How to Survive Living With Roommates in a Tiny Apartment

In September, I moved into a London flat with three people – two I knew from Cambridge, one I didn’t know (he’s friends with Lucy and graduated from Cambridge a year before I arrived). I have lived in flats with roommates before when I was at Ohio State, so I didn’t think this would be any different. And honestly, it really isn’t that different, except that my roommates are my favorite people I’ve lived with so far.

Finding a flat in London was itself a challenge, test of wills, and a strain on our relationships. Well, okay not that dramatic, but it was very different from any other flat hunting I have experienced. So much so it deserves its own blog post. But now that we have found an apartment, what is it like to live with three other people? In a relatively small apartment? Well, it takes some adjusting, communication, and understanding that not everyone thinks or lives the way you do (which is totally okay btw!). When we first moved, we all sat down together on the couch after a pub night and talked about things we wanted for the flat, ‘rules’, things we like and don’t like, work schedules, etc. We got everything out in the open up front which was super helpful for conversations down the road. Our takeaway from the whole conversation was just don’t take the piss and we’ll all be alright.

I think the biggest issue we ran into first was the room that the kitchen and living space is in is quite small. Not terribly cramped, but enough that it can become a problem if left alone for a few days. As in any home, people drop bags, jackets, and shoes in the living room when they get home. No biggie, until there’s four pairs of shoes scattered across the four square meters of space. Basically, cleaning was the first thing we addressed – and are still addressing as we settle into our routines and habits. We have a sort of cleaning rotation for the kitchen, bathroom (there’s only one), and living space. Sometimes it gets done once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I think this is the one area that we all can’t totally agree on and it takes reminding for people to wash up all their dishes before bed, or checking if food has gone off. In the end, all it takes is one message for it to get done – we all work fulltime and can get lazy or tired or forgetful, it’s not the end of the world. Like I said, it’s all about adjusting and being flexible with the people you live with. But, we all also agree that it’s better to say something than be passive aggressive or bottle up annoyance at others’ habits. That never helps anyone and only leads to problems down the road.

The next thing we had to think about was bills, how we would sign up for utilities and wifi, and how we would pay for them. For rent, it was important to communicate budgets before we agreed on a place and stick to it. The same applies for wifi, gas, and electricity. We did some shopping around for the best deals and talked it over before we signed up for anything. Communication and openness is important among roommates, especially when it comes to money. In this area as well, we are always reminding each other to pay bills on time or transfer to the person paying the bill. Team work makes the dream work.

One thing I was hoping for was two bathrooms for the four of us, but we don’t always get what we want. Seriously, that should be the poster slogan for London flat hunting. Because there is only one bathroom, we have all had to make adjustments. Luckily, Lucy and Dan are the only two that have to leave the flat early in the morning for work, which makes it easier on the shower schedule. Though I do sometimes wake up and have to wait ten minutes before I can go to the toilet. For the most part, we haven’t run into too many problems with four of us sharing one bathroom because our work schedules work well together. Though, none of us are concerned with knocking on the door if someone is taking too long in the shower.

With four people working full-time, the kitchen can feel a bit cramped around dinner time. Lucy and Dan don’t eat breakfast at home (work perks), so it’s only Owen and I in the morning. Usually, I’m the only one home for lunch. But, we all eat dinner at home, usually. Luckily, our different routines and habits also compliment each other at dinner time. I like to eat early, around 5:30/6pm whereas Owen and Dan tend to eat a bit later. Lucy falls in between depending on the day. This makes it a bit easier to handle everyone cooking their own meals and using the same three pots and pans that we have. There are nights when Owen and I make dinner together – we love fajita night! Those nights are really fun because we break out all the condiments and sides and make a feast of it. While the kitchen can feel cramped during the evening, it tends to feel more ‘cozy’, meaning it feels like a home when we’re all together. Dinner time is usually the most social time in the flat as well and it’s nice to catch up with everyone and joke around. That is until someone eats my last onion I was saving for my stir fry. We have a liberal approach with the fridge for certain items, particularly onions, peppers, mushrooms, and milk. Things that go off quickly and that you usually only use half of at any given time. As long as we all pitch in to stock up on them, we’ve found a good balance. This room is also where all the fun happens – the jokes, the accidental spills, and the movie nights. We elected one of the walls for tacky home decor after Dan insisted that we keep the paella pan (that none of us were going to use) and hung it on a left over nail in the wall to prove his point. It became endearing and we’ve since added to it – most recently the hanging wall decor pictured above.

For all the other things that can become annoying when living in a small apartment with three people, it’s all worth it when I think about the three best friends I’ve made living here. Living in a small space has forced us all to become close and aware of each other’s habits, likes, dislikes, and lives. Having thin walls can be a pro – I hear when Lucy is baking or when Dan gets home from a date that I want recap with him. Without sounding too cheesy (sorry Lucy), living with three people allowed me to have a second family here in England. Being far from home can be tough and there is a certain lonliness that comes along with living in a big city, but having Lucy, Dan, and Owen around means there’s always someone who knows where I am, always someone to go to the market with, drink tea with, and sometimes cry with. Next year, we are all going to be pulled in different directions, so we’re making the most of this year we have together in this tiny, but pretty great, apartment.

Dana’s Do’s:

  1. Communication is key, being passive aggressive is a no.
  2. Be ready to adapt your habits – everything is a compromise.
  3. Enjoy it while it lasts!

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