Surviving in a share house

Surviving In a Share House

Dear W & C,

So you are finally moving out. Actually, I didn’t mean that ‘finally’ to sound like it did. We are going to miss you, the dog most of all.

However you have to go finding out about how other humans live. Which means sharing houses with them. All sorts of them, and their hangers on and admirers. Let me get this straight. A share-house scenario is not your home. It is a community.

So whatever rights to privacy you got use to in the family unit, be prepared to accept, one way or another, lessening of standards in that regard.

Anyhow. The first issue is where, generally, and with whom. Sometimes there is a plan. Mostly there isn’t but lots of ideas get slung around in the bar on the residences, like the one I was at while at the ANU. Self-catered high-rise living, aka Burton and Garran Hall. But you got a taste of share-house stuff in that place. And I was lucky enough to meet some damn nice people, some of whom have remained friends since and met up with a few times on the path that led to being your Dad and also being one of the equation that made, housed, clothed, helped educate and fed you. A word to the wise:

I had a fridge in my room for my food.

And they were nice people. So when we moved into a house, so we could play at adulting properly, we tried to move in with those types we’d got on well with at uni. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t and when it wasn’t working we still pretended that it did. Because lease breaking was expensive. It still is. Don’t ever do it. At least without getting legal advice first and I cannot make it plainer than that.

But through the group house years I met dreamers, schemers, artists and romantics, vagabonds, chancers, musos, druggies, dealers and all the rest in between. All of them had the recipe for the perfect spaghetti bolognese. If you cannot do a spag bog, forget getting into the share house market. Inability to work up a basic bog for your housemates and the aforesaid hangers on is social death.

Unless you are in a cook-your-own (and leave-mine-alone) establishment.

This means no one cooks for anyone else and it is no fun in the kitchen. You do your own thing and you clean up after yourself as if you’ve just performed an autopsy and are ashamed of yourself. And there is a kitchen cleaning rota (and a rota for cleaning every other damn thing) that you depart from upon pain of death.

My view would be the ability to work a barbecue and do ribs, cook a full English breakfast, smoke trout, bash out a spag bog or conjure a stir fry. And make sure that at least one of your housemates has those superpowers also.

Vegetarians/vegans can be high maintenance. Just remember that.

If you are going to drink, fine, you are a grown up. Your call and your choice. Same with illegal drugs. You don’t need the lecture and you won’t get it. You are sensible and I trust to that. If one of your housemates starts to have a problem with it, be a good friend and make sure they get help. If they won’t, kick them out. This will generally be the one who will reassure you that they can look after the rent money. And they will: ingested or inserted in some form and will leave you in the bad books with the managing agent. As well as in debt.

The community. Well that is a choice about who you want to be around. Sometimes you won’t get much choice because of the choices that you made. Essentially, choose wisely. That includes who, where and with what baggage are you prepared to move in. Whether one of the group has a partner is a relevant consideration. Do not let anyone tell you different. But if that person’s significant other actually makes a contribution to the enterprise then that person is to be nurtured and encouraged. If they expect to be waited on hand and foot because your housemate is their slave then I suggest you disabuse them of that smartish.

If you still live in the same city then I am resigned to the borrowing of gardening and other stuff. You know how to use a chainsaw, etc. This means you know to return this stuff clean and fuelled.

Same goes with my truck when your wheels are hors de combat. It runs on diesel.

If by the time you get this you have not enrolled in law school (and I sincerely hope you haven’t), please refrain from signing a damn thing where it recommends you get your own legal advice first without getting that advice. Trust me on that one if nothing else.

Share house living exposed me to some really extraordinary people. Some I remember fleetingly as their shadows turn into the shades. Some are still with me in cyber or actual reality. And they were artistic and passionate and committed and forthright and with a right on moral dimension and instinct to do really, at the end of the day, what is right (with a lot to be ashamed of in-between). But they were part of my late youth and early adulthood and for better or worse they are part of my history.

I think of them often, and with fondness and without rancour. And with a lot of amusement. Especially the boys’ nights in with curry and home brew, pyrotechnics and the martial arts… which is another tale altogether.

And so I hope it goes that way for you. Make sure you go into it with both eyes open; that you know and trust the folk you are moving in with, where practicable and, above all, you stay safe.

It may be that you may find yourself answering a query on an application you sent in and having to attend an interview as a potential tenant with the existing tenants. I did once. It was quite intense. Matter for you but I find that shit kind of weird.

If you have one, don’t loan your car. Do you understand me? Just. Don’t. Ever. Particularly on a Friday or Saturday night.

Parties? Have them.

Above all, in the community that you are in do your best to be your best. Because in a good community, sometimes, when you are not at your best, they will still look after you. Make sure you are in one of those that does that and make sure you do it too.

Above all, make good choices. Because choices become responsibilities.

And those may as well be nice ones.

So pay your rent on time, have a utilities kitty, agree on what goes where in the fridge and how bathroom cleaning works, negotiate the Camp David accords regarding house-mate’s main squeezes and sundry other matters. Share-house living is actually good preparation for later life. Particularly if you have kids and they are teenagers. And if that sounded like a cheap shot, it was.

Good luck.


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