Visiting a friend for a weekend, I observed how she manages with her partner their shared space. It became clear to me that one is a neatnik, she might even say obsessive about it, and the other more likely to create clutter. In this relationship, uncluttered and clean is the household standard. Would they be able to live together if they weren’t a couple? I don’t know. I do know that standards for cleanliness and neatness can be quite different for different people. The secret to living well with a housemate is to know your own standards.
The absolutely most important first step in finding a good home-mate for you is getting clear on what you “must-have” and what you “can’t live with.” Knowing these establishes criteria for your inquiries and interviews, and it can be helpful to use our interview guide.
I once created an exercise for a MeetUp group that met around shared housing. I asked the participants to write down what some of their “must-haves” and “can’t live withs” would be. Here is what they said.
- Live with people who have good communication skills around how we share housing
- Wide appreciation of music
- Living in close proximity to the natural world (trees, stars, Earth)
- My cats and housemates who treat them well
- Space to myself
- Respect for different points of view
- Sizable kitchen
- Gas stove (vs. electric)
- A good home for my cat
- Color coordination
- Clutter management
“Can’t live with”
- Dirty dishes overflowing on the counter or sink
- With a lot of clutter
- Dishes left undone
- A dirty bathroom
- Others not cleaning up after themselves in the kitchen
- Hard rock music
- TV constantly on
- Other’s pets
- Lights left on in a room that is not occupied
- TV on when I’m not watching it (I would watch less than 3 hours a week)
- Noise late at night
Notice anything? How are the two lists different?
To my mind the “must-have’s” list have individual unique requirements: from pets to music to kitchen use.
But take a look at the “can’t live withs.” At least half of them have to do with cleanliness and neatness.
Cleanliness and Neatness
I think this is a reflection of a reality. We don’t like to live in other people’s mess. Is this always true? I think so. I’ve noticed myself how when I move into a new space I have an urge to clean it.
When we are expecting friends to visit, it is pretty common to clean up and put our home in order. Why do we do this? Some would say that we don’t want to expose ourselves as messy or unclean. That we might be embarrassed or even ashamed. That could be a motivation. I’d like to think it’s because we want our guests to feel comfortable.
There is comfort in uncluttered and clean.
The KonMari Method
Many people know about the method first described in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” The author, Marie Kondo, has spent her life thinking about and teaching others to live clutter free. Her method, which she calls the “KonMari Method” is based on feelings one has for one’s possessions. Those that fail to evoke a “spark of joy” are discarded. I’m currently working on tidying up my own house. It’s fascinating, fast, and effective. She claims that none of her students rebound.
Housemates and “Stuff”
Is there a better word than “stuff?” So many of us have knick-knacks and momentos. Maybe we also have sports equipment, craft supplies, tools, books, clothes, greeting cards, etc. All those things that one owns and accumulates throughout a lifetime. When we share housing we need to make room for this stuff or we need to let them go. It is hard to let go. That’s why I like the Mari Kondo method of keeping with you only what gives you joy. Try it, you can actually feel it.
If you are a householder considering having a home-mate, do yourself a favor and lighten the clutter in your home. It will be easier for your future home-mate(s) to see themselves living with you and it will be easier to maintain a home that is uncluttered and clean.
How do you feel about uncluttered and clean? For yourself? When you go to someone else’s house? What are your “must-haves”? What are your “can’t live with”s? Add your thoughts below.