mental health

How to Deal With the Coronavirus Lockdown When You’re Stuck With a Terrible Flatmate

I lay bare my domestic squabbles so that the world can learn from my mistakes.
Pallavi Pundir
Jakarta, ID
How to survive coronavirus lockdown with.your terrible flatmate
Photo for representational purpose only, via Freepik

Over the last two months, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only made many irreversible changes across the world, but has also forced us to confront the many ugly realities of life that we assumed were “normal” because we had enough distractions to keep our sanities afloat. But as self-isolation becomes the law of the land across the world, with the other end of the pandemic still far off our line of sight, circumstances are forcing us to confront those very problems we’ve been almost okay with, until now. Yes, they are the arbitrary people whose stars, or that Facebook/Instagram post of a house, aligned with yours. They’re the terrible flatmates. And if you’re as unlucky as I am, their filthy habits will scare you much more than this damn pandemic ever can.


I define a “terrible” flatmate during the time of pandemic as someone who (a) takes the current situation a little too lightly in the beginning, and now is panicking; (b) doesn’t care to stock up when the situation was suboptimal, and is now panicking; (c) doesn’t offer to share household chores, and piles you with extra domestic duties; (d) has recently developed some symptoms of cold/cough/flu that they are the least bothered about.

As I check all the above parameters (because this is my personal hell right now), I should also confess that it took me two weeks—of cabin fever, erratic actions (like trying to steal a run during a lockdown, only to be chased back home by the police van), explosive fights with my flatmate, and eventual submission to the fact that I must do what I must for my own peace of mind—to finally calm down. And perhaps making my domestic squabbles public makes me a terrible flatmate too, but I have nothing to lose anyway. So here are some hacks I’ve come up with, thanks to a lot of research on staying mentally afloat, and trying not to stab (or get stabbed by) my flatmate.

Do Not Let Angry Outbursts Make Things Worse

All the Coronavirus Types You've Met During the Outbreak

If, like me, you tried to hold those “coronavirus update meetings” (impromptu or planned), with your flatmate, and still failed to implement and delegate certain duties to keep yourselves afloat during the lockdown, it’s time to initiate some mindful distancing since that’s all you can do. Just know that losing your shit on your flatmate, especially at a time when you both have to be under the same roof ALL the time, can cause unpleasantness that will just make your own life difficult. And if you have my luck, the flatmate will just “rebel” more by getting messier and more inconsiderate. Stick to your own schedule, do your bit of cleaning up despite your flatmate not contributing, and try not to lose it when they take all their work calls loudly in the common area. Know that at least you are doing this for yourself.


Forget You Have an Ego

We all have egos, or at least a sliver of it, which sometimes makes you act like a total jerk when the situation least calls for it. Yeah, that monster. Leave it aside. ’Tis the time to discover the real implementation of empathy because, during isolation, even your terrible flatmate deserves it. For instance, if your flatmate still doesn’t take the current situation seriously and is poorly stocked for the coming weeks, be nice and remind them how they can still access essentials, or offer your extra groceries so that they don’t starve in front of you. And if the flatmate continues to be terrible despite that, allow this list of nice behaviour to pile up on your dormant ego so that when the pandemic is over and it’s okay to have crazy fights with fewer consequences again, you will have something to throw on their faces.

Try to Learn Why Your Flatmate is Terrible

We all know that behind every trashy behaviour, there’s a deep, psychological reason that you wished you hadn’t reached out for, but now it’s too late and you totally get them. Maybe you even like them a little. That’s how you forge some friendships and relationships. While I’m too terrible a person to even pretend to do that, you should perhaps try to understand what makes your terrible flatmate so resistant to change even though the world is crashing all around us. Not only is this approach pragmatic, but it can also help you conserve your energies despite all odds.

Keep To Yourself Within the House Too

If you don’t live in the same room as your flatmate, you have the luxury of avoiding them as much as possible. Even if you use the common facilities, you can keep your interactions to a bare minimum to maintain a facade (no matter how thinly concealed) of civil niceties. This also avoids interactions just in case they get seasonal flu or the viral. My flatmate recently developed a phlegmy cough, which she refuses to get checked because, according to her, she doesn’t exhibit other symptoms of COVID-19 or has a recent history of outside contact or travel (to be fair, she has been working from home for the last few months). But after seeing me in a mask and disinfectant spray for the last two weeks in the common area (done deliberately), she stopped stepping out of her room that much. You’re welcome, world.


At the same time, if you share the room with them (which would be unfortunate), reserve a spot or a corner to go about your work, and be super mindful of personal space, including theirs. Keep a mask and disinfectant spray around you at all times. It will do a great job of making them hyper-aware of their own actions too.

When All Else Fails, Accept Your Fate and Wait For This Hell to Get Over

Use this time to regret less about choosing to live with a total stranger you found on a Facebook post, and more about planning your move when this pandemic is over. Find someone reliable to move in with, or just live by yourself. Use this as a lesson to learn from your mistakes, because, strangely enough, that’s what tough times do to humans. We’ll all come out of this a little wiser, smarter and with a little more patience for the next shit this universe is going to throw at us.

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