Living with Neighbors, Roommates, & Housemates

by J. E. Brown

Do you have new neighbors or housemates?
Are you offending them without knowing it?
Here are a few don'ts from someone who learned the hard way.

College Roommates | Housemates | Next-Door Neighbors in Dorms, Apartments, Duplexes

Advice for College Roommates

(i.e., for those who share the same living and sleeping area)

All roommates are housemates, so please read on....

Advice for Housemates

(i.e., those who share a bathroom and kitchen)

Health & Safety.

Items which may carry blood-borne germs -- razors, toothbrushes, tweezers -- which belong to your housemates are never to be borrowed, even with permission; and if accidentally contaminated, e.g. by dropping on the floor or in the sink or tub (anywhere with more germs), be a pal: take responsibility for sterilizing them. This requires immersion in bleach, alcohol, or boiling water. You never know who has an exotic virus. Be selfish -- don't share germs with anyone. {Read this comp1ete article at .}

Companion Animals.

Surprise Pets: Never come home with an unexpected animal and announce, "We have a new family member! Isn't it cute?" The "cutest" animals chew on furniture and the personal belongings of others. The "friendliest" pets might trigger someone's asthma. The "softest" ones cause more hard house-cleaning for everyone. And so, new pets must be agreed on in advance.

A Word About Sharing.

Do Things the Right Way.

We've all had housemates who expected us to cater to their individual whims and preferences, even when those preferences had no basis in health, safety, or savings. In short, housemates who acted more like parents than equals. This filled the household atmosphere with strained voices and stressed nerves.

The "right" way is to refrain from giving your housemates orders.

Dividing the Chores:


In washing by hand, the following transgressions are all too common:

Blabber Control Problems:

About housemates who make those "remarks" and "observations" (about you): One day you'll have a housemate who acts like you owe him or her explanations for how you spend your time and for the placement of and how you arrange your personal belongings. For example, he or she will remark, "I don't see why you put that there." At first it will seem as though he or she is merely curious, but after several questions, a pattern will emerge: his or her questions are systematically aimed at your most embarrassing belongings, habits, and activities. For example, if you have an inexpensive, old or beaten-up piece of furniture, of which you're not really proud, he or she will embarrass you by calling it to your attention, and not by making a compliment.

At other times, your housemate will make an "observation" that is understood to be more than an observation. Or he or she will ask a question that is understood not to come from curiosity, but from a need to regulate others; it's their way of dropping the hint that your actions are bizarre in their eyes, and that your belongings and tastes and habits are not up to their standards. If you ever wanted a housemate who would make you feel monitored, graded, or judged, then these are the ones to move in with.

For example, they'll put you on the spot by saying: {Read this comp1ete article at .}

They begin to sound more like inquisitive four-year-olds than adults and equals. At other times they sound more like those parents who give coded commands in the form of questions and observations, as in "The trash can is looking awfully full (pause, stare)."

Such housemates have forgotten the rule that unless person A has wronged person B, it's rude of person B to embarrass person A or to make person A feel self-conscious. And even then, it's rude of person B to nitpick anything about A except what A did that was wrongful to B.

To deal with these judgmental housemates, you should have these stock responses memorized and ready:

Remember: Like all corrections, these sayings are not for everyday use. If you are already using them every day, not as corrections but as preemptive warnings to the innocent -- that would be rude. On the other hand, if you have to use them every day because you've got a bad housemate, then you have my blessings and my sympathy, and you should know by the way that there are better housemates out there, just waiting for you to post an ad. ;^)

When corrected, some housemates will make the excuse that they didn't "intend" any offense. They'll say they didn't intend this, and they didn't intend that, and they intended only the best. But listen closely and you won't hear them saying they intend to stop being rude ;^) . Don't let people like them fool you. Real friends care about what's important to you. Even an "unintended" cut needs a bandage and time to heal and an attitude-free apology.

For more tips on correcting rude people, visit this page.

Does that help?

Note: These guidelines are not to be printed and posted on walls or bulletin boards, such as in hallways, laundry rooms or rental offices. When you manage with signs, you make a place unwelcoming. Relationshop frowns on that.

Advice for Next-Door Neighbors in Dormitories, Apartments, Duplexes, etc.

(i.e., those separated by a wall or floor/ceiling)

4th edition. 6 June 2007

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