Women Helping Women: A Room Xchange Story

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  • 'Women Helping Women' is an article is by CEO and Founder, Ludwina Dautovic. It's a personal account of her experience sharing a home with another women when she needed a break. 

    Being the CEO and Founder of The Room Xchange has been a very challenging role. Put aside the complexities that comes with such a role; dealing with the challenges that everyday people face in regards to housing adds another level that can be heartbreaking. I can't just put aside their stories like they don't exist. I'm not a heartless person that's just seeking the 'bottom line' as a founder. I really want to make a difference AND make the business profitable for all shareholders.  

    I got to the end of last year feeling exhausted and struggled to enjoy my usual Christmas time with my family and knew I needed some more time off. I put a callout to my community to see if I could stay somewhere in the country for a few weeks to reset and get ready for the intense year ahead. Elizabeth, who has been a household listed on our platform replied to my callout and this is the story of our time together.

    Two days later I moved in

    Elizabeth Haines is a single mother, business woman and a councelor. She lives in a mud brick home on a 10 acre property in Millgrove, Victoria. She was more than happy for me to stay in her home and get the rest I needed in her most idyllic setting. It was so wonderful to have the opportunity to be supported by another woman at a time when I needed it.

    The first few days I settled in and had the rest and sleep I required. I was made to feel incredibly welcome and very quickly I felt the groove of the household and the personalities of the two people living there.

    House rules

    We talked about food, house cleaning and expectations of me as a housemate. We agreed on all requirements and being a reasonably flexible person I find it easy to fit in with other people's ways of living. It's also nice to do things a little differently at times and discover new ways of living. I followed the same recommendations that I share with our users on our The Room Xchange. Elizabeth and I had the  conversations that were needed on a regular basis. We would regularly check in with each other to ensure that our needs were met. Ultimately, we felt at home with each other and no-one was put out by anyone's way of living.

    Children at home

    Elizabeth has a 16 year old daughter who we'll call 'RD' for privacy. The second day I was there I took RD out for an ice-cream and we got to know each other. She was very open about who she is, what her needs are and how I should understand certain aspects of her personality. It was a great opportunity to create a connection and begin to form trust with RD and her mother.
    As a result of my soft and caring approach, RD and I have become very good friends and in less than two weeks I earned 'Aunty' status. It's been a joy to get to know her and I look forward to seeing her again.
    If you are living in a home with someone else's children, it's important to respect the parent's boundaries and rules.


    Every household will have their own preference when it comes to meal times. I prefer to cook and eat together which means dividing up the cooking and the cost of groceries.  I find this is the easiest way as it divides the cost and time it takes to prepare meals. It also unites the household around the dinner table as it keeps the conversations flowing.


    It's pretty easy to work out how a house operates. Just observe and watch how things are done on a daily basis. I quickly noticed that the dishes get done for the day in the night time and the dishwasher gets unpacked in the morning. The vacuuming gets done a couple of times a week and we all make sure the bathroom stays clean. I took care of my personal space and helped in other ways where I could.

    Resolving issues as they arise

    There will always be issues that arise and you can't escape that. However, there is a gift in the resolution of those issues if they're dealt with fairly and quickly. Being able to work through conflict together will strengthen your relationship and also give you a great reference point for when bigger issues may arise. The first time that Elizabeth and I had an issue to resolve it was around a perceived misunderstanding of something she thought she overheard. She kindly brought it to my attention and once I clarified what was actually said, I thanked her for caring enough to get clarity around it. If it wasn't brought up, it would have festered and become something bigger than it actually was.

    General observations

    I noticed that the first week was  about getting settled in and getting to know each other. I observed a sense of grace and understanding from Elizabeth that enabled me to feel comfortable and find my own place in her home.  
    There's a fine balance between feeling at home and respecting the rules and dynamics of how the house operates. If you're a household offering a room for someone to live in, there is a power dynamic that sits in your favour. Being aware of that is important to ensure that your new housemate can truly feel at home even though it's someone else's house.

    Life-long friends

    We both had some pretty big things going on in the three weeks I was there. Being able to support each other during those times was a beautiful experience. The friendship and trust that has been formed during this time is invaluable. It's difficult these days to find new friends in your 50's.  House-sharing creates an environment for friendship to blossom very quickly and I truly believe Elizabeth and I will be great friends for life. In fact, she's invited me to come back and stay anytime in the future when I need a country rest. We've also talked about me visiting for occasional weekends when she needs a night off to spend time with her daughter.

    My take-aways

    1. Give your new housemate time to settle in;
    2. Be clear about boundaries, expectations and needs for the household and the housemate;
    3. Work out dinners, food, shopping and cleaning schedules;
    4. Respect the house rules and family rules if there's children in the home;
    5. Be mindful of giving each other space when needed;
    6. Pick up after yourself and leave the communal spaces clear, clean and tidy;
    7. Spend some time together outside the home;
    8. Take your housemate on a tour of the area, local shopping, hairdresser etc;
    9. Have at least one meal a week where you both talk about how things are going and if there are any issues;
    10. Learn to communicate respectfully and clearly especially when you need to address any issues or problems that may arise.

    Benefits of house-sharing

    1. It pushed me out of my comfort zone;
    2. It allowed new conversations and inject a fresh perspective;
    3. I learned to cook new dishes and new ways of eating;
    4. I made a new life-long friend in Elizabeth and her daughter;
    5. I have a home away from home;
    6. We have shared our resources, skills and networks;
    7. I've made new friends from her friendship circle;
    8. I've fallen in love with the Yarra Valley and would like to live there one day.

    This experience has given me so much. It's one thing to have founded a company and a business model. It's another thing to truly experience it.

    It also showed me the power of women helping women. Sometimes you just need a soft place to land. I certainly felt the softness of this landing and came away feeling nourished and refreshed.

    If you'd like to stay at Elizabeth's home, send an email to: and we'll send you the details.