Living with others: the joys and challenges of flatting
Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth experience with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post has been written by our Community Education intern, Anne, a 21-year-old psychology student.
Many of us have had to share a living space with others whether it is your sibling, parent, friend, etc., and as we may know this can come with its complications. Being able to live with others who vary in lifestyle, personality, and living habits is much easier said than done, but also a skill that can be very important at various points in our lives. With the rise of COVID-19 it was evident that many individuals would have to put this skill to the test during a mandatory quarantine. During this unprecedented time, families, friends, and flatmates were trying to adapt to this new reality while also being cooped up with the same people for months on end. One technique that helped my family during this time was getting into a routine. I am not sure if this can go for most, but our lives now consist of eating, long family walks (no matter what the weather was), work/homework, and movies. Being able to follow a routine eliminated more anxiety than we were already feeling at the time.
A concept I have carried along with me through my living situations is the idea of world traveling. World traveling consists of leaving everything you have been raised to know, to experience another person’s world. This means that you must be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see life through a different lens, to completely understand what they have gone through. One way of grasping the concept of traveling the world is through exposure to foreign experiences. If we are introduced to an unfamiliar environment, we must adapt to that culture to properly function within that society. This is a notion that I practiced first-hand through my transition to boarding school.
As a sheltered fourteen-year-old girl, the thought of leaving home and everything behind sounded like my worst nightmare. For my whole life up until moving into school, I was completely satisfied with living in the comfort of my home, with my parents to look after me. Upon entering my first year of high school we were randomly selected roommates who we would live in tight quarters with. My roommate introduced herself as Tiffany.
Tiffany was from Beijing, China, and flew fourteen hours to get to school. Right off the bat, Tiffany and I did not have a lot in common, but this is what ultimately caused me to grow from this experience. Tiffany was an only child, preferred arts over athletics, and had three cats. On paper, we could not have been further from the opposite. I remember worrying about how our initial differences would impact our living environment. After only the first few days, I started to pick up more about her world. The films she preferred to watch, the food she kept in the mini fridge under her bed, and even the morals she carried along with her throughout her life were just a few pieces of her culture that I grew to understand and appreciate through living with her. As time went on, not only did I gain knowledge about her culture, but I also learned how to share a space with her, while we both engaged in a culturally different ways of life.
How can we learn to live with new people?
Mutual compromise: Compromising your own wants or needs sometimes for the sake of the house can be difficult but also very helpful. Making small sacrifices here and there in hopes to avoid arguments or small disagreements is a strong skill to have when living with others. Compromising should be balanced among flatmates, meaning that not just one person is giving up things for the sake of the house.
Respect boundaries: Even if alone time is not for you, this does not mean it is the same for others. Respecting someone’s personal space at home can be crucial to coexist. Home is seen as a safe haven. Coming home after a long day at work or school should be a relaxing transition to eliminate the chance of bringing outside stress home, and/or dreading the idea of coming home.
Help out around the common spaces: Although for me, cleaning is not my strong suit, I still put in effort to help around the house whether that means doing the dishes, vacuuming, cooking, etc. This will show your flatmates that you respect the space they are in. Leaving rubbish around the house can be viewed as disrespectful and rub a lot of people the wrong way.
Communicate: If your flatmate is doing something that you do not enjoy, it is important that you voice this to them so they can work on fixing this problem. It is hard to change a behaviour if they are unaware, therefore having open and honest communication with each other while being kind can go a long way.
“Put yourself in their shoes” is a common saying taught to young children in hopes that they will be raised to see certain situations from a different perspective than just their own. This saying is one that stuck with me throughout the different stages of my life and something that I can now understand is much easier said than done. While living with others can cause many individuals unwanted feelings of stress and/or anxiety, there are ways to manage these emotions and potentially provide you with a more helpful outlook to change. Similarly, with my experience with Tiffany, I was able to work past my initial feelings of stress/anxiety regarding my living space and grow as a person through our differences.
Know your rights:
Find coping mechanisms, if flatting is impacting your mental health and wellbeing: