What would you do if a year ago, a fairy would have appeared out of nowhere, telling you that soon we are all going to be locked indoors with our loved ones, pets, family members, or roommates? For some, this is the perfect scenario, maybe even a suppressed fantasy they’ve been plotting and wishing for. For others, it can be a total nightmare or even the realization of their worst fears. Either way, now it’s reality—so all we can do is make the best of it.

Here are some friendly and effective tips that will help you avoid conflict with your housemates. Try to make the best out of this situation. In the worst case⁠, you’ll get even closer.

1. Know your boundaries (and stick to them)

The first step to getting what you want/need is to acknowledge them. If you need time to work, communicate that to the people in your shared space. Whether that means blocking off “alone time” for focused work or video calls, taking turns watching the kids, or setting up lunch prep agreements, make sure you know how to verbalize your needs. None of us are mind readers, and we can only respect the rules if we know that the exist.

The second step is to lead by example—meaning, respect other people’s time and space! If your partner is working on their computer next to you, please do not disturb them with random questions. Don’t just sit in the shared space for hours, making your existence unbearable to deal with. Don’t vacuum while your mom is trying to video chat grandma. And if your roommate is crying in his room, keep quiet and let him be!

2. The “alone time” room

Make sure everyone has a spot that’s theirs⁠, whether it’s a room or a cabinet⁠: a calming place whose sole purpose is to sit and relax.

If you are living with your partner or family, make it an unbreakable commandment that if someone goes to that room and closes the door, it means that they don’t want to be bothered. For meditation, WhatsApp time, video chats, or even to watch a TV show privately—whatever you need to be alone for, that’s your space.

3. Work time, playtime

In order not to lose your mind⁠—or your job, if you’re working from home⁠—during this quarantine, set a very clear schedule for the entire household that defines work time, playtime, food time, or scheduled cleaning time. Quarantine doesn’t have to mean total chaos. So many of us struggle with time management or taking ownership over our days, even in “real life”. This is the time to figure out what you need and when, and to build a schedule that fits your needs.

Once you understand your schedule and needs, you can work with your cohabitants on how to respect that schedule. If that means aligning worktimes and mealtimes, great; if that means coordinating quiet time, it can only happen if you’re open about it.

4. Get to know each other better

Make some lemonade out of these lemons and take this time of self-isolation for some heart-to-heart conversations. It doesn’t have to be super serious—even silly icebreakers like 20 questions or the 36 questions that lead to love can give you some insight into your cohabitants.

Even if you think you know everything about the people in your living space, maybe you’ll be surprised. Open your heart and ears, and take this opportunity to create real intimacy. This might be (well, hopefully is) a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

5. Set goals together!

People that dream together stay together, right? Through hard times and good times. Something that can keep you very united is setting up goals for each day. When can we make work breaks, when is “cleaning the living room” time, and the most important thing⁠—when is lunchtime?

Plan ahead for the day and week so everybody will feel organized and calm. Plan your future so you’ll have something to dream about—and then take the time to set up clear goals. Imagine it’s like a video game you are playing with your family, roommates, or partner. It can even work if you are living by yourself. And you already know who will be the winner.

6. Be compassionate.

The main thing we have to remember is that we are all in this together. The situation is very sensitive, new, weird, and, if we’re being honest, scary. Try to be as patient, open-minded, and compassionate towards the people around you as you can.

Remember that people are like mirrors⁠—you get what you give.

Good luck! You can do it!


From Shayna Hodkin

Shayna lives in south Tel Aviv with two dogs and a lot of plants. She writes poems and reads tarot.