“This is the year!” millions of Americans declare each January 1st. “This is the year I resolve to…” lose 20 pounds, go to the gym, quit smoking, take up scuba diving, learn French, etc. Even if you aren’t a resolution-maker, it’s impossible to escape the yearly discourse around New Year’s resolutions, plus the advertising from diet, fitness, and self-care companies who promise personal transformation.
No consumer product can magically break us out of established patterns and give us an entirely new life, however. To make a lasting change is not a quick, simple, or easy process–change is difficult! It goes against our natural human craving for comfort and homeostasis.
The good news…
…is that any Big, Scary Life Change can be broken down into a series of small daily actions. Taking one new (potentially uncomfortable or unfamiliar) step, day by day, can eventually accomplish the seemingly impossible. Mountains are climbed by putting one foot in front of the other. Thousand-page novels are written one word at a time.
It’s hard to undertake and sustain a significant life change all by yourself. Enlisting a trusted friend or family member to motivate and hold you accountable can be invaluable. If you have the money, hiring a coach or personal trainer is also an option.
Is your goal for 2023 to make a switch from living alone to living in shared housing? Congratulations! If you found this website, it means you’re already taking action. The book Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates offers practical advice and user-friendly worksheets that guide you step-by-step through the process of inviting new people into your home.
Habits and Change
Small, daily actions–in other words, habits. Our automatic habits allow us to easily execute tasks like brushing our teeth and driving to work. But a daily life that is too rote leads to boredom; in the extreme, it could even cause anxiety and depression. As the sage, incredibly wealthy investor Warren Buffett put it: “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Living alone makes it easy to repeat the same behaviors day after day, year after year. Without a compelling reason to question or alter your schedule, you may not even realize your ingrained habits are “chaining” you to a lifestyle that is outdated, unsuitable, or unhealthy.
Conversely, it’s easy to stave off monotony if you live with others. Shared cooking duties provide opportunity and motivation to sample new recipes. A housemate can include you in one of their hobbies–perhaps they love to garden, and transform a small backyard plot into a forest of colorful flowers and vegetables.
If you already live in shared housing, use the New Year as an excuse to gather over a shared meal and take inventory. Is it time to reassign chore duties, rearrange some furniture, swap out a piece of wall art? Even small changes can bring newfound spark, interest, and engagement to the household.
Are you a creature of habit?
I know I am. That Warren Buffett quote really resonates because I love to carve out a routine and stick to it, ad infinitum. Sure, I am up for trying new things–as long as they don’t interfere with my morning walk or 7:00 pm dinner.
I work in the service industry, at seasonal tourism jobs, and relocate so frequently that friends and family think of me as nomadic. Being both regimented and nomadic may sound odd, but my decade-plus of living in shared spaces ranging from a yurt in rural Alaska to a three-bedroom high-rise in Northern Virginia has taught me that routine is vital to any multi-person household. The bathroom or kitchen can’t be used by everyone at once; keeping to a daily schedule that aligns harmoniously with your housemates’ is essential. It’s also why knowing your “can’t live withs” is so important. A housemate whose habits and lifestyle don’t sync with your own will likely not be a good fit.
I appreciate how my peripatetic lifestyle periodically forces me out of my rut. Each new dwelling requires me to tweak my daily schedule so that it accommodates the spatial layout of the home and the preferences of my housemates. Each time I do, I am reminded that accommodating and sharing with other people is what brings joy to life. I love my alone time, but living with others has always prevented me from becoming too rigid or isolated within my routines.
Whatever your goals and plans are for the year ahead, I encourage you to be in connection with others and to try something new in 2023. You’ll be happier and healthier for it.