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A tribute to my flatsharing years

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Remember that episode of Friends, where Monica decided to move in with Chandler? Her and Rachel (her current flatmate) fought as they divided their possessions up, before eventually breaking down in tears when they began to acknowledge how much they would miss living together.

Relatable. For I too am about to embark on life’s next big chapter: LIVING WITH A BOY.

Strictly speaking, I’ve got six months to go. But leaving the cosy, safe bubble of flatsharing – which is essentially all I’ve ever known about cohabiting – is already a bit nerve-wracking.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m SO ready for the next step. Moving in with your partner is really bloody exciting, and tbh a necessary step when you spend most of your time at each other’s houses anyway – questioning exactly why you’re forking out for two rents, for two beds that are slept in for half the amount of time they should be. I’m especially buzzing to do all those “adult” things, like finally throw away the plates I’ve had since uni and invest in some grown-up tableware for all the dinner parties we’re obvs gonna have in our new nest. And don’t even get me started on the excitement of picking a new sofa out together...

But this moving-on thrill comes with an attached sadness. I’ll be leaving my flatsharing years behind, after SEVEN whole years. And that is a little bit scary.

I’ve spent all of my “growing up years” negotiating the confusing terrain of adult life, in shared accommodation. It all started at the tender age of 18, when the sudden hike in uni fees and a surplus of halls applications forced me to spend freshers year renting a flat. With people I’d never met, who I found on a Facebook group three weeks before term starting.

That first flat in Surbiton was interesting. It was no bigger than a rabbit hutch (literally), with questionable mould in the bathroom and a seriously springy mattress to contend with. But it was OURS. So in spite of the tiny one-in-one-out kitchen, and that time one of our visitors had to sleep on two chairs in the hallway, myself and my two flatmates were proud. We blu-tacked “torso of the week” magazine pages to our walls and raided Poundland at Christmas to turn the place into a grotto. It was our launchpad into adult life – where we sat around the sticky kitchen table learning not just about bills, but how to live together too. We argued, we drank £3 wine (see above), and we spent nights in each other’s beds with takeaway pizza. We baked Valentine’s cookies together cos we didn’t need no man, and we invited our school friends up to show off our pad.

The next years of flatsharing followed a similar rhythm. Houses got bigger, the group changed, and we eventually ended up as third-years in a two-storey with a patio AND a living room. We were pretty smug. It was the house everyone wanted to come to on a Monday night for Made in Chelsea. It was a pre-drinking paradise with an actual sofa, dining table for chips and dips, and an elderly, deaf neighbour who couldn’t hear the wobbling dubstep through the walls.

Living in a big house with three girls was arguably one of the best times of my life. Mostly because no matter what personal traumas we each had to contend with, we always had each other. It was impossible to feel lonely. Loneliness never had a chance, because the moment it crept in I’d have Grace at my bedroom door – coming in for a chat and porridge at 7am, because we’re the earlybirds and that’s just our thing. We shared everything with each other – dinners, outfits, shampoo and bad news. We got Sarah and Kerrie addicted to Hollyoaks, because 6.30pm was our time every single day.

Even after studying had finished and real life commenced, I still thrived in co-living. Moving home after graduation lasted a mere 10 weeks before flatsharing got me again. Understanding a flatmate, negotiating their mood swings and creating a routine together was surprisingly easier than living rent free with family. And a LOT more enjoyable too.

Nothing set me up for working life and office politics quite like living with others. It’s amazing what skills can be gained from a debate over kitchen cleaning, or the confidence you get from being on top of your joint bills. And the amazing thing was: the actual accommodation never mattered. I had both poky suburban rabbit hutch and large living space in Chelsea, and neither was better than the other. I guess it was never really about the four walls, but the people contained within them. And the memories we made from each tenancy.

Seven years has meant seven shares for me, so it’s no surprise that for the last one things have slowed down a bit. It’s just the two of us now, but she’s been with me right from that first place in Surbiton. Our flatmating life is now a little more “Franco Manca and 10pm bedtime” rather than the “shots and no sleep” of 2011, but the flatsharing reality is just as sweet. There is still such comfort to be had from going home each night to a listening ear, and sometimes ice cream and an extra spoon too. Being able to dissect Love Island in real time with the person next to me = priceless. When dinner plans fall through I can often bank on heading home to a spare glass of Pinot. We’re both certified experts at not just bill-splitting, but cohabiting too. I think that'll serve me well next year.

I’m sure the next six months will be filled with many more tearful episodes and “what am I gonna do without you?” chats – and that’s okay. Flatsharing has been one of the most epic adventures of my life, and its ending deserves not only to be mourned, but cherished.

So when I’m sat on our brand new sofa next year, eating my pasta from grown-up bowls in domestic coupled up bliss, I’ll remember it fondly. And I’ll probably raise one of our grown-up gin balloon glasses to My Flatsharing Years.

In all your mouldy bathroom, takeaway pizza, Love Island watching, clothes-sharing glory – you’ve been absolutely perfect.

Image credit: Garry Knight

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