Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Handy Hints for Communal Living

As the economy continues its downward spiral more and more people are moving in together out of necessity. I've been in similar situations myself. Some of them worked out and others did not. This is one of the ways that homeless people can find themselves completely homeless. When friends or family become completely aggravated with the close quarters or duelling personalities tempers flare and agreements erode.

Now I am older I have become the host. My youngest daughter stays with me occasionally and my son stayed for a while. I just learned that my eldest daughter is 99% sure that she want to move in for a while. It will be wonderful to have her and the grand baby here, still with that many in the house we will have to be very organized and tidy. Of course moving in as an adult will be completely different, hopefully, than when you were a child.

With thoughts of living arrangements changing, and extended family and friends bunking together to avoid complete homelessness I arranged a list of ideas to make the transition go smoother. I know I'll get comments with more ideas. You guys are good like that.

Handy Hints for Communal Living:

1) Tidiness. An extreme neat freak will have a difficult time sharing their home with anyone. For the rest of us, help keep the home picked up, vacuumed, smelling nice, etc... Take some spare time and mow the yard or dust the TV and polish the furniture. Tempers are less likely to flare if the home is even cleaner now that you are there. Believe me, it will be greatly appreciated.

2) Quiet times. Know the schedules of all family members. Even if your sisters husband, who has to leave at five AM for work, says your TV viewing until two AM doesn't bother him, he may just be trying to be polite. Some people may work all night and sleep through the afternoon. Respecting others schedules and being quiet when it is needed will go a long way towards keeping the peace. Just ask my insomniac husband who can hear a flea cough on a neighbors dog three streets away.

3) Special skills. One household member is a gourmet cook, while another can make the bathroom sparkle. One person may help out with dog walks, or litter box clean-up. One person may be a home energy expert and can switch out the light bulbs, or install weather stripping. Get it? Everyone has a special skill that they can contribute to the household.

4)Respect. Uncle Harvey may have odd bathroom habits. As much as you want to, don't do your impression of him gargling. Claudine may wear mismatched outfits but don't insert your opinion. Remember this is their house and try to make it as pleasant for them as possible.

5) Arguments. When problems do arise, do not deteriorate into shouting matches. Have a house meeting and deal with it. Compromise, and make a list of house rules if you have to, just don't fight. Shouting will not help anyone.

6) Privacy. Being cooped up for long periods with friends or family you used to just see occasionally may be fun at first and then become difficult. Before relationships become strained, give one another some space. Take a picnic and enjoy a day at the park. Give your family some time away from the house and give the homeowner some time alone in their own home as well.

7) Adult children. Treat adult children as adults. This is simple, Suzie may still be your daughter but she is also a grown woman. Remember this when she is making her own decisions. Also, if you are the child, remember you are grown and don't revert back to the sullen teen in tense times.

8) Cleaning. I know I mentioned this earlier but it is a big one. How much each person does will really depend on how much they work, how much the homeowner wants you to do and so on. If you are staying with someone and you have time though, clean a lot and show your appreciation. It will go far in smoothing a rocky road.

9) Common rooms. Preserve the original function of common rooms. If you are staying in the living room or den, tidy up each morning. Clear the couch, roll up your bedroll, and pack your clothes away. If Aunt Dolly can still sit in her favorite chair and watch her soaps she will be less stressed. No one wants to eat their breakfast while looking at your dirty underwear. Pick it up and keep the home stress free.

10) Budget. Your money situation will be strained, after all that's why your moving in together right? Be very careful with your money so you can get out of this situation as soon as possible. Don't rely on the homeowner to foot the bill for everything though, unless you have no choice. Buy some groceries, or cleaning products, or pay the light bill, whatever works for you. If you have special budgeting skills to share, do so. This is a team effort.


  1. How's this for communal living: after being divorced almost 14 years, I had to move in with my ex-husband due to financial necessity! It is a roommate situation only, but it is really difficult. One of our many issues is that he can live in squalor and I cannot. I can't wait until I'm able to move out (again)!

  2. Anonymous, ouch, this is terrible. It won't last forever, I just hope you can get out of there soon. I don't think it is possible for too many ex-spouses to share a home for any length of time. That is one situation that will not work for long, if at all. Good luck!

  3. You have given excellent advice, but most of it was directed at the guest(s). I think it is very important to make it clear at the outset what is expected of them financially. If they truly have no ability to help with expenses (or you want them to save to move out), they should be told what type of work will be expected of them to earn their keep. At this time of year, raking leaves, garden clean-up and getting the house ready for winter are obvious chores others can take on. As we get into winter, shoveling snow. (OK, I know you're in Florida). Tell them that once they move in, they'll be expected to have regular household jobs, but you'll sit down with them to mutually discuss and decide house rules and responsibilities. If they don't agree to this at the outset, I'm not kidding...let them move in with someone else. Unfortunately, in too many shared households, the guests take advantage of their hosts' hospitality.

    My adult son lived with us for a few years in his late 20s when he was in college. He's a good kid, but tended to let his responsibilities slide. I love him to death and enjoy having him around, but I was really glad when he moved!

  4. Mikemax,thanks for the reminder. You can't expect people to follow rules if they don't know what they are. Communication, communication, communication!

  5. I agree with Mikemax in that communication is crucial. It would be good to sit and cooperate in listing arrangements on papaer or a dry erase board that are ideal for all parties concerned. One item on the list might be that this arrangement is TEMPORARY. If choosing a date is practical, that would be pretty keen.

    Just as in any relationship, KNOWING what EXPECTATIONS are in place would be helpful.

    Multiple generations once lived as one family; I guess we are moving backward through time as we regroup and deal with this rotten economy.

    I am so proud of you, dear heart, to be bringing these issues to light so everyone's awareness can be raised. You always put a positive light on everything.

    Mother Connie

  6. Connie, It's amazing how many families fail to communicate and end up bickering as a result. Mikmax brought up the most important puzzle piece needed when merging two households.

  7. I lived with my parents, I lived with my husband and my grandmother and, in fact, I grew up living with my family sharing two small rooms! That was quite a communal living. I never had a time alone. My alone time was in the bathroom taking showers. Other than that there was no privacy whatsoever.

  8. Aloysa, I've stayed in arrangements like that too, although temporarily. I had customers go through my line with three shopping carts of food. They told me they were three families sharing a two bedroom house. It was the sisters house, then her brother and family moved in after losing his job, and then she let her friend and family move in because they were losing their home. I think they told me it was six adults and eight children in a small two bedroom house.