The Perks (and Frustrations) of Living With Friends During Lockdown
Some of the best years of my life I spent living in sharehouses with my friends. That doesn’t mean that at times there weren’t catastrophic dramas, serious tiffs and unwanted learning curves, but that’s all part of the fun and plus — they make great stories.
One time, I used one of my housemate’s 14 eggs to put on my breakfast (complete with a note assuring him I’d replace it) and he lost it at me because he thought he needed all 14 to make an apple pie. He wasn’t too pleased when I told him that he didn’t even need 14 apples.
Then, there was that time I woke up to members of several well-known bands asleep in various odd places around the house, such as the bathtub and the back lawn. One of my housemates worked at a live music venue at the time, and they’d had a little after-party while I was sleeping. It was a real ‘the morning after apocalypse’ vibe.
And of course, that time my housemate, who I’d become comfortable watching documentaries in bed and eating takeaway with, started to act strangely and then told me he was falling in love with me a week later. That was…uncomfortable and awkward.
I think it’s fair to say that I’ve had my share of both good and bad experiences. The same goes for most of us. But when it comes to stay-at-home orders, is it better to have housemates around us (even those that leave pas-ag notes), or is flying solo the way to go?
Living through this COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve spent more time at home than ever before, which has definitely magnified our living arrangements, making the things that irk us more noticeable, as well as the things that make our home feel like a home.
But living with others during the pandemic definitely has its perks.
“We’d make cocktails and sit on the balcony every Friday in lockdown, which was super nice because it didn’t feel like our social lives were completely non-existent,” said Sangeeta, who lived with three friends during the 2020 lockdown in Sydney.
Of the four people in Sangeeta’s household, three of them worked from home, which was where things got a little complicated.
“I didn’t have to take a lot of calls or be in meetings, so it was fine for me. But one of my housemates worked in advertising and was on calls in the lounge room all day long, which meant we had to be really quiet, even when we were making lunch.
“I actually wanted to work from bed so I didn’t mind. I was just a bit annoyed that the housemate on all the calls didn’t work in her room and made us be quiet anytime she was on a call. It felt like her job was more important than ours.”
Living with your friends seems like the most dreamy scenario ever when you first leave home. ‘What, you mean I can get home whenever I like, not do my dishes straight away and live with my best friends?!’ It seems too good to be true. And, sometimes it is.
Despite the many amazing times I’ve had in share houses with my closest friends, I definitely got to a point in my life when I realised that I’d had enough, and I wanted to create my own space — and not share it.
The beauty of share houses is that there’s always something happening and you don’t really have to do much to have a fun social life and experience epic adventures with your mates. Share houses are for spontaneous wild nights in, for spooning your friends when they’re sad, for borrowing each other’s clothes so much that you forget what belongs to who and for sitting in the bathroom with them while they get ready to rant about the boy who still hasn’t texted you back.
But there will come a time when that life gets a little chaotic, a little overcrowded, and where spontaneity doesn’t fit into a busy schedule. Lives change and things like work and relationships take priority, which is completely normal and okay and a natural time to move on. You may also come to realise that you’re the type of person who prefers to live alone. Sometimes, the best way to learn that is by living with others.
Living alone throughout isolation might sound daunting to some, but for Bree, it was empowering.
“At first, it was tough. There were moments where the silence felt so heavy that I’d do anything to fill it — old warped records, melodramatic daytime TV, conversational podcasts that made it feel like there were people behind me, chatting on the couch.
“Seeing people partying with their housemates made me sad and jealous. So I bought disco lights on eBay and drank gin and had solo ABBA dance parties in my room. I had more baths than showers, I got creative.”
Bree says she’s used to living solo. “It’s a huge privilege and I’m grateful for it every day. I love the independence, freedom and spontaneity; it’s always allowed me to recharge my social battery between catch-ups, so I can be my most loving and present self when someone calls to hang out.”
But that’s not to say the lockdown was easy on her. “Living alone in lockdown taught me to sit with pain. To let it take me over completely for a couple of days at a time, without burying it under margaritas with my mates or cooking with a friend. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, either; if we have the option to hug a mate, we absolutely should.
“Not having that option slowly taught me to rely upon myself, and while often that felt suffocating and terrifying, I feel more in touch with my emotions now than ever. I make a pretty good housemate for myself, turns out. Still can’t cook though.”
So, what is better: living with friends or solo during lockdown?
The right living situation for you is only something you can decide, and there’s no harm in trialling a few different options before you arrive at a perfect medium. Especially in lockdown, it’s really hard to know what environment will best suit you, until you’re in it.
If you’re thinking about changing your living situation in lockdown, I say go with your gut: it’s usually right. If you feel like some extra social energy, spontaneous parties and cocktails on the balcony are what you need right now, then listen to that and consider moving in with friends. If you’re craving some precious me-time, moments of reflection and a totally uninterrupted WFH space, then maybe give living alone or with one other a try.
There is no wrong decision, just remember to always make the decision that’s best for you, right now. Lockdown is tough and we need the best possible environment to be our base, so we stay sane, focused and flourishing.