The Age’s opinion section is rolling out a series of summer pieces on the theme of ‘My Best, My First, My Worst’. These stories, penned by Age writers, range from humorous to poignant and thought-provoking tales of love, loss and summer fun.
Share-housing is one of those strange rites of passage for twenty-somethings.
Throw three or four young people into a house together and the result can be a fun blur of late nights and drinking games, an illuminating exercise of your own values and sense of self or a nightmare made of endless piles of dirty dishes and fatefully mismatched timetables. More often than not, it’s all the above.
I’ve lived in share-houses where winters were spent plodding around wrapped in thick blankets because inner-city terraces have zero insulation or heating, where housemates were allergic to any form of cleaning, where mice roamed freely or where kick-ons were held, and not always to every tenant’s delight.
In most of my share-houses I lived with friends I’d met through uni, until one year I decided I wanted to experiment with living with complete strangers. I was in the phase of my 20s where half my friends were studying, half were entering their “career jobs”. I started working full-time and thought it might be fun to live with other young professionals. So after responding to an ad on Gumtree, I moved into a four-bedroom house on Gold Street, Brunswick, with two lawyers and a textile designer.
It was one of those homes that had been a share-house for years, with a lease rolling over, passing from housemate to housemate. There was mottled furniture and a mishmash of crockery left behind through the house’s various chapters. There were cleaning and bathroom products that sat unused, probably expired, and miscellaneous food tins that none of us had bought.
We had the odd chores dispute – particularly over the bathroom shared between three of us – but for the most part, things were good. Other than hosting a few parties and attending some events together, mostly we just worked and quietly caught up in the evenings if we happened to be home.
Over the course of a few months, I got close to one of my housemates, Pip. We bonded over our love of op-shopping, loud shirts (although I could never understand how her wardrobe was so neatly colour-coded), red wine and rich pasta sauces. We went for crisp evening walks and runs at Princes Park or hungover weekend pump classes. She got used to me eating her peanut butter and I got used to her bursts of neurotic cleaning.
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