8 Things You Only Know if You’re A Lodger In A Family Home

You can't dry your pants in the living room but there are lots of upsidesIllustration by Ellie Blackwell

8 Things You Only Know if You're A Lodger In A Family Home

by Kat Poole |
Published on

What did you do when you got home last night? Me — I had dinner with my housemates. To be more specific, said housemates are a single mum, her 15-year-old son, a professional in his mid-30s and a Pomeranian who has seen better days. I’m a lodger in a family home, and I’m not the only one. A recent survey by Shelter showed that our generation (between the ages of 20 and 34) are now boomeranging back to live with our parents or grandparents at a rate of one in five.

The main, obvious reason is money. Or rather, us having none. Even for young working adults, rent — in London in particular — is on par with being robbed, monthly. The word ‘deposit’ feels destined to end up as an urban legend. Of course, lodging isn’t quite the same as going back to mum and/or dad, but in 2014 the number of homeowners renting out a spare room had doubled from 2009, with the average age of lodgers now 31.

I wasn’t always part of those stats. When I moved to London after uni in 2011, I shared a flat with my best mates until we each decided that it would be marginally more preferable to argue about the bins with someone we occasionally had sex with than try and work out who’d stolen our tights off the dryer (weird, right?). But where most of them are now engaged to their live-in partners, my seven-year relationship ended, and so did my steamy two-year love affair with our poorly-ventilated flat. I figured I could rent an affordable place just for me (lol jk), move back in with my parents in Southampton (they said no) or find another solution.

1. It might be right for right now

For me, lodging was the obvious choice. I was used to it; growing up, my mum rented out our spare room all the time. She’s still good friends with a lot of her lodgers, though not the biology student who sellotaped up all the windows. But just like moving home, lodging is usually more flexible than living in a regular shared house. Sure, there will be ground rules (are all the communal areas actually communal? Does ‘bedtime’ mean ‘please shut up?’ and what’s the deal with bringing boys/girls/blurred shapes home to stay over?), but in my experience, if there’s a contract it’s usually rolling, and you’ll often pay just one lump sum for rent and bills each month. Which is ideal if your life has entered a bit of a shit storm and you don’t know whether you’re coming or going (to be sick over the railings).

2. It’s perfect if you’re slightly antisocial

I love my friends, and I really love that they understand how sometimes I want to skip a night out and just lie on my bed eating batter scraps from the chippy out of a paper bag. I’m also a freelancer, which means it’s not unusual for me to be in an office all day and work through the evenings at home too. I’m hardly ‘getting to know you’ material, and with lodging that’s OK — you’re not expected to make a new friendship group, just occasionally check that everyone else is still alive.

3. You will need to pretend to be a responsible adult

The bad news is, whether you’re back en famille or somewhere new, lodging effectively means you left home once already and therefore, grew up. So chores aren’t optional, you can’t leave a mess in the kitchen, and smoking a ciggie out the bathroom window and pretending it was your friend Rose probably isn’t going to fly (Sorry mum. And Rose). On the plus side, it’s pretty easy to fake having your shit together. If there are kids around, turn that 'shit' into 'shi-uggaar' and chuck your wine bottles out when they aren’t looking. You can also win serious parental brownie points by talking at length about how hard you worked at school to get your SRSLY AWESOME job.

4. You have to be really, really quiet

It’s scientifically proven (it’s not) that living with people who aren’t your age makes everything louder. The stairs are loud. Sex is really loud. Your breathing, that’s loud too. EVERYTHING IS SO VERY LOUD. The best thing you can do is choose a quiet moment when the house is empty, get a friend/lover/stranger to make some noise with the bedroom door shut to see how bad things are, then adjust accordingly. Because it’s not The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Letting your housemates hear you shagging won’t be any more endearing just because you got a bit older.

5. Beware the wrath of parental blocks

This will mainly mean you can’t stream porn over WiFi. On the plus side, being told off by BT is strangely exhilarating (and there’s probably a simple techy way around it).

6. You basically live in the room of requirement

Thankfully my bedroom is big, because it has to serve as sleeping quarters, lounge, office, gym, bar and laundry all at once. The last is the hardest, because drying sheets and clothes and towels and bras and pants and socks all takes time, and a ton of space. I’ve developed a system now, whereby I don’t ever wash anything and hope it eventually cleans itself, like hair. But while it kind of sucks that I can’t drape my duvet cover over the bannister and deposit countless knickers on the living room radiator, it does make my room feel like my own tiny, tiny home.

7. You’ll meet some brilliant, unique people

Fulfilling as it may be to live with like-minded twenty-somethings who share the same awful work hours, taste in cheap wine and a penchant for ‘respecting each other’s space and chilling out with a movie at the weekend’, lodging is full of pretty great surprises. Like a brain surgeon, or prison warden; now two of my parents’ ex-lodgers and closest friends. My current landlady is fast becoming one of my favourite people — so nice she gave me her shoulder and pancakes when I came home crying one day last week — and I’m even learning from my new 15-year-old mate/surrogate little bro. From what I’ve gleaned so far, teens are now permanently connected to their BFF/GF/BF/GBFF through FaceTime and I’m pretty sure Whatsapp alerts are issued from within their very souls.

8. There’s no space for negativity

Hands down, the most unexpected and rewarding thing about lodging is the change of perspective. When you share a roof with people your own age, your problems are easy to share because they’re easy to relate to; bad bosses, bad dates, bad credit scores. But it’s a lot easier to resist a moan when you live with someone who has the responsibility of a mortgage. Or another living person who needs to be fed and get to school on time and go through puberty and take GCSEs. Moving in with a family — your own or otherwise — might feel like a step in the wrong direction, but it also might make you a bit happier about it.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

What It's Really Like To Buy A House In Your 20s

Converted Garages And 50-Deep Queues Of People: The Reality Of Trying To Rent In London Right Now

The Extreme Complications Of Living With A Couple

** Follow Kat on Twitter: @whatKPdid**

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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