Learning to cope with living in tight quarters
Family, friends, or strangers-sharing space is hard
We squeeze into homes that were not made for so many.
We are a unique species, we humans. We love our company, but we love our solitude just as much. Some people need to have at least one person with them at all times. If they want to be alone, they need that person to be in some other portion of the house yet still present. Then you have the loner who wants desperately to be alone and cannot because of the economy causing so many to have to share quarters. No matter which situation you have, privacy is a commodity that is extremely rare.
In the state of the economy right now, many have had to adjust their living conditions. Kids are moving back in with their parents-usually with a spouse and children. The elderly can't afford to live alone anymore and either move in with family, or have family move in with them. Families have had to go down to one vehicle-even with family groups living together. Because gas, repairs and upkeep of vehicles has become just as expensive as rent, electric, and food. Squeezing togerther like this causes stress, frustrations, disagreements, and downright fights. Not good!
"You think they would at least give us each our own bed. Hey, move the tail ya blue creep!"
The problems are only beginning.
With so many having to squeeze into tighter and tighter situations tempers flare. Appliances break down quicker because of the heavy usage. Arguments ensue as to who should pay for a new one. Children are underfoot all the time screaming, shouting, demanding, drooling, and crying. The noise level is so high no one can think. There is no privacy, not even in the bathroom. If one person gets sick, everyone gets sick and then there is no one to clean or run errands such as trips to the pharmacy. There is no room to move because of everyone's stuff. Storage facilities are raking in profits until the money is gone and then things have to be put 'somewhere'. With that in mind, many have had to sell their things, or have had them stolen or damaged, adding fuel to the fire.
It seems hopeless. Everyone is at each other's throats (not literally, although I bet they feel like it should be). The situations become so rough that the owners of the space have to take control and either lay down the law, or kick some people out. Not a pleasant ending to a real tough situation.
How do we cope?
Well, first we MUST set up limitations for ourselves and then encourage everyone to follow suit. When living in a familial group there are unwritten rules that everyone must follow. Remember when you were a kid? Everyone had to follow the rules of the house, right? Well, the same principle applies here. For example:
- Everyone has a space that is their's, even if it is only a tiny little corner where they can sit and read quietly. Everyone MUST honor that space and stay out of it. No jokes either.
- Everyone has to help with the cleaning, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. No one person can be exempt. Even the children should help. It is unfair for one person to do all the work while everyone who is 'a guest' sits on their keister and plays games or munches or something. You are here because you needed a place to stay. Don't push your luck.
- Everyone MUST EQUALLY share the cost of living there!!! This is a very important one. People move in with parents, family, or friends and then assume they don't have to pay for anything. Well, how is the person you moved in with going to survive when everything they are paying for goes up? Let's face it you use more hot water, more food, more electricity, more laundry, more gas, more heat, the list is endless. No, utilities don't stay the same anymore than the food bill stays the same. And even for those SET costs like cable, if you use it, you should help pay for it. And just for kicks---DON'T borrow the car and leave it without gas! Remember, you are here because your finances were too tight for you to live on your own. So what makes you think the person you moved in with can support you and themselves?
- Everyone needs to respect the privacy of those they are living with. Don't walk in without knocking, don't take without asking, don't assume anything, don't change the channel on someone, don't criticize how others do things, AND clean up after yourself!
- Everyone needs to understand that they now have others living there. Don't play your music too loud; better yet, get headphones. Don't cannibalize anything others own (if George bought the brownies, then George should be the one to eat them). Don't stand in the fridge for hours trying to 'decide' what to eat, not only is it irritating, but it runs up the electric bill. Don't leave the door open when you leave the house. Don't have relations where others can see. Don't go into the main living areas without dressing first. Don't say you will take a message for someone unless you are writing it down.
- PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS! You are not alone anymore and you have to work with those living with you!
- When things break, you should help pay for the repair or replacement, even if you didn't break it. Items break faster when more people are using them!
Living together is hard to do no matter what the circumstances are. Be on your best behavior, use your manners, and wait until you are far away to scream out your frustrations!
"Ah, now this is the life!"
Time for yourself is always important, so don't forget yourself.
Take a break for yourself and offer breaks to others. A tall glass of ice tea while sitting in the back yard would hit the spot on a hot summer afternoon. Why not make a pitcherful and invite the crew out to sit under the shade trees? Talk, laugh, remember that you actually like one another, and relax.
Take time out to remember that each of you has a unique situation. Try to help each other out, rather than bite and growl at one another when somethin goes wrong. Example: You worked all day and now the baby is crying uncontrollably and you would like to get some rest. The baby isn't yours and you don't feel you should have to put up with the crying. You want the noise to stop so you.......
Go yell at the parent to shut their kid up? (NO); Shout at the kid to shut up? (NO); Start kicking or throwing things in your anger? (NO); Turn your music or TV up to drown out the kid? (NO); Get out of the house for awhile so you can calm down and things can get quiet again? (YES, YES, YES)!
Time away from the family is often the best way to let tempers cool and then you can go back and work things out. Generally, by then things will have calmed down anyway and you can once more enjoy your space. If it were me, I might take a blanket out to my car for a quick cat nap.
I can't stress this enough. If you don't communicate with those you are living with, then there will be more and more misunderstandings and living there will become unbearable. Communication is the best tool we have to keep things running smoothly. If you have an issue with someone, talk to them. Maybe they didn't realize, or maybe they thought you would be happy if they did something not realizing you didn't like it. Communicate with each other.
In fact, there should be a set of rules for general things anyway so that everything runs smoothly for everyone. For example: discuss the habit of leaving wet clothes on the floor in the bathroom; loud music early in the morning; kids running around the expensive glass collection; discuss the fact that the coffee and milk keep running out and no one is getting more to replace what they drank; the list can go on forever...and ever...and ever!
When we get married, there is always that period of adjustment when we have to learn all of our spouses quirks and habits and learn to live with them. This is basically the same thing. We have to learn to live together and work together as a family, not as individuals. But we have to respect the individualization of others as well. Communication is the key!
© 2011 Cheryl Simonds
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