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What Are Some Good Ground Rules For A Brother-In-Law in 650 Sq. Ft.?

Rusty - September 27, 2006

So we’ve just agreed to let my brother-in-law come and stay with us for three months. The kid needs a break from his classes and from Oregon (going to school at the U of O in Eugene). Being the ever-loving sister that is my wife (and the surprisingly laid-back and supportive husband I am) we offered our tiny second bedroom to him until January. And I should say that he is one cool cat. I’ve always felt that he belongs in New York (he’s very creative and is going into film), I just never imagined that would mean we’d be sharing a toilet.

The Set-up:
Our apartment is 650 sq. ft. and he will be living in our second bedroom. Potential temptations are: two computers (w/ high-speed connection), an Xbox 360 (w/ Live), cable (w/ Tivo) and a comfy couch that literally tells people to sleep on it.

So, my fair and sensitive bloggernaclers, what are some good ground rules to set up as soon as he gets here? Can you lend an experienced hand?


  1. 605 sf and that includes 2 bedrooms? Remind me to stay our west.

    As far as ground rules? I have no clue…

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 27, 2006 @ 12:33 pm

  2. Make sure he knows upfront that he has to help with the apartment (whether that means cleaning, preparing food, or whatever). We’ve had relatives stay with us in NY apartments, and their willingness to not do dishes or clean up (except maybe after themselves), etc., can make the three months go really slow.

    And also, make sure he does NY stuff while he’s there. And it helps to get him to other peoples’ apartments, so that he realizes that the fortune you pay in rent isn’t as bad as it seems (J. Stapley to the contrary).

    Comment by samdb — September 27, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

  3. Rules for girls coming over? Nothing’s worse than walking out in your underwear only to find a few complete strangers there…

    Comment by Clark Goble — September 27, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

  4. With all the people we’ve ever had stay with us for extended periods, I don’t think we ever set up any ground rules at all. Never seemed necessary. But we are extremely laid back.

    Oh wait—yes we did. No alcohol or drugs in the apartment.

    Do you anticipate him being inconsiderate? Living in such a small space is going to require a lot of consideration on everyone’s part. But him mostly, since he’s the guest.

    Comment by Susan M — September 27, 2006 @ 1:32 pm

  5. J,
    Yes, they are very small bedrooms but we really don’t need more space at this point in our lives. Oh, and by way of reminder, stay out west.

    Yeah, dishes/messes are something he’s definitely going to have to help with. And I think he’ll be totally fine with that.

    I didn’t even think about him meeting girls or bringing people over. Hmmm… And it’s not like I’m comfortable walking around in my underwear in front of my BIL, I don’t imagine the embarassment would be any more if he had someone over.

    I think I’d be a little more laid back if we had a larger space but this can be tricky. Yeah, alcohol and drugs are a no-no, though I don’t see that as a problem. I think he’ll be quite considerate. I’m just trying to get an idea of little things that have helped people with similar experience.

    Comment by Rusty — September 27, 2006 @ 1:47 pm

  6. So… first off… 650 square feet! That’s 50 more square feet than my two-bedroom in DOWNTOWN SALT LAKE CITY! Lucky fetch!

    : )

    ( I ♥ my loft! )

    On ground-rules: you should probably tackle the issue of intimacy… and that should probably happen just between you and the bro.

    I’d also encourage him to be out of the house as much as possible… get him a one-month metro pass for his first month so he can get his legs.

    And three months… that’s an almost perfect amount of time for an internship… contact me, I have some people in the film industry that may ( _may_ ) have something appropriate.

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 27, 2006 @ 1:56 pm

  7. ( And by intimacy, I mean yours: three months is a long time to be celibate for a married couple… yet the idea that your BIL or brother — as the case may be — might hear you in the throes of ecstacy could put the big freeze on your “quality” time. )

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 27, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

  8. It depends on certain things. Are you guys footing the bill while he’s in town? Food, I mean. Does he need to keep his food separate? Is it going to bug you if he drinks the last of your soda, or whatever?

    Are you guys neat freaks? Is it going to drive you crazy if he leaves a dirty dish in the living room? (Do you have a living room?) Is he a slob? Etc

    Is it going to drive you crazy to have to share the tv remote? Can he listen to music you don’t like? Do you have more/less relaxed standards than he does for movies, etc?

    Is there any Sunday/Sabbath-day-holy stuff you guys try to stick to that he might not, or vice versa?

    In such a small space I’d be surprised if he doesn’t spend most of his time going out somewhere else, unless he’s a real homebody. Is it going to wake you up if he comes in late, and will that be an issue? (Interrupted sleep is a big issue in our house, we can’t operate without enough sleep.)

    Comment by Susan M — September 27, 2006 @ 2:00 pm

  9. The real problem is that Rusty knows he is going to get his you-know-what handed to him in Halo and he can’t deal…

    Comment by a random John — September 27, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

  10. Gotta agree with Silus about the intimacy issue. This isn’t Guatemala we’re talking about here.

    Comment by Tim — September 27, 2006 @ 5:33 pm

  11. I’ve got 1,200 square feet all to myself. Of course, the bank may take it away from me at any time.


    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 27, 2006 @ 5:42 pm

  12. I agree with what Susan said mostly. My input:
    Clean up after yourself (dirty cups go in the sink, not left around the apartment);
    Don’t eat the last of anything unless you know ahead of time it’s okay. This includes not eating food that was set aside for some other purpsoe (tomorrow night’s dinner or whatever);
    When you guys go out, it’s not an automatic invitation for him to come along (although you may want to invite him!);
    Don’t bring strangers over to the hosue when you’re not there. Friends of friends of their friends can sometimes turn out to be people you really don’t want in your place.
    Have him be actively engaged in some pursuit of happiness that gets him out of the house once in awhile. There’s nothing more depressing than coming hom to someone who’s been laying around the house doing nothing all day. Especially a small house.

    Wow. Our place in California is 1050 sq ft for two adults and two kids (and 2 bedrooms) and we’re cramped beyond belief. (Of course, part of this may be that my husband has taken over the entirety of the “dining area” as his home recording and music studio!

    Comment by meems — September 27, 2006 @ 6:24 pm

  13. Yeah… on the food… best rule of thumb: don’t open something un-opened, and don’t finish-off.


    Comment by Silus Grok — September 27, 2006 @ 7:50 pm

  14. When my brother moved in, I did send him an email beforehand with some guidelines. He was going to pay us rent that included food. I don’t remember everything that I put in there, maybe I said he’d clean his bathroom when he moved out?
    I remember putting in something about “if there are problems” that he and I would “talk about it” and “share our feelings “and then I said if he and my husband had issues that could “not talk about it” and “male bond over computer games” and “pretend it never happened” which gave the letter the right touch of humor.
    The sooner you let him know what is expected in terms of chores, the better, I think. It is easier that having to go to him after he’s done it and say “Please don’t do that anymore.”
    Since his rent was a needed income for us, I cooked for him and did dishes, which meant that he didn’t have to share a lot of chores.
    We asked him (and he agreed when he moved in) to get on the roof and take down the antennae before he moved away…….he did it the morning he moved away after his truck was already packed lol.
    It was a great experience both times he lived with us. Unfortunately the second time he starting dating his wife and so he was useless as a babysitter. The first time around he was awesome hanging out with our 2 year old when I had just given birth to baby #2.

    Comment by JKS — September 27, 2006 @ 10:01 pm

  15. Oh, I should also mention that we were making money off him (like I said, I was cooking for him and buying all his food). I soon realized I needed to buy 12 oz cans of soda for him, which were more expensive than having 2 ltr. or having no soda. Also, he totally cranked up the radiator heater in his room. Don’t ask me how anyone could need that much heat. So I’m sure we spent more in utilities that originally planned.
    But along with the negative surprises were the very happy surprises. I miss him!

    Comment by JKS — September 27, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

  16. Watch The Wrong Trousers and note any peguin-like characteristics of your brother-in-law that could be a concern. My brother-in-law lived in my house for a year and it was a great thing.

    Comment by John Mansfield — September 28, 2006 @ 6:44 am

  17. I just watched “You Me and Dupree”, you need to see it before he gets there. After the comments you made about how long your mother stayed, wait ’til she hears about this!!! LOL, LOL, LOL!!
    Hey he’s a good kid, and you probably will get stomped in Halo.

    Comment by Don — September 29, 2006 @ 9:02 am

  18. Wow, and I thought our 2 bedroom 798 sq ft place was small. As someone who let a brother-in-law, sister-in-law, cousin-in-law and parents-in-law stay with us all at the same time, the only advice I have is: don’t do it.

    Comment by Kim Siever — September 29, 2006 @ 11:50 am

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