You’re sitting at your kitchen table, trying to listen to a lecture and take notes, but you can’t seem to focus. You pick your head up from your work and look around. Your housemate has picked this moment to rearrange all of their furniture in the room above you, the sound of the furniture grinding into the ground filling your ears. The smell of your full and stale garbage wafts towards you. Your eyes fixate on the pile of moldy dishes sitting in the sink. As your cheeks heat with rage, you come to a realization - in this moment, you really wish you had different housemates.
With the move to online school, many students have found themselves spending much more time at home than they ever expected. Home is no longer just the place you go to sleep after a long day; now it's an office, a school, and a dining hall, all in one. Add a few roommates who are also working from home into the mix and your house may start to feel like pure chaos. Small, trivial transgressions become big fights that may cause you to have homicidal thoughts about people you consider to be your closest friends. In light of this, here are 10 tips for living in harmony while stuck at home.
Communication is key.
Big fights and passive aggressive looks usually stem from a lack of communication. Is your roommate refusing to do the dishes? Do they always leave an empty toilet paper roll on the holder? The solution can usually be as easy as a polite reminder. Sit them down and explain exactly what behavior you need them to change. Being clear about your expectations and requesting that they do the same for you, is a great way to keep everyone on the same page. Avoid yelling or screaming for best results.
Reach a consensus on quarantine rules.
The coronavirus pandemic has created a new set of norms in each and every home. Make sure to reach a group consensus with your housemates on how strictly you would like to quarantine and take other precautions. It's important to recognize that everyone is living with different levels of fear about the virus and may have different comfort levels when it comes to seeing people outside of their immediate house. Of course, make sure to follow all state, city, and school guidelines. It’s our responsibility to stay safe and be smart, not only for ourselves, but for our communities. Most importantly, friends don’t let friends host super spreader events.
Communicate about how you each want chores done.
For many houses, a chore chart is a great idea to make sure everyone is doing their part. However, it is likely that someone’s idea of “clean the bathroom” is wiping down the sink with a wet paper towel while someone else mops, cleans the toilet, and scrubs the shower?
Does everyone agree that "your turn to wash the dishes" includes loading and unloading the dishwasher or is just a quick rinse and then leaving them out for someone else to deal with?
These can seem like small, inconsequential details as long as everyone is sticking to the chore chart. That is until everyone is walking around enraged about the one moldy pot that has been marinating in the sink for weeks because no one considers it to be their pot to clean.
Learn to respect each housemates’ financial situation.
As college students, there can often be quite a financial disparity between each student. While you may have your parents chipping in for rent or groceries, your friend might be financing it all themselves. If you are going to be sharing communal goods like cleaning supplies and food, make sure that each housemate feels like there's an equal share in the cost. Don’t put your friend in the incredibly awkward position of having to Venmo request you every week for all of their food and toothpaste that you’ve decided to claim as your own.
Make sure to notify each other about guests coming to the house.
Especially during the pandemic, it's important to keep each other in the loop about who will be coming and going from your home. If your house decides that they’re comfortable with guests, make sure you agree on the details. Should they wear a mask inside? Should they stay on your porch or in your yard the whole time? How long are they allowed to stay? There is simply nothing more awkward than walking into your kitchen to get your morning cup of coffee and finding a stranger that wasn’t there when you went to bed, sitting on your couch, breaking the social norm that the one night stand should take their “walk of shame” before the housemates wake up.
Remember that not all of your habits can work while cohabitating.
Being aware of what your housemates are willing to tolerate will save you from a lot of arguments. Living at your parents house, it may never have dawned on you to move your clothes from the washer to the dryer in a timely manner or that the bowl you leave in the sink won’t magically be placed in the dishwasher for you. Maybe no one ever told you that exclusively going to the bathroom with the door open would earn you some dirty looks. Just keep an eye out for your own little patterns of disruptive behavior and try to keep them to a minimum.
Give each other space when it's needed.
Online school is extremely stressful and can sometimes be overwhelming. Having pots and pans banging in the kitchen while you’re trying to take your one relaxing break of the day could drive anyone batty. Try to recognize when someone just needs a break from school, socializing, and possibly from you. It's ok to get somewhat sick of one another, as long as you take some space before that sickness turns into cruelty. Screaming at your roommate to get out of your personal space is not a great way to relax.
Respect the ownership of things in your house.
Your roommates have a right to the sole use of their stuff, unless they tell you otherwise. Don’t assume something is meant for sharing unless you are absolutely sure. Just because you would be fine with someone having a few bites of your ice cream, doesn’t mean your housemates feel the same way. Don’t be the person that goes around stealing special mugs, shirts, and toothpaste as you see fit, otherwise pretty soon, your housemates will be glaring daggers at you while they search every cupboard for the one mug they care about.
Check in on each other.
To put it simply, life really sucks right now. The best thing we can all do to get through it is check in on each other and make sure that everyone is doing the best that they can. Your housemates are like your extended family; make sure to be there for one another.
Own up to your stuff.
Did you read this list and realize that you’re a notorious food freeloader, space crowder, and open door pee-er? Well, here is your chance for change. Apologize and own your mistakes, and hopefully your housemates will let you start fresh. When the people around you point out your annoying habits, try to refrain from getting defensive. They want to live with someone they hate just as much as you do, so try to be patient and work together to fix everyone’s mistakes.
Mia Werner is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com.