How to share fairly

Clean and decorated cozy home

If you have been living alone for a while, you probably haven’t put too much thought into how much space you use. When you add another person to your home, things can become too disorderly without guidelines in place. More people means more shoes at the front door, more clothes in the laundry machine and more things left around the house. The three main areas you will need to consider sharing are space, chores, and expenses.

Sharing space

The first rule of sharing space is ensuring that you have made appropriate allowances for each person to have space. For example, if you are using 90% of the shoe rack alone, you should consider getting rid of some shoes to provide a fairly shared space. The more housing companions you have, the more organized you will need to share space. As a general rule, store away any out-of-season shoes, clothing, or other items to create more space. 

The second rule is to clean up regularly. If you don’t like finding dirty dishes in the sink, don’t leave dirty dishes yourself. A tip to help keep the home clean is always to do a little more than your share. For example, if you are cleaning up your mess and notice a spill from your housing companion, take a few extra seconds to clean it up. This peer support will go a long way.

The third rule is to ask your housing companions if you want to take up some extra space for a temporary project. For example, if you want to cook for several hours to prepare meals for your entire week, communicate your intentions beforehand. Make sure that each person is provided with fair and equal use of common shared areas.

1. Cleaning and tidying

Collectively, all housing companions should agree on how often each area should be cleaned and the acceptable level of cleanliness. If you are not satisfied with the way others clean, take some time to show proper cleaning methods and what cleaning products work best for the job. Use clear examples of what you consider to be clean, such as no water spots on the mirror and what you would like to see in each shared space. Communication is a huge part of avoiding conflicts regarding cleaning. Simply be honest about what bothers you. We will expand on this later in this module.

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2. Bathrooms

Keeping your bathrooms clean can help prevent the spread of germs in addition to avoiding conflicts. If you are sharing a bathroom with your housing companion, create a schedule to share cleaning responsibilities. A little cleaning after each use of the bathroom can go a long way.

Make sure there is adequate space in the bathroom for toiletries, cleaning products, and extra toilet paper. Discuss who will provide the cleaning supplies and toilet paper, or if you’d like to share the cost.

Cleaning tip: Keep a rag and a spray bottle of vinegar solution in the bathroom, give the mirror and faucet a quick clean once a day to keep it looking great! It only takes a few seconds

Vinegar solution: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, optional: 12-24 drops of essential oil

3. Smoking and drinking

It is important to discuss these habits prior to living together, as everybody is different. If there is something that will make you very uncomfortable, make sure to let them know.

General rule: Never smoke or vape inside someone’s home unless they have given you explicit consent. This includes garages, parking areas, and balconies. Some buildings have strata rules that do not allow any smoking or vaping on the property.

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4. Kitchen and eating

The kitchen is the busiest area of the home, and most conflicts occur here! Setting clear expectations for kitchen use will prevent conflicts from occurring.

Food storage: Where will each person store their food; in the fridge, freezer, and pantry? Failure to provide enough space can lead to conflicts between people.

Cooking Times: Do you need to schedule times to use the kitchen, or will you cook together? If you like to do large meal preparations, how can you schedule this so each person has a fair use of the kitchen?

Eating: Do you permit eating food in bedrooms or other areas of the house?

Food sharing: Will you share some food, such as flour or condiments? How will you share the cost? It is common for Hosts to share spices and other items that are not used very often with their guests. Simply discuss what you will do and if the item needs to be replaced.

Sharing meals: Sharing meals is fun! How often would you like to do so? Are there any dietary concerns? Will you take turns cooking for each other? Who will clean the dishes?

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5. Use of space

Is there a part of your home that you’d like to keep to yourself? In the common spaces, will you permit people to leave items such as laptops, books, guitars there? What are areas of the home available for storing their belongings?

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6. Laundry

Do you want to establish a laundry schedule to avoid overlap? Perhaps you can pick certain days of the week for each member of the household to have access to the laundry room. Also, discuss whether each person will provide their laundry detergent or if it will be shared.

7. Visitors

What are your rules for visitors? This is an important point to discuss prior to move-in as people may feel uncomfortable with certain visitors in the home.  Consider establishing a rule that you must notify your housing companion of any visitors ahead of time to ensure it works for everybody in the home. You should discuss what times are reasonable for visitors without disrupting the other members of the household.

What are your expectations or rules around overnight visitors? Suppose a boyfriend or girlfriend often stays overnight. In that case, it can create an unfair or awkward situation for the other housing companions. If having an overnight guest becomes a regular occurrence, discuss how you can make this fair for others. Perhaps making an extra contribution towards shared utilities or sharing an extra meal will help compensate for the reduced privacy of having an extra person in the home.

Lastly, if one household member wants to have a social gathering at the house, what are the expectations and limitations?

Types of visitors to consider: 

  • A friend over for coffee or dinner that doesn’t stay past quiet hours
  • Family coming to stay a few nights
  • Significant other staying over most nights

Is there enough room in the home for regular visitors? Discuss this before moving in to prevent conflicts in the future.

Create rule – if they stay more than 1-2 nights/week, do you want them to contribute toward the household financially or with cleaning?

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Sharing chores

Many conflicts arise from someone not doing their fair share of chores. If you had roommates in college, you probably have memories of always cleaning up after others. The majority of people do aspire to have a clean and orderly home. Here are some tips to help everyone work together.

1. Make a consistent habit

Having unclear expectations of how often you clean will almost always result in nothing happening. Establishing a time to clean needs to have a clearly defined time and purpose. A little hack that helps with motivation is to schedule cleaning before you can move on to the next activity. For example, if you are having friends over for dinner or going out to a restaurant, establish a goal that all your cleaning needs to be done before you can go. You will likely find that this condensed timeline motivates you to be efficient with your cleaning. 

Establishing this habit relates to yourself, and your collective household. Being mindful of your own actions of always cleaning up after yourself will set an example for others. If your housing companions see that you always leave dishes in the sink, they will start to think this is acceptable behaviour. This can be a slippery slope, always set a positive example.Failing to establish clear expectations for regular cleaning will almost always result in an unsatisfactory outcome. Setting a time to clean needs to have a clearly defined time and purpose. A little hack that helps with motivation is to schedule cleaning before you move on to the next activity. For example, if you are having friends over for dinner or going out to a restaurant, establish a goal that all your cleaning needs to be done before you can go. You will likely find that this condensed timeline motivates everyone to be more efficient and diligent.

Establishing this habit relates to yourself and your collective household. Being mindful of your actions of always cleaning up will set an example for others. If your housing companions see that you always leave dishes in the sink, they will believe it is acceptable behaviour. This can be a slippery slope, always set a positive example.

2. Create a to-do list

Creating a to-do list is a mental exercise to bring awareness of all the cleaning required in your home. This is particularly important to educate new housing companions about all the areas of your home that require cleaning and special precautions that may need to be taken. For example, your housing companions may not know how dirty the windows are or that the furnace filter needs to be changed. Once you establish a good routine, you will find that you will rely less on an itemized to-do list, but it’s still a great tool to get started! 

Tasks should be evenly divided and rotated between people each week. Each person is expected to clean their personal spaces (bedroom and bathroom), while the other household spaces can be divided evenly for cleaning duties.

Note: If your housing companions have less experience with cleaning (such as a student or younger adult), show them some of your cleaning methods. Do not make assumptions and be patient if they are learning.

Download: Cleaning to-do list template

Examples:

  • Vacuuming of carpets and rugs
  • Mopping/cleaning of tile and hard floors
  • Cleaning communal bathrooms (toilet, mirrors, sink, floor, shower)
  • Cleaning the kitchen (fridge, oven, floor, wiping cupboards, organizing clutter)
  • Taking recycling and bottles to your local depot
  • Cleaning/organizing communal spaces (put away books, shoes, stray objects)
  • Dusting and cleaning railings, tables and furniture.
  • Yard work (mowing lawn, sweeping, raking leaves)
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3. The 60/40 rule

he truth of the matter is you will never evenly share all cleaning and chores in the home all the time. A little hack that will improve your mindset and overall cleanliness of the house is to always do a little more than what you think is your share. If you have one housing companion, always do what you think is 60% of the cleaning and have them do the same. This way, your small overlap will ensure all areas of the house are cleaned. This is an important mental trick to help prevent you from telling yourself, ‘that is their mess, so I will leave it.’ The only way you will be satisfied is to work together and do a little more to help their fellow housing companions.

Tip: It is a lot more motivating to clean when everyone is cleaning at the same time. If you finish your tasks early, help the others finish their task. You will likely find it impossible to sit on the couch when your housing companions are busy cleaning the home. Oh, the guilt!

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Sharing expenses

Companion housing can provide tremendous financial benefits compared to living alone. Much of these savings come from the ability to share household items, buying items in larger quantities, sharing utilities and the internet. But, how do you ensure you are sharing the costs fairly? 

Food

It is beneficial to share meals and everyday food items as often as practical with your housing companions. Not only does this allow you to deepen your connection, but it can also help save money.

Common items: Sharing commonly used items such as butter, flour, salt, coffee cream, and spices can help keep your kitchen more organized while reducing expenses. Buying these items in larger quantities is much cheaper, and having one set of items helps save space. Discuss with your housing companions what items you want to share.

Tip: Have each person put some money into a communal fund to buy these basic items, such as $10/week for basic items. Consider larger contributions if you want to share more items, such as coffee, milk, bread, ($25-$50+/week). This can work particularly well in large households.

Shared meals: Taking turns to cook dinner is a wonderful way to eat better while saving time and money. This works best if you can agree on ingredients and types of food that everyone can enjoy. Be mindful of spice levels, allergies, and dietary restrictions. Don’t be afraid of making too much, and leftovers are always appreciated!

Include ingredients commonly used to prepare shared meals in your common/shared food items, such as rice. This will help to distribute the costs evenly and will make meal planning easier.

Tip: Avoid expensive ingredients for shared meals (unless it’s a special occasion). You will likely find that you can create healthy and delicious meals at a very low cost. Use whole ingredients whenever possible instead of processed or pre-packaged foods. Buy items to share in large quantities, the price per unit will be much less. Consider vegetarian options to make healthy meals at minimal cost.

Utilities

Hosts are responsible for monitoring and paying the utility bills. It is recommended to include utility costs in the monthly rent. However, extras will be the responsibility of each individual, such as long-distance calls or extra TV channels. To determine how much to charge, we recommend charging an average rate. See below for details.

If you are in a co-living arrangement, you will want to designate one person to manage the utility bills to ensure you don’t forget to pay one.

Note: Basic utilities, such as heating costs, will remain the same even with adding a couple of housing companions. However, you can expect to see a small increase in electricity and water consumption. Most hosts report around $1.00 -1.50/person/day increase in electricity from each housing companion added to their home.

Exercise – Setting utility costs

Take your utility bills from the last 12 months, add them up and divide by 12. This will be your monthly average utility rate.  Then divide this equally among everyone in the home. This allows you to charge a flat monthly rate for utilities, which should be included in the rent. Utility rates for gas and electricity will fluctuate by the season. Charging an average rate makes managing much simpler.

Example: Last year’s utility bills were as follows for 12 months

Electricity: $1800

Gas: $600

Internet: $1000

Water: $400

Total: $3800/12 months = $316.67/month

Per person: $316.67/3 people = $105.56

Base rent: $600

Rent with utilities(per person): $705.56

Basic household items

Similar to the condiments in the fridge, once the toilet paper, soap or cleaning supplies run out, whose turn is it to stock up next? Many hosts will include cleaning supplies and other basic items in the monthly rent; this is often the simplest and easiest to manage option. If your housing companions are staying for a shorter term, this tends to be the best method. Alternatively, suppose you have a long-term housing companion. In that case, you can include these items in your communal fund for shared food, having each person contribute a few extra dollars monthly. 

Tip: Toilet paper problems have been known to cause many conflicts. It is simply not worth fighting over such a small commodity. If you feel someone is wasteful, ask them how you can work together to conserve resources.

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Repairs

Typically, most basic repairs will be the responsibility of the homeowner/landlord, as long as they are caused by everyday wear and tear. When a new Guest is arriving, a move-in inspection of some sort should be conducted to assess any previous damage to the home, including the furniture and appliances.

Additionally, it is the guest’s responsibility to keep the home up to a high standard of cleanliness and livability; otherwise, they are liable for additional damages. Guests will typically be responsible for the following items. Make sure these points are communicated:

  • reasonable maintenance of carpets (regular vacuuming and wiping up spills)
  • steam cleaning or shampooing the carpets at the end of stays lasting one year or longer
  • steam cleaning or shampooing the carpets at the end of the stay of any length involving pets or smoking
  • cleaning marks on the walls
  • removal of garbage from the rental unit
  • replacing light bulbs
  • minor mould issues
  • repairing excessive damage from nail holes

To learn more about the issue check out this article on our Blog.

Self reflection