How to choose a housemate

Matthew Reeves' guide to bagpipers and unemployed pop sensations

I've been forced to find myself a new person to live with, and the situation is far from ideal. Those happy to move into a house with a "random" have made a tragic admission to themselves and the world that they're either financially or emotionally needy, or both. They're afraid of living and dying alone, but have ruined any other potential lodging arrangements through poor career choices or a personality disorder. Dating sites have created a marketplace for those who are soul-crushingly desperate and willing to do almost anything not to live their life alone, and are happy to settle for a "they'll have to do" romance. Gumtree and SpareRoom have created a similar marketplace for housing.

I've used these types of site many a time and can personally confirm that they're full of freaks. Open one up, and you'll be blessed with a sense of calm from knowing that should there be a morning when you need to book an entire series of guests for Jeremy Kyle, you'll know where to look. You'll never worry about the availability of housing again, but will just despair that the financial crisis wasn't thorough enough at tearing homes from the clammy grip of the weird.

So having been through many housemate-related traumas in the past, here are my ground rules for choosing them:

  • Be dubious of anyone who plays a musical instrument, mentions they like music, or just says they're "musical". Move on. If you really can't find anybody else, do your due diligence. Don't accept, "I just practice quietly in the kitchen sometimes" as a guarantee of no trouble. I've had various musical types living with me; the Russian pianist and the French guitarist were fine, the bagpiper was not. "Quiet" turned out to be relative to the bagpipe default setting of "loud enough to warn oil tankers off the rocks in a thick fog". Lovely bloke, but I'd still like to have slept that year.
  • Avoid anyone in "the arts". This rule was established after I moved in with an Australian girl who had mistaken being unemployable with being the next Lady Gaga. When not going on dubiously long "meals out" with a greasy businessman called Rick, she'd be spending his money to fund her various projects "because I just have so much to tell the world".
  • Don't ever live with someone who describes themselves as "quite clean". They're likely to have OCD. And they may be very neat, but don't confuse that with hygienic. There could be cockroaches crawling over the shower, but as long as the dials are vertically aligned, they'll be fine.

So if you know someone who's a bit messy, with no interest in music or the performing arts, let me know. Otherwise I'll be forced to settle down in 2013 in the unwavering peace of solitude.

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