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6 tips for preventing roommate conflicts during social distancing

Here’s how to flatten the curve without burning bridges with the people you live with.

Two women talking to each other from separate benches at an appropriate distance for social distancing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. AFP via Getty Images

Now that more and more people are social distancing to combat the coronavirus pandemic, we’re spending more time than ever with the people we live with. Whether that’s your family, friends, or someone random you met on Craigslist, their annoying habits are going to seem even worse when you’re stuck with them every hour of the day. And while it might be tempting, it’s definitely a bad idea to break quarantine over something like dirty dishes or hair in the shower.

Thankfully, the SB Nation staff has plenty of experience living with roommates of all types, and we have some tips to keep you and your flatmates living amicably during a difficult time.

1. Be on the same page about the virus

One roommate is taking social distancing seriously, while another is inviting friends over. One roommate is letting their significant other come and go. One roommate wants the other to wash their hands immediately upon returning from the grocery store, but the other roommate is touching everything. Set boundaries and expectations, or it’ll create some huge conflicts.

— Anonymous

2. Don’t spread yourself into shared spaces

This probably feels like common sense to many, but it’s also something that can spiral out of control quickly if unchecked. Took off your sweater? Go ahead and put it down on the couch, but if you’re leaving the room take it with you and throw it on your bedroom floor. Doing basic tidying after yourself goes a long way. Roommate resentment is too often the result of little discourtesies that could have been prevented with one percent more effort.

— Louis Bien

3. Be considerate of sharing a space

Anyone who has travelled with friends know: Being together 24/7 is stressful. Make sure you have rules when you take work phone calls, or a room to go to when you don’t want to hang out.

— Anonymous

4. Don’t let little annoyances escalate into bigger problems

Does your roommate have habits that normally don’t bother you, like cracking their knuckles or burping, but now suddenly feel impossible to ignore? Speak up (politely) and be honest — before a blowup happens.

— Anonymous

5. When anger rises, take a 10-breath break

While it’s important to be honest and up front about what’s bothering you, understand you’re also going to have to let a few things go that drive you crazy. One way to do that is to let go of righteous anger that has been building since breakfast with a simple 10-count breathing exercise.

Find a space where you can be quiet for a moment. Stand up straight and release the tension in your arms and shoulders. Take a four-second breath in through your nose, hold it for two counts, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. That’s one breath. Repeat until you get to 10 reps.

While breathing, see if you can find the source of your tension. I often feel it in my hips and lower back. Direct the breath to those spaces and then release it on the exhale. If you still want to tell your roommate to clean their dirty dishes in the sink, try to do so in a calm manner.

— Paul Flannery

6. Plan activities that involve everyone in your home

Loneliness isn’t good for anyone’s mental health. Even if you’re not close to your roommates, you’re in this thing together right now. If they seem irritable, there’s a good chance they’re missing all the friends and family they can’t see right now, so reach out to check up on them.

An easy way to do this is to plan an evening activity for everyone in your home. You could have a board game night, or a Mario Kart tournament, or even just make dinner together. If you have an uncommon hobby or special interest, now is the perfect time to share it. Invite everyone to create a slideshow about that topic and then spend the evening presenting them. The possibilities are endless, and you can take turns creating activities to lighten the load.

Basically, you can’t fight if you’re busy having fun.

— Sydney Kuntz