In any living environment, the thing that we value the most is our own space. Space to do whatever we want. To cook, to clean or to listen to loud depressing music eating a sandwich in bum pants. For sure, flat life has it’s up’s and downs but I guess it’s how you mould those situations into opportunities to help define the person you become.
In today’s discussion, we’ll get down and dirty into some of the more honest concerns and situations which have popped up with flatting. As we go we’ll dwell on how these can act as massive learning opportunities.
A little backstory…
So last year I moved to Wellington from Christchurch to study at Victoria University. A few friends of mine headed in the same direction northbound and mostly ended up living in the same halls of residence. Long story short after a long period of knowing each other we ended up coming up with the most random decision ever to flat together, and voila! In the words of Inspector Jacques Clouseau, “you are now up to speed.”
This year, shifting into a flatting situation together was one of the biggest decisions some of us had made. I didn’t really know what to expect or how any of it would play out. It was one of those, just try it and see how it goes situations. When I first moved in, there was this sort of awkwardness between my flatmates. Having argued with some of my close friends towards the end of the previous year and also being the last person to shift in, everyone sort of already knew what was up and knew how to go about their business.
Heading into the first night I was pretty angsty, thinking about rent, thinking about school and just general nerves in recognising that I was pretty much out there. Now that’s not to say that at any stage things were overwhelming but instead, I would say that flatting with other people would be a challenge for me. A challenge because it meant that I would have to set aside some of my normal traits and grow up quite a lot. It meant that I couldn’t just confront one of my mates because I would be sleeping in the room next to them.
I’m really good with confrontation, but the problem with confrontation is that it affects other people in bigger ways than you’d expect. Someone like me who has little to lose isn’t afraid to argue that the concern is others people don’t necessarily have the same solidarity. To put it nicely, shifting in as a flat has been a happy process but no process has ever occurred without some drama and confrontation.
This was not my first time living away from family. In my last year of highschool, my parents weren’t around so much. Mum worked and lived in another town and Dad commuted in between. Working and studying meant I hardly ever saw Dad when he was around, and so I had gained a lot of independence in spite of that.
I’d be lying if I said that the other people in my flat and in my friend groups had the same level of independence when I first moved in with them two years later. The tricky part about independence that I’ve realised is that when things go wrong and you need the support of your parents, it’s really hard to garner that same support when you’re trying to be self-sufficient.
One of the things that I’ve noticed about my friends is that some of them struggle to give up their stubbornness and ask for help. Especially being in such a busy time in our lives when there’s so much happening with Uni, with growing up etc. The more help you can get the better…
So to start us off I’ll rant about how the social dynamics of living in a flatting situation is nothing short of balancing four pizzas on two hands whilst running across a rooftop on a rainy day.
We all knew each other to a deeper level than just “friends.” We knew each other’s vibes, we knew where we were coming from and understood each other’s personalities. So coming into this new flat was a lot like going to a school camp. It was like going into a holiday program in the beginning and then ended up turning into a bloody team building exercise. Learning to mesh in situations when you can’t be bothered, learning to accept personality indifferences. Learning to handle other people’s shit and also learning to deal with your own shit is probably the biggest challenge.
With a selection of different personalities all needing their own sets of rules and ways of engagement. There is a huge contrast between person to person. Being aware of the difference made it easier to deal with conflict or otherwise celebrating uniqueness. Creating relationships is an age old thing but when you’re living with someone you really do get to know them. Not much is left to be analysed.
Getting used to the antics, getting along with the banter and enjoying the company of others was the easiest part about moving in with a group of people. It never seemed to be too much of an ask to simply put on the back burner some of the remarks people would leave, because I would dish out some of my own. I’d say the first element of structured living in a flatting situation is to consider the importance of other people’s time schedules and bare in mind that everyone is going through their own stuff.
But it’s when those tough days come about. Those single digit winter-like evenings and there’s no food in your cupboard that test you. When there’s a disturbance after a confrontation between flatmates that interrupts you. When jobs haven’t been done and you’re feeling powerless after your day that it gets to you. The small life stuff that is mostly what growing up is about.
When the stress kicks in and you can’t accommodate for somebody else’s antics which create a fuss. When you don’t have time to put up with someone’s shit that causes ripples in the flat. Nobody likes to confront somebody. When it happens everybody feels victimised. When there’s reason to be upset with someone then there’s usually an illogical explanation to why it happened.
Take milk for example. The most stolen fluid in the world apparently. It doesn’t matter if it’s blue top milk, trim milk, soy milk, almond milk, Up N’ Go milk, it could come straight from the udder itself and it’d still be stolen. Having your milk poured into somebody else’s cup or bowl is bad but it’s also annoying being called out for the theft when it wasn’t you. If your flatmate swears from their room and refuses to ask for something politely after you come home happy at 9 pm on a weekend night. If you’re on cooking duty but there are dishes everywhere. If you want a shower but the floor is disgusting and there’s hair in the plug hole. Trying to keep your cool when somebody says’s something untrue when they’re drinking and you overhear them.
Yeah, there’s a lot of stupid mundane shit that can be annoying when you’re in a flatting situation. It’s open warfare bro. But still, there’s a lot of cool things that can be taken out of it. The weird banter you share with the lads in the middle of the night and receive noise complaints from your neighbours below. When you create weird video montages on a random Friday evening because you were bored and share it on social media. Learning about all the embarrassing shit your flatmates have done at home from their life long friends. The mutual dislike you share about a teacher or a person from your hometown or high school. The appreciation for your neighbours late night singing or music choices. The nicknames you build over stupid acts of idiocy like Shampoo, Cheese and Laundry Powder. When there’s a story about your WiFi address. When every photo on your walls has an important story. The string you use to attach your keys onto to hoist down to people at the door downstairs to let themselves in and the stories behind that. When every bedroom in the flat emanates the characteristics of the person who lives in it. When you name the people in the building across the parking lot that you’ve never spoken to before because their windows align with your bedroom but it’s super creepy that they can see where you sleep. It’s always more important to remember the positive takeaways in these flat situations because at the end of the day it’s all about those relationships and establishing stronger connections, establishing better friendships. Though it can be hard and frustrating, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter because we are all heading in our own directions any who.
A big part of my blogs has been recognising that sometimes you need to show grace when other people and going through hard times. For sure, I understand what tough times can feel like and a lot of the time like last year, you find yourself in predicaments when you really rely on the support that those around you can provide. So in that sense, I do owe it to some of my flatmates. As understanding as they were, I was never far from their support. So coming into the flatting situation this year has been a big wake-up call for me personally.
It can be really sad watching those relationships fall apart, especially when it wasn’t your fault that things went the way they did. One of the biggest learning curves for me was knowing that some people don’t know how to offer themselves any help. But watching your friends sort of plunge into a state of isolation and treat themselves horribly is a shocking thing to have to go through. The old saying, “you can walk a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” never felt more relevant. It’s really sad to watch your friends realise that growing up is really shit. That you can’t control other people and when things aren’t going your way you can’t leverage their support just because you need them too.
Social dynamics are the biggest factor to consider when moving in with other people. Coming to grips with the fact that there’s no way of avoiding the deeper conflictions between your beliefs and their beliefs as well as putting aside your own concerns in order to resolve any confrontation. From my experience, the dynamics of flatting is the biggest thing to consider. It’s something that can be taken way too lightly and can quite easily stress friendships.