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Summary

A housemate of mine is doing something to my property which I don't like. Please help me in finding a solution towards the greater issue of solving housemate disputes.

Some mornings, a housemate of mine likes to prepare smoothies in her blender. Next to her blender are my coffee grinder and filter coffee machine. I've never seen her use it, as I'm normally in my room at the time, but I can hear it being used.

Every time I've heard it being used, when I walk into the kitchen, I'll find that my coffee grinder is on top of my filter coffee machine. I imagine that she needs the space.

Objectives

  1. I want to make sure that my coffee grinder is put back in place.
  2. I want to find out why my coffee grinder is being put where it is.

Reasons

  1. I expect my things to be put back where they live.
  2. Less importantly, the coffee grinder might be knocked off the coffee machine.

Solution

I recently got extremely angry with this housemate after being woken up by a string of washing machine runs in the middle of the night, and a final one very early in the morning. I later found out that some other housemates participated in this. The issue was resolved, but a lot of stressful consequences followed.

I want to think about how to solve similar housemate issues instead in an amicable, calm, but stern way without creating new issues.

Questions

  • Is my objective reasonable?
  • Reason 2. is less important. In that light, should I mention it? My objective would still be fulfilled, but she would be able to think that it was just from my worry of it falling, and not telling her to change her ways.
  • What questions could I ask, and what should I state?
3

I think you need to establish ground rules:

  • Does each of you get a piece of the counter, your own chair in the living room, etc., or is it a combined space ?

    Then there's the cleaning up question ...

  • Do you touch each other's stuff, or not.

    Then there's the responsibility for cleaning and breakage.

  • Between which hours is noise accepted: like Stereos (or headphones only), dishwasher, washing machine (is the dryer OK because it's quiet, or is your room adjacent), etc.,

It's much better to discuss these things in the first place rather than attempting to bring it up after the fact. Remember that they might have their own list that they've been keeping quiet about.

Generally when you live (or are) with others you would want to be considerate - that means that the other person will not have cause to complain.

Often when you try to bring these matters up late there's a fair bit of push-back, often covered by forgetfulness or doing it anyway and attempting to renegotiate what was already agreed upon.

How many roommates and how aligned are the others is also a consideration.

You grind, she blends. You take the space of two machines, she stacks them into the space of one. Do you wash late, she washes late.

Sometimes you need a third party (landlord or neighbour) to hear this and offer some assistance, sometimes you need to move and visit your friends at a mutually convenient time.

I used to live with people and scratch my head about things from time to time but there were never problems. Now I live alone. The peace and quiet makes me wonder why I ever put up with some of the things that I wondered about.

Ensure you are part of the solution and never part of the problem. After you've finished grinding could your grinder be put away in a cupboard, freeing precious counterspace? Can you grind up a bag when she's out, so you've never a source of excess noise? Etc.?

  • I appreciate the detailed answer. It considers a lot of factors. I hadn't considered the space issue to such depth. There is quite a lot of space on the whole counter, but not around her blender. I might start thinking about proposing a new layout. Also your suggestion of establishing boundaries early on is very interesting, and I've opened a question here: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/7808/…. – user9959 Dec 7 '17 at 18:25
  • @jpcooper - No problem, I've had a lot of roommates over the years; some friends and some friend's friends. You asked your question only recently, check back in a few days to find the best answer, it's early to decide. – Rob Dec 7 '17 at 18:34
  • I've accepted your answer in the end, as it has solved multiple problems. You said she stacks high, so I created some space between our items. When she was near them I asked whether she stacked for space. I showed her another way of maintaing space. I then looked at setting boundaries early on (new house search). I'm looking at ways of doing that in the linked article. Thank you. – user9959 Dec 8 '17 at 22:26
  • Thanks for asking. Our questions and answers attempt to benefit as many as possible with the best answers quickly. I started volunteering here a couple of years ago, after obtaining a few answers simply by searching. You can search (on and off site) for everything from where to live, how much to pay, move during winter, choosing roommates, roommate boundaries, etc. Hopefully the road to improvement leads you to a happy home. GL – Rob Dec 8 '17 at 23:25
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This IS annoying!

You say that reason 2 (the coffee grinder might be knocked off the coffee machine) is less important, but really this is the principle that underpins reason 1 (you expect your things to be put back in their place).

If it is your house, then your house rules apply and you shouldn't have to justify them. If that is where your coffee grinder 'lives', then that is where it lives. But if it is a shared residence and you are sharing the food preparation area then arguably you don't own the space where you have decided the grinder 'lives' and your request could sound petty. I think you need to hold onto reason 2 because it justifies your first reason. Also, if the grinder is going to fall off the coffee machine and break it is far more likely to happen while she's using the smoothie maker with the work surface vibrating than when she's finished and left it sitting up there.

I think you should approach her and say:

Hey, I've noticed that when you use your smoothie maker you put my coffee grinder on top of the coffee machine. I don't think that is safe, it could fall off and break. If you need the space for preparation is there somewhere safer you could move it?

Agree on somewhere safer and then say:

That sounds fine, so long as you can put it back afterwards.

If you meet some argument, just say:

Well if it breaks, I can't afford to replace it. Are you willing to pay for it if it breaks?

You can break a rule, but you can't break a principle. She can argue over the placement of the item, but she can't really argue that it couldn't fall off, because it is possible that it could.

Hope this helps!

  • 3
    Thanks a lot for the input. That is a very good strategy. I do agree that it's a shared space. The way I view it though is that the space is the "tabletop utensil space", so my coffee grinder has equal right to "live" there as her blender, which I've never touched. I wouldn't dispute her if my shaving cream were there and she'd left it somewhere else. – user9959 Dec 6 '17 at 11:46
  • Thanks @jpcooper - if it is helpful, please upvote. I think your utensils should be able to live peacefully together on the work surface and all have a right not to get broken! – Astralbee Dec 6 '17 at 11:48
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    I've upvoted you, and the upvote apparently is counted at 15 reputation. – user9959 Dec 6 '17 at 11:50
  • 1
    I'm accepting this answer because not only does it cater for her space needs, it solves the primary objective amicably. I also hand't considered the fact that it would more likely fall off while she's using it. – user9959 Dec 6 '17 at 12:08
  • Mentioning not being able to afford replacing it is good, but I would mention it earlier when explaining the situation and not as a way to win an argument. In my experience from living in shared houses, winning a small argument like that is not worth it at all, if OP has nicely stated why this is important to him then further arguing with the roommate will only lead to trouble. – Jesse Dec 6 '17 at 12:24

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