Unless you’re the offspring of an oligarch, you’ve probably lived in a house share. Comedian Phoebe Walsh – who has spent years living with strangers – tells us how to do it harmoniously
Living in the capital can be a daily slaughter of the senses, so it’s vital to have a sanctuary to escape to. But with ludicrous rents, fewer people settling down and more people working in precarious freelance roles, lots of us just aren’t able to live with loved (or even liked) ones. Instead, we end up living with (im)perfect strangers and insignificant others. Here’s a guide to how to find housemates and how to live with them without wishing them dead (or worse).
Look for clues in SpareRoom profiles
We’re all pretty adept at making snap judgements about strangers on Tinder – just make sure you’re as discerning about looking for a new housemate as you are about finding a date. If their SpareRoom profile has multiple photos of their glory days as a steward at the 2012 Olympics, or they’ve attended clown school, think twice about meeting them. After all, you can’t ghost someone once they’re locked into a six-month contract, even if they cook with fish sauce every night and croon ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ every morning.
Really grill prospective housemates
When you meet your potential new housemate make sure you have a good chat. Be realistic. If you’re a bit of an introvert but they go to sober morning raves, describe themselves as ‘crazy with a K’ and have guitar picks for earrings, it probably won’t work. If you’re visiting a prospective flat to move into, you’ll get more of a scoop on the kind of people who inhabit it. Is it tidy? Is their idea of decor some LP sleeves Blu Tacked to the wall? Ask for their wi-fi password while you’re there. If it’s something like ‘ridonkulous_lols’, they’re more likely to be flat-nemeses than flatmates.
Do your share of cleaning
Everyone is actually a bit weird when it comes to cleaning habits. At one end of the spectrum there’s the girl who has a colour-coded Google Doc for the various uses of her seven different sponges. Her idea of a good Friday is a ‘deep clean’ and she gave you a health-and-safety assessment of the dishwasher. Sometimes when you walk into a room she puts hand sanitiser on and you try not to be offended. But then there’s the boy who doesn’t own a towel and dries his body by shaking like a dog. He uses his hands instead of kitchen utensils, you’ve never seen him wash his sheets and if he brings a girl back you say a silent prayer that she doesn’t catch Weil’s disease.
The key to a harmonic home lies somewhere in the middle. Do your share of general upkeep and now and then go out of your way by doing a more thorough clean. If you’re occasionally generous, others will be more inclined to be too, and there’ll be fewer ‘hilarious’ Post-its stuck to dirty crockery saying: ‘This is a mug. I am not. Wash up!’
Take the admin out of paying bills
Money and admin have to be up there on the list of most stressful things in life, along with accidentally sending a text to the person you’re talking about in the text and changing your bedsheets. Easy-to-use apps like Splitwise mean it’s less likely you’ll get a hernia from trying to work out multiple utility bills. The app keeps a running total of who’s paid for what, so everyone can reimburse each other in one big payment rather than a bunch of small ones. One of the benefits of living with strangers is that you can talk about money in a less emotional way. Also, you won’t lose your best friend and a small claims court case over the TV licence.
Actually get to know your flatmates
Living in a flat or house with people you don’t know that well can be awkward. Imagine an episode of ‘Friends’ where instead of the cast eating Thanksgiving dinner together it’s Rachel locking herself in her room until Monica leaves for the restaurant, Joey sitting on the sole La-Z-Boy and switching off ‘Baywatch’ when Chandler comes in, and Ugly Naked Guy going undiscussed.
Try and get to know your housemates. As soon as they become more human to you and you know more about their lives, they’ll stop being just the person who never replenishes the toilet roll or always steals your almond milk. You might even grow to like them. A bit. Eventually.
So there you have it: we’re born alone, we live with weird people we find on Gumtree, we die alone. But hopefully this guide will help you live without anxiety, depression and repressed anger about who emptied the bathroom bin last.
Read more of Phoebe Walsh’s musings on Twitter and catch her at the Pleasance Theatre on Wed Jul 19.