Successfully Sharing Spaces

Roommates Moving In

Sharing spaces is a natural part of our lives.  Even if you live alone, you share space in restaurants, offices, parking lots, and pretty much everywhere else.

But space has boundaries, and when these boundaries are crossed, you may have a situation of discord, or worse.

It is important not only to set boundaries, but to respect them whether they belong to you or someone else.

Sharing Space In Your Home

If you share your home with a roommate or housemate, you no doubt have had a discussion about dividing or using space.  Some roommate intrusions include:

  • Pets
  • Noise
  • Frequent visitors
  • Belongings
  • Dirty dishes

These details (and more) need to be worked out ahead of time.  It's also a good practice to consider the "what ifs" and look ahead to how you will handle an intrusion or boundary crossing.  Perhaps not as detailed as this roommate agreement, but it never hurts to look ahead.

The bottom line with roommates is simply communicating openly.  Especially if you own the property or are paying the majority of expenses.  Your expectations of the living arrangements should be clear.

Before sharing your home, you should have a good sense of yourself and your lifestyle.  Do you prefer a quiet atmosphere, a "party house", regular home-cooked meals, or Friday night movies?  Do you easily share your belongings, have a "help yourself" attitude about the refrigerator, or prefer that no one touch your stuff?

Think things through before co-signing a lease or agreeing to a living arrangement.  And make sure you're fully aware of your roommate's expectations as well.  A little compromise is sometimes necessary, but know your limits.

Entertaining Guests

When friends or family members come to stay for a few days, they want to feel welcome.  This helps put everyone at ease and encourage a fun visit.

If you have a guest bedroom and bathroom, place items that you know will make your guest feel comfortable: favorite toiletries, extra pillows, plush towels, a bathrobe, chocolates, etc.

If your place is small, you can get more creative.  Show your guests where they can put their things and encourage them to claim some space as their own.  Even the smallest of homes can be guest-friendly if the host has a positive, welcoming attitude.

You may find the impending visit to be a great opportunity to clear your space.  De-clutter, organize, and throw out anything that doesn't bring you joy or isn't functional.  Doing this gives you a better attitude all around, and makes it much easier to welcome others there.

Sometimes guests need to be aware of where they are not welcome: "There are some confidential files in my home office, so I need to keep it closed and off-limits while you're here.  I'm sure you understand." 

They may also need to know some of the limitations in your home: "Our cat loves to escape, so please look for her before you open the door," or "The garbage disposal is broken so please don't put anything down the sink."

It is possible and within reason to welcome guests into your home, while asking for their cooperation on your rules.  Just make sure there aren't too many.

Office Space

Whether your work space is an office, cubicle, or open desk, you most likely share it in some capacity.

It is important to work in line with the company culture and policies, but you can still make your space-sharing preferences known.

For instance, your coworkers should understand if you don't want pens, staplers, or notepads removed (borrowed) from your desk.  But you may need to compromise a bit if someone in the next cubicle plays alternative rock on a speaker all day and you are the only one within hearing distance who prefers jazz.

On the flip side of this, if you are the one playing the music consider finding something everyone enjoys and can work with.  And as for those "borrowed" office supplies, avoid your coworkers' desks and head for the supply closet.  Remember, courtesy always gets a gold star!


Whether at home or at the office, the common theme for sharing space is communication and understanding.  Communicate your needs, boundaries, and expectations.  Listen to your roommate, guests, and coworkers to know their needs.  Respect everyone's boundaries.

There may be times of discord when a boundary is crossed, but always look for a win-win solution.  And if it can't be resolved, do your best to part on friendly terms.  Just because you can't successfully share space doesn't mean you can't maintain a pleasant relationship.

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