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A Comprehensive Guide to House Sharing: Making Your Home Roommate-Ready

By Rita Wilkins September 24, 2023 Lifestyle

House sharing can add a lot of fun and adventure to your life. It can also be a huge challenge if you’re not prepared. To make sure you and your roommates are comfortable, it’s important to make sure your home is roommate-ready. This comprehensive guide will help you make your living space the perfect place for your roommates to call home.

When Is House Sharing a Good Idea?

Several weeks ago, a girlfriend approached me about the idea of house sharing. She asked if I’d be interested in sharing her large home with a few other friends. Also, she asked me if I would assist her with redesigning a few of the areas in her home so that she could prepare her 3,500 square-foot home for house sharing.

She, like many other single women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are thinking of ways they can re-purpose and leverage their biggest asset to generate additional income in retirement, while also creating a small, vibrant community of women who can thrive as they age. 

Why Try House Sharing

Granted, house sharing is a unique alternative lifestyle that is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is definitely an option that many single women 60+ are considering for a variety of reasons and concerns.

1. Financial

“Will I run out of money in retirement?”

House-sharing is an emerging trend as one solution to more affordable housing for women aging alone. It is also a viable option to senior living facilities that the average middle-class women cannot afford. Many factors contribute to roommates later in life after divorce, loss of a spouse or partner, lack of support system, or adult children not in the area, but the most common reason for older women to consider living together is financial.

With the cost of housing and healthcare being at an all-time high, and with inflation and recession pressure, it makes sense to share housing and living costs. Financial stability and sustainability are very real concerns for divorced, widowed, never married solo agers.

2. Community

“I don’t want to grow old alone.”

Studies show that isolation and loneliness are two of the greatest silent killers of a longer and happier life. Without social connection or very little human interaction, we are likely to die 5 years sooner than those who have a support system that includes family and friends.

Living alone in the suburbs and rural settings might provide the comfort of living in the home where you raised your children, but it may not be conducive to aging well.

3. Companionship

“Who will care about me as I age?”

House sharing is not care giving, but it does provide an opportunity to develop friendships, people who care about you, who will drive you to doctors’ appointments, help you shop or go to church with you. Transportation dependency is a big deal if we want to remain independent as long as possible. For those who do not have children, or those children live away, the comfort and companionship in home sharing settings certainly helps.

4. Starting Over

“What if my spouse or partner dies before I do?”

Suddenly alone, having to start over later in life and rebuild your new life as a single is not only an emotional challenge, it is also a financial dilemma that presents many questions.

Where will I live? What can I now afford? Is it wise to age alone, while coping with emotional loss?

In many ways, given certain circumstances, house sharing might be a wise choice at this stage of your life.

5. Living Your Best Life Now

“I want to thrive in my third act.”

At this stage of life, we have more freedom and flexibility than we’ve had in years. Personal growth, making a difference, living our best life now is often top of mind.

Living with roommates with similar interests, who enjoy similar activities, and have great expectations and aspirations help us find new meaning, purpose, and zest for life.

Reasons Why Being a Roommate Might Make Perfect Dollars and Sense

Sharing Your Own Home

  • You have several unused or underutilized rooms and spaces in your home.
  • Your home is too big to live alone, too difficult and expensive to maintain.
  • You’re experiencing ongoing financial stress trying to make ends meet.
  • You have done due diligence to comply with any community laws and restrictions and have consulted with an Attorney to draw up rental agreements.
  • You are ready to declutter excess items in your home to make room for roommates.
  • You’re willing to do minor or possibly major renovations to accommodate roommates who will help offset expenses.
  • You’re lonely, feeling isolated and longing for companionship.
  • You’re emotionally prepared to share your home and give up some of your privacy.

Sharing Someone Else’s Home as a Roommate

  • You are stressed about money and worried that you will outlast your money. House sharing will help relieve some of the financial stress.
  • While house sharing may not be the lifestyle you dreamed of, your life has changed if you have divorced or if you have experienced death of a spouse and you realize that now your options have also changed.
  • You are excited about experiencing a new Golden Girls type lifestyle.
  • You are realistic about living in a communal setting with several other women.
  • You are committed to sharing expenses, as well as chores as part of the house sharing agreement.
  • You are prepared to sacrifice some of your privacy and freedom in exchange for financial peace of mind, community, and companionship.

Top 10 Essential Design Tips to Make Your Home Roommate Ready

While every home and space is uniquely different, these design tips will generate ideas on how to divide the space in your home, providing for your roommates’ needs while protecting each others’ privacy and while living together in a shared setting.

1. Divide the Common Area into Zones

Rearrange furniture in communal spaces to have multiple functions: hang out, rest, watch TV, eat, entertain, work.

Example: A work table can provide space to eat, entertain, meet, play games, and work.

2. Divide Open Space 

Create semi private spaces by using room dividers, folding screens, French doors, pocket doors, barn doors. Divide the open plan to allow for multiple activities.

Example: TV viewing, private conversations, reading, working, entertaining.

3. Increase Storage Throughout

Max out storage by using built-ins, bookcases, wall mount shelving, storage cabinets. Also, outfit closets to max out storage.

4. Create a Multi-Functional Bedroom Suite with Private Bath

Re-purpose your master bedroom and bath to create a larger private suite.

If you have two adjoining rooms, break through to create a suite by adding French doors, barn doors, or pocket doors. You might also want to incorporate a small eating area/conference area/game table and kitchenette. This may require either a small or larger renovation.

5. Other Bedrooms

Use multi-functional furniture to max out the bedroom without overcrowding. Use storage headboards, bookcase headboards, under bed storage, Murphy beds, with fold down desk, lounge chairs, and storage ottomans.

6. Bathrooms

If renovating or retrofitting your bathrooms, use universal design principles that provide for ADA compliant spaces and fixtures. As an example, curbless shower with seat, grab bars, and hand-held shower.

Depending upon your space, you might want to incorporate a Jack and Jill bathroom with shared sinks, walk-in shower, and linen storage.

7. Kitchen Banquette

Max out kitchen space with additional seating, that might incorporate banquette seating and dining table that can be used for additional seating, lounging, work area, game table, TV viewing.

8. Miscellaneous Rooms/Nooks

If your home has unique nooks and crannies, use these spaces to include library, kitchenette, game area, reading area, or additional storage.

9. Communication Center

Centrally mount a chalkboard or whiteboard to post activities, doctors’ appointments, shopping trips as well as shopping lists, chore schedules, menus, cooking and cleaning schedules.

10. Outside Spaces

As we experienced during Covid, outdoor spaces became a critical part of our lifestyle. Create sanctuary-like spaces that include garden, comfortable seating, intimate dining spaces. These can be used for working, entertaining, getaway space when you want and need privacy.

While many of these design tips are low-cost decorating and furniture ideas, if you are considering having long-term roommates, it may be well worth investing in a solid design and plan for a renovation that best accommodates the needs of older adult roommates.

Golden Girls Lifestyle Revisited

Perhaps you remember tuning in to watch the Golden Girls TV series during the late 80s. You probably recall the fun and lively conversations with Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia, roommates from different walks of life, sharing a home together in their 60s and 70s.

Back then, you may not have imagined that you’d ever entertain the thought of having roommates in your 60s and 70s, but as our lives change, so must we challenge our thinking to at least consider a real-life Golden Girls’ lifestyle. In this era of economic uncertainty, home sharing and cost sharing may provide the freedom you want and need to experience an easier and more fulfilling lifestyle in your golden years.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Would you consider sharing your house with a roommate? What about being a roommate in someone else’s house? Why or why not? Have you tried house sharing before? To what results?

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Holly Schmitz

I divorced 3 1/2 years ago and have full custody of my adopted grandson who is now 15. My X and I adopted grandson together when he was 9. Because of the divorce my finances are not good I am 76 and own my own home (no mortgage) but don’t have enough income. I’ve been thinking of renting out my master bedroom suite. It has it’s own entrance on the side of the house and could easilly be converted with just adding a kitchenette (small refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven, some cabinets). I live in a HOA community with few restrictions and think I could hopefully rent without anyone knowing.

Either I do the rental thing or a reverse mortgage or see if my rich son will help me with extra monthly income, I’d have to sign a contract leaving the house to him. I hate asking him for help and losing my financial independence. I think I’ll feel guilty if I spend money on anything he would not approve of! I’m in great health so figure I’ll live for quite awhile longer. Otherwise I’ll use up my savings to make ends meet and run out of money in less than 10 years. Of course my style of living will be very prohibitive on spending if I do this.

I’d certainly appreiate thoughts on my situation. Holly


Hi Holly, I think letting out the room sounds like a good idea. A friend who is a similar age does this for her masters unite which has its own entrance. She added a small kitchenette too. She is renting it to a hospital Doctor who only uses it 3-4 nights a week and who is quite happy to keep to the room, I.e.does not expect to come into other parts of the house. I’d be less inclined to do a reverse mortgage. You could live to 100 with all your marbles! Keep control of your own money as much as possible. You’ve got 25 years (potentially although unlikely) ahead of you so hold onto your financial independence and freedom to make your won decisions.Best wishes!


Also, could you airbnb the room? I have a 77 year old friend who does this. Of course it’s a bit of a nuisance and imposition on privacy, but she only does it a few times a week and it basically gives her that extra income that she needs. She has a rule that people can’t cook in her kitchen, because she is vegetarian and doesnt like the smell of meat etc. It works out well. I’ve hosted a lot of overseas people in my house (HelpX exchange) If you are concerned about theft, put locks on internal doors, put valuables in a safe. I’ve hosted maybe 80 people and only had one theft. My friend has had zero thefts. She says she quite likes the company but mainly does it so as she has enough money to live on.


Perfect timing. I lost my husband, June 2022. Fortunately we worked hard and our home is paid for. We have had his 65 year old disabled daughter living with us for 5 years and her son, my grandson age 30 for 3 years. ( the only support I received from them was they paid the utility bills, which isn’t much Recently his daughter had to be moved to a nursing facility which leaves my grandson still here. My grandson has caused lots of stress and drama for me, he “thought” he was going to be the “man” of the house after his grandpa passed. Having said that, I am a very independent, strong willed woman. Always have been. I have given him a notice of when he needs to be out, it is time for him to be on his own.

My sister-in-law is moving in come January which I am looking forward to having someone to go and do things with. It was a tough decision to have someone my age share my home, yet financially I need the help. Her rent will cover my property taxes and utilities which will be a huge help. Years ago she and I were roomates and I think we are going to be fine. I realize there will be compromises however I think we can work that out. She quilts and crafts so I am giving her two bedrooms – one for her hobby and the other for her bedroom. This will leave me a guest room, my bedroom and a study for my African Violet hobby.

This article was very informative and will help many women and men who are having issues financially staying in their home.

The Author

Rita Wilkins, known as The Downsizing Designer, is a nationally recognized interior design and lifestyle design expert, Tedx speaker and author of Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle: Secrets to More Time, Money and Freedom. She challenges baby boomer audiences to reimagine, reinvent, redesign their lives to live abundantly with less. Learn more at

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