When my husband and I first moved in with another couple five years ago we seemed to be heading in untested waters. I think a lot of people were questioning how that could even work. Now, with the last five year’s recession, people are scrambling to learn to survive in the new economy. Whether it be food industry business sharing a kitchen (www.sharedcommercialkitchen.com), businessmen and tourists sharing someone’s home while away (www.istopover.com), or people sharing rides (www.ridejoy.com) sharing is the new normal.
Sharing housing has been on the rise for the last few years. According to the US Census Bureau, between 2007 and 2010 the number rose 11.4%. Now over 30% of all adult Americans live in a shared household. When we began in 2008, we got a lot of “are you crazy” looks. Now people often say “Oh, I wish I could find someone to do that with”. We were trendsetters and we didn’t even know it!
Since so many more families are trying this, I will be frequently sharing what has and hasn’t worked for us and what we have learned in the last five years. Hopefully some of it will be helpful to others who are just embarking on what has been a challenging but incredibly rewarding experience.
Below are a few general tips that we have found helpful.
1: Choose someone you can live with. Literally.
– This may seem counterintuitive, but I have found in the past the people I can live with are not necessarily the people I like the best or I am closest too. Your best friend who is the life of the party and with whom you have wine induced hysterical giggling late weekend nights, may be an awful roommate if you are the type of person who is generally in bed by 10:00 on weeknights, love structure and routine. Imagine trying to get sleep for a big meeting when she is reliving scenes from the Hangover, complete with a goat and strippers in your living room at 2:00 am on a Wednesday. Try to pick someone whose habits, routines, hygiene, and values are similar to yours.
2. Put it in writing.
– List out all the bills and agree who is paying for what. List out how you are going to split up household chores. List what the general agreements of the house are (no loud music after 11:00, ask before having houseguests, we can split costs on milk, but don’t drink my booze etc.).
– Agree to the list.
– All parties sign the list.
3. Be flexible.
– Things change. Expect it. Work with it. How we split up chores has changed three or four times in the last five years as our household dynamic has changed. We have swapped bills, depending on what makes the most sense and who gets better discounts. What works today, may not work tomorrow. Be willing to go back to the drawing board, sit down, and make a new agreement.
– Ladies, know how when your husband leaves his dirty underwear on the bathroom floor and you say something like “How many times do I have to tell you to pick these up, for cryingoutloud” while rolling your eyes and acting like a martyr. Now, imagine saying that to another woman. You can’t, can you? The way you communicated to your spouse is not the way you communicate to your best gal pal, but you have to communicate effectively with your roommate for the arrangement to work. The best bet is to be polite and straightforward, such as “Can we agree to keep our dirty laundry off the bathroom floor?”
Next week, I’ll delve into more specific aspects of how we maintain our sanity in a shared household. Would you ever consider sharing a household? Are there any other general tips you have found helpful in shared households?