How to Share Your Living Space with Someone After Flying Solo for So Long

Updated on February 18, 2017
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Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.

If you've lived alone for years, the idea of sharing your home with someone else, even someone you adore, can be scary. The trick to living in harmony with someone else is staying on top of clutter and keeping your shared spaces neat and tidy. Here are some handy tips for organizing the mutually shared spaces in your home so that you and your new housemate can live in harmony.

Handle with Care

Packing up and moving in to a shared space with someone else requires careful planning and honest conversations with your future housemate--even if the housemate is your future spouse!
Packing up and moving in to a shared space with someone else requires careful planning and honest conversations with your future housemate--even if the housemate is your future spouse!

So you’re getting married? Or you’re thinking of moving in with your long-time lover? Maybe you’ve decided to cut back on your living expenses by getting a roommate.

If you're the type of person who has lived by yourself for years, the idea of sharing your living space with someone else, even someone you love and adore, can be scary. How do you know that you and your new live-in partner will have the same housekeeping habits? What if you're a clean freak and your boyfriend, fiance, or husband is not so neat and tidy around the house? Yikes!

Personal spaces can be as big as a separate bedroom for a roommate or as intimate as the space on your spouse’s side of the bed.

Here are some tips on how to live harmoniously with someone else. Remember, you may not be able to control how the person you live with maintains their own personal spaces, but you can keep your own personal space clean, tidy, and uncluttered: that includes your share of the closet, the bathroom counter, the computer station, or the front hall table where the mail gets dumped.

Apply the one touch method.

The one touch method is a common system for organizing office papers. As soon as a memo, paper, message, or envelope lands on your desk, you deal with it and touch it only once. You can apply this principle to new items you bring into your shared home. When you bring home a package, unload the groceries, or sort the mail, find a permanent place for everything as quickly as possible.

Instead of leaving that new magazine in the front hall, put it on your bedside table or near your favorite reading nook so that it's there when you're ready to relax. Keep similar items together and store items where you actually use them. For example, my favorite hairbrush kept going missing; I’d start brushing my hair in the bathroom, fuss with it some more in the bedroom, and then leave the brush in the front hall as I dashed out the door. So I placed a hook beneath the bedroom mirror and now I make a conscious effort to hang the brush up after each use.

Instead of using permanent hooks that can leave holes in the wall, I use hooks with removable adhesive so I can adjust where I hang things as my needs change. I recommend the 3M Command adhesive hooks and hangers if you want flexibility.

Items used daily should be placed within easy reach. Items used less often can be stored in out-of-the-way spaces. Use a label maker or plain stickers and a marker to label drawers, shelves, boxes, and baskets so that you can find things quickly.

Having to share a bathroom with someone after living alone can be a big adjustment. If you both do your part to keep it clean, you'll both be much happier with the living arrangement.
Having to share a bathroom with someone after living alone can be a big adjustment. If you both do your part to keep it clean, you'll both be much happier with the living arrangement.

Don't get hung up on the mess.

Hang it up, instead!

If you find that you're too tired to hang up your clean clothes at the end of the day and you (or your spouse) tend to just drop them on the floor, consider keeping a wicker basket, a clothes butler, or a stylish chair with arms near your bed to drape your garments on after undressing. Put clean, wearable your clothes back in your closet the next morning. Always do smell check before you rehang your clothes! To be on the safe side, lightly spritz re-wearable clothes with a fabric refresher.

For clothes that need to be washed after every wear, keep a laundry hamper in a handy place. To avoid pile-ups on top of the hamper, take the lid off. My husband likes to take his shirt off at night and toss it across the room where it lands on top of the hamper. I finally decided to take the lid off after having to constantly stuff the clothes piles into the hamper each morning.

Your home is a work in progress.

A common misconception is that once you've organized your shared living space, you’re done; somehow the mess will take care of itself. But remember, organizing is an ongoing process, not a one-off project. As your life changes, your organizing systems will need to change as well. Be open to reviewing and modifying your organizing schemes, especially when you experience a lifestyle change (i.e.; a new baby, adopting a pet, moving into a smaller or bigger space, working from home).

It's possible to co-exist happily, even when the two of you are exact opposites.

If you want to live comfortably with another person in a shared space, learn to accept each other's habits. If one of you is a neat freak and the other takes a more relaxed approach to tidying, there are bound to be arguments. Resentment could build if you don’t talk about the issues as they come up – and they will come up; that’s just the nature of living with someone else.

Remember, if one person is messy and the other is tidy, in the end, your habits will balance each other out. Accept that your housekeeping styles are unique. Celebrate and take pride in what works for the both of you and talk openly about what doesn’t. Try to meet each other half way. For example, if you’re a neat freak, you need to learn to let go of your desire to control every aspect of your living space. On the other hand, if you're the disorganized one, make an effort to adopt one new organizing habit each month.

At the end of the day, you both share a common goal of wanting to live in a space that makes you feel safe, secure, and comfortable. How you get to that goal is up to how well you work together and respect your individual organizing styles.

Moving in with someone you consider a close and dear friend can have a positive impact on your quality of life. Imagine always having someone around to goof off with or share a silly joke with at the end of the day.

© 2017 Sadie Holloway

Comments

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    Robert E Smith 

    17 months ago from Rochester, New York

    You said, "As soon as a memo, paper, message, or envelope lands on your desk, you deal with it and touch it only once. You can apply this principle to new items you bring into your shared home. When you bring home a package, unload the groceries, or sort the mail, find a permanent place for everything as quickly as possible." This makes so much sense. I wondered, is this a common known practice or is this your idea? I have done this in my life and all through my marriage. It really does help to bring peace to a shared space. I loved this common sense article. Thank you. Bob.

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