Monday, February 06, 2006

Spring Cleaning

When those little tree buds start to poke their velvety noses out into the world from their furry winter husks and the rains soak into the ground (which is most of the time here on the wet coast) then a strange impulse arises in some human beings: the impulse to clean! Now whether this instinct dates from our Neanderthal days when warmer winds released long frozen fetid smells from what were previously icy lumps on the cave floor, or whether it’s all a plot designed by the soap companies to wreck weekends, it seems that spring initiates a time of purging and scrubbing.

At The Mansion the problem of keeping the place gorgeous and clean was solved easily and simply by hiring cleaners to whip the common areas into ship shape on a bi-monthly basis. Not only does this reduce tensions of who is supposed to sweep when, but one of the perks of living in a luxurious shared home should be that no one has to scrub a toilet or lug an unwieldy vacuum up a flight of stairs. But there is only so much that can be done in 4 hours a month and a 5000 square foot home contains many dark, cobwebby corners and shelves brimming with mysterious boxes, jars and unknownables left by long gone roomies. All these eventually need our attention.

So we initiated a monthly get-together. These have proven to be more important in a shared home than it seems on the surface. Like going on a date is necessary even for long-married couples, doing things together brings roomies closer, encourages better communication and creates purpose. No longer are we isolated to our individual spaces, but we now share the common goal of creating the beautiful environment that we all enjoy. A bit of breakfast around the kitchen table as we discuss what needs doing and who wants to do what, crank up some danceable music and the cleaning begins.

A few tips for House Days:

  • Pick an agreed upon time and day (monthly is good, but every 6 weeks can also work). We chose the first Saturday of every month as it was easy to remember. No other commitments should be scheduled for this time.
  • Start together – even if it’s obvious what needs to be done, it’s always good to begin together. It joins you together in purpose. Ideally you end together – perhaps in a shared meal.
  • Try and stick to the allotted time. Our first House Day in a long time was scheduled to be 4 hours, some people worked 10 and we never did have a House Meeting. Like going to the gym after a long absence, overdoing it may make you never want to go again!
  • As everyone is together, it makes sense to have a House Meeting at the same time. This could be at a mid point break or at the end of the work period. Things that needs to airing should come up here.
  • Acknowledgements are a great way to set a positive tone for the meeting. There's always something that has happened or someone has done something (like put the garbage out in time) that helps boost morale for the house when it is acknowledged.

If you have any tips or comments on how to run a successful house meeting (or how to run a successful house), please let me know. We all learn when we share.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Can you live like this?

I think one of the things we fail to notice in relationship with others is that there is no one on earth who will not, at some point, do something, say something, or behave in a way that isn’t irritating. It’s just part of living with those annoying creatures known as "other people". You may like them, you may love them, but as sure as God made little green apples, the people around you will eventually drive you nuts!!

Of course it's always the other guy who's not considerate, isn't it? Unfortunately they seem to perversely hold to the opinion that your own behaviour is less than stellar and that, you too, could use some fixing up. Over time we at The Mansion have come to some agreements or Consideration Guidelines that have helped ease the little tensions that arise from the petty quirks of our fellow cohabitants.

The big difference, as I see it, between a shared home and a boarding house is that in addition to having no locked rooms, a shared house is founded on agreements not rules. Life is smoother and there is less complaining, whining or gossiping if we follow a few simple guidelines.

Here is a sampling:

Do not walk into a room with people in it while speaking on your cell-phone or cordless. If your phone rings, leave the room to have your conversation.
  • Why? Because only insensitive cads believe that everyone else should stop their conversation or their personal daydreams to listen in on your scintillating one-sided conversation with someone they don’t know and don’t care about.
If you are in a common area of the house, expect to be spoken to.
  • Why? Who wants a moody roomie? Ugh! If you want a shoulder to cry on, we’re here. If you really want some time alone then go to your own space. Or say politely, “Sorry, I’m in a bit of a pissy mood. Do you mind if I just read or sit here quietly by myself?”
If you are the last to leave late afternoon – turn on the porch lights.
  • Why? It’s yucky, scary and unpleasant jamming a key into the door hoping to eventually find the keyhole. And, some of us ladies don’t feel safe walking up to a darkened house. It’s true we should be over the boogieman fears by now, but wouldn’t it be simpler if you put a timer on the porch lights?
Never leave the butter dish empty (or with so little butter that it is useless for the next roomie).
  • Why? The next roomie has hot (and rapidly cooling) toast and freezing cold hard butter that leaves the toast ripped and lumpy. Not very roomie-friendly.
Clean out the bathtub every time you use it.
  • Why? Pretty obvious – who wants to fill up the tub with nice hot water only to discover someone else's short and curlies floating in their scented bath bubbles. A spray bottle of cleanser and a sponge underneath the sink makes it handy and easy to keep the tub sparkly clean for the next roomie.
Do you have a few Consideration Guidelines that you've discovered in living with others? Please send me some of the agreements you've devised to keep you and your roomies from landing on murderer's row.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dear Roomie

Human beings were not meant to live alone. Seeking companionship is as natural for people as spinning webs is for spiders. Almost everything we do is done with others: working, playing, eating, making love, having babies and even going to war. When we recall happy times they are usually the moments spent in companionship with our fellow humans.

Then why, oh why, do the idiosyncrasies of our housemates, lovers and family tend to just drive us ‘round the bend'?

Let me explain: I live in a 5000 sq. ft. heritage home in one of the finest neighbourhoods in the country, in one of the most beautiful (and expensive) cities in North America. My rent includes a very large basement room with a door to the garden, a powder room bathroom, heat, electricity, cable, high speed internet, a twice monthly cleaning team and a variety of household staples. All for only $650.

How do I get away with that? How do I manage to live like a queen on a pauper's income? Well, simply because I’ve chosen to live in a shared home. In addition to the above mentioned benefits, I have many, many other perks. And it's those perks, quirks and other tidbits that I'd like to share with you here in blogland.

We've learned how to not only get along but to live well. Once I get familiar with this technology I'd like to share pics of fabulous parties and insights into how we make it all work and live fabulously on a pittance of a millionaire's income.