When Sartre made his famous observation about hell being other people, it’s fair to assume that he wasn’t referring to the dubious joys of flatsharing or cohabiting. But he might as well have been. Because sharing your home with other people is a total pain in the ass. Unfortunately most of us are forced by circumstances to share a home, and if we were honest would admit that we hate it. Wouldn’t you rather live alone, if you had the choice? Living alone means you have the freedom to do exactly as you want – as long as you don’t piss off the neighbors nobody’s going to complain if you don’t wash the dishes or you leave your laundry all over the house.
Reality is another issue though. The economics of living alone mean that most people have no alternative but to share a flat. And the situation’s grown even worse in recent years. Who can afford to rent a place alone in most cities? So you end up sharing well into your thirties or forties, having to deal with noise, mess and cleaning rotas, and feeling like a student decades after you left university. Something about it just doesn’t feel right. It’s denying us the autonomy we need.
If you’re sharing with a partner, the benefits might just outweigh the irritations. You’re inclined to make allowances for someone you actually chose to live with, since that’s the purpose of living together. Plus you get a live-in bed partner. But when you’re living with strangers there’s very little to say in favor of the situation, aside from cutting living costs and having resident cat-sitters (sleeping with flatmates isn’t really recommended – it gets awfully complicated). Even sharing with a partner can quickly lose its appeal after the honeymoon period wears off and you grow tired of waking up to an unshaven, uncommunicative beast.
But our society is geared towards couples sharing rather than living apart. The living arrangements of Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter still excite comment (they’re a couple, but live in neighbouring houses). More of us would probably follow their example if we only had their money. Alas, we don’t. But if your home is large enough, consider each having your own room. It’s better for your relationship if you get a good night’s sleep. And have room to be a grumpy git – or is that just me?