No one likes flatsharing. It’s absolutely nobody’s first choice of housing situation. Given the chance, we’d all be living with our soulmates, or an army of cats, or happily by ourselves with no one to put the toilet roll on the wrong way round. But the housing market is ridiculous, especially in London, and so we force ourselves into overpriced, under-repaired shanty-esque shoeboxes and pay a King’s ransom for them. It’s an awesome situation all round.
However, flatsharing does have its upsides. In my case, it’s provided me with more terrifying anecdotes than I could have found in a year’s worth of Tinder dates, and genuinely put the willies up all of my friends trying to find roomies on the internet. In fairness, I’ve found most of my housemates on Reddit, which means this is probably all my own fault. But even so, I wasn’t expecting to have to panic-buy a bedroom door lock in the first week after waking up no less than three times with my new housemate standing ominously at the end of my bed.
Chastened by this experience, I’ve compiled a list of questions to ask potential new housemates to ascertain whether they’re likely to kill you and wear your skin (or just fill the sink with eggs). Granted, it may not transfer particularly well to other situations, given that it’s based entirely and quite specifically on the ones I met in the Worst Houseshare Ever, but hopefully you’ll find it useful. As a warning, if nothing else.
1. What do you think paper towels are for?
Not a trick question. One guy I shared a house with told me he used them to do his washing up, and was genuinely baffled when I explained that’s not really how they work. “What are they for, then?” he asked, eyes wide. I queried how he could possibly be getting cutlery clean with just a paper towel, to which he responded “Oh, I don’t use cutlery.”
He also didn’t use towels. It was a great day when he called me out of my room to tell me not to come out because he was naked.
2. If you put food down the kitchen sink, what happens?
The housemate who inspired this one was obsessed with eggs. He ate an inordinate number of them on a daily basis, which I wouldn’t have minded at all if they A) didn’t stink like that scrub you snogged at the student union in freshers’ week and B) weren’t battery eggs (seriously, in 2015?). But what really vexed me was that he’d put them – and all his other food – down the kitchen sink.
Our kitchen did not have a waste disposal unit. Does anyone’s flatshare sink have a waste disposal unit? Is that even a thing in England? Ugh, I can still smell it.
3. If you put food down the bathroom sink because you blocked the kitchen sink, what happens?
Egg Fanboy’s behaviour unsurprisingly caused the kitchen sink to block and overflow, at which point he put a load of cake down the bathroom sink instead. His excuse? “Well, the kitchen one was blocked.”
The answer to what happens in this situation is, unfortunately, Holly moves the hell out because some people can’t be fixed.
4. Which of these is not a word: coathangers, cloakroom, cloakhangers?
Our house wifi password was ‘cloakhangers’ as a reference to this immortal utterance from week 1 of the share, when paper towels guy let us know that he’d “bought some cloakhangers for the house.” Never mind that he didn’t have a wardrobe (or indeed any furniture: he turned up on day 1 with the clothes on his back and nothing else, and was confused when we asked where his stuff was), he had cloakhangers.
You could put this down to a one-off verbal typo, but he actually argued with us for a good 20 minutes that that was the actual word. Eventually he Googled it, and we never heard about it again.
5. Which of these is an acceptable time to set off the oven timer alarm:
- None of the above
Eggs guy had a real fondness for having his dinner at 2am. That would be fine if he, I don’t know, used a clock to time said food rather than the ear-piercingly loud timer on our oven. I slept through my alarm clock a few times because I got so used to a shrill ringing sound signifying that his early morning roast dinner was ready.
6. Which of these is acceptable behaviour with a new housemate:
- Asking their blood type
- Asking their blood type and writing it down on your phone
- Asking their blood type and writing it down on your phone “in case they’re in an accident”
- None of the above
Of all the creepy things you can say to another human being, asking them for their blood type in case some kind of accident befalls them is pretty high up my list. It rather suggests that they know something you don’t, and therefore that they might have some involvement in causing said accident.
Yes, this really happened and he really did make a note of it on his phone. Not sure what he was planning to do if I were really in mortal peril – phone 999 and ask for two pints of O+?
7. You’re on the night bus with your new housemate. Which of these is acceptable to do:
- Ask if she had a good night
- Write detailed notes on exactly what she does on the journey, including how many seconds it takes her to read each page of her book
- Write detailed notes about the above and show them to her the next day
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that this was the same guy as the blood type question. I think he was building up some kind of stalker database about me on his phone.
During our 50-minute-or-so night bus ride back from Dalston (from separate house parties, I might add), me and my two housemates exchanged some normal chitchat and then mostly just focused on our phones. In my case, I was reading on the Kindle app. In creepy dude’s case, he was making notes of the minutiae of everything I did on the entire journey, including exactly how many seconds it took me to read each page of the book and how many times I sniffed (I had a cold) – and then he proudly showed me his work the next day. We never got the bus together again.
8. Which of these are appropriate things to say to your housemate:
- I go in your room when you’re at work
- This is what you look like when you’re sleeping
- Where is your underwear drawer?
All three of these happened. All the same guy. The first one transpired because I mentioned a photo on my mirror to my housemate, who (I thought) had never been in my room at this point. He said “Oh yeah, I wondered who that was.” When faced with my “what the actual fuck” face, he made everything ten thousand times better by stating that he “often goes in my room when I’m at work” because “err… I need your mirror?”
Well, that’s fine then.
The second one happened after I’d woken up with him at the end of my bed no less than three times. Apparently he thought the way to fix this unnerving situation was to do an impression of me sleeping. I paid £50 to have a lock put on my door the same week.
And the underwear drawer question? Well son, I’d have thought you knew, given how often you go in my room when I’m not there.
9. If you turn off the radiator in your room, does that exempt you from the gas bill?
A. Yes, obvs, because the radiator in my room is the only thing that uses gas in the house. I have never used the hob, or water that wasn’t colder than David Cameron when faced with a crying child.
B. Yes, and I also think I should get a rebate on rent if I go home for the weekend. This is all pay-as-you-go, isn’t it?
C. Obvs not.
This took a painfully long time to explain to said housemate, and even after that she only agreed to pay it because she “believes in democracy.” Amazing.
10. Do you enjoy playing that one Robyn song on loop at the approximate volume of a jet engine?
A. I keep dancing on my own
B. I keep dancing on my own
C. I keep dancing on my own
D. I keep dancing on my own
E. I keep dancing on my own
F. I keep dancing on my own
MAYBE YOUR TASTE IN MUSIC IS WHY NO ONE WILL DANCE WITH YOU
11. Do you often sit alone in the dark, laughing maniacally?
It’s Sunday evening. You’re alone in the house. All the lights are off apart from yours, and there’s been no sound for hours. The light below your housemate’s door is off.
Suddenly, out of the silence comes
You jump. You look up. Nothing. Maybe you imagined it.
HURR HURR URHH HURR
Oh god someone’s here
Is it The Joker
Is it your dead uncle
Is it going to kill you
HURR HURR *SNORT*
Oh. I know that snort.
It’s your housemate.
The same one who wants to know your blood type and the whereabouts of your underpants.
You make your mind up then and there to move house, and never, ever look back.
Main image © iStock/spxChrome