I first started sharing my home in 2017, when I was 57. Amrit, a friend of a friend, moved in with me. When we met, I was managing two AirBnB rooms, and it had stopped becoming fun with all the changing of sheets, meeting and greeting guests, and the constant need to keep the bathroom sparkling clean. There were more than a few times I had worried for my safety, such as the time a male guest came to stay who insisted on sleeping in his underwear with the bedroom door open. Or the woman in her thirties, who consumed an entire bottle of wine, emptied the contents of her tobacco pouch onto the bedroom floor and proceeded to miss the toilet seat when going to the loo, not once but twice.
All of that didn’t stop me from feeling hesitant about having a full-time sharer. As much as I couldn’t afford to live entirely on my own, the idea of giving up my privacy, the living room and kitchen and working out a rota of cooking and cleaning seemed a big step. I remembered back to my twenties, the last time I had shared a flat with others and a particularly challenging flatmate named Stuart. I recalled how Stuart used to hide his food under sofa cushions so our other flatmate, Brian and I wouldn’t tuck into his groceries when we got the late-night munchies. He used to sneak around, disengaged from the other householders and antisocial. I worried about what would happen if Amrit and I didn’t get along, as had happened in my youth with Stuart.
I’d heard my boys tell me that my tidiness is something of an obsession to which I had always replied, “I’m just house proud!”. I wasn’t sure my new home-mate would get on board with my requirement to dry the dishes on the draining board instead of leaving them to dry. Or vacuum the kitchen floor daily, on which it was impossible, due to its light grey colour, of concealing anything but the tiniest speck of dust. I live in an old property, with my kitchen positioned directly above my bedroom. If someone walks around the hob, it sounds like a herd of baby elephants above my head.
Do I sound obsessive? Well, perhaps I am. I was also financially strapped, like many older women living in the UK. (I’m happy to give you the stats on that if you’re interested). I invited Amrit to look around the flat, and a month later, he moved in. I hadn’t taken any references as we’d met through friends, no…