This interview happened in 2013 a long time before the Covid pandemic. The statistics haven’t changed, but maybe more people are seeing the advantage of shared housing over living alone.
Transcript of Interview
Danna Kubanda: Hi and welcome. I’m Danna Kubanda and joining me today for a very special Skype interview is Annamarie Pluhar. She’s the author of “Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates.” Thank you so much for being here.
Annamarie: It’s my pleasure to be here.
Danna Kubanda: So Annamarie, why do you think so many people these days prefer living alone as opposed to having a house mate or a roommate?
Annamarie: Oh, I don’t think they even think about it that way. They don’t want to have a housemate. They are adults. They’re taking care of themselves. That’s what they’re supposed to do. And I also think a lot of people have fear about having a stranger move in. And I think that that person doesn’t have to be a stranger by the time they move in.
Danna Kubanda: There you go. And I’ve heard you say before too, that living alone is not necessarily a sentence handed to you as the result of not being in a relationship.
Annamarie: Isn’t that an interestingly different way to turn it around? So 50% of adults in our country are single. This is unprecedented in human history. We have all, until very recently, we lived in tribes 50 to 200 people and in fact we are wired to be socially connected. There are some very interesting psychologists who are studying this issue, social connection, and they believe that we actually experience fear when we don’t feel connected to others.
Danna Kubanda: Wow, that’s, that’s very interesting. So what are the emotional ramifications then of living alone and feeling that fear?
Annamarie: Well, I think if when you’re, when you’re alone like that, you begin to feel really lonely. And we have projected, I’ve read between 24 million and 60 million people who are chronically lonely. It’s so sad. Now, we also know that 27% of households in this country are single occupancy. Is there a connection between people living alone and being chronically lonely? Well, it’s not a perfect connection, but I think there is a connection and I would love to see people being able to have the companionship of, “hello”, “good night” and “How are you?” Those sort of informal social connections and back and forth that is part of human existence.
Danna Kubanda: That’s, that’s a really strong statistic that you cited there. So if there are that many people who were feeling this way, why aren’t we hearing more about it?
Annamarie: Oh, because I think that people are ashamed to admit that they are lonely. In fact, we know that this is true. Two psychiatrists, Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz at Harvard Medical School studied this and wrote a book about it. (Note: The book is “The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century“) What they think is that people begin to feel left out and that sounds whiny and they don’t want to admit it. But the problem with feeling left out is that it’s gets harder and harder to reach out. So I’m thinking that if people can have housemates, they don’t get to that place.
Danna Kubanda: That’s great. So beyond the emotional benefits then, what are some of the other benefits of having a house mate? Having someone share your home with you?
Annamarie: Money. It’s amazing how much money you can save if you are splitting the cost of housing with somebody else. In fact, most people start sharing housing for that reason. But even if you’re an empty nester and you have an extra bedroom or two and the money’s not an issue for you, the extra money might allow you to do things that you’ve loved, would love to do— take a trip, go to school, whatever.
Okay, so that’s one. For older people, I think it’s very important that they can get help with tasks that were once easy and they may be able to stay in their home and because they get help with maintaining the home. And finally, and not last or least important, is that clearly two people living under the same roof are using less of the Earth’s resources and less stuff. So it’s a sustainable way to live. So those are strong reasons I think for people trying out the possibility of being housemates.
Danna Kubanda: Oh, they’re great reasons. Thank you so much for sharing all of your advice and insight. Annamarie’s book, again, it’s called Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates. To find out more about Annamarie, her book, and any of her other projects, please visit her website sharinghousing.com. Thanks again for being here.
Annamarie: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.