Is Sharing a Home Right for You?
After her divorce, Cynthia moved to the big city. Her first home there was a studio apartment where she lived alone.
It was a tiny apartment. She says it was “so depressing, so isolating, so lonely. I came from a really active life in which I raised two children, had pets and ran a business. Living by myself was so quiet. It became harder and harder to go out and do stuff. The loneliness fed on itself. I started to get really hard on myself, really down. I actually started eating frozen dinners. I’d never done that before. It’s just hard to cook for one person.”
Cynthia realized what was happening to her and took steps to fix it. She found a place to live with others and moved in.
What happened to Cynthia could easily happen to any of us. If you are one of the many people who are single (50 percent of all adults are), then the chances are very good that you live alone. Twenty-eight percent of all households in the United States are single occupancy. The rate is higher in cities, where it can be 40 to 50 percent. Living alone is a common expectation of a single person. But where did that expectation come from?
Independence and self-reliance are deeply ingrained in the American psyche. From the cowboy on the plain, alone on his horse, to the feminist who doesn’t need a man to take care of her, it is a commonly held notion.
The problem with living alone is that it can lead to social isolation and loneliness.
Our society doesn’t make it easy to connect with others. Where do you go when you just want to hang out? If you just want to be with other people? It’s difficult. We don’t have gathering places such as neighborhood pubs or cafes. Many people are turning to the internet. This makes sense — but reading and typing is not as fulfilling as talking with a real person in the flesh.
The Benefits of Home Sharing
When you live with one or more people, you have companionship. There is a person with whom you can talk. It can be simply “hello,” “goodbye” and “how was your day?” It could be having a meal together or playing a game.
When you live with someone you get to have chats — you hear your own voice, you listen to another. This is fundamental to our being. To speak with someone else about the stuff of one’s daily life and to listen is a deep part of being human. We need it. We crave it. We’re wired for it.
The relationship of people sharing a home is completely different from any other relationship. It’s a “home-mate” relationship. A home-mate is someone you like and respect, whose ways of living at home are compatible enough with your ways of living that everyone is comfortable.
How one lives with a home-mate is entirely up to the people living together. Some like to eat together, some keep it completely independent. Some might like to hang out together, some not. There are endless variations depending on the people who are living together.
Tips for Finding a Home-Mate
If the idea of having a home-mate is attractive to you, your first step is to clarify what you must have and what you can’t live with in your home. This will help you eliminate what and who doesn’t match your needs. Then you have to get the word out that you are looking and interested.
In Cynthia’s case, she used Craigslist. While that is one option, another is to start talking to your friends about this idea. Expand the circle of people by talking about this option in your communities and networks. For many people, the idea of living with people who are not family may at first seem strange. Sometimes people need to hear about home sharing again and again before they can consider it for themselves.
When you are talking with potential home-mates, discuss how you each like to live at home. For example:
- What are your routines?
- How do you feel about guests?
- How are cleaning and household tasks managed?
- What are your kitchen practices?
Visit each other’s homes. Do you like what you see? If everything seems to be good, ask for personal references and call them. You might try living together for short time as a trial without moving in furniture and possessions to see if it works for everyone involved.
In all of this, you need to trust your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t continue. Remember: A home-mate is someone you like and respect whose way of living at home is compatible enough that everyone is comfortable.
For Cynthia, realizing what was happening to her made her take steps to break out of her social isolation. She decided to live with Harriet, reveling in the people, connections, and good chats over cups of tea. She says, “I’ll never live alone again.”
Annamarie Pluhar is an advocate of shared housing for the benefits of cost, company, help and sustainability. She is the developer of the Home-Mate Compatibility Toolkit, the author of Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates, and the founder of sharinghousing.com.
Is Sharing a Home Right for You? by Annamarie Pluhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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