Are you one of the lucky masses in the Bakken, huddled together, with people you barely know in an apartment or man camp? It’s a little crazy isn’t it! Even worse, are you just hoping to be lucky enough to find someone to share an abode with so you can accept work? If living together, without the elixir of ‘true love’, is your fate I have a few tips for you. You may be asking, "Why does Karen, a middle aged homeowner in Billings, Montana think she can give me tips about living with others?" And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.
I grew up in a tiny house- lots of people. I married a man who likes big houses- and I like to fill them with lots of people. Through all of the people, all of the challenges I’ve learned to make it work for everyone. Right now my daughter and her husband have lived with us for 5 years. They added a grandson to the mix and, lo and behold, we are all still speaking. I also have a brother, a consummate bachelor, living in our basement, and I invite various friends and relatives to stay at a moment’s notice. Our guest list has included two Swedish bicyclists who were about to camp in the local park when I invited them to stay in our back yard. They stayed for six days and we are still fabulous friends.
Here are 5 tips you can use to live with others…no matter who or where.
1. Avoid saying “This is my house.” You may be the owner or the name on the lease, but you have invited people into the structure so they would have a home. Nothing ever ends well when you say “In MY house.” Even though you very well may mean it. Instead try this “In our home,…” the simple change will improve a lot of attitudes. Everyone wants to take care of their home, and if you keep staking your territory by saying ‘in my house’ they have no reason to take the desired ownership attitude of upkeep and improvement.
2. Have a chore chart. When people take turns doing the dishes or cleaning the floors, they are more apt to be careful with those things. The other benefit of a chore chart is on the day you are really cranky, the floors are dirty, the sink full of dishes and there are your house mates watching TV and you are ready to scream “IN MY HOUSE” all you have to do is pick up the chore chart, say “I wonder what I have today?” and everyone will get the point. Our chore chart includes the reminder that everyone does their own laundry and if you pee there you clean there.
3. Leave once in a while. Nothing kills the mood like everyone hanging out, fighting for space, being obnoxious and just when it is really getting to you, you might as well know you are really getting on their nerves too. Take a break. We often do one night get a ways, or weekend trips. When you come home you have something to talk about and life is great. You are no longer sick of them and they are no longer sick of you. An added bonus…they may have tackled their chores while you were gone.
4. Don’t be an ass. I know, that is kind of blunt but if you behave, clean up after yourself, share the remote, pay your share of the bills-on time, things will go more smoothly. Be the one who sets the good example. Make your mama proud. Be the one who cheers for the others. Every communal living arrangement needs a good guy and an ass. Choose wisely.
5. Develop an identity. People in our neighborhood know us as the crazy people who wear Christmas shorts (don’t ask) when we shovel their drives the morning after a big snowfall. (Being nice to neighbors is a good idea too). One communal family is known for their music jams. One family we know has a ‘for the love’ doll. It gets passed around as a nod to the things in life that makes you say “Oh, for the love.” and having it in your possession is a perk. Your homes identity will probably come upon you by accident and you get to decide if it is “Animal House” or “The Waltons” but embrace it and make it who you are. Identity makes the chaos of living together easier to bear.
Living together is a sign of the times and it really can be fun. Here are a few resources for more on the idea of sharing housing:
Learn how to share housing---save your sanity
How to live with relatives
Legal advice for cohabitation
This was written for Synergy Station
copyright 2011- Karen Grosz and Canvas Creek