I love the few weeks in late summer/early autumn when it is neither too hot nor too cold, and I can keep my bedside window cracked open for temperate fresh air. This time of year also features the constant chirp of crickets – a lovely ambient noise for drifting off to sleep.
The world is full of sounds, and everyone has a different level of preference and tolerance. People who live in New York City may experience constant traffic, car horns and ambulance sirens as soothing background noise. Whereas, folks who live in rural areas are accustomed to the wind rustling tree leaves, or the night-time hoot of owls and the howling of coyotes.
Spaces can make noise
Whether it be the “settling” of floorboards, the hum of a refrigerator or the buzz of a central air conditioning system, all houses make noise.
A big part of home-mate compatibility is finding folks who have a noise tolerance similar to your own. Are you the type who loves to read and knit, and values peaceful near-silence? Or do you prefer a bustling household, and home-mates who share your habit of constantly playing the TV or radio?
Noise may be something you are concerned about, and aware that you’ll need to adjust to, if you are a solo householder planning to soon share your space with others.
Because, it’s true, we all make noise! Our footfalls thump on the staircase. We open and close doors. We flush toilets. We sing in the shower, talk on the phone, or talk to ourselves. We accidentally drop things. We stack dishes, heat up leftovers in the microwave, open and close cabinet doors.
Part of sharing space is getting used to the reverberations of our fellow human beings. We cannot expect complete silence from our home-mates, but it is perfectly reasonable to have occasional discussions and negotiations. Perhaps they could turn the TV volume down a couple of notches, or use headphones to listen to their music, or close their bedroom door while they talk on the phone.
Noise can also come from neighbors, or the street outside. I am originally from the Baltimore/Washington DC area. Both cities are full of ‘row homes;’ full blocks where every house adjoins the one next to it. It is similar to living in an apartment building, where it’s common to hear the muffled conversation or vacuum cleaner from next door.
It’s not just humans…
About ten years ago I lived with my friends Mike and Kate, a married couple who owned a pair of cats. The older cat, Bailey, was overweight and on a strict feeding schedule. Bailey would often get hungry hours before her breakfast. She would creep upstairs around 4:00 am to yowl outside our closed bedroom doors. We got used to ignoring her and sleeping through it, though at times when she was particularly persistent I’d roll over in bed to the sound of Mike out in the hallway, sternly admonishing her. ”Bailey. STOP IT. Go downstairs!”
Getting woken by the cat wasn’t ideal, of course. But it was something that we as housemates regularly shared a laugh about. Perhaps other pet owners can relate to this anecdote. As much as we love our animals, at times they can be pests!
Mike, Kate and I lived in a residential neighborhood in Northwest Washington DC. One memorable evening, a water main right outside our front door needed emergency repair. A DC utility crew worked overnight at fixing the problem, which involved a lot of jackhammering. Using earplugs, I managed to get a decent night’s sleep.
My point is… no matter who you live with, or where, so much about a shared environment is outside of our control.
So, what can we control?
Foam ear plugs have been my go-to throughout my years of shared living. They are inexpensive and it’s easy to keep a stash on hand. I always have a pair on my bedside table for those times when the neighbors have a weekend party, or I want to sleep late and not be woken by my roommate’s alarm in the next room.
A white noise machine or basic fan can also block a lot of ambient night-time noise and allow for a good night’s sleep.
Headphones. There are all sorts of noise-cancelling headphones on the market nowadays, ranging from basic models that cost $20-$50 to high tech options that cost hundreds of dollars. Earbuds or headphones can also allow you to listen to music or an audiobook without having to worry about disturbing your roommate(s).
Sound-reduction panels or curtains. I’ve run across a few online articles that suggest this. It is never something I’ve tried and it strikes me as a little extreme. But a quick search on Amazon nets plenty of results in the range of $100-$200.
There are all sorts of affordable options for extra privacy and peace within a full household. Are there any tips and tricks you have utilized in your own home?
What are some sounds that you love? Are there any you just tolerate, or could do without?
Here’s another post you may find interesting: Living Alone is Overrated.