I have a good friend who comes to visit often. She arrives in a whirlwind of activity for a three day visit and has packed enough for a month-long stay. She brings so much food that it can feed a family of 10. I always tell her that there’s no need for all these groceries, but she always replies, “That’s how I do things.” I tend to let it go and at the end of the visit, I admit I am grateful for all the leftovers because I end up saving time and money shopping for food.
However, my friend can also be a bit bossy and obsessive when it comes to how I’ve organized the kitchen and refrigerator. She likes to clean the fridge and rearrange things as well as shifting things around in my spice cabinet. Once again, I tell her there’s no need for her to do any of this. But once again, and this time shaking her head in disapproval of what she believes is my lack of kitchen organization skills, she mutters, “That’s how I do things.”
So, what happens if you have a housemate who tends to be like my friend? A housemate who is bossy and obsessive about how the kitchen or any other common area is organized? Someone who just bulldozes her way into your home or has set some inflexible rules?
I personally have no issue with a little organization, but the spices or the herbs don’t need to be alphabetized. What I don’t like to see is a pile of dirty dishes in the sink when I get up in the morning.
Know Yourself and Pet Peeves
It’s important, before you set in motion finding a home-mate, that you know yourself really well. See what makes you cringe and what doesn’t deserve a second thought. Write those down (We have a worksheet to help!). When it comes time to interviewing your prospective home-mate, ask them what sets them on edge when it comes to household organization.
You might find that some individuals, like my friend, need to have a stock of light bulbs, candles, batteries of all sizes, and matches in case of blackouts, blown out bulbs, and batteries for small appliances and other electronics.
I’m not that way. I tend to borrow from another lamp a lightbulb to replace a blown out one. I’m constantly having to scavenge for batteries from remote controls. I rarely light candles, so there’s no need for matches or candles for that matter, because that’s how I do things. I’m more relaxed about it, but I can see how it would drive someone a little crazy. My recommendation is that if your home-mate needs to have those supplies, then have them be in charge of the purchase and stocking of those supplies. Set up a fund so you both can contribute for the expense of those items.
My pet peeve is how the fridge is organized. My friend always pushes jars and containers towards the back, and puts the food she bought in the front. Because there’s so much of it, I have to excavate to reach the container of leftover curried vegetables and rice. If I don’t see it, I assume it’s been thrown out. A month later, I can smell the science project coming from the fridge. The solution is to assign shelf space. Organize your shelf, whichever way you like, but leave mine alone.
Communication is Key
What’s more important is that communication is key. If there’s an issue, speak up. “Do it while it is easy” is one of the four principles of living well with others as described in the book. And don’t be cowed into accepting “That’s the way I do things.” Whether you’re receiving rent or paying rent, there needs to be a compromise, which there can be because you both live by the Golden Rule. You can also keep an open mind because sometimes “That’s the way I do things” might actually become that’s the way we do things.
Does this ring true to you? Do you have specific ways you like to do things that a home-mate would need to follow? Or are you easy about things and can adapt to the situation?
Learn more about how to organize your shared home: Sharing Housing with Pets , A Case for Organization When Living with Home-Mates, The highs and lows of shared laundry. And here’s a post about an early founder of the movement to share homes: Maggie Kuhn, Advocate for Shared Housing.