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The Most Depressing Things About Living in a House Share

As high rents force people to cohabit for longer than ever before, adulthood is now defined by waiting to shower and being shushed for having an orgasm.

by Emma Garland; photos by Emily Bowler
08 June 2019, 11:29am

Photo: Emily Bowler

Famously, there’s a housing crisis on – the effects of which are particularly visible in cities, where rents higher than the bikini lines on Love Island contestants are forcing low and middle-income workers to exist in various creative ways, like moving into a co-operative or flat sharing well into their forties.

Now that it costs upwards of £650 to rent a kitchen-cum-bunkbed in Cricklewood, everyone under retirement age has to live like a student. Pretty much all of us have to move in with strangers at some point – unless your wealthy parents bought you a flat for uni, providing you "took responsibility for it" afterwards, or you're one of those men who enjoys the convenience of their mother so much that you simply don’t see the point of moving out. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing: how limited someone's worldview must be without exposure to the many interesting specimens of Spare Room, such as: Guy Who Veets His Entire Body and Leaves the Remains in the Drain, or Girl Who Dumps a Jar of Dolmio Into a Saucepan of Pasta, Grabs a Fork and Disappears Into Her Room, Not to Be Seen for Another Week.

Living in shared accommodation can be incredibly fun and rewarding. Especially if you live with friends or people you cohabit with easily, who make the idea of going home at the end of the day a pleasant one and not a journey straight to hell. Plus, if you’re a shut-in like me who will happily spend weeks indoors rewiring plugs and disappearing into Reddit wormholes, it has the additional benefit of forcing you to socialise so you don’t lose your whole mind. That said, there are obviously many downsides to being suspended in a permanent state of infantilisation, the only escape from which is "marry up" or "move to Lisbon".

Here are some of them:

Waiting for Your Go On the Toilet / Hobs / Shower

There is no act more humbling than being in your late-twenties, perched on the edge of your bed – thighs clenched, breath deep and controlled, door just slightly ajar so you’ll be able to hear when the shower stops running – holding in a poo. It is 8:13AM and someone has chosen this moment to do a deep condition on their hair. As a result, you must make yourself late for work (again) or suffer the indignity of shitting in the downstairs toilet, which is a) windowless, and b) so cramped that your knees brush against the door.

The first thing you sacrifice when you move in with several other people is the ability to shit, cook and wash whenever you need to. This is also true of living with family, but without an authority figure (mum) to centralise the power dynamic the whole equilibrium of the household is thrown off kilter. That role simply cannot exist among three+ adults in the same age bracket; have you ever lived with someone who, at 24, can be described as a matriarch? It doesn’t generate order and rhythm, it generates an atmosphere of subtle loathing and paranoia that can only come from everything down to the cutlery being labelled "ASHLEY’S :)". There is no reliable orbit in a shared house, only the random chaos of deep space.

Smoking Out the Window

Girl smoking
Photo: Emily Bowler

One of life's simplest, greatest and least socially acceptable pleasures, smoking out the window is a bone of contention in all house shares. Assuming being A Smoking House is off the table for anyone who rents and doesn’t want to get slapped with a £5,000 "smell removal fee" when they leave, the options are: no smoking whatsoever under any circumstances, or occasionally stuffing a towel under your door, even though you know for a fact it does absolutely fucking nothing, and prompting a group text about "people smoking inside again" the next day.

These options remain the same even in houses in which nobody is "a smoker", because as soon as summer rolls around everyone becomes a potential cig blaster. Unburdened by the commitment of full-time smoking – which involves getting fully dressed to trudge down three flights of stairs to have a fag on the road at night in mid-December – casual smokers are often wooed by the romance of a gentle breeze whispering in through an already open window on a balmy July evening. The drama, the mystique, the pure Lana Del Rey of it all.

The smell of old smoke wafting into your room from somewhere down the landing and clinging to your work trousers? Unbearable. Having a rollie on your windowsill in an oversized T-shirt, listening to Slowdive while reminiscing about all your toxic exes? Unparalleled!

Coming Home to People Doing Drugs

Cocaine iphone cigarettes
Photo: Emily Bowler

When you first started house-sharing this was fine – exciting, even. A perfect picture of the freedom and possibilities of youth pulled straight from the storyboard of an E4 drama! Now you’re pushing 30 and struggle to have a large one more than once a month because you don’t have the constitution for it and all the money you used to spend on drugs you now spend on therapy. However, if you walk through the door after a particularly tiresome Tuesday to find your housemate and their three friends "from home" racking up on the living room table, honking with laughter over a "pre-sesh" Spotify playlist… what are you going to do, say no? You’re 30 years old and live with people who got Twitter when they were 14, you’re obviously taking a seat and ruining your week.

'Trying to Keep It Down' While Having Sex

Vibrator camera lighters
Photo: Emily Bowler

This is honestly the single most undignified thing a grown adult could ever be made to do. Let’s say you’re somewhere between 18 and 50: these are either the hottest or most desperate years of your life; after years of minimal or largely tragic experiences you finally meet someone who knows how to give you a prostate orgasm, drawing noises deep from within before you have time to stifle them, which is either met with a stern text about "the noise last night" or jokes that are made too loudly and too frequently to really be jokes, and are actually admissions of bitterness.

Most people don’t hear sex happening and think: 'Sex is happening, good for them!' They hear sex happening and think: 'Sex is happening, why is this sex not happening to me?' You have to live with some extremely liberal women in order for anything above a 50 decibel sex life to go uncriticised, and Jesus take the wheel if you live with a straight man. I went to Catholic school and spent the first 18 years of my life in a terraced house sharing a bedroom wall with my parents, give me a fucking break, Tom.

Your Room Being Directly Below the Person Who Shags Like an Elephant Having a Tantrum

That said, this is one of the worst situations to be stuck in. After a long day of profound loneliness in the isolating conditions of late capitalism, the last thing you want to hear is someone you met in a critical theory lecture getting railed harder than two grams on a Saturday night in Mayfair.

Small Talk with Other People’s One-Night-Stands

It is important that, as an independent adult, you have the freedom to stroll into your own kitchen and assemble a coffee of a Sunday morning without being obligated to make chit-chat with a spoken word poet and their UV eyebrow piercing.

Not Being Able to Order the Gross Amount of Take-Away You Actually Want

Food on plastic fork
Photo: Emily Bowler

You’d think someone who is considering dropping another £18.99 on a Papa John’s deal for one for the third night in a row wouldn’t have the capacity to feel ashamed about the social judgment brought on by the knock at the door, the act of scurrying out and back into your room in a grotty pyjama set, the growing tower of empty boxes next to the recycling. Alas...

Extended WhatsApp Conversations About Toilet Paper

Everyone in this group chat is in their twenties. Just buy the nine-pack of supermarket brand bog roll so we can wipe our arses, and shut up.

Not Having Control Over Your Space Whatsoever

Washing up in sink
Photo: Emily Bowler

The only truly difficult thing about house sharing is the fact that the fabric of your life is fundamentally at the behest of others – a necessary thing to experience. It’s impossible to have complete control over your environment regardless of what it is. The likelihood of your neighbours being loud and / or tossers is probably higher, and there’s even less you can do about them. Everyone has to deal with a base level of inconvenience. We live, as they say, in a society.

But a house share is like a job role or latex underwear: the longer you spend in it, the more constrictive it begins to feel. Very few humans have the mental fortitude to last up to three decades in a living environment based on concessions without eventually going ballistic over a draining board, which is truly the main driving force behind young couples moving in together after four months, when what they really want is to live alone. The blessing and curse of living alone is that everything becomes your fault. If you end up writhing in squalor, chain smoking from a nest of take-away containers and cum tissues, at least your pride can’t send a text saying "can we all take a min to do the bins tonight please it’s getting ridiculous now".

@emmaggarland

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

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