This is an interesting time in history to have a roommate. If you’re taking all the right precautions during the pandemic like not going to parties, not having people over, social distancing when you’re out, and wearing your mask, your hope is that the person with whom you live is doing the same. In fact, it can almost feel like your efforts are wasted, if the person who shares your kitchen, and possibly your bathroom, isn’t being careful.
It’s pretty hard to keep your distance from your roommate. Couples who are currently living together can at least take comfort in knowing that they do many of the same things. They don’t have to wonder much of what the other has been up to – they spend this time together. But your roommate isn’t your partner. They may not even be your friend, so you might not communicate much about how either of you spends your time.
It is important, while the COVID-19 virus is still infecting more people every day, to have a plan among your roommates about how you’ll all be responsible now – not just for yourselves, but for each other. The rules might be a bit complicated, and it’s possible that not everyone will agree on them at first. But if you notice your roommates behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable, talk to them. And be aware of how your own habits may be impacting them. Here are ways to be a considerate roommate during COVID-19.
Don’t have people over
If either of you wants to get together with friends, agree to see them away from the home. This part is also important: agree to see them outdoors. You need to be able to trust that your roommate doesn’t leave the house and go sit inside someone else’s house, where the air is recycled, and the chances of getting the virus are higher than in outdoor spaces.
What about a significant other?
This can cause conflict, even when there isn’t a pandemic: a significant other who is hanging around too much. Your roommate should have some say in it if you’re going to have a significant other who comes and goes a lot during this. The SO should have to abide by the same rules you and your roommate do. He shouldn’t be visiting anyone else indoors. He should be social distancing and wearing his mask when he’s out. Perhaps it would be a good idea for everyone in the home to get tested regularly.
What about dating?
If someone in the home is single and dating during this time, you need to take the proper precautions surrounding dating and physical intimacy. It may not be the most romantic thing in the world, but if you want to become physical with someone new, you should both get tested, so you don’t bring the virus back into your home.
Be generally tidy
While you’re going to do your best to keep the virus out of the home, there are some tidiness rules that are especially important to follow now. Don’t leave dirty dishes out. Don’t leave your worn masks in a pile on communal surfaces. If there are shared towels like those in a kitchen or guest bathroom, do your part in washing those regularly. Do not use them on your face.
Set boundaries for working from home
If you’re both working from home, you may drive each other crazy pretty quickly. Create rules that can minimize frustration. Perhaps one rule is that nobody takes work calls in the communal spaces – calls have to be taken in one’s private room. That way, the other roommates feel free to roam about the kitchen and living room whenever they want. Work clutter, like documents and pens and supplies, should be contained to a designated area. Perhaps that area is in the individual’s private room. If you’re all working on different schedules, be aware of that, so one isn’t being loud late at night or early in the morning when the other needs to sleep.
Agree on open discussion
It’s important that everyone in the household feels free to speak up if a roommate is doing something that makes them uncomfortable. Make a pact that nobody is to take it personally if someone asks a roommate to make changes, all for the good of everyone’s health. It’s important to bring up concerns right away, so you don’t let them fester, and eventually blow up.
Be prepared with data
If you have a roommate who doesn’t understand the severity of the situation, you may need to be prepared with factual information. Have the most recent studies on hand about the increase in cases, and research on how even those with mild or asymptomatic cases can still develop lung issues. Show them the research showing that the virus can live for hours or even days on some surfaces, which is why it’s so important to keep the home clean and wash one’s hands when returning home.
Keep up with chores
As previously stated, the virus can live on certain surfaces for hours or days. Everyone in the home will have more peace of mind if the place is kept clean. So have a chores chart. Make sure every week – if not a couple of times a week – someone is disinfecting all of the surfaces in the home. Perhaps high-traffic, communal areas like kitchen counters, dining room tables, and coffee tables should be disinfected daily.
Keep personal items personal
Even if you think sharing is caring, right now, it’s not. It’s not a good time to borrow each other’s clothes. Have your own sets of dishware. Don’t eat directly out of the ice cream tub. Don’t borrow a roommate’s towel. Stick to your own bathrooms if possible. If having separate dishware isn’t possible, run your dishwasher daily on the “sanitize” setting with high temperature.
No going out in groups
Make a rule about only socializing in small groups (outside, and socially distanced). Agree to share all the information the other needs to feel at ease. If you go to a workout class in the park, let your roommate know the class is small, and people keep their distance. On that note, if you ever do attend that class – or another outdoor event – and find there are too many people there for your comfort, just leave. Do it for yourself, and for your roommate.
Be clear about masks
Have designated mask storage areas. Be clear on which mask belongs to which roommate. Store them safely, such that they cannot infect communal areas or surfaces. Washing your reusable masks the moment you get home is a good way to prevent the spread of the virus. If you want to reuse non-washable masks, put them immediately in a closed paper bag when you get home.
Look out for your mental health
On top of the risks to our physical health right now, this pandemic is putting our mental health at risk. Check in with your roommates. Talk to each other about how you’re feeling. If you notice your roommate seems particularly depressed, let them know you’re there to listen. Everyone is going through a lot of intense emotions right now, and just sharing those, and discovering that they’re actually quite common, can be helpful.
Have an emergency plan
Have a plan for what you’ll do if one of you becomes sick. That person should be quarantined in their room. Perhaps they’ll have to text the other to deliver food and supplies to their door. If they must enter community spaces, they must wear a mask. If someone in the house becomes sick, they should contact anyone with whom they’ve been in contact to notify them, and the other roommate should get tested right away.
You should have plenty of hand soap, gloves, and hand sanitizer in the home right now. Perhaps you want a box of disposable masks at the front door. If you purchase these in bulk as a house, you can save money on them. Agree to all keep an eye on your levels of these supplies, and to do your best to keep them stocked.
Be prepared to change plans
Sometimes, you may need to cancel plans, because of new information. If you were going to go hiking with some friends and learn one has been coughing and had a sore throat, cancel. It’s the most considerate thing for your roommate, and it also protects your health. When these issues come up, think not only of yourself but also your roommates when making decisions.