Housemate Hunting: The Trials and Tribulations

Lauren Sutherland doesn’t want to live with boring people…

flatmates London Tab Debate ucl UCL Student Living

When discussing decisions regarding housing in second year, I always received the same advice: choose the most housemate friendly person – could be as dull as fuck, but if they can scrub a floor until you can see the reflection of the person in the room above, they’re a winner.  This is all well and good, but if any of your friends plan on following this advice and you’re the one name that would be culled immediately from any housemate shortlists, it doesn’t bode well.

Maybe you’re that person with papers piled high in every crevice of your room, concealing some extremely uncomfortable, potentially now deceased, squatter who’d rather have ended up crouching in some Third World war zone. And yes, in halls it’s just about possible to conceal this deep dark secret, but think again if you expect to live in this liberal utopia in second year.  Being pulled up on the smallest things will become a common occurrence.  For example, a day barely goes by without hearing, at least once, “Aren’t you going to wash that?” or, “that mould you’re cultivating in the fridge would make Flemming proud”.

I’ve always maintained that a peck of dirt never hurt anyone and even does some good.  On the tube, I roll my eyes at the uneasy passenger whipping out the Purell Ocean Mist Hand Sanitizer. My mind is blown by Dettol’s shameless exploitation of nervous parents and others who buy into this whole ‘personal hygiene’ malarkey, in particular the questionable claim that the average household worktop contains more germs than the average toilet seat.  So why, I ask, has tongue to loo seat contact become so taboo if small children are not dying sporadically from eating a carrot resting on a kitchen counter?  Surely, if Dettol’s campaign is indeed accurate, it’s all fine.  FACT.  You go lick that toilet seat.

So come on Dettol, if you’re going to fool the student body who invariably have an up, close and personal relationship with the inside of a loo, you’re going to have to try harder.

Luckily, my friends chose to live with me despite my attitude towards social norms, and while I’m eternally grateful for that, it does lead me to reassess the advice given to me umpteen times.  Why live with someone who has excellent dish washing technique (currently the hot topic in our household) but bores you senseless?  Or someone who always takes the bins out before the fortnightly collection, but couldn’t crack a joke with a gun to their head.

But very much like the relationship handbook that teaches you to raise the alarm when ‘great personality’ is being thrown around, the housemate guide helpfully translates ‘great personality’ into ‘messy as hell’ for all those BS illiterate.  “Yeah, that’s great, but I can’t wipe the surfaces with a winning personality”.  And if there’s ever a severe sense of humour failure when that small get-together takes an unexpected turn for the worse and jumps a few pH levels higher, with countless drink spillages and the unwelcomed arrival of vomit, it’s handy to have someone in the know.

When trying to find that perfect housemate, there’s a common misconception that needs to be addressed: the idea that men are always domestically inept and women, domestic goddesses, making, baking and cleaning left, right and centre with a permanent Stepford smile.  Chances are, however, that your male counterpart is just as anal as you, maybe even more so.  You don’t have to be a woman to know the ins and outs of toilet roll thickness and that if your housemate returns home with Morrison Savers’ 1-ply loo roll, shit’s going down.  Sexism has no place in the household and certainly shouldn’t affect your housemate shortlist.

In a classic 80s film montage set to Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing With Myself’, the perfect housemate would receive an exchange of approving looks and exaggerated nods but alas, life isn’t always as easy as that.  Maybe the perfect housemate doesn’t even exist, but the closest you’ll get to one, is living with similarly minded, valued and humoured people; after all, it’s all relative and personally, I don’t think ‘coexisting’ is the answer.  Similarly, to all those filth fiends out there, you’ll just have find friends who’ll stick with you, even though they know you.  If they can’t deal with you at your worst, they don’t deserve you at your best yo’. Holla.