By Maria Galizia
Ah, multigenerational living.
This re-emerging trend can mean anything from an efficient and organized living arrangement with separate living areas to a recent college grad living in their parents’ basement and to even an aging parent who’s moving into the spare bedroom (check out our article on multigenerational living on our New home Guide). When done right, multiple generations living under one roof can become a resourceful super family. When done wrong, however, family members can become quickly annoyed with each other.
But no need to worry. The keys to successful multigen living means respecting each other’s needs and wants, so we’ve compiled some ideas and tips for getting along as one big, happy multigenerational family under one roof:
Say It Together: Privacy
Separate bathrooms may be essential to some, while two completely separate living areas may be essential to others. It’s important to discuss living arrangements before moving in and expectations as well. It also helps to be respectful of other people’s privacy, to not intrude on others and to not bring unwanted guests over. Set times and guidelines, or ask in advance when it comes to inviting friends over. No one wants to come home to a room full of people when they just want some peace and quite at home.
For long-term situations, “finish a basement or attic, convert the garage into a bedroom and try adding an extra bath somewhere,” suggests Tori Toth, a certified home stager. “All of these except converting the garage will actually be qualified renovations to get you a bigger return on your investment.”
One way to make multigen living more manageable is to divide tasks and chores. That way, no one member of the household feels responsible or overwhelmed by cleaning and maintenance duties. Rotate weekly or monthly so no one gets tired of one thing.
“You have to be mindful not to fall into a routine of dependence since that might be the default way that your parents interact with you,” advises Cathy Habas, a 24-year-old managing editor who shares a home with her 58-year-old mother. “However, at the same time, doing things like laundry, dishes and grocery shopping solely for yourself in an effort to be independent can strain relationships. It can come across as brusque. It’s good to cooperate and pitch in however you can.”
That is especially true in situations with young adults and their parent, when both are trying to find a balance between dependence and independence. Adult children and aging parents don’t want to feel smothered by their parent or children. Certain household tasks can be made easier and more fun when done together.
“It’s way more fun to cook for two than to just cook for yourself,” adds Habas. “Not only is it more fun, but it’s less wasteful and more satisfying to cook for more than just yourself.”
Living with other generations of your family means a unique opportunity to spend quality time with parents or adult children. Take each moment as a moment to bond with one another.
Nikki Tate, an author who lives with her 79-year-old father as well as her 28-year-old daughter and her husband, says that “communication and connection is what makes our arrangement deeply satisfying. Whenever humanly possible, we sit down each evening to share a meal, [which gives us] a chance to talk, laugh and remember why we choose to live together as a family.”
Creating a network of trust and support is what makes multigen living worth it. Remember, you’re all in this together, so everyone will experience frustration. But if everyone trusts each other and works together, the household will become a well-oiled machine.
Not only is there the emotional support and social benefit of living with a large group, but there is a “huge financial advantage,” says Habas. “The deal I’ve worked out with my mom is that I will focus on paying off my student loan debt and she will continue with house payments, utilities, etc.” It’s helpful to work out deals such as this, but have a deadline or goal in mind so no one feels as if they’re being taken advantage of.
Of course, this isn’t always the case — sometimes family members are not able to live rent free. However, even if lower-income family members did chip in for rent, it would cost far less than living on their own, so there is plenty of opportunity to save money. This money can go into a savings account, used to pay off debts or for vacations or to save up until the person is financially ready to purchase a new home.
Although many people in a single household can be hectic at times, it can relieve stress if you get organized. Thriving together in a household helps us remember what being a family is all about — supporting our family members and living with a primal sense of community. To manage multigen living, divide tasks, spend quality time together and give each person their privacy to keep everyone sane on a daily basis.