Ah, Flat sharing. Those ‘golden years’ where every night you come home from a busy day at work and you and your flatmates drink wine, borrow each other’s clothes & have long profound conversations about life. Of course, that’s in-between the days where Tom leaves his washing up for 3 days, Sarah once again fails to take the bin out and Daisy has loud sex with her annoying boyfriend; who by the way likes to hog the bathroom & doesn’t pay anything towards the bills even though he’s there most nights. Ah, yes the ‘golden years’. Not so much golden … more brown and muddy I’d say.
Flat sharing in London is far from an episode of what ‘Friends’ makes it out to be and in a city where you’ll have to shell out £300,000+ for a tiny one-bedroom flat or £1000+ a month for a crappy studio ‘apartment’, sadly it’s a lot of people’s reality. This is my 8th year in London, my 7th house and my 20th housemate so I feel I’m totally qualified to talk about this subject and BELIEVE me, I’ve had my experiences.
Types of flatmates
I’ve come to the conclusion that in the world of flat sharing there are 9 different types of housemates and the most ironic part is after so many years of putting up with the shit you will, unfortunately, start to turn into a few of them yourself…
The Passive Aggressive – The one who pretends they’re nice but the undertone is quite the opposite. ‘What you doing this weekend?’ really translates into ‘ Are you going to be around this weekend because my boyfriend is coming over and I don’t want you here?’
The Hogger/Dominant – The one who takes over the living room, the bathroom or the kitchen like no-one else lives there. They act like your presence is an inconvenience.
The Hermit – The one you never see or hear and waits until you’re out of sight to leave their room.
The Hypocrite – The one who is loud, messy and steals your food but hates it if you’re loud messy and steal food.
The Elephant – The one who slams doors, shuts cupboards and walks around like they are a ten ton giant.
The Disgustingly Filthy/Completely OCD – The one who licks the knives and puts them back in the draw vs the one who goes nuts when you leave the washing up sponge in the ‘wrong’ place.
The Privileged – The one who has never had to clean the house, wash the dishes and take the bin out. It doesn’t even come into their head that they need to do these things or worse, they know but still won’t do it.
The Food Thief – The one who thinks it’s okay to eat the food you’ve bought and denies it completely when asked.
The Non-Eco-Friendly – The one who insists on turning on every light, every plug and even sometimes likes to leave the tap running when they’ve left the house.
At one time I’ve lived with all of these types of housemates (thankfully not all at once) and including these 9 I’d also like to give a shout out to the ones who were stealing money from me, growing drugs in their bedroom and one who nearly set our flat on fire by drunk cooking fish fingers at 12am. I told you I was qualified … and now realising maybe not the best judge of character! The truth is whatever the movies and TV shows tell us the shiny world of house sharing is like they’re wrong. The reality is it’s not full of Chandler’s, Rachel’s and Ross’s but it is full of right fucking weirdos.
Don’t forget about the landlords!
If having to deal with crazy housemates isn’t enough I haven’t even got to the crafty and downright cruel landlords and estate agents who will literally do ANYTHING to squeeze every penny out of you. Before you’ve even stepped through the door you’ll pay nothing short of +£1000 in ‘admin’ fees and advance rent and before you know it you’ve signed your life away for the next 6 months. I’ve been shown around flats with bedroom walls caked in mould, soiled mattresses chucked on the floor and even people still asleep in bed when you’re viewing the bedroom! The worse part is the person showing you around has a face like ‘Yeh what’s the problem? That’ll be £700 a month please and you better be grateful for this luxury!’ You wouldn’t really mind if most agents and landlords gave a shit about you but once you’re in but the only thing their thinking of is how they can pay as less as possible of your deposit back to you when you leave. ‘There’s a mark on the wall so the entire house needs repairing and it’s going to cost us EXACTLY the amount you paid as a deposit to fix it ‘. Funny that, isn’t it?
Okay. So maybe you enjoy the parties, you don’t mind a little bit of mess and you can deal with listening to other people having sex but I can guarantee if that’s how life was going to be for the foreseeable future you wouldn’t enjoy it. Yeh, it’s a bit of fun for a few months, maybe even a year but when it’s your life it’s hard to find the enjoyment in it. Is this the price we have to make for wanting to live in this amazing but expensive city? Do extortionate rental and house prices mean a life resigned to dealing with other people’s shit? It gets to a point where enough is enough and you’re sick of cleaning other people’s mess, you’re sick of following other people’s rules and you keep wondering when did you become the crazy person that wants to scream and cry when someone leaves the toilet roll empty for the 50th fucking time!
It can’t all be bad, can it?
You know what? It’s not, and for all the annoyances I can think of SOME good things if I really REALLY set my mind to it.
- You meet great people … sometimes! Yes, I’ve met some not very nice people but also I’ve met some of my best friends while I’ve been flat sharing. Heck, I flew all the way to Australia to stay with some former flatmates who I now consider 2 of my greatest friends.
- For all the people you live with and like, you learn about the type of people you DON’T want to live with which I think is a positive in itself.
- You sometimes get lucky. Who knows you could be the person to find the best house share ever.
- You get to experience London in a way not many other people can say they have. You see different areas, experience different ways of life and you mix with lots of different personalities.
- You learn SO much about yourself! Really you do. Mostly how not to go crazy.
Any advice for flat sharing?
- Don’t be a dick – Be clean, be respectful, don’t be loud, take the bin out once in a while and put in equal effort. It’s really not hard. Just be a normal human being for god sake!
- If you’re looking for a flatshare be open to trying different things … things outside of your comfort zone. Different locations, different house sizes, different genders. You might be surprised what works (or doesn’t).
- Most flat share adverts will say ‘We’re not a party house but we like to sit around and have a small glass of wine every now and again’. Believe me, It means nothing. Use your instincts and don’t go solely on a ‘Spareroom’ description alone.
- If it’s too good to be true it probably is! However, convincing the advert might look will not find a room in Covent Garden for less than £1000 a month. I REPEAT IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!
- Find out if bills included or not. If not, who decides the heating routine? It sounds ridiculous but these are the types of things that can make or break you in the long run.
- Understand you will have to compromise… in more ways than one. You’re never going to get the perfect location, perfect size room and the perfect housemate. Put in order what’s most important to you and go from there.
This isn’t just my own personal rant, by the way. I have friends who feel like this (shout of to Team Bolt, you know who you are), I have friends of friends who feel like this. Hell, I’ve listened to many a conversation of people on the tube moaning about the exact same thing! If you’re lucky enough to have found a home within a house share cling onto it with dear life and never let it go. I’m not saying I’m the perfect housemate by any means and, to be honest, you’re never going to find (or be) the PERFECT one but rather than perfection a bit of normality is not much to ask right? A bit of awareness? A bit of respect? Someone who does the washing up, someone who equally contributes, someone who doesn’t burn the house down, grow drugs and steal money.
The truth about flat-sharing in London is it’s bloody hard. In fact, it’s REALLY bloody hard and for all you out there doing it I REALLY commend you. Seriously. For all of you out there who has a friend doing it I urge you to go hug them, listen to them, understand their pain and join in with their plans of how to kill them all your housemates in their sleep. Jokes 😉