One of the great joys of growing up and leaving home is meeting a raft of new, like-minded people. You'll probably find yourself moving into a shared flat with said people so you can have even more fun.
Sharing rental accommodation was a real rollercoaster ride for me. On the one hand, they were the best of times – great parties, meaningful connections, built-in company and the beginning of beautiful lifelong friendships.
On the other time, they were the worst of times. Housemates that forget to pay the rent, shouting matches, annoying (in)significant others who never seemed to leave, and enduring everyone's cooking experiments. The white sauce made from wholemeal flour one vegan housemate proudly served up has become legend. It was cooked so long it had turned lumpy, tasteless, grey and was smothered all over sad, limp broccoli.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons so you can decide whether it’s a lifestyle for you:
- Dinner around the table. Wholemeal white sauce notwithstanding, some of the great times in a shared house are had around the dinner table. It’s lovely to debrief about your day with friends over a good meal and a glass of wine.
- On your own in a big, big world. When you're just starting in life, those first few months in a shared house are a big adventure. It’s up to you what you make of it. There’s no one telling you what you should do, be or see – you’re independent and free – perhaps for the first time in your life.
- It’s a whole lot cheaper. Sharing rent, utilities and food bills makes living a great deal more affordable, especially when you're studying (or, it seems, retired). You can often afford better properties when you band together, closer to all the things that are important to you.
- Social gatherings. Every day in a shared house is a bit like a party, primarily if you're used to family life. You're never alone; there's always someone to chat with. It's excellent for extroverts and extra support for introverts (as long as you've got the right kind of housemates).
- Sharing your food with your housemates. While it's fun to do the Big Chill thing and cook a meal together with some tunes blaring, there is a downside to food with friends. If you have specific dietary requirements (like my vegan friend) or want to have some treats that are all yours, you might want to consider keeping them in your room — just saying.
- You’re never alone. We often underestimate the value of privacy. Sometimes it’s nice to be in solitude – but it’s a rare thing in a shared house. And all those parties with your housemates? Remember someone has to clean up the morning after – sticky carpet, piles of dishes and bottles everywhere do not make for hangover heaven.
- When good flatmates turn bad, it's a terrible thing for everyone involved. You never really know someone until you live with them, and great friendships can break under pressure. Keeping an open mind, cultivating patience, vowing to give and take, and biting your tongue are all vital skills learned in a shared house.
Shared living can be cost-effective, fun and rewarding. On the other hand, if you like your privacy, it might not be your cup of tea at all. More often than not, the pros outweigh the cons, in my opinion. But you’ll never know until you try it for yourself.