The areas most commonly shared in a multi-person household are the kitchen and bathrooms. Each of these areas requires a set of disposable products. In the kitchen, along with cooking supplies such as oil and spices, there can be zip-lock bags, aluminum foil, and parchment paper. There are also cleaning supplies – a sponge, dish soap, hand washing soap and trash bags. In the bathroom there’s toilet paper, Kleenex and perhaps paper towels as well as hand soap. Cleaning supplies might include Lysol or other specific cleaning sprays or gels for the shower and toilet.
As a home seeker with few personal possessions of my own, I’m always attuned to shared resources within any space that I move in to. What do I need to invest in? What is already present and willing to be shared by the homeowner? I’m especially aware of paper products and cleaning supplies because they are often shared and re-purchased regularly.
At the last place I lived, I rented a room from a homeowner, Kara. I was her home-mate and only tenant. I paid one monthly rate for rent, utilities, and many household products since Kara had a Costco membership and enjoyed shopping there on her lunch breaks. When I moved in, my monthly rent included things like toilet paper, paper towels, zip-lock bags and cleaning supplies. Kara also had a kitchen fully stocked with staples – sugar, flour, olive oil and an extensive spice cabinet. She told me to please help myself.
I felt spoiled by Kara’s generosity. In return, I tried to maintain awareness of my personal usage and how well-stocked we were on shared items. If I noticed, say, our roll of aluminum foil running low, I’d pick up an extra while at the store since we both frequently used it. And I was sure to purchase a replacement if I ever polished off the last of a kitchen item like olive oil, ketchup or cumin.
One thing Kara and I did not share was laundry detergent. Tide pods for her vs. Arm & Hammer liquid detergent for me. If one of us was ever in a pinch, however, we didn’t mind if the other person used a load-or-two’s worth of our personal supply.
The topic of who-provides-what and how it gets paid for ties in with household discussions and decisions around shared cleaning and cooking duties. Chapter 11 (“Daily Living – Sharing the Home”) of the Sharing Housing Guidebook goes into all this in detail with examples of how to share a kitchen and chores among multiple people. Do you and your roommates want to buy a month’s worth of supplies and then split the cost evenly? Another method might be to assign each person the purchase of one or two cleaning products.
Depending on the size of your household, your relationship with your home-mates and how much you all plan to pool resources, it could be worth investing in a Sam’s Club or Costco membership. The yearly fee split between several people would be nominal. Or if one home-mate already has a membership perhaps you could plan on a once-a-month shopping trip together.
You and your home-mates may have such vastly different tastes and preferences, however, that you naturally purchase most everything separately. You use paper towels while your home-mate re-uses cloth dishtowels and rags, for instance. A shared bathroom contains your rolls of generic brand and a stash of your home-mate’s preferred Charmin. (If each person has their own bathroom, of course, each can provide their own toilet paper.)
In a three-bedroom, one bath apartment I once lived in, neither I nor my two female roommates were choosy when it came to ply or brand. Since toilet paper was a resource we used so frequently, each of us was in the habit of purchasing a 4 or 6 pack whenever we went to the store. TP was the only household resource we all contributed to. Otherwise we purchased everything separately.
Pooling supplies is worthwhile
I wanted to give a few examples of the items that can be shared in a household because, though sharing is certainly more complicated than living alone (in so many ways), the more resources that you and your home-mates have in common, the greater the opportunity for reducing waste and saving money.
Every home is different, however. You may live with other people and merely share a roof and occasional conversation. But even in that case, you share the use and cost of house utilities including water, electric, heating and cooling systems – plus the benefit of a person invested in your safety and well-being. That is priceless.