I am no stranger to living with other people. I once spent a month living in a flat with four beds and fifteen different people coming and going. Although I’ve never lived with a romantic partner, I think I have a good grasp on how to share space efficiently.
For many people, when they think about living with others they immediately think of mess. Mess is often a big problem in shared houses for multiple reasons but partly because different people conceptualise mess differently.
There is a spectrum of awareness of mess contrasted with a willingness to clean things. Some people are hyper-aware of when things need to be cleaned but you might end up living with a person who can step over something every single day on their way to the bathroom and never notice. Mess is invisible to these people which is not necessarily a problem if such people have a high level of willingness to clean.
Communication is key to living with people
Some people will not notice if the bin is close to overflowing, but if you tell them to replace it – they do so immediately. Other people will notice well in advance that the bin is about to overflow, and still not do anything about it. Instead, they may devise strategies to solve the problem that don’t involve taking the bins out, such as carefully balancing things on top of the rubbish pile or watching the things they eat to create smaller amounts of rubbish. This is extremely irritating. However, they are not the worst people to live with.
If you are aware that someone has both poor awareness of mess and low willingness to clean, it might be best to have a conversation about their annoying habits. Communication is key to living with people so a cleaning rota can help, but it’s still important to understand the different ways people conceptualise mess so if they’re not doing their bit you can properly explain.
Make sure when you’re living with other people you maintain your own mental space
Only one thing is more crucial than cleaning when sharing a space, and that’s privacy. I think there are two kinds of privacy people need. Physical privacy is obviously necessary and involves having space where you have the freedom to do whatever you want without constantly being with others.
Mental privacy is the other type. This is about having the space to think your own individual thoughts and be alone in your own mind without the fear that someone will interrupt you or without needing to focus your thoughts on something specific like a conversation.
It’s important to make sure when you’re living with other people you maintain your own mental space, or it is relatively easy to become absorbed in a group dynamic rather than considering the things that you want to do. This can easily make you stressed and overwhelmed.
Living with other people is about having clear rules everyone understands
Mental privacy might not necessarily mean that you are physically away from other people because part of mental privacy is keeping to your own routines which might be something like cooking or working out around other people. This is most important when you first begin to live with new people, or in an unusual situation like quarantine or self-isolation. Make sure your housemates understand when you want to talk and when you want to be left alone.
Living with other people is about having clear rules everyone understands and also interprets in the same way. There will always be a few things that people see differently, from how exactly to divide bills so everyone pays equally, to whether or not eggs need to be stored in the fridge. Proper communication is what sticks a household together. Whether you’re living with your best friend or your worst enemy, you’re just going to need to talk to them.