The Good Roommate—In a Dormitory Room/College Apartment/Group Home
Sharing living quarters can make for a wonderful experience, sometimes generating lifelong relationships. And the way to be a good roommate or housemate is to be sensitive to and considerate of the needs, wants, and rights of others. When all the parties to the shared space have that outlook, the chances of a positive experience are increased.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Living in Shared Spaces:
-Pay joint bills on time
Just as financial problems are known to be one of the major contributors to the undoing of marriages, financial problems are oftentimes at the toot of discord amongst housemates. Each member of the house must have the financial wherewithal to pay his designated portion of all joint bills—utilities, house-cleaning and yard-service, household supplies, etc.—when they become due.
-Keeping it Cleaning
When living with five other people, for example, everything gets dirty five times as fast: the bathroom, the kitchen, the coffee table. The way to maintain order, then, is for each person to immediately clean up behind himself. Immediately after cooking, for example, dishes should be washed, dried, and put away.
People are like dogs: They are territorial and food-aggressive. Different people have different eating habits. And one of the best ways to keep people happily together in a group house is for them to have separate food storage areas. One of the surest ways for Housemate A to start his day off wrong is to discover that Housemate B has used the last of his Housemate’s A cream for his coffee. Housemates should have designated cabinet space for their food items. And within the common refrigerator, shelves and bins or portions thereof should be designated for individual use. It is also a good idea for each housemate to have a mini refrigerator in his bedroom so that he may keep certain items readily available for his individual use. Items that are routinely used, such as milk for cereal, cream for coffee, beer, orange juice, and cold cuts for sandwiches, for example, should be kept in a mini refrigerator within each housemate’s bedroom.
People who want to express their individual rights should live alone, not in shared spaces. Living with others requires the art of compromise, even if at the expense of some individual freedoms. Music, for example, while it is regarded as the international language, oftentimes serves to be the source of the breakdown of communication amongst members of shared spaces. Most cities have noise ordinances to maintain appropriate noise levels amongst members of the general public. But people living together need to be sensitive of the needs and wants of their fellow housemates, regardless of what is permissible by law. Different people have different schedules for sleeping, working, and relaxing. And different people also have different tastes in music. The best way, therefore, to live with others is to confine one’s music taste to oneself—whether through the use of headsets or by decibels that do not disturb others within the shared space.
Alarm clocks are also a source of much division—especially when they wake everyone else except the persons they are supposed to wake. A person who uses an alarm clock must be prepared to rise immediately upon the sounding of the alarm, turn off the device, and proceed with his day. Setting an alarm clock to alarm in 15-minute intervals over the course of one hour, for example, is simply unacceptable in a group home setting.
-Respect for Private Space and Property
Occupying another’s private space without invitation, or using another’s personal items without permission, is unacceptable—no matter how “minor” the infraction may seem or regardless of how “close” a friend the person may be. There are lines of demarcation that must be observed—especially in close quarters—if relationships are to be maintained.
-Respect for Community Space
Community areas of shared housing must be treated not as the individual space of each member of the collective house, but as joint property that exists to exceed the sum of the individual property rights that give it rise. Common areas of a group home must reflect an ideal of communal living and should be impeccably maintained so as to achieve their purpose. Such areas should be regarded as the equivalent of public parks and public squares—beautiful places where people congregate for collective and individual upliftment.
The most practical way to maintain order in communal areas is for each person to restore the area after use. But a selfless approach to maintaining order is also required. Each members of the group house must “pick up the slack” of his fellow housemates the way a conscientious citizen would voluntarily pick up litter at a public park despite having paid his taxes, a portion of which goes towards the upkeep of the park.
When living in shared space, housemates must be willing to be accommodate their fellow housemates, understanding their imperfections and making extra efforts to celebrate the unique beauty in each other.
It is said that a family that prays together stays together. The same wisdom can be applied to housemates. Of course, housemates are not required to be best mates, but the domestic environment tends to be more congenial when people have relationships that amount to more than the proverbial “ships passing at night.” Besides, if the relationships amongst housemates are more like friends than strangers, people will be much more inclined towards assisting in simple but important things that make for a happy home: watering a housemate’s plants while he is away or vacation; signing for a delivered package while a housemate is at the office; or neatly folding a housemate’s laundry rather than dumping it into the laundry basket.
One of the ways housemates form bonds of congeniality is by consciously deciding to spend quality time together, whether at home or outside the home. Enjoying each other’s company at a local “Happy Hour” or scheduling a Sunday brunch to just talk about life are just some of the ways housemates can begin relating to each other as people and as friends. And, eventually, if the chemistry is right, the house can evolve into a support network and launching pad for housemates trying to make their separate ways in the world.
Just as what goes on in the jungle should stay in the jungle, what goes on in a group home should remain confidential. Shared-dwelling living will necessarily enable the various housemates to know things about each other that they otherwise would not. And anything about a person that would not have been revealed but for the fact that the person is living in a group house should be regarded as privileged information, not to be discussed with the public. A housemate’s sexual habits, hygiene practices, personal peculiarities, employment issues, drinking habits, etc., are not to be discussed with persons outside the house. To do so would be a breach of the housemate’s right to privacy, and gentlemen do not gossip. (Of course, if a housemate appears to be engaging in some form of illegal activity that could endanger the home, its residents, or the public at large, then the appropriate authorities should be notified).