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Kitchen Etiquette

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I houseshare with 4 other people, most not related to me. It’s a mixed bunch: A retiree who stays home all day (no relation), a mother & her dd (40 & 20) who work various hours (no relation), myself and boyfriend (mid 30’s) who are 9-5ers (hr+ long commutes to work). I own the house.

We share the kitchen space, which is horribly laid out (non-existent counter space).

Is it wrong of me to resent the retiree doing extensive baking during hours when the majority of the household is home, i.e. 6:30 to 9 at night? I got home around 7 one night and couldn’t use the kitchen because she had spread out over the little available counter space and the stove top. I ended up not even eating dinner (boyfriend was out of town). Yes, she shared half a cake w/ the rest of the house mates, but we wouldn’t eat it (that’s another story).

I feel bad saying “don’t do this” because if I ever want to bake, I have to do it during the 6:30-9 period. Is it fair to say one person can’t use the kitchen during certain times, but others can?

Yes, a kitchen renovation is in the future, but not anytime soon. Maybe 3-4 years.

BTW, if someone else is using the kitchen, the retiree will descend upon it and start doing something (peeling produce, making food for herself, etc.) no fail. Even if she’s been sitting reading the paper for the past 3 hours.

Is she just looking for attention to validate her cooking?

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  1. Yes, she's probably lonely and looking to "buy" the friendship of her housemates with food. That said, it's your house--you make the rules. I don't think it is unreasonable to tell your housemates (all of them, not just the retiree) that you expect the kitchen to be free for your use when you get home from work. Since you work regular hours (commute not withstanding) I think that's perfectly fair. If they don't like it, you can find new tenants.

    1. I think if you own the house, even if they are paying rent, it's reasonable for you to set some rules. One guideline might be no discretionary activity (i.e. baking) during meal prep times or something like that. I'd recommend a sign up sheet for kitchen times with hard meal prep times X'ed out.

      As always, courteous non-confrontational communication can go a long way. Invite her for a nice cup of tea and ask if it would be possible for her to do her baking during the times when no one else is using the kitchen.

      Remember, no one can take advantage of you if you don't let them.

      1. I think the retiree is probably lonely, but you still need to come up with some rules to make living and dining in your own house possible. When everyone is home, just say politely that your schedule is really inflexible and that you are exhausted when you get home and need the kitchen to be "free, clean and empty" just so that you can get a meal prepared in the most efficient way possible. If you can, invite the retiree to join you for dinner every once in a while.

        But if she persists in getting in the way when you need the kitchen, just remind her gently that you really need some space to cook. She will be hurt--you can't help that--but if you do this gently and show kindness by inviting her to eat with you on occasion, she will get the message.

        1. I think this is the kind of thing that should be discussed with all of them. You say you "houseshare" but it sounds like you rent out rooms in your house rather than everyone chipping in to pay rent/mortgage on a place. If so, you get to set the rules. Yes, it sounds like the retiree wants company, but there's a big world out there so it all doesn't have to take place within your house, let alone your kitchen. Be gentle but be firm.

          1. Maybe she just hasn't thought how irritating it is to be in the kitchen at your suppertime. Perhaps you have always been nice to her and made noises of appreciation when she makes cakes so she isn't aware of your need for space.

            I think it's time to say nicely that when you and your bf get in from work would the others mind if you had one hour to yourselves in the kitchen to cook, eat and clean up then the kitchen is open for everybody else perhaps from 7.30-8.30 and that you would also appreciate baking and other non essentials to be done during the daytime or later. That's not to say they are barred from getting a drink or a bag of chips or even rummaging in the fridge for a snack but the oven and burners are off limits till you have done dishes.

            1. I think you should state it as "No one person can monopolize the kitchen when others need to cook meals". That way, you are not coming across as a tyrant but as someone who is promoting sharing common areas of the house.

              1. If no one has mentioned it to her, she might not realize it's imposing on others' meals. Did she know you went without dinner because she was baking a cake or did you just see it and leave w/out saying anything? I wouldn't start off setting hard and fast rules on what can/can't be done at certain hours but just mention to everyone that the kitchen is particularly busy with meal preps between 6-8 (or whatever times) and to be mindful of that. Then, see how it goes. She shares her baked goods; she doesn't sound like someone who doesn't care about others.

                1. I think it's totally fair to ask her *not* to bake and take over the kitchen when others would like to cook dinner. Ask her to do so when the rest of the household isn't home - i.e., during the day. As you said - it *is* your house. But you are sharing - and as such, she should also be cognizant of the fact that others have different schedules and need to use the kitchen for their dinner at appropriate dinner time frames.

                  1. Thanks all! Glad it doesn't sound unreasonable to put off "large" kitchen projects for times when nobody else is around. I don't want to sound like a control freak to the housemates (I have to live with them!). Going to try making up a schedule on a white board for everyone to sign up for kitchen times and, if that doesn't work, talk to her about it.

                    1. IF the retiree is doing this every, single time, this is damn inconsiderate since she's not making a bit of an effort to use the kitchen (that is available to her at all times during the day) when it's free.

                      1. I just wanted to throw out an idea regarding the retirees timing...

                        Often sleep becomes difficult with aging. It could be that evening is when her energy level becomes high enough to begin the baking projects, even though she has had the house to herself earlier in the day.

                        It does sound as though she is lonely too. Perhaps cooking was when her family connected best in prior years and she is used to viewing the process as a communal time.