Pretty much since I turned 18 I have lived in various, random situations. I stayed with friends for a few months. I lived with a married couple for a couple of years. I lived with a roommate for a year until she married. I lived with 5 girls…then 4, then 3, then 2… as they all married off. I lived with 2 different families for a period of months, and on occasion out of my car while staying with friends. I lived on my own for 5 months and then my sister and I had an apartment for 2 years. After that I lived with twin girls until one got married after 6 months and then just one of the twins and I lived together for 2 years. After that I stayed with relatives for a year, and saved money to move to Germany. Once I was in Germany, I stayed with friends, stayed in hostels, stayed with family, stayed in hotels, camped in the middle of a meadow and at a campground. I visited the homes of couchsurfing hosts, and I worked as a nanny. Then, I moved back to the states and stayed with my brother and his wife.
If I have learned anything from all of these situations it is that you need to follow some simple rules in order to maintain happiness and minimize stress and annoyance. Whether it be with a family, with roommates, as a nanny, couchsurfing, or in hostels, you should always try to follow these simple rules:
1. Respect the privacy and property of others: Whether you are staying in someones’ house, have a roommate, live with family, working as a nanny, or spending the night in a hostel you should always respect privacy. Common sense….don’t look through cupboards, drawers, computers, cell phones…anything that doesn’t belong to you. Always ask before you eat something you did not purchase and don’t assume that you can have it.
2. Contribute to the household: If you are in a situation where you are supposed to share all the bills make sure that you budget accordingly and don’t come up short. It is frustrating to others and can cause undue stress when you don’t pay your bills, especially if you still miraculously have money to splurge on yourself and to party.
When you are in a situation where you are visiting/staying for a period of time contribute however you can. If money is not accepted, or not available, offer your services in any way you can. Cook meals, clean the house, take out the trash…simple things. Don’t act entitled it will only cause tension. Look for opportunities to help out. If someone cooks for you offer to clean up afterward or do the dishes. Also, when you are working as a nanny, be sure that even in your off hours you are respectful of the living situation.
3.Talk things through and keep communication lines open: When something is bothering you in the living situation make sure to talk it out. Letting things stew and fester will only cause bigger issues and can ruin friendships or even close the door to future visits or work opportunities. Make sure that everyone has the same understanding of the situation and there is no guessing. It’s exhausting if everyone thinks something different is going on and dance around a subject. Save yourself from confrontation and lay everything on the table.
4. Clean up after yourself: We are all familiar with the saying, “Your mother does not live here” in reference to cleaning. It is common courtesy to clean up any mess you make. Don’t leave it for someone else. You could also take the extra step and clean up the entire table instead of only your dishes, or help fold others laundry. Simple little things such as cleaning your own dishes can help keep the situation peaceful.
5. Don’t waste resources: No matter where we live in the world we should always be making efforts to protect the environment and not waste any resources. If you are in an area that water is expensive or scarce be sure to make extra effort to conserve it. Do not take long hot showers, leave the sink running(especially when washing dishes or brushing teeth), or flush the toilet excessively. In many areas of the world electricity and water are not as accessible and if you are staying with someone or somewhere this is the case be sure and be especially mindful of it. Oh, and recycle! 🙂
6. Give them space: In any situation people are going to need their ‘alone time’. Be mindful of personal space as well as time that they typically like to spend alone or as a family. Do not impose yourself on a situation unless you are invited. In a nanny situation remember that even though you are living in the house the family still needs to have its own time away from you as well on occasion. Do not assume you can attend every event. If you are invited that is different. In a hostel arrangement don’t treat your roommates as a ‘captive audience’. Remember that they may not want to hear your life story until the wee hours of the night. Allow people the opportunity to invite you rather than inviting yourself.
7. Mind your manners and be respectful: Even if you are living with your family you should always be polite. People tend to treat the people closest to them, or that they see everyday the worst. Do not forget to say ‘please’ ‘thank you’ ‘you’re welcome’ all of the common niceties. If you are sharing a bedroom or hostel room do not turn on the light, make loud noises, or play loud music when returning late at night. If your roommate is sleeping be mindful of that and do not punish them for your late night. These may all seem like silly little things, but when you forget them often enough little things can escalate into a nasty situation.
8. Don’t talk crap: We all remember the Golden Rule, “If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.” In any living situation if you talk disparagingly of your counterparts it will end badly. Even things said in ‘secret’ tend to always come back in some way or another. Obviously there will be issues and irritations and annoyances, but discussing it with other people tends to only make things worse.
Those are the only 8 I could think of at the moment. As we travel throughout life and throughout the world we meet many different people, customs, cultures and personalities. It’s hard to be mindful of everything that we should and shouldn’t do. We have to take into consideration what is commonly expected in the region that we are in. The more that we see and learn and people that we encounter… we will continue to see that the discoveries are endless.
Please comment below and let me know of anything you have learned in your travels from staying with others or living with roommates. How do you maintain peace in your living situation?