Cohabitating in the Time of COVID-19: Simple Fixes to Improve Life with Your Roomie

Photo Courtesy: Comedy Central/IMDb

Cohabitating in the time of COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place directives can be tricky. Whether you live with a partner, friends, family or roommates, spending all your time indoors with them can lead to some real frustrations — well, even more so than usual. We all have those unspoken rules when it comes to sharing common spaces and keeping them clean, but given the daily stress of navigating pandemic life, some of those niceties can go right out the window.

To keep your patience from joining the cast-aside decorum of the pre-COVID-19 world, there are a few simple ways you can improve your living space and make it more we’re-all-here-24/7-friendly. Let’s break it down room by room.

The Living Room: Making Mingling Easier

First, we have the living room — perhaps the most coveted of all shared spaces. Sure, we all need to hit the bathroom and whip up some eats in the kitchen, but these days, the living room feels like the equivalent of a wide-open field, especially when you’re probably spending most of your time in your bedroom. Although the Dixie Chicks have always encouraged us to use “Wide Open Spaces” to make our big mistakes, you simply can’t risk that sort of thing while sheltering in place. Even one misstep can send your roomie (or you) over the edge. That said, it’s important to grievance-proof the room with the best TV-and-couch setup.

Photo Courtesy: houzz; Best Buy; Amazon

The first rule of hanging out in a common space? Make sure you have a way to enjoy the comfort and ignore the nuisances. These Sony WH-CH710N Wireless Noise-Cancelling Over-the-Ear Headphones can help you do just that, allowing you to work, listen to a podcast or just zone out — even if your roommate insists on marathoning Tiger King at the same time.

And if you’re all hanging out in the living room at the same time, you might also want to invest in some extra seating. Although you don’t necessarily have to stay 6 feet away from folks in your household, you might really, really want to, and an easy solution to that is a nice storage ottoman. Both comfy and functional, an ottoman that also lets you pack away a few extra blankets and pillows can not only keep the living space tidy but give you a little more space to enjoy each other’s company from across the room.

Having a movie night? Whether you’re precariously balancing red wine on an armrest or looking for a safe place to put a shared bowl of popcorn, this handy couch arm table has your back — er, food and drink. Bonus: It’s a great way to keep your phone, glass of water and more on hand if you’re working from home on the sofa.

Speaking of movie night, if you and your roommates are constantly camping out in the living room — or if you’re like me and have several remotes, PlayStation 4 controllers and other gadgets you constantly want on hand — it’s time to invest in an organizational caddy like this one to store all your couch-side needs. A clutter-free space makes everyone feel just a little bit less on edge.

Want to take cleaning to the next level without being passive aggressive? Having a third party can help, and by third party, I mean an iRobot Roomba that will just handle the cleaning for you.

The Bathroom: Keeping Tabs on (Potential) Mess

At a time when we all feel like we’re in hot water, you don’t want that metaphor to become too literal. If you’ve ever stood ankle-deep in water during a shower, you know exactly what I mean. The TubShroom is here to help, especially if you’re the roommate with the longest hair. Even if you have a reliable landlord or maintenance company you normally get in touch with, social distancing directives might prevent the handling of non-essential maintenance problems, and nobody wants to snake their own shower drain in between Zoom calls.

Photo Courtesy: houzz; Amazon; Home Depot

Another easy bathroom improvement? This tension shower caddy provides an equal amount of space for everyone’s items. Look, some of us have more hair products or soaps than others, but in order to keep all the “little things” from escalating into full-on quarantine wars, it’s important to make sure everyone has their own space — and enough of it. This mentality can extend to other parts of the bathroom as well. If you have a limited amount of room on your towel rack, try a simple over-the-door solution, like Liberty’s Clean Lines Satin Nickel Decorative Over-the-Door Hook Rack.

And whether you’re hoarding toilet paper (please, don’t) or have a rational amount stuffed into your linen closet, I suggest grabbing an in-bathroom canister that will hold some extra rolls. This two-roll toilet paper holder, for example, will allow you and your roomies to be a little more cognizant of how much TP you’re going through, and when you load the last two rolls into the canister, you’ll know it’s high time to scour the internet or local grocery store for more.

The Kitchen: Quench Your Thirst and Stay Clutter-Free

One of the worst parts of being sick is actually making the items you need to feel better. When your energy is at its lowest, even making a cup of tea can seem oh-so-draining. And, of course, a watched pot — er, tea kettle — never boils. Even if you aren’t under the weather, there are just those moments — maybe entire days — when you just want to get in and out of the kitchen quickly, before retreating to your bedroom.

Photo Courtesy: Amazon; houzz

For all those reasons, pick up the modern and minimal Fellow Stagg EKG Electric Pour-over Kettle, which allows you to heat up water in seconds — stovetop-free. Best of all, the fluted, precision spout and various temp settings make this kettle a must-have when making perfect pour-over coffee. (Bonus: It’s great for tea and oatmeal as well.)

Readily available tea and coffee options make all the difference when it comes to maintaining the apartment’s overall mood. Whether you’re the one who needs the caffeine boost or it’s your roommate who craves a hot cup of Joe in the morning, finding a way to make your kitchen a little more at-home-barista-friendly is a smart move. After all, coffee is one of those simple pleasures — something that makes the morning commute palatable — and just because that morning commute is a bit shorter, like bedroom to couch short, doesn’t mean you have to give up that simple pleasure.

If you want to make a whole host of great drinks, from espresso shots to iced mochas, the Inissia espresso machine by De’Longhi utilizes Nespresso capsules. Sleek and easy to use, this machine allows you to make everything from cappuccinos to hot milk (if that’s your kind of thing…) with a mere touch of a button.

If coffee isn’t your thing, then hopefully organization is your jam. Between banana bread and sourdough starters, folks are pulling out all the stops when it comes to suddenly getting super into baking and cooking projects. Needless to say, you and your roomies might be spending a little more time in the kitchen and/or stuffing your cupboards full with new gadgets. To make a little room, try this Premium 17-Inch Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Holder, which promises to display your sharpest kitchen items in a safe, organized and aesthetically pleasing way — all while saving on the oh-so-precious counter space.

The Bedroom: Turn Your Sanctuary into a Part-Time Office

Your bedroom is meant to be your sanctuary — your escape from the microaggressions and passive-aggressive actions and suddenly-annoying ticks that can unfold in the common spaces. (Side note: If you’re sharing a bedroom with a roomie, especially if you’re both working from home, definitely invest in some Offex acoustic room dividers, which will help quell noise and make you feel a little more alone when you just need a sense of space.)

Photo Courtesy: Home Depot

Looking to get the most out of your one slice of privacy? Start by grabbing a Draft Dodger, which allows for a few great benefits. It stops pesky drafts, keeps the hot (or cool) air in, and helps the noise level stay at a minimum.

A quiet space is great — and not just for relaxing. Due to shelter-in-place directives, many folks are working remotely, but just because your job is something that can be done remotely, that doesn’t mean your apartment is well-equipped to handle this sudden change. Many remote workers find it difficult to separate work from their personal lives — after all, they’re literally taking their work home with them. To stave off procrastination and help your mental health while telecommuting, try to designate a particular space as your work area.

Too tight on space to make that happen? That’s okay — not all of us have home offices or even more than four rooms in our apartment, but investing in a proper desk and ergonomic desk chair can work wonders. The desk doesn’t have to be fancy or pricey, just functional, but I recommend getting something versatile, like the Luxor Standing Desk with Adjustable Height. Trust me: Your back will be beyond thankful. Need to take a break from standing? Make sure to snag Boss’ Black Leatherplus Executive Chair, which is equal parts comfy and supportive.