In 1890, the Unites States Census Bureau officially announced that America's frontiers were closed. In other words, there was no wilderness left to discover; what we had was what we had, and that was that. Americans would just have to share their newly defined and limited space.
Today, things are no different. When we live in apartments or houses with roommates, space is a thing to be divided, split, and carved up. After all, no one is making any more of it - no magical benefactor is going to come in to renovate your home in the middle of the night. (Probably).
But how do we go about sharing this space? What determines the fairness between parties that we so desperately need? This is where the conflict always comes in. Our common rooms, our refrigerators, our cooking spaces, and our amenities are all too often battlegrounds.
Well, worry no more. I have some strategies to resolve your spacial disagreements before they even arise.
1. The Bathroom
Showering. Pooping. Shaving. This room serves a lot of essential purposes for everyone in your home, and it can be difficult to schedule who gets access when and for how long. I have witnessed many fights over this space that have destroyed the dynamic between roommates.
One instance I can recall quite vividly: a girl in a shared home always brushed her teeth in the shower (she was Scottish, maybe that's a thing over there, who knows). The toothpaste clogged the drain and everyone else in the home suffered the mess. The resolution? Just be considerate and brush your teeth in the sink like a normal human being who was raised properly. See? It isn't that hard.
Basically, have some empathy. Look beyond yourself. If the house is full, shower or poop or shave or whatever for a short period of time, and ask everyone else if they need the space quickly before you go in. If you have a habit that hurts everyone else you live with, work to change it and be understanding of why you are at fault. This kind of respect can go a long distance, and will keep relationships stable and happy.
2. The Living Room
They should call it the slaughter room, because tensions can flare up so high here it's close to a gladiatorial colosseum. Roommates will fight over the television, the personal belongings left littered on the coffee table, and worst of all - the guests who come and occupy this space.
Limit spontaneity. Don't suddenly have 12 of your best friends come over to smoke and drink beer and play Cards Against Humanity. Ask your roommates way ahead of time if they'll be around, if they want to join in, or most importantly - if they mind you taking over the living room for the night. Don't just assume it's your territory to fill and vacate at your leisure.
The best thing you can do is try to make your friends friendly with your roommates, and vice versa. Make serious efforts to introduce everyone, and make them all feel equally wanted. That's what a living room is for - whether the occupants are strangers or intimate friends.
3. The Kitchen
Of all the conflict spaces, this is the veritable epicenter - ground zero for the destruction of friendships and roommate relationships. The kitchen tests you. It's like the massive, horrifying hotel in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"; there are demons here just waiting to possess anyone who thinks they're safe.
Be ready to predict what will infuriate your roommates. It's usually pretty straightforward - messes left without being cleaned up, dishes unwashed, stolen food from the fridge, missing utensils or cooking equipment. Now, work consciously to avoid each of these. Clearly label your food, and encourage your roommates to do the same, to avoid confusion. Do your dishes right after you're done eating; if someone else's dishes are stacking up, do them too - and then tell whoever left them that you did them a friendly favor. If knives are disappearing, research if there have been any murders in your neighborhood recently and relocate as soon as you can.
It's not nuclear physics to keep a kitchen clean and manageable for everyone. As long as you all pitch in and pull your weight, and occasionally lend a helping hand to anyone dragging their feet, you should be just fine. Again, it all comes down to empathy.