As someone who didn't have the full university experience and opted to stay at home with my family and treasured pets, the idea of flatsharing always seemed so foreign to me. I grew up watching television shows like ‘Friends’ and ‘Will & Grace’ but only ever envied the characters wardrobes and hairdos - NOT their living situations…enter, London. When I decided to make the big move to the city of dreams and overpriced cocktails, I was faced with the harsh reality that in order to live in my desired new home I would have to bunk with strangers. There is a list as long as my chubby arm of things I wouldn’t do with strangers but for some irrational reason, I thought it’d be okay to share a home with some. In the 2 years I’ve lived in my lovely little flat, I have had five different women occupy the other two bedrooms down the hall from me and it has without a doubt been a continual learning curve. Despite being painfully aware of my own idiosyncrasies and knowing how much of an introvert I am most of the time, I was not aware of how my roommates habits would grow to drive me exaggeratedly insane. Don’t get me wrong, I like the people I live with but as time goes on, it becomes abundantly apparent that I am not easygoing enough to live with strangers, I am an uptight nana and all the gin in the world isn't going to change that. I get easily irritated by stupidly small things which is exactly how I felt towards the end of living at home with my family, the difference is…family is family. If they make you irate, you can say it their face and call them a prick whilst knowing in the back of your head that your minor outrage will be long forgotten by tomorrow so living with people you don't have pre-determined relationships with is harder. You have to bite your tongue, you have to be a lot more rational, you have to forgive and forget immediately to avoid foreseeable awkwardness and at times you have to say a bold lie such as “No, that’s fine to use my milk from the fridge without asking! You weren't to know, you must have thought you purchased it, silly!” or “Oh my god, don’t be sorry. I didn't even hear you come in at 4am…with all your loud drunk pals. I slept through it!”
Thanks to the smorgasbord of 20-somethings that I’ve shared a home with, I feel like its helped me to grow up a bit and at times has forced me to genuinely get my shit together. My cohabiters have ranged from the most passive aggressive woman I’ve ever met, an incredibly sexually liberated office dwelling hippy, a Mancunian whom I adore and who loved nothing more than a binge of 90’s music…and an actual hedgehog. He may have been my favourite of the whole bunch despite his vile odour. And what did these women think of living with me? To be completely honest, I have no clue but I can only assume it would be something along the lines of the following:
‘Faye is an okay flatmate despite the fact that she walks around in just her pants a lot, listens to Taylor Swift obnoxiously loud when she showers, makes too many ‘fingering’ jokes, annoyingly sets herself 8 different alarms to wake up in the morning and you can occasionally hear her theatrically faking orgasms through the wall to please whoever she is dating…apart from that, she's fine I guess’. I will be the first to admit that maybe doing a flat or house share was out of character for me. I am a person who loves their own company, thrives off of personal space, detests invasions of privacy and depending on stress levels at the time, can accumulate various germaphobic tendencies. Alas, despite having some very memorable and great moments with my flatmates, this living situation has taught me many, many lessons. Here are a selection of the most prominent:
1. Remember privacy? No? Me neither.
Privacy truly is a privilege and this is more apparent to me than ever now I live in close quarters with humans I met on spareroom.com. I love my solo time and am a reasonably private person but I have learned to accept that if I have a private phone call, have friends over or seriously give singing a go, people may hear. Luckily for me, I live with British people so I rely heavily on the English mentality of being too polite to publicly acknowledge anything embarrassing you’ve heard. It's what the Queen would want.
2. ‘Hook-Up’ strategies need to be in place (& give yourself plenty of time to plan)
Unless you are some sort of exhibitionist or really in to bragging about sexual encounters, having a sexy sleepover when flatsharing is awkward at best. A good ‘hook up’ strategy being in place is highly recommended - give your flatmates notice, warn them that you’ll purposely make them feel awkward for the entirety of your date because you’ll probably be drunk and subtly suggest that it might be a good night for them to go back to their parents house…it’s in all of our best interest.
3. It’s like living in a Uni house (except we all have jobs and pension plans)
My flat has been lovingly described as looking like ‘student accommodations' on multiple occasions, for this I blame the fact that we don't own it so we can’t decorate it how we want to, we don't care that much about it so we treat it like its our frenemy and it is filled to the brim with random things we have all accumulated when drunk like stolen pint glasses and pub coasters.
4. Shared chores bring occasional resentment…
I’m lucky enough to currently live with tidy human beings so the rare occasions that things are messy for long periods of time, I do tend to grow resentful of it like a bitter ex-lover. I remedy this by just cleaning it myself after a little while. Why? Because it feels great to be able to say ‘I’m the only one that does the dishes!’ despite knowing this was a one-time issue and you often leave your own dishes longer than you should… Mmmm, sweet irony.
5. …shared groceries bring further resentment.
Bin bags, loo roll, cleaning products; all things I couldn't have cared less about 25 months ago but now I will internally lose my shit if I have to buy these things twice in a row. ‘Why don’t you ask your roomies to buy these things when you run out?’ I hear you cry. Firstly, stop being so nosey. Secondly, because they often buy these things multiple times in a row without complaint so…there.
6. The guilt of staying in…a lot.
I’m a homebody and at times I have lived with social butterflies. The judge Judy looks on their faces when I’m staying in and wearing PJ’s from 6pm onwards for the 4th night in a row...those looks cut me deep.
7. Can I borrow this?
I’ve lost count of how many times various roommates have been in my bedroom chatting, spotted a book/dvd and muttered the dreaded words ‘Can I…’. As a rule I don’t lend out things very often because 99% of the time I don’t get it back and I don’t have the patience to continually ‘politely’ ask for my belongings to be returned, bitch I am not your live-in Blockbuster. As I write this I am confronted with the realisation that I am just selfish and a worse realisation is that I’m completely okay with that.
8. The secret codes of “I fancy a chat”.
Sometimes you really fancy a chat with your roommates but don’t want to be a desperate Debbie who knocks on their bedroom door so you can shoot the shit. To show your roomies that you fancy a chat, leave your bedroom door open, spend longer than you normally would in the shared rooms of the house (kitchen, living room) and stare at them until they pay attention to you.
9. The secret codes of “I don’t fancy a chat”.
Sometimes you really don't fancy a chat with your roommates but don’t want to be a anti-social bore. To show your roomies that you don't fancy a chat, seal your bedroom door shut, spend almost no time in the shared rooms of the house (kitchen, living room) and if they look you in the eyes, scream ‘I’VE GOT A SERIOUS CASE OF THE MONDAYS’ then hide in your room.
10. Embrace one anothers smells… (shared bathroom woes)
We all cook various scented meals, we all produce various scented…scents and we all need to be okay with it. There’s no time to be self conscious or not cook that curry you’ve been craving all week because you’re worried about pissing off your housechums, you do you boo. And then Febreeze like nobody is watching.
11. Hallway chats are a wonderful thing.
Sharing multiple rooms with various people means you will literally cross paths a lot and will often stop along the way to chat ’til your hearts content and until you’ve forgotten that you were actually on your way to the bathroom to pee. Hallway chats have become some of the deepest chats to happen in this flat and I think there’s a metaphor in there somewhere (much like the beloved ‘Choose your own adventure’ book, please feel free to ‘Choose your own metaphor’).
12. Shrapnel in the form of hair, crumbs & spills.
A shared flat can occasionally resemble a giant field the morning after a festival has finished. A single human being accumulating a little hair loss and creating crumbs when feeding themselves is easy to ignore but when you multiply that by 3, your home can easily become the set to ‘Trainspotting’. There is no pain like walking around your flat barefoot, stepping on something sharp and realising it is in fact your worst nightmare…you’ve just stepped on someones toenail clipping. On the bright side of domestic bliss, floor wipes have saved my sanity and allowed me to only hoover once a year. Blessed.
13. Noise control needs to be established (in all situations)
I for one love nothing more than blasting music in my bedroom and dancing like a has-been stripper (male), this doesn't bode well when you live with others because apparently it’s ‘rude’. Most people I know are reasonably respectful to one another when it comes to noise control but add alcohol in to the mix and were all assholes. All respect and volume control goes out the window and it’s something I’ve learned to live with. I’ve learned to live with it because I know I am incredibly guilty of this at times…I can creep in to my flat wasted like a pro but occasionally, if I’m over excited or McDonalds have given me the wrong order, things happen and things get loud. Don’t fuck with my McNuggets.
14. Being home alone is literally the greatest.
The feeling you get when all of your roommates leave town for the weekend and you have the flat all to yourself is euphoric. It so rarely happens that when the occasion arises, I will often cancel any social plans, buy enough prosecco to drown a ‘basic bitch’ and throw all of my clothes on the floor in a celebration of nudity and alone time. You don’t know true freedom until you have spent an entire day wandering around your home naked with zero shame. I assume this is what George Michaels song ‘Freedom’ was about.
meanwhile, behind the blogpost -
Location: My bedroom based desk so I can delay the need to crawl in to bed at 4pm.
Currently Watching/Listening To: Binge watching ‘The People Vs. OJ’ my newest obsession…Ross Gellar got hot, am I right?
Currently Eating/Drinking: A large glass of Cava with orange juice because I am without a doubt a genuine garbage person.
Currently Wearing: A floor length black silk night gown with lace trimming on the sleeves. I couldn't feel more like a mix between Miss Hannigan from ‘Annie’ and a Madame of a brothel right now.