The Vagenda

‘You’re Not Fit To Live With Humans’, and Other Things My Flatmate Has Said to Me


It was about the time that my current housemate told me I was ‘not fit to live with other humans’ that I started thinking about writing this post. FYI, that was a couple of weeks ago. So it’s been stewing in my brain since then, building up a bitter, bitter marinade of rage and retorts that I should have said at the time but wasn’t quite quick enough to come up with – with only a brief hiatus for Easter chocolate in between.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit right now that I’m messy. But ‘not fit to live with other humans’ would have been a hell of a lot more of a defensible comment if she wasn’t saying that while simultaneously keeping a mouse-infested bag of old Mexican food in the centre of our kitchen (not pet mice – just the regular old chancers you get crawling in if you live in a dilapidated London house your landlord once built ‘for fun’ which boasts very few sealed entry points and is mostly made of rotting wood. But actually, thank God they weren’t pet mice.)

And somewhere in between arguing that she should get rid of the bag, and the mice, and the month-old tin of refried beans, and weakly trying to defend my right to live with humans, I began to ponder the age-old (extremely new) problem of shacking up with housemates right into your late twenties, thirties and beyond. Who was the reasonable one here? Did it matter? Have we all been driven mad by the close proximity of other obnoxious twentysomethings, all of whom claim to Work In The Meejah? Why do mice like Mexican food? This article will answer all of these questions, and more.

By which I mean, I’m now going to give you a breakdown of all my past living situations and nightmare housemates, and then ramble off into some quiet, uninhabited corner of cyberspace where I might be fit to live. Therefore, without further ado, we’ll start off with…

Number 1
The Student Halls

They were in Camden, we shared three unisex toilets and two unisex showers between 25, and my mum cried when she saw them. In other words, they were perfect. £110 a week bought you a cooked breakfast every morning (eggs only slightly green), a healthy dinner at night (vegetarian option was memorably chips with new potatoes), and a single security guard who couldn’t have cared less whether you swung from the lampshades with a stolen alligator while dealing crystal meth to six year olds at five in the morning. What it lacked in style, it had in the freedom to literally do whatever the fuck crossed your mind at any time of day – which was awesome when you were high on acid, and slightly less awesome when the homeless dudes from outside came in every night, rattled your door handles and then ate your frozen pizzas.

Things got tougher when someone left a pool of semen on the floor of Shower Number One, which led to the memorable fortnight where I used copious amounts of talcum powder every morning instead of showering. I also wore a hat indoors for eight days. Nobody seemed to care.

Number 2
The high-rise

In a space about the size of a Doberman’s kennel, I lived with two other friends from halls in a north London high-rise during my second year of university. We all fell out when one the girls had a bust-up with her boyfriend over whether we ‘provided enough food to guests in our household’. When he tried to break up with her, she clung on to his leg as he walked down the ten-inch-long hallway. She was pretty small, and she was sliding along on her leggings-clad arse while screaming that she’d try to provide more Kettle Chips in future in a desperate bid to make him stay (none of this is even hyperbole. The guy wasn’t even remotely cool – he once referred to Sylvia Plath as ‘a bit of a moaner’.) That was pretty much the last time I saw her.

Number 3
The idyllic Russell Square steal

By some incredible twist of fate, I ended up living in possibly the best accommodation in London during my final year of university. We had a John Lewis kitchen (a fucking JOHN LEWIS KITCHEN!), an entrance through a mews (a fucking MEWS!) and a roof garden. We once had a Sunday roast where we invited 30 people – hell, I’m not sure we even knew all of them – and cooked a Tofurkey in our oven and a chicken down the road at our friend’s house. When the chicken had done, he put it in silver foil and ran down to our house with it inside a backpack. These were my salad days. Which is ironic when you consider they have a lot more to do with chicken.

Number 4
The drug hut

Working as a receptionist at an extremely well-to-do place in South Kensington, I took a room after uni in what can only be described as a dystopian household. The residents were my very cheery, optimistic college friends, who spent most of their time smoking weed. Accordingly, I spent a lot of time airing the smell of cannabis out of my skirt suit before heading off to work in the morning as they came back in from a night out.

We parted ways after they had a house vote for a more fun flatmate and turfed me onto the street, but not before my ex turned up on the doorstep, slurring that he was ‘strangely attracted to me all over again’, before lunging at me with the immortal chat-up line, ‘How drunk are you?’

The worst part of this entire experience is the ‘strangely attracted to me all over again’ part. I mean, strangely attracted? ‘Strangely attracted’ is what you say if you suddenly develop lustful feelings for puppets. It is not something I took kindly to as a 22 year old female human.

Number 5
The airing cupboard

Having wandered around on the dole for a while after that, I got myself another office job without finding somewhere to live first, and ended up living in my friend’s airing cupboard. In case you can’t already visualise that, I was curled up next to the boiler, under a blanket that my friend’s grandma once made. I hung my clothes from a coat-hanger above my head and washed my tights in the evening with hand soap in the sink. Then I went to work and told everyone I had a nice place with my (fictional) fiancé in Canary Wharf.

We started the Vagenda while I lived there, and, despite the two-bedroom flat being inhabited with about eighteen people (as well as cupboard residents), we all got on fabulously.

Number 6
The Swedish chalet with the mean flatmates

So this is the current abode. I moved into it when I’d gotten my first pay-check from the office job I started while sleeping in the airing cupboard, and have stayed here ever since. We used to have an awesome girl live here who painted our kitchen wall with chalkboard paint and used to draw wonderful things on it. Now she’s gone, we have a wonderful outlet for passive-aggressive messages about who takes out the recycling and what colour hair is stuck in the shower drain.

Other highlights of my two years here include the week when someone once put a Post-It note on a bar of soap by the sink, asking me not to use it. And then there’s the bi-annual appearance of our 70 year old landlord, who turns up without warning or explanation from Spain and sleeps in a sleeping bag in the basement for a month; we presume this is when he falls out with his wife.

It’s a nice enough place, bar the rotting wood and the infestation and the way people from the bus stop can look directly into my bedroom on my eye-level, and I only pay like six million pounds a month to hide in my room and rub shoulders with people who have explicitly made it known to me that they not only would rather not live in the same house as me, but would rather I wasn’t permitted to live anywhere, with anyone, ever again.

But hey, y’know, it’s home – and I’d love to hear if any of you can beat it.

19 thoughts on “‘You’re Not Fit To Live With Humans’, and Other Things My Flatmate Has Said to Me

  1. I once lived with a girl who was obsessed with sleep. I had friends over on my birthday once and she requested that no-one flushed the toilet before 10am and that I gave them a bucket of water to wash their hands in so they didn’t have to run the tap. Honestly, this conversation actual happened.

  2. I can definitely sympathise! One summer, a shared house I was living in in South East London was sold to a friendly new Chinese landlord, who promptly moved 8 family members into the attic and covered the back garden with fake grass. Still, this was an improvement on the housemate who stole money from my purse, liked to decorate the kitchen with melted cheese and left her bedroom window open for burglars to invade.

  3. I once woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of my flatmate – who had barely uttered two words to me over the space of six months – chopping up my chest of drawers with an axe. Still traumatised.

  4. ah, I love your elderly landlord in the basement! We had an equally aged and eccentric one in Leeds, who would summon me to his house, where we would sit in the gloomy basement kitchen (decorated with every pictorial representation of the Virgin Mary you can imagine, and some you probably can’t) and he would plead with me, tears in his eyes, to persuade the others in the house to part with some rent money. He also decided to rip out all the heating and sloooooowwwwwly replace it during the coldest January within memory, when the streets were sheets of ice and boughs cracked off the trees and most memorably presented me with a box of chocolates on my birthday, to the muffled hilarity of the housemates and my deep, perplexed embarrassment.

    I miss him, oddly enough…

  5. I once lived in a house in Frankfurt, Germany, where the landlord who lived next door loved to walk around with a gun strapped to his belt so that he could shoot the magpies who he believed to steal blackbirds’ eggs. He had this ridiculously huge mobile home which he preferred to park not in its garage, but in front of my gate, which was the only free parking space in the whole neighborhood, so that I often had to search a parking spot for half an hour and then walk 10-15 minutes from and to my car. I had to cross a yard that was roamed by his 3 white German shepherds at night, who thought it was their job to prevent me from trying to enter my own front door by barking and snarling. In short: I am compassionate.

  6. SO! I got flooded from my nice house and insurance payed for my to live in a hotel for quite a few weeks (the boss was on holiday and couldn’t sign for me to live in an actual house until he returned). So i was in the hotel for ten weeks with my puppy, eating their restaurant food everyday (no no, it’s boring) every day for tea it was stuffed pepper with solid, old, melted cheese on top (i’m vegetarian), served with other vegetables. The chef bragged that he has Gordon Ramsey’s phone number- so why didn’t he use it to ask him how to make more than one vegetarian dish!?
    At this hotel, every friday and saturday night until 1am the same playlist played in the same order for every wedding/ party. It was the year that “umbrella, ella ella, ay ay ay” came out. sigh.

    Eventually I got to move in to a chocolate box of a house, barely room for a single bed and hardly any room to open the small chest of drawers. No way to cook anything- no hob, microwave, toaster or oven. So we put a bbq in the garden. Every Sunday estate agents would come over with possible buyers. They only came Sundays because there was a train track running behind the tall garden fence, it was loud, rattly, and the only day the trains didn’t run was Sunday. I frequently woke at 6am dreaming that a train was coming towards me.

    Then i moved in with my parents who watched telly at full volume (hard of hearing) and every night i asked them to quieten the telly so i wouldn’t fall asleep during work the next day. my dad would wake at 5am and put the telly on again, full volume. I woke thinking there were explosions, car chases and loads of people in my room.

    Now I live with my partner. He collects lots of star wars lego and no longer smokes weed. It’s going well.

  7. Great reading. I had a flatmate who was a clean freak and started to bleach the floors every week. I cleaned up after myself, nonetheless she generously said “I can show you how to clean”, so I obviously wasn’t doing it right. She obsessively moved my things (to clean) so I lost them, and shouted at me: “the dust in the flat is very bad for my lungs”. I think her smoking 20 a day in the living room was bad for my lungs.

    My male mate also had a male flatmate who brought home a female prostitute and invited my mate to join them. Awkward.

  8. I’m currently living in an ex-old peoples home on the edge of an infamous estate in Tottenham and even have a photography darkroom in the part of the building which was used to dispense geriatric waste fluids. BEAT THAT.

  9. I lived with a 3 other girls and the boyfriend of one of them. She held a massive birthday party for him. Invited all our mutual friends, but not me and one of the other girls – first we hear about it was a friend calling to ask if we were going. The party was at our house. The boyfriend lived rent free and never thanked us for it.

  10. In halls, I lived with a 32year old Nigerian man, who’s name sounded something like ‘Coyote’ but whom we referred to as ‘Creepy Craig’. He used to keep a padlock on his food cupboard as he said he has a phobia of people touching his food/poisoning it and him getting ill. He didn’t own any pots, pans or cutlery so just used everyone else’s and then left it in the sink dirty. When we called him up on on his appalling kitchen hygiene (ironic considering his fear of getting ill from people touching his food) he informed us that at home his mother and sisters did all the cleaning and that, as the women of the flat, it was our responsibility to clean up after him.

    We handled the situation the mature way by leaving passive-aggressive post-it notes between his slices of bread.

  11. Lived in a basement with six-ish other girls (still not sure who lived there and who happened to spend several consecutive nights on the couch). Came out of my room one day to find the kitchen swarming with massive flying ants, while my roommates held a vacuum in front of a hole in the kitchen floor to suck up the ants that were still issuing forth a la biblical plague. This is not to mention the obscene number of spiders (wahey, mattress on the floor!) and mold covering the entirety of the bathroom, which consisted of two toilets with a mostly-transparent shower curtain hanging between them.

  12. I’ve never lived with flat mates before, and I go to extreme lengths to make sure it stays that way, so I can’t even really empathise, however this post made me howl with laughter. I fear I may have woken up next door’s baby as it now seems to be hollering blue murder.

    ‘Strangely attracted”, oh lord…

  13. When I was eighteen, my then-husband and I rented a house in the town where we were attending college, and his best friend signed the lease with us—he was to have one of the three bedrooms, and a friend of his was renting the third. Then a really long and complicated story happened, the gist of which was that I cheated on the husband with the best friend, so he didn’t move in. I did, however, because the husband threatened repeatedly to kill himself if I didn’t—I assume he couldn’t stand the thought of living without someone on whom to lay a constant sarcastic guilt trip, or who would serve as a handy reminder of his saintly powers of forgiveness to everyone we knew.
    ANYWAY. The friend renting the third bedroom rented his closet to two meth dealers, one of whom was a Satanist who spent many hours chanting the thousand-syllable name of god backwards in the belief that if he did so perfectly, all of creation would be undone. The other bedroom we rented to a young man who had at some point cobbled together an amalgam of fantasy novels and MMORPG plots and decided that was a far more entertaining reality than the one which the rest of us inhabited; it was not uncommon for him to wake me up by running, screaming and naked, through the closet which connected the two front bedrooms, in order to enlist my help in defending him—and by extension, all that was good and noble in the world—from unnamed but nefarious individuals who were launching psychic assaults at him from all four corners of the earth.
    Eventually I ran away to a hippie festival with the coke dealer who lived next door, and despite the fact that the several thousand hippies there were stoned and/or tripping their balls off, they were so refreshingly sane that it snapped me out of the delusion that my living situation back home was anything but unbearable, and I never went back.

  14. Love this!!, here in NZ we too have lived in a great variety of dives before becoming the proud owners of our own house. First there was the granny flat whose owner had it on power card for electricity and made sure there was not a cent of credit on it when we moved in. We spent the next year rushing down to the mall at closing time trying to feed the flattest notes into the machine for credit. The machine was a temperamental bastard thing that would rarely accept any note that hadn’t been ironed. The landlady also told us she would have to trust us not to steal from her freezer, and made us return a plug for the bathroom we packed in haste as we were moving out. Then there was the pokey flat with the sheepskin light shade which had a garage that flooded in the rain. The landlady actually came over with a ruler to measure the depth was the 6 inches I had said, kinda missing the point but hey. Then the cottage, whose hippy landlady had a “friend” do the wiring on the place, he obviously got tired while doing the work and decided to just tack it onto the walls of the house rather than put it behind them. In winter dew would actually settle on the bed due to the gaps in the walls.The outside bathroom had dodgy plumbing circa 1900 and a large imposing spider who lived under the bath that we called nightshift.
    The bathroom walls lacked cladding and the window was stuck on open, rain hail or shine. There is nothing like coming home to find naked hippy lady in your bath!!!!. She decided to stay on in the sleep out for a week or 2. We never had any warning of these visits, she offered massage to pay for power.We declined. You know it’s time to move when over the weekend papers you say to your partner “Look at this article about how bad the accommodation is for the mentally ill, doesn’t look as bad as this place, at least the wiring is inside their walls”.

  15. Once upon a time, in a 10×12 dorm room that smelt of goldfish, I had a roommate who insisted on storing a dissected rat in our minifridge during the time she was required to keep it for biology lab, even though her TA gave the class the option to keep their rats in the lab fridge. It stayed there for three and a half months. This same roommate consistently skyped her boyfriend for four hours a day, blow dried her hair at 6 in the morning, and never, ever left the room.

  16. Not a roommate situation…but my apartment walls appear to have been made out of wasp-nest paper and spittle, so my neighbors all SOUND like they are roommates.

    The very large, intimidatingly thuggish black man living behind me sings Alanis Morissette, Lady Gaga, and Bjork while he’s having a shower (or perhaps a bubblebath). I sing back-up for him if I happen to be on the toilet. I don’t judge, you go (6’3″ Hoodish scary) gurl!

  17. Man, I thought my present living situation was bad, but it actually sounds quite tame compared to some of these! Currently living in a small Spanish town with a flatmate who is in persistent denial that she is not in fact still living in Thailand, where she incessantly tells us she was at Full Moon Parties every night of the week and never had to lift a finger for herself. This experience has not done wonders for her ability to cohabit successfully with others. She subsists on a diet of microwave popcorn, pasta and melted cheese, scores drugs from the only bar in town where it would be conceivable that people have heard of such things, then invites strange men back to our apartment at 4am to use said drugs and shout very loudly through the paper-thin walls. She has an explosive relationship with a Frenchman, who she has loud and alternately teary/shouty Skype conversations with at any time of the day, and asks my advice on the matter on a near daily basis, while still insisting on remaining shackled to him even though he is in another country and she seems convinced that he is cheating on her (which therefore gives her the license to court said Spanish strangers). Preceding his visits, she would use an entire bottle of bleach cleaning the apartment and once emptied the bin twice in one morning (no evidence of human life was permitted in the apartment for his arrival). A low point was when we went for drinks one night and she proceeded to get extremely drunk and attack me in front of our friend, claiming I was “the messiest person she’s ever lived with” and “disgusting” – this arose from the fact that I had washed up after cooking a meal, and when the sink had drained it had left behind a few tomato-coloured soap suds. I stand by the belief that she took such offense to this because she herself cannot cook, and is therefore deeply offended by the byproducts of this alien process. I assumed we had resolved the issue maturely, then went to bed to hear the Skype dial tone ringing loudly through the wall for the next half an hour. Upon asking her to use some earphones, I was greeted with a screeching barrage of profanity and being told I was “doing her head in” and that I “should have lived alone if I couldn’t live with someone else. Similarly to the above entry, it made me question whether it was really me that should have considered that…

    Another memorable event was the time that she took us all to the drugs club, scored on her own and proceeded to kiss various strangers before her handbag was stolen. I was awoken at 9am the next day by her banging on the window. I then had to lend her my keys to be recut, accompany her to the Spanish police station to translate and explain to our panicked boss why it was that she needed a new set of keys for our office. Her response to diffuse the situation was “I’ve lost my bag loads of times before, it’s not a big deal”.

    I move back home to the UK in a few weeks, where I had previously been living with my partner for the last 3 years or so. To say I cannot wait would be putting it mildly; a bit of football on the telly seems like small fry now!

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