Friday, March 6, 2015

Sharing a Home In Retirement-How to Handle Shared Space

One of the main advantages of sharing a home in retirement (besides a lower cost) is more space overall-at least for most of us.  I am not in favor of mega homes and do not want more space than I can handle. In fact most of the condos and apartments I looked at were right around a thousand square feet with two beds and two baths and very large enclosed patios. That kind of space would work for me, and is what I may end up in eventually.

 I've described the shared space we live in more than once, but for those who are new readers to this blog, this is a home with 1300 square feet on the first floor and a 1300 square foot finished basement.  The basement entails an open space, a finished bathroom and two bedrooms which are my sister's bedroom and studio (as well as a large storage room and laundry room). We also have a large patio and yard.
I think we need to re-purpose the fireplace back to a fireplace this year

The first floor consists of two living spaces (that could be living and dining) a large eat-in kitchen, a guest bath and a separate hall that includes three roms and a bathroom. In other words, both shared space and private space. This home now accommodates two and a half adults and two canine children with ease and could serve more, depending on circumstance.

Along the way, I (we) have learned a few things about living together, sharing space and time, and more.  We have adjusted, re-adjusted, changed to use of spaces and come to some conclusions as well - at least conclusions that work for us.
  •  For example, from our perspective, there is only so much you can "legislate" ahead of time. While a basic contract (especially on the financial side, which I'll address in another post) may be helpful, much of the way we live and the decisions we made were decided along the way, as our living situation developed. If I were to do a contract, I would make sure it could easily be adjusted to take in a variety of things along the way. Until you actually live together, there are many things you simply will not be able to rule on as such, even with intensive discussions.
  • Early on, we agreed on the need for quiet space and noisy space (for lack of a better term).  Because we have two areas, we took advantage of that. We when entertain for dinner, we can pull the table and leaves out to the center of the floor and grab the chairs. Meanwhile, this second space is the quiet area, while the living room holds the TV/entertainment center and sofa and love seat. For those who remember the dilemma of names, that first room is now called the fireplace room.  Our other space has a sofa and love seat and our large TV.  
    I' m loving the color now that it's done!

    Unfortunately this room still needs it's paint!
  • Having more than one space also deals with the friend/entertainment factor. It allows for book group, chatting with friends or having other visitors without inconveniencing the other party. We do many social things together as well as entertain together. However we also lived separate lives for fifty years-meaning we also have our own friends and activities-and that is as it should be, I expect.
  • Kitchen use is not a problem-mainly because one person still works.  Still, early on we agreed to eat together unless one had a commitment and would not be home.  Every so often we have days when it's leftover day or every woman for herself-but we like to eat well and neither one is likely to settle for popcorn and veggies very often.  For now (and because I still have a college student who eats here part time), I purchase groceries for the five weekdays. The other party cooks on the weekends (often more expensive foods, because its the weekend) and purchases her lunches and special items she likes. Again, it works for us, but I have lived in situations where one had to decide who was shopping, fridge use and the like. When we are both retired, I can see that changing.
    Kitchen with things like cake taker strategically along the counter next to the love seat-to prevent the dog from stealing another whole angel food cake!
  • When it comes to furnishings, it seems to me that you have a variety of options. If the house belongs to one person, that furniture is in place, and the person moving in adjusts to that. If you are purchasing a home together and starting fresh, you may all agree and go shopping together. For most home sharers though, I expect its a combination of possessions. In our case we had both downsized (me too much, as it so happened). So our house is eclectic (which works for us, neither are matchy matchy as such).  Eventually we will purchase items together, such as the replacement seating for the TV room. But the fireplace shelf holds blown and fused glass owned by both. One picture on the wall is mine, one is hers.........and for now that works for us. When we unpacked in the kitchen, we kept what was the best working from each kitchen and donated the rest.
  • Because she is in the basement (and I don't do stairs) and I am down the hall, we respect each others privacy for the most part. We both know that we are in our own spaces. It's easier for her to come to my office/studio to see what I've been working on, but general logistics allow for privacy between bedroom and bathroom and escapism.
    And down the hall we go!
  • When it comes to handling the maintenance of room and spaces, in general everyone does what he or she does best, is physically capable of or cares about most.  While I want the house clean, I am not a get down and scrub the baseboards person. But I cannot stand clutter, so every night before I go to bed I put everything away. On the other hand my sister is much more water conscious/concerned than I, so she is willing to do the dishes every night rather than hear the water running as I rinse and load the dishwasher. I don't do yard work-period. I'll sweep the patio and so forth but all the planting and mowing is hers-after all, that's why I was going to move into a condo. 
  • By the same token, when it comes to decor or, say, paint color issues, unless the disagreement is major the final decision is based on who cares more, or who is doing the work.  That has worked well for us.  Should my sister ask me where to put something in the yard or patio, my answer is basically that since she's the one doing the planting, whatever works, as long as my swing ends up being in the shade.  When looking at the fireplace room paint color, we look at a color called peppery, the blue you see here and a warm gold. I was not painting, so I left the color choice to another.  She obviously made the right choice, as the fireplace really stands out. On the other hand, I did, and do have a strong color preference for the so called tv room and the kitchen (which are yet to come).  I am a holiday person which means I pull out Easter trees and quilts for the table, when she could care less.
Sharing a home or an apartment in retirement can be fun and cost effective, as well as being secure-as long as you are mainly on the same page about how you go with the flow. We've found a way that works for us-and works well-with a little logistical planning and lots of communication.

I know lots of people have questions about the financial logistics, and I promise that part will come soon.

And so it goes, this Friday in retirement.


  1. You negotiated many of the same things while choosing our retirement home. Great list. Lots to think through.

    1. Thanks, how is the relocation adjustment going? Have blue crab for me, please!

  2. It sounds as though you and your sister have navigated the transition to shared living quite well. From reading your previous posts, I know you are both independent, however, it must be very reassuring for both of you to know the other one is available if an emergency should arise. Totally unrelated...but I have to ask, is that lovely shade on your walls comparable to Tiffany Blue? Lovely!

    1. I'm honestly not sure of the color name, I suspect it is a bit more turqoise than it loos in the photo. We really like the color.

  3. This is a helpful post for anyone who is considering a different housing option from the current one. I am. I had ruled out having a roommate, but your post has made me rethink that. The two floors that you have assures that there can still be privacy as well as places to be together, when you choose to. Thanks for this.

  4. I can see how it would be difficult to share your living quarters with someone else in a retirement home. This blog has great tips on how to manage and make the best of it. I think the most important thing is to communicate with the other person and that will make a huge difference.


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