roommates sitting on a couch

How to survive a lockdown with roommates

A writer shares his 4 'edicts' for making a lockdown bearable in a shared space

Current eventsFriends and relationshipsMental health and wellbeing
By VoiceBox ·


TeeJay is a professional writer, comedian, and social activist from Boston, Massachusetts. You can check out his comedy column here:

4 Edicts Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Lockdown

Before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine ripped through the earth like a hot knife through butter, I was a functional workaholic sleepwalking my way through my final year of college. In February of 2020 my schedule was packed so tightly it would have made a can of sardines look like a football stadium. But of course, the arrival of the pandemic meant that I had to swap boardrooms for bedrooms and class-times for nap-times. 

My roommates and I were already close friends at the time, so under normal circumstances, we almost never got under each others’ skin, but that kind of long-term exposure in a tight space can create a rift between even the best of friends. The day we were all laid off, we sat in our small 2 bedroom apartment in South Shore Massachusetts, and decided to plan out some rules and guidelines to stay sane while trapped inside with each other 24/7. 

Rule number 1: Set a time to wake up every morning. 

One of the fastest ways to succumb to quarantine depression is to fall into a constant rut of staying up until 3am playing video games and then sleeping the next day well into the afternoon. My roommates and I were already feeling bad enough about the state of the world without losing the sunlight streaming through the second-floor windows. We quickly recognized that working ourselves into an unhealthy sleep pattern would rapidly sew our demise and thus, we committed to setting alarms and crawling out of bed at a reasonable hour every day, even when we had nothing important planned. Maintaining our schedule in this way was a great first step in remaining as mentally healthy as possible while the days continued to blend together. 

Rule number 2: Clean, clean, clean, for the love of god, clean. 

Letting your living space fall to waste is both a sign and a symptom of depression. I think we’ve all been in situations before where we lose our motivation and let the dishes get a little out of control, or succumb to the “floordrobe” style of picking clothing out of a series of piles on the ground, it happens. So we determined that if we wanted to preserve our collective sanity, we needed to agree on day 1 that we would never let the apartment get too messy. While it never became explicitly necessary to make a chore wheel, or create rigid cleaning routines, we self policed our communal living areas and bedrooms in order to keep things looking more like a Martha Stewart catalogue, and less like a Martha Stewart prison block. 

Rule number 3: Go outside once every day. 

Most experts agree that the human body needs at least 15 minutes of vitamin D per day in order to keep your skin healthy and improve your mood. Conversely, most amateurs believe that developing cabin fever is a one way trip to ending a perfectly good friendship. My friends and I may have had a temporary interruption in our responsibilities to work and school, but we agreed that we’d still find a reason to get outside of the apartment at least once a day, even if it was just to take out the trash or walk around the building a few times. In the early months of the pandemic, we all re-downloaded the Pokemon Go app and walked around the park playing it each afternoon. The cell phone addiction became a problem all its own, but our skin was absolutely glowing! 

Furthermore, allowing ourselves some space away from each other now and again helped us foster a healthier relationship because no two people should be on top of one another 24 hours of the day. We made sure to periodically take solo walks or drives around the block from time to time to allow for some breathing space. And finally: 

Rule number 4: I’m sorry in advance. 

We all knew that the quarantine would make us a little crabby at times, so we agreed to not let a few upsetting outbursts ruin our friendship. The three of us agreed in advance that if we snapped at each other during our time in lockdown, we would go to our respective corners, center ourselves, and quickly make up before allowing any disagreement to get out of control. 

Before long, these guidelines really helped to cement the sort of living situation I’d go on to foster in my future. Now that I’m a professional writer, it sometimes feels like the quarantine never ended for me. I still do all my work from home, though the world has begun to reopen, allowing for a more robust social life. But still, these rules created an environment where I didn’t need to feel constantly tortured by the darkness of the world. 

Many people fell victim to a litany of mental health problems during the pandemic, and these edicts paved the way for my friends and I to stay as healthy as possible given the circumstances. These rules are a great starting point for your own living situations, allowing you to remain healthy and happy with your family or roommates.

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