining a potentially cohesive group of friends and needs to be actively included into this group. At this stage the new member is at the re-emerging stage while the old housemates are at the reforming stage.

Below are some things long term housemates can do to foster reforming

  • interact regularly both socially and to organise the household
  • organise work efforts by valuing everyone’s contribution
  • engage in healthy debate based on tasks
  • openly discuss the relationship dynamics in the group

Expressing (productive conflict)

In the expressing stage, housemates start to contribute their opinions, insights and ideas. There is more opportunity for conflict here because the individuals become confident to disagree with each other. Conflict can be a positive experience for the household. In this stage the housemates can now address more important issues related to sharing a home.

Activities that can be helpful at this stage could be to

  • create a common purpose together
  • fostering a commitment to success of the household
  • building trust and supportive relationships
  • resolving personal conflicts
  • supporting task related debate
  • explain the stages of group development if needed
  • sharing both information and resources with everyone
  • acknowledge hierarchies and responsibilities (landlords > tenants, long term housemates > new/short term housemates, assertive > quieter personality, power and privilege)

It is important for long term and vocal housemates to support the new or quieter housemates to share their opinions. It is also important for new and quiet housemates to find ways of communicating to the group about any issues. See Raising Issues Post if you feel you may need help in this area.

Long term housemates need to be aware that norms have been previously set and it’s important to include new housemates in defining new norms. Just because something has been done one way for some time doesn’t mean it’s the best way. It might be worth trying an idea contributed by a new housemate, even if it has been tried before, as a new group of people may create a different result. There is a lot of need for clarification at this stage especially for the new housemate. This can be a lot of work for old housemates to do, so it’s important that the new housemate do as much as they can to learn about their new home. It is important that all housemates experience a level of stress the leads to creativity and new ideas, not a level that inhibits their interaction with the household. As you can imagine some households do not get past this stage.

Satisfaction (cohesion of the household)

Once the group has settled in they can focus on the common ground they have established through the expressing stage. In this stage the morale is high and the household works as a cohesive group.

At this stage the housemates are

  • actively acknowledging the styles, abilities and knowledge each housemate brings to the household
  • flexible, interdependent and trust each other
  • sharing leadership in their particular strengths
  • sharing their opinions freely and diverse opinions are respected
  • experiencing a sense of connection
  • focused on the purpose of living together

Team building ideas that could be useful

  • Personality-based team building is used to increase the acceptance within the group and to communicate better with each other. Use this if housemates aren’t getting along. This can be a personality test to learn about themselves, each other and how they work as a group. The results can be used to create activities to better work together and appreciate each other’s contribution to the group.
  • Activity-based team building is a set of challenging tasks aimed to create space for problem-solving, risk taking, trust building and change of mindset. Use this if the household is having trouble solving problems together. These could be different from activities required for share house living but serve as an important example for the house to work as a group.
  • Skills-based team building is aimed at improving specific group work skills that housemates need to accomplish their goals and work as a group. Use this if the group is having trouble going through the functions of team work. Skills such as team work, listening, conflict management, giving and receiving feedback and running effective meetings could be developed.

Performing (working well as a team)

The performing stage is the most productive work wise.

At this stage housemates are

  • unified, loyal and supportive
  • value each others contribution which creates a space for independent decision-making
  • achieving their mission by experimentation and testing solutions

When a household is working as a team they can

  • recognise and create solutions together
  • improve and create systems
  • add their own style, ideas, skills and knowledge to the household
  • take on responsibility for aspects of running the household
  • create mutual accountability and support systems
  • enjoy each other’s company and the home they have created together
  • new or short term housemates will no longer look to older or long term housemates for solutions to problems

The housemates may have a series of goals to achieve and/or one simple goal (such as to enjoy living together). Once the group has made it to this stage it may fall back into previous stages as new goals are defined.

Home making

Home making are things housemates do for the home and each other that makes somewhere feel like a home rather than a place where people are coexisting. These gestures make a big differents to the well being of the group.

Here are the ones that I have noticed

  • making a treat that suits housemates and eating it together
  • organising a fun activity for the household to do together
  • inviting housemates to go to an event together
  • come home with fruits or flowers you have gathered
  • letting housemates know you’ve cooking them a meal to eat when they return home
  • welcoming housemates home
  • celebrating special occasions together

Wrap-up (of share house group)

After a group has successfully (or unsuccessfully) lived together a housemate may move out.

This is a time for

  • Wrapping up the household activities
  • Creating a sense of closure to the group that has formed
  • Reflect and acknowledge the group members contribution, especially the housemate who is leaving
  • Celebrating the groups achievements together

This can be a sad and/or challenging time depending on the circumstances. Often you can feel happy for the housemate leaving to follow their dreams but sad for yourself in losing the household that has come together well.

Diagram outlining the stages of group development

group developement of a sharehouses

I have learnt a lot from doing this research which I hope to use to be a better housemate. Reflecting on what has worked and not worked in previous experiences has help me. I hope it is useful for you too. Feel free to contact me with any feedback and I’d love to hear about what has worked for you in sharing a home.