Live and Let Live
Flatmates make for strange bedfellows. One minute they’re privy to infinitely banal inner mechanisms of your current crush, can guess the contents of your shopping list and know exactly what colour pajamas you wear. And the next, they’re out of your life, relegated to the stuff of dinner party anecdotes – “the time she had sex so loud, the neighbours called the cops!” Escalating housing prices means it’s not just the student set who see the logic in sharing a swish pad instead of dinner-for-one in a shoebox. But you must pick such bedfellows wisely. A lack of sleep, cleanliness and basic respect can send you reaching for the meat cleaver (yours, which no one else bothers to sharpen). Stop scrawling that angry note, remove the post-it note from your milk and take heed: live and let live is so much easier than live and let die.
Even though you see your flatmates more often than your family, friends and well, everyone else in your life, the interview process is usually bizarrely short. Sure, relationships can also kick off over a coffee and a quick chat about shared interests, but after realizing his appalling taste in music and disregard for bathing, ending it is as easy as not answering the phone. It’s considerably more awkward to break up with a flatmate, so best to approach the ad-and-interview process with the zeal of a born-again and the smarts of a spy.
Your ad must cut the wheat from the chaff – to find your perfect flattie, you must speak perfect flattie:
Open-minded = BIG Will & Grace fans.
Social drinkers = Make Amy Winehouse look like a teetotaler
Must be house-trained = Must be familiar with the ancient art of garbage disposal
And so on.
So they haven’t freaked out at the size of the room, and they dig your DVD collection. Time to get the skinny on their:
- Relationship status. If they have a partner, clear up from the get go how often the lucky so-and-so will be staying over. If it’s three nights a week or more, a couple is moving in, and you can adjust the rent accordingly. You have to pay rent and buy toilet paper, so they can too. This also sets a precedent for any future relationships your horny flatties initiate. It is a Very Good Idea.
- Hours of operation. They should match yours. If you’re an in-bed-by-ten girl, a self-confessed night owl will pluck your sanity from you and toss it far into an inky abyss.
- Last house. Warning bells should sound if it ‘just didn’t work out’ or if your house is their first house. How do we put this tactfully – NEVER LET SOMEONE MOVE IN WHO HASN’T MOVED OUT OF HOME BEFORE. They’ll want to party while you’ll want someone to wash up for a goddamn change.
Your Sharehouse Timeline
First house: Structurally unsound, owned by a crook and next to a something noisy. You’ll smear peanut butter on toast for dinner and pool cash from telemarketing jobs to buy longnecks and rollies. Your neighbours will hate you, the fridge will resemble Sigourney Weaver’s in Ghostbusters, and by the end you’ll have all made out with each other while playing 2am dress-ups. It’ll end when you get fired from sleeping in. Awesome.
Third house: You’ve settled down from the peanut-butter-and-make-out days and have decided not to live with the people you spend all your time with. However your curious nature means you’ve moved in with total strangers who turn out to be absolute nutjobs. You’re in the midst of working out who you are, and this will probably involve Twin Peaks marathons, a substance abuse ‘issue’, making art really late at night and singer-songwriters from the 70s. Wack.
Fifth house. You’ve worked out what you want, and are enjoying just the right mix of independence and shared bottles of Shiraz. There’s a healthy stack of loo paper next to your pile of towels (you own more than one now), and you don’t think twice about rushing out in a rainstorm to grab your better halves threads off the line. You even have a herb garden. Bliss.
The Art of Troubleshooting
You: “Hey furry friends, considering our chill-pad looks like an installation art piece constructed from found objects at the bottom of a charity bin, maybe we should split a cleaner.”
Cue look of raw alarm from penny-pinching sloths, “Pay someone? Dude, no way. We can, like, clean it.”
The meek will snap like an anaemic’s finger on bowling night. The strong will preserve.
You: “Supergreat plan, bozos! Let’s all clean one room by this weekend, and keep that as regular thing! I’ll take the kitchen! And if we can’t keep to that because we become reality TV stars or something, then we’ll pay a cleaner. OK? OK!”
You clean the kitchen, they do jack, you organise the cleaner. Oh, and make sure they B-pay you. Chasing up twenty clams once a month from the helpless and hapless will make you feel like kneecapping them.
The answer to “Do you think I can get a dog?” is the same as “Would you like to find sh*t in your bed?”
The rule is, you’re allowed to have crazy-loud scream-the-house-down sex once every three months. That’s it. That’s a funny story for everyone the next day at work, which lets everyone think they live in a cool house that’s just a little bit crazy. Any more regularly and you’re just telling your flatmates of the poor quality or lack of sex they’re having. You know your flatmates’ routines – have said crazy sex when they’re elsewhere.
Never, ever, ever live with someone you’re into. When it comes to the most self-destructive crushes of all time, they usually involve a work colleague or housemate. We’re not talking about falling in love in a mutual kinda way – that can work, generally if one person moves out. We’re talking about co-habitating with someone you know you have feelings for, because deep down, you think close quarters will bring you closer. It won’t. It’ll wreck you for the next six months.
Success rate = dubious. Sure, in theory it makes sense but so does communism and Natalie Bassingwaite’s ability to host a TV show. The reality is just so much worse than anyone could have ever imagined.
People who put up with flatmates from Hades often talk in retrospect about wishing they’d kicked them out sooner. People don’t change, so if they’re throwing up in your pot plants now, this behaviour is unlikely to be any different after a firmly worded email and some serious room escapage (BTW, no one ever realizes you’re doing that on purpose). If you’ve got the numbers, and you’ve had your complaints ignored for long enough, just do it. Pull out the clichés about it being ‘better for your friendship’, give them a timeframe, then disappear. Seriously. Life’s too short to have someone else eating your Weeties.
The Cheapskates Guide to Super Funky Boho Chic!
Vinnies-a-thon. Road trip!! Second-hand shops in moneyed suburbs are groaning with retro lounge room sets, little old lady wine glasses, and the kinda stuff no one’s ever gonna spent their hard earned dosh on, but always come in really handy (baking trays, bath mats, leopard print jumpsuits).
Look at me, I’m arty: Kinkos can blow up high quality pictures into huge grainy-but-cool black and white pictures for next to nothing. A careful eye and a wad of blu-tack will turn those moody self-takes into bonafide art.
Lamps, lamps, lamps: If your lighting plan makes everyone in the house look like a Before candidate for an extreme makeover show, you need to invest in five million lamps! Lamps give every room a tucked away wine bar feel – no sommelier required!
Tim Brunero, ex Big Brother contestant divulges his sharehouse wisdom and woes.
1. What did Big Brother teach you about sharehousing?
You have to have a pretty flexible personality and be able to compromise – stop watching your DVD when your flatmate arrives home with a clutch of mates and bottle or two. You have to be able to deal with very different people, in one word Hotdogs. You have to be able to deal with the fact everything you own will get used communally and sometimes trashed, broken, eaten or sold into slavery.
2. Best sharehouse story. Go.
I’ve almost sat on uncapped syringes on the couch left by my diabetic flatmate, I’ve had sick flatmates use the wok as a bedpan, I’ve had a smoke detector screwed underneath my bed when I was quitting smoking. I’ve had cold dishwater chucked over me when asleep on the lounge, I’ve had ceilings cave in on me, and I’ve had a Vegemite swastika smeared on my bedroom door.
3. If you could share a house with any three other people, who would they be?
Ryan Shelton, because he’d keep me laughing, John Safran, because I’ve got a funny feeling he’s very clean, and Kerry O’Brien cos he’d be smart and would also have plenty of dosh so we’d eat like Kings.
Copyright Georgia Clark 2008