I live alone. I did have a cat (Rudy RIP) but he’s now buried in the garden accompanied by a slate memorial inscribed ‘A Message To You Rudy, Lived Fast Died Young’. He was an awesome pet and I loved him. His recent departure has got my hankering for another cat, especially now the nights are drawing in, but since I recently purchased new carpets, it simply isn’t going to happen. A cat remains, however preferable to a housemate as there are many, many advantages to having a feline housemate over one in human form.
1. They instinctively know when to ‘do one’ and leave you alone.
2. They’re cheaper to feed, unless they have ‘digestive issues’ (RIP Jess, 2001)
3. They have a bad attitude, but you don’t mind as they look so pretty.
4. You can have conversations with them, which funnily enough always work out in your favour, especially if you put on a special voice to mimic what you think you’re cat would say, if it could in fact talk.
Over-sharing aside, my point is, nowadays I prefer to share my personal space with either cats or foregoing that, no one. I hope that one day I will meet that special someone that I can tolerate sufficiently to share my living space but until that glorious day arrives I will be perfectly happy having full control of the television, bathroom, fridge, oh and did I say television?
Despite my rather antisocial preferences nowadays, there was once I time in the not too distant past where I was a perfectly willing housemate. House sharing is often a necessity when you are younger, particularly at university where funds are tight so you tend to make the best of things. But as you start to get older, house sharing can become more of a challenge than it once did as people naturally value their own individuality and space much more.
When you move to a new area on your own, one of the best ways of meeting new people and making friends is through house sharing. This is not to say that it doesn’t come without it’s potential pitfalls, problems and personality disorders.
So I thought, let’s take a trip down memory lane to share what I have learnt in the strange world of housemates (or as I prefer to call them ‘personal space invaders’).
Part 1: Proceed with ‘rent a room’ websites with extreme caution.
When I first left university, my first job was based in town 5 hours north from my boyfriend at the time (sob!). On later reflection, this may have been subconsciously deliberate but that’s another story entirely.
Anyway, I’d joined a website that advertises private rooms for rent and sorts them by region of the country. I responded to half a dozen or so adverts and set off in a hired fiat picanto (never again) for a rather noisy journey up the M6 to visit a few and establish whether my new landlords or landladies met my personal decision criteria which consisted of the following:
1. Weren’t drug dependant.
2. Could provide me with a comfortable, reasonably spacious room at a competitive price.
3. Didn’t have a scary boyfriend/girlfriend in tow; when they say ‘you won’t even know they are here’ it is almost guaranteed they will loiter on a full time basis.
4. Could be potentially be my friend.
Well, what could go wrong?
I arrived at the first house to a room which was the size of shoebox and was filled with rubble.
‘So…where will I be sleeping?’.
‘Well once I get your deposit, I can afford to finish your room’.
‘Are you joking?’
Unfortunately, house number two didn’t even get past the first criteria on my list, plus I also suspected he had a few bodies beneath his patio.
House number three was a group of students, I thought we got on really well and was excitedly looking forward to them calling me back to tell me when I could move in. They texted the next day to say they found someone else so I suspected the feeling wasn’t mutual.
House number four was quite a way from where I worked but by this point I was running out of time before I had to return home (Kia Picanto’s are suprisingly expensive to rent).
Jenny seemed friendly enough; she had just bought her first house and was looking for someone to help cover her mortgage costs. The room had failed on point two but at this point I needed a roof over my head in a weeks time.
So I paid a deposit and thought we would be firm friends. I imagine long evenings chatting over a bottle of wine, discussing our mutual love of bad soap operas, being introduced to all of her friends who of course all think I’m fascinating company…’Oh I’m so glad you moved in’, ‘me too!’, etc etc.
Jenny stopped talking to or acknowledging me within a week of me moving in. We passed each other like ships in the night. Jenny acquired one of those boyfriends that aren’t willing to engage in conversation with you yet feel the need to loiter excessively when they have their own house to live in. She was in the ‘Young Farmers Association’ even thought she clearly didn’t have or work with livestock. Jenny didn’t like me to have too much heat in my bedroom as it cost her too much money in fuel bills. I snuck an electric blanket and halogen heater past her while she was distracted on the phone (she watched my comings and going like a hawk). It also became clear that my rent was funding a series of ongoing house improvements. This meant that every weekend a member of her weird family would turn up, Jenny would go out (without ever inviting me along I might add) and leave me making small talk with them for the rest of the weekend because basically I had no where else to go (having no friends in the area and not being able to afford to visit my boyfriend every weekend).
I went home for Christmas and started crying within 20 minutes of arriving. ‘Mum, I can’t take anymore! If you want to go down to the toilet in the night you have to hurdle over the slugs the kitchen floor and she’s not done ANYTHING ABOUT IT!’
I called her the next day. ‘Jenny, It’s not working out. I’ve found somewhere else to live and will be moving out next week when I get back.’
‘But I thought it was going so well. Well…you can’t, you have to give me 6 months notice.’
‘It doesn’t say that in my contact.’
Jenny didn’t say goodbye when I moved my stuff out the following week.
I’d luckily managed to find a house share with three other girls nearer to work and a landlady who didn’t live with us so we could have the heating on as much as we wanted. Even though she would turn up unannounced when we were at work and turn down the thermostat (it was bills included). Other benefits included the fact all furniture was included (don’t underestimate the cost of furnishing an entire bedroom at short notice) and It was located next to a Chinese takeaway. Next it was time to get to know my new housemates/potential best friends….
To be continued