A new thing to freak out about.

I think this post is going to be an epic long one so let me just give you the TL;DR up front: I’m thinking of moving in with a stranger to save money on rent.  I am…conflicted about the idea.

Okay, here’s the post.

I mentioned before that my friend The Social Worker asked me to potentially be his roomate – we’re both paying around $1,000/month in rent and if we consolidated our living spaces we could save money.  I think it’s possible to get a decent 2-bedroom place for $1,200/month – at least, it’s not unheard of.  So I’d be saving hundreds of dollars a month.

Well, The Social Worker is the kind of person who would pack up and move to Europe at a moment’s notice – he’s actually told me he hopes to do this sometime soon – so as much as I love him and think we’d work well as roommates, I can’t bring myself to go ahead with this.  I don’t like upheaval and I don’t want to move in with The Social Worker only to have him bail on me almost immediately.

The whole incident did get me thinking, though.  Basically, here’s the deal: I love living on my own and I love making an artsy-fartsy living on a sporadic, not-too-demanding schedule.  But my money is running low enough that soon it will be impossible to do both.  So I have to choose.

My almost-cohabitation with The Social Worker got me thinking a lot about what I want in an apartment and in a roommate.  I feel like I might get along best with a gay dude, for one thing (maybe I just think this because The Social Worker is gay and I like the idea of living with him…); preferably someone on a diurnal schedule so that there’s minimal bathroom conflict and I can have big swaths of quiet time at night.  Ideally, this person is super social and loves going out all the time, but barely ever has visitors.  Obviously they have to be pretty enlightened in a feminist/socially conscious way or else we’ll clash.  And they have to be okay with me having Bastardcat.  Well, not just okay with him; they have to like the idea of having a kitty in the house and lavish attention on him.

My ideal apartment (for myself or to share) is on the upper floor of a house and my share should cost no more than $600.  It has a bathtub (not a shower stall) and laundry on-site.  The really amazing thing would be to have a dishwasher, although I know this is a rare find.  And of course there are particular neighbourhoods I favour.  The most awesome thing would be if I could live right in my current area.  I’m such a creature of habit that when I’ve idly looked around at places in other neighbourhoods, the prospect of frequenting a different grocery store psychs me out so badly that I forget the whole thing.  It’s not even like the two grocery stores near my current apartment are spectacularly great and I’m loyal to them.  It’s just that I know where they are and what time they’re open til.

Anyway.  By total coincidence my friend The Vixen just signal-boosted a Craigslist post from a friend who’s looking for a roommate.  He’s a gay trans man who’s open to someone with pets (and insists on a roommate who’s cat-friendly, regardless, because he hopes to get a kitty of his own soon).  The Vixen says this guy is sweet and easygoing and she thinks we’d get along.  The apartment is on the top floor of a house, my half would cost $600, and the ad specifically mentions the awesome bathtub – and there’s a dishwasher.  No on-site laundry, but laundromats nearby.  My potential bedroom sounds nice and big – 120 square feet, apparently, so I’m guessing 10’x12′.  I don’t know the exact vibe of the particular neighbourhood but I know it’s fairly convenient to one or two nightclubs I like and one or two places I model.

I wrote to the guy with a brief overview of who I am (including the fact that I’m a night person, a hermit (I said “homebody” though) and an introvert) and he wrote back saying I sound like I could be a good fit and we should meet.  I go see the place tomorrow.

The Social Worker and I hung out tonight and I told him about this and was being all anxious and stuff.  He reminded me that I’m only going over to meet the guy and am under no obligation to actually move in – if it doesn’t feel right, I won’t do it.  So that’s not so scary, I guess.  But the fact of the matter is that I have to make some kind of change soon in order to continue supporting myself, and this situation seems like a decent one on paper: dude’s a friend-of-a-friend, so he’s been partially vetted; he likes cats, the apartment seems nice and is a good price…so I’m putting myself under a lot of pressure to be okay with this.

I don’t think I can organize all my thoughts into coherence so here they are in whatever order they come out.

This apartment is up for rent in July.  Which is, what, a week from now?  So if I do go ahead with this, I’ll give two months’ notice here and use the first month to actually move out and do some cleaning/repainting/repairs to my current place.  Then, hopefully, I can find someone to sublet for that last month so I’m not paying double rent (I paid first and last when I moved in, so if I’m out after one month (and find a replacement tenant), that month is already paid for).

I’d need that month to sell a bunch of my shit, too, because this guy’s apartment appears from the photos to already have living room furniture – and so do I.  And I’m not sure I’d have the nerve to ask him to get rid of shit to make way for mine.  How is the living room usage even going to work, I wonder?  When you live with a stranger, does anyone ever hang out in the living room?  Would I ever feel comfortable hanging out there?  Is he going to feel kind of territorial about the common areas because he lived there first?  I’d probably have to keep my TV and DVD player in my room because I can’t see myself feeling comfortable hogging up the living room watching stuff.

And what the fuck happens with The Pedant?  He’s been spending an average of one night a week here for the past month or so, and I love it.  It might be rude to have him over that often if I have a roommate, though (I wonder if the roommate has lovers or friends over often?  That’s a whole new kettle of fish – I couldn’t live with someone who had guests all the time).  Even if the roommate was fine with my frequent PedantTime, though, the whole situation would cramp my style.  I like being naked with him all the time, in all areas of the apartment, and I like having loud and unrestrained sex.  If I move in with this other dude, I’ll be having to hole up in the bedroom the entire time The Pedant is over and stifle my sex noises.  His visits certainly won’t feel as delightfully hedonistic as they do now.

(One awesome thing about The Pedant: when I told him I was considering moving in with a roommate, he didn’t appear to have these kinds of thoughts whatsoever.  He said, without hesitation, that it would probably make good financial sense for me, and he didn’t say a peep about “But won’t that restrict the sex we have when I’m over?” or anything like that.)

To be perfectly honest, I feel like a pretty huge fuck-up right now.  My anxiety issues are impacting my life in a huge way; I probably could be way further along in my art career and/or my modelling career by now, but I frequently get so paralyzed with fear that I can’t accomplish anything – so I’ve spent the two years since I quit my job mostly just fucking around on the internet.  I get so anxious/depressed that I can barely do anything, including cleaning – or sometimes I’ll get into destructive personal habits that sap my energy so I’m too exhausted to clean.  All of which is reasonably okay in my current situation, but if I live with someone else, I’ll have all this extra pressure on me.  If I don’t clean up after myself (at least in the common areas of the house) my roommate will probably hate me and not want to live with me anymore – and probably, ironically, that pressure to be neat will paralyze me so that I fuck it up.  And I hate the idea of having a witness around when my mental state goes all sideways.  The biggest relief about Minx moving out was that I could do whatever the fuck I wanted without anyone judging me.

And I love that right now I only depend on myself for my happiness and survival.  Sometimes my asshole neighbours intrude on my life with their noise and shitty personal habits and general fuckery, but for the most part, my living environment is totally under my control.  I can be messy if I want.  I can hog the bathroom anytime I want.  If I feel like sitting here in silence, I turn off the tv and don’t play any music and presto – silence.  I have a habit of compulsively singing little bits of songs, and nobody else has to know this.  I have a habit of yelling Bastardcat’s name when he pisses me off, at pretty much any time of the day or night, and to the best of my knowledge this doesn’t particularly disturb anyone else.

I hate the idea of having to be formal and polite and cheerful in my own house.  I hate the idea of not always being able to do what I want, when I want.  I feel like moving in with a roommate at my age makes me pathetic; like I’m regressing back to young adulthood.  Did I mention I don’t know what this’ll do to my sex life?

And yet, and yet…maybe the roommate thing could work?  Maybe this guy will turn out to have a day job and enjoy going out a lot at night.  Maybe he’ll rarely have visitors but he won’t mind if I do.  Maybe he’ll have a boyfriend he visits all the time, often overnight.  Sometimes I miss coming home to someone…sometimes I wonder how long it would take anyone to notice if I died in my sleep, since I often go days at a time without seeing or talking to anyone.  And sometimes I like the idea of having another person around, provided they gave me lots of personal space and alone-time…I could hang out in my room for most of the day but then come out for a couple hours and have someone to hang out with.  And I know Bastardcat would really like to have another human around.

I haven’t had to use a laundromat in probably fifteen or twenty years.  I think I’ve forgotten how.  Do people stay in the laundromat the entire time their clothes are in the machines, or do they leave and come back?  What if someone steals my clothes?  What if there are icky guys there who keep trying to socialize with me even though I’m very obviously wanting to be alone?

I’ve heard of situations where roommates find themselves super-compatible and end up living together for years and years – moving from one apartment to another together, even.  Part of me loves this idea and wants someone like that: basically a life-partner with whom I am not romantically entangled.  But of course that’s not the kind of thing you can force.

It’s late and I have to go to bed so I’ll wrap this up.

Nobody tell me about the ways a roommate situation can go wrong – seriously – my anxiety issues have got that covered and I’m picturing every worst-case scenario in the world plus some that only exist in hell.

But I welcome your happy roommate stories, pep talks, and general life advice.











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11 responses to “A new thing to freak out about.

  1. Fnord

    “Do people stay in the laundromat the entire time their clothes are in the machines, or do they leave and come back?”
    Both. I usually bring a book or similar, but sometimes I’ll go out and do some nearby shopping or have a quick meal. Usually, the staff doesn’t mind if you miss the end of your cycle by a little bit, at least if you go at an off-peak time, though you obviously don’t want to leave them for a long time.

    “What if someone steals my clothes?”
    In my experience, the machines are locked closed while they’re running (unlike many personal machines, where you can turn them off and open them mid-cycle). If you’re out and miss the end of your cycle, I suppose it could happen in theory. I’ve never had an experience of it actually happening, though (at least as far as actually being stolen; occasionally people who want to use a machine will take someone else’s stuff out of it).

    “What if there are icky guys there who keep trying to socialize with me even though I’m very obviously wanting to be alone?”
    I can’t speak from too much personal experience with this; my impression is that female-presenting people deal with a lot more of this. But I don’t think it would be any worse than, say, public transportation.

    • Thank you. 🙂 With my anxiety stuff, feeling prepared for new experiences is half the battle.

      On a side note: I oddly don’t have too many issues with people approaching me on public transit (KNOCK ON WOOD). But the last few times I’ve tried to sit on a park bench and enjoy the warm weather, some dude sat next to me and started to chat. So I guess now I’m afraid of sitting on or in any structure that’s stationary. 😛

  2. trillian

    I always had the same feelings about watching TV in the living room but after a couple flatshares I had to realize that most people are just absolutely 100% comfortable with the other doing whatever they want in the living room. They will actually join you if they like what you watch or if they just want company. Everybody looks at the living room as really a shared area where you are entitled to do anything you like. I was always super-anxious about “disturbing” others and felt constantly prompted to ask “shall we switch to something else”, but in the end managed to stop this stupid insecure habit and just felt totally comfortable wallowing on the couch. If he’s a normal guy he will want you to use the living room and occasionally socialize, can’t imaging any “my TV” and “I was here first” stuff, that would be stupid.

  3. Maybe instead of *worrying* about these things, you could consider them points of note for information-gathering? You have some valid concerns, like sex in the apartment and disturbing a roommate with Pedant visits; but like you mentioned, the roommate might be out frequently or spend evenings with a partner, which would solve the problem. I mean, most of the issues you’re worried about would be solved by having a roommate that just didn’t spend too much time, at the wrong time, in the apartment.

    And it is totally possible to click well with a roommate who started as a stranger. The one time I put up an ad on craiglist to find a roommate, the perfect one fell into my lap immediately; she was so similar to me that my notoriously antisocial cat freaking loved her. She had no social life at all, and we spent a lot of time hanging out in the living room together watching netflix dvds. I have been in a situation where one roommate hogged the living room all the time and I was essentially living in my bedroom 24/7, but he was a roommate that I would never have agreed to live with if I had a choice. Trust your instincts and not your optimism when it comes to picking someone to live with.

    If you know you can’t meet your current budget with the income you have, it kinda sounds like you’re going to *need* to find cheaper accomodations. There are definitely a number of both pros and cons to having a roommate, but you may need to just resign yourself to some of the unavoidable ones like lack of privacy and nudity in shared spaces.

  4. Crap, I meant to put in there to ask the potential roommate questions about all the stuff you’re worried about, like his schedule and how he envisions sharing the living room, his eating habits & not sharing food, etc, and whether he has a partner and if he’s ok with frequent Pedant visits, if he ever goes out of town or spends nights out of the apartment, etc.

    • I asked pretty much everything I could think of, and I brought my friend The Social Worker along to back me up and ask anything I may have forgotten. We both got a weird vibe. So it’s off.

  5. Moz in Oz

    I say go for it! I’ve lived in share houses most of my life and it’s hard to beat. For me, I’m introverted enough that I actually like having people in the house with me – it means I have other people around to remind me of what other people are like. And I can still go out to socialise. I prefer actual share houses, the more bedrooms the better (to a point, experience suggests 12 bedrooms is too many), but my partner prefers fewer (probably a 1bm, but we can’t afford that).

    Loud sex is just part of life, to be honest. We definitely try to keep it for times when the housemate(s) are out, but that’s not always what happens. And really, the difference between housemates being loud and the neighbours doing it is not so big. Better that than smokers, any day. At least with housemates you can more easily bang on the door and say “are you alright in there” 🙂

    It helps if you can negotiate a bit of shared space, and organise your room so it works for you as a private living space. That’s all about you having a talk with the potential housemate about their expectations.

    Currently we have a 2bm apartment and are looking for a housemate for the other room, but we’re doing it fully furnished specifically so we get someone with no furniture. We already have at least one of everything 🙂

    • I do not understand how living in a house full of people is any good for an introvert. I see how one roommate is good and can remind a person what other people are like. But numerous people? Bleh.

      For me in particular that just sounds overwhelming. Too many factors to keep track of, and there are enough people to form into tribes and band against each other in domestic squabbles. 😛

      • Moz in Oz

        House full of people works for me because it means I have to interact with some people slightly every day, where otherwise I can easily go a week without it. That helps keep me grounded. I find in bigger houses I can disappear into the background more, treat people more generically (my preference), and if I don’t see a particular housemate for a few days no-one notices or bothers. When it’s us and one person that really stands out, so I have to be social with that person every single day. Flip side is that I don’t care about tribes and other inter-personal nonsense until someone gets in my face about it, at which point I boot them out or move.

        More people means lower costs and more options – with 5 bedrooms/6 or 7 people we had a decent size house with a lawn, vege garden, storage shed and garage/workshop. Plus a big kitchen, two bathrooms, a separate extra toilet and two living rooms. Currently we’re paying more per week for a two bedroom apartment with garage and no outside space except a small veranda, but ~15 minutes to the city centre instead of 30.

        But from what you’ve said, that wouldn’t work for you. To me living by myself is an expensive luxury, so I’m trying to encourage you to look at other options. Cheaper ones 🙂

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