Stephanie and Nancy
“Morning,” greeted Stephanie as she walked into the kitchen where her home-mate Nancy was sitting in her bathrobe and drinking a cup of coffee.
“Morning,” said Nancy. She continued, “You should know I’m going to go visit a friend in a few weeks, the weekend of the 16th. I’ll be gone from Friday until late Sunday.”
“That’s nice. You’ve been wanting to get away.”
“Yeah, it’ll be nice to have a change of pace.”
Stephanie poured a glass of orange juice and looked at a calendar on the wall. “Maybe I’ll invite my granddaughter to stay with me that weekend.”
“Good idea, you’ll like that.” What both women knew and didn’t need to say out loud again was that Nancy didn’t like it when the granddaughter visited.
Does this seem like a normal exchange to you? I hope so. These are two housemates who are treating each other with respect.
Let’s look at it more closely. First there is a spoken greeting. Saying “hello,” “good morning,” or just “hi,” something we could take for granted, is welcoming and acknowledges the other person. Then Nancy informs her housemate of her upcoming absence from the house. The implication is that she has just made these arrangements. Knowing this allows Stephanie to make her own plans. She can consider doing something she loves that her housemate doesn’t.
Sharing a home with others is easy when you act according to two guidelines. One is The Golden Rule and the other Do-It-While-It-Is-Easy.
The Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is an ethic of every religion. It’s universal. You treat others as you would want to be treated. For housemates at its most basic this means: you don’t eat food that’s not yours, you clean up your messes, you communicate about comings, goings and absences, and you offer help as needed.
When all housemates live by the same principle, it’s reciprocal. It’s not about keeping score: “I did it for you, now you must do it for me.”
The second principle, “Do-It-While-It-Is-Easy” is about speaking up and communicating when there’s something that affects you or your housemate. In this example, one housemate informs the other about being away for a weekend. The advance notice allows Judith to make her own plans, knowing that Nancy won’t be around. Imagine how different it would feel for Nancy if she found out on the Friday morning that Judith was going away for the weekend.
“Do-It-While-It-Is-Easy” could also be about something that bothers you: dirty dishes left in the sink, thermostat settings, or a granddaughter’s noise. The key here is noticing when you are bothered by some little thing and speaking up. Don’t let it become an internal conversation with yourself that becomes a bigger issue. This is easier to do when you’ve had thorough conversations about how you’ll live together before you agree to do it. (The Interviewing Guide is designed to help you do that. Read the story of Genna and Sally using the Assessment to see how it works.
When you speak up, you and your housemate can work together for a solution. You will find a solution because you care. Sometimes it is incredibly easy to fix the issue – all that needs to happen is that the other knows there’s a problem. Sometimes it takes more work. For instance in the story above, we get a sense that Nancy and Stephanie had a difficult conversation about visits from Stephanie’s granddaughter. They’ve worked it out.
These two guidelines — The Golden Rule and it’s mate Do-It-While-It-is-Easy are described a bit more fully in the book, Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates. They comprise two of the four guidelines that are essential to living well with others. They generate harmony and comfort. It feels good. Follow these two principles and you’ll find that sharing a home brings rewards far beyond the cost savings.