Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Journey - Two Families - One Roof

While building our new home, Greg and I are living with our daughter and her family. There are seven of us, an eighth who visits occasionally and a baby on the way, all under one roof. We are using every bit of available space in the house, but we don't feel overly crowded. There are five bedrooms and three bathrooms, which help a lot. Greg and I live on one side of the house, which includes a laundry room, bath, family room and two bedrooms (one I use as an office). Sarah and her family are using three bedrooms, two baths and a living room. We share the kitchen and dining. And it's working well. Though I'll admit we are presently under a bit of duress. The flu has come to visit . . . for what I believe is the third time this winter. This time it's a stomach bug. Ugh. 

Throughout the years, my husband and I have invited friends and family to share our home. Most of the time we did so successfully. However, it doesn't just happen. You need a plan and you need to stick to it the best you can, modifying when necessary. Harmony is possible.

These days the number of people across our country who are sharing space is growing. Some decide to live in close quarters because of financial need. Children open their homes to aging parents. Parents welcome children just out of college while they transition into the working world. And there are folks who simply enjoy sharing their lives with others. No matter what the reason we need a plan if dual living is going to be a success.

I'm certain some of you have experienced this kind of living arrangement. And I'll bet more than one of you is yelling, "No! Don't do it!" 

And you'd be right. Sharing living space is not for everyone. Our personal attempts have not always been successful. The experience can be excruciating. 

So, if you find yourself needing to share a home with others what can you do to increase your chances of success?

Here are some tips I've picked up along the way.

  • Know the people you plan to live with. If it is a room mate situation and you've met through an ad or a mutual friend, get together more than once and go through likes and dislikes, personality quirks and expectations. Get to know one another.
  • Thoroughly discuss expectations. Examples are: Who pays what and when? How will upkeep of the house be maintained? How will you share the kitchen? And who cooks?
  • A time frame should be discussed. How long do you expect to live together? 
  • A trial run might be a good idea. You can set up a period of time, say one month, where you can try it out before making a final decision. You'll need an alternative plan just in case it's a no go.
  • Be honest, but full of grace. People don't always see eye-to-eye and if our roomies are getting under our skin we need to speak up, especially if it's about something we agreed on and they aren't holding up their end of the bargain. However, grace is essential. Don't strike out with words or with anything else for that matter. Work out a resolution in love.
  • If there are pronounced differences in living styles it's imperative to talk through the issues that could come up. If one is a neat-nik and the other is a casual housekeeper, how are you going to overcome the contrasts? You might decide it's not a good match - listen to your gut.
  • Respect one another. 
  • Set up scheduled meetings for communication. If we know there will be opportunity to voice questions or differences we're less likely to avoid addressing them and thus avoid blow ups. 
  • Agree on guidelines for your meetings, keeping honesty and respect as key components of discussions. We once shared our three bedroom home with my sister and her four children. There were seven children and three adults in 1400 square feet. Living quarters were tight. Meetings were essential. The kids loved being part of solutions and couldn't wait to voice their opinions and suggestions. Family meetings were generally fun and constructive.
  • Pray. If you are believers together, then make sure to pray together.

No single plan works for everyone. The challenge is to find what works for you. 

I look forward to moving into a new home and being just Greg and I again. But I'll miss the close relationship I share here with family. I love being part of my daughter's, her husband's and my grandchildrens' lives. It has been a special blessing. 

I'd love to hear about your experiences. Do you have more tips to add to the list? I hope you'll share. We can all use a little help.

Grace and peace to you from God,


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