Coping in a Shared House

A very real (but less talked-about) aspect of contemporary life involves the increasing prevalence of people living in shared accommodation. A lack of affordable housing, wage stagnation, higher cost of living, and growing inequality between workers and business owners means that more-often-than-not, young people will be relegated to living in their family home to ever-increasing ages, or otherwise living with roommates in less than ideal quarters.

From late adolescence and into adulthood, people will find themselves typically desiring more of their own space, and room for their own self-actualisation and independence. However, these desires often conflict greatly with the realities presented to them. The stereotypical notions of one’s “path to adulthood” are woefully outdated under modern circumstances. It’s not so easy for many to simply pack their bags and rent housing or take out a mortgage on their own home. As such, they must learn to better cope (in the interim) with the situation dealt to them.

Below are some tips we hope may make shared living more comfortable:

1) Take mess and hygiene seriously

When space is at a premium, it’s very important to ensure that you are not intruding on others. It sounds like a no-brainer, but make sure you clean yourself thoroughly every day, even if you feel depressed. You should also make sure to dispose of packaging and unnecessary materials as soon as you can, as those things often have a tendency to pile up. Make it a good practice to immediately recycle or throw out what you no longer need right when you’re done using it. Volunteer to take out the garbage and to clean your own space regularly. Your housemates will appreciate it too!

2) Decide on the functions of different spaces around the house

It’s important that each individual have spaces to call their own, and room for their own belongings. Clear boundaries need to be set to ensure that everyone can feel comfortable within their own space, yet some flexibility will also be needed for unexpected or uncommon occurrences (guests, unavailability of facilities, etc.)

In addition, as more people work from home in present circumstances, spaces (shared or individual) must be set to allow everyone to work from home should the need arise. Some may prefer to work on their own, and others may feel better working alongside others. People may also work at different times and have different space requirements for their work needs. Noise is also an issue that should be considered. Will some people need to sleep at different hours?  Do others find it difficult to work with distractions? Arrangements should be made early on (in consultation with every housemate) so that each person’s needs are met to the best of your abilities.

3) Understand that circumstances may change

As the saying goes: “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Your housemates should collectively decide on some contingency plans for unexpected situations. For instance, what should you do if someone gets sick? What if someone is really frustrated and needs more space? What is the plan for if the internet goes down? Having practical responses that everyone agrees with can help to reduce anxiety and give everyone a focused plan-of-action.

4) Make a fair division of labour

It’s important to determine what the responsibilities are for any household. These can include things such as stocking up on groceries, cooking, housekeeping and cleaning, taking out the garbage, paying the utility bills, etc. In an ideal world, every housemate could partition these labours equally. However, this is often not practically possible. Some may lack the ability to do or access certain tasks, others may have work schedules that conflict with their duties, and so forth.

With a list of all known responsibilities correlated, all housemates should discuss together their own reasonable needs and capabilities in addressing them. Some may be able to contribute more than others in some areas, but less in others. What’s important is to build an understanding of what labour is considered “fair” from each member and then put these plans into action. Similarly, it’s important that these duties are not 100% set in stone, as some flexibility will be necessary in unforeseen circumstances.