Recently I found myself having to defend myself for still living in a shared house at the age of 30+. The person I spoke to found it not only strange, but kind of pitiful and embarrassing. I’m not going to lie, I did feel pretty angry.
Yes, I live in a shared house. Me and my partner share a house with two other people. Yes, we are both more than 30 years old.
Let me explain why:
Because it means I can work part-time. Yup. I can work part-time. I don’t have to work all the hours I can – if I want to, I can, but I don’t have to. I can take the job I want, I can go back to college, take night courses, work on community projects, work with young people, volunteer on helplines. Do the things that I think are worth doing in the world.
Because it means when my self-employed partner gets ill, or injured, and is unable to work for more than a year, we don’t go into debt. We don’t suffer. We don’t panic and worry and I don’t lay in my bed wondering how I’m going to make the bills. My partner doesn’t feel crushed by the pressure to earn, and I don’t have to watch them kill themselves doing a job that makes them miserable.
I know social norms tell us we should buy the best (biggest?) house we can afford, in the nicest area, and we should make it as pretty as possible and fill it full of expensive things.
But that doesn’t have to be the way.
You can reject that norm. Have a good-enough place to live, keep the old kitchen and bathroom because they work just fine, even if they aren’t new and shiny. Buy second-hand appliances, and get a sofa from a charity shop. Rent out the spare room, and cover all your bills that way.
People find it weird. Not a lot of folk get it. And I understand. It’s nice not to have to worry about putting on a dressing-gown when you go to the toilet in the middle of the night. It’s nice to walk around the house half-dressed in the morning. But I don’t think any of that is worth hundreds of pounds a month, and it definitely isn’t worth working until I’m exhausted every single day, doing some pointless job that doesn’t do the world or its people a bit of good.
Now, one day I won’t share with people. One day we’ll have a smaller, cheaper house, and I’ll want it to just be the two of us. But what I want more than anything else is to live free from fear. I want to live free from worry, and that means free from worrying about what I’ll do if something goes wrong with the car, with the house, with my health or my partners. And that means living within our means, saving money. Renting out a room is a powerful way of doing that.
Give it some thought, and maybe sharing a house doesn’t seem so weird.