My Spare Room
by Abby Parsons
Every three minutes, someone finds a flatmate on SpareRoom.com. That does not mean that every three minutes, someone finds a new friend.
If you’ve ever gone through the Spare Room rigmarole, you’ll know it is an intensely weird process. If you’re yet to have had the pleasure, let me talk you through it.
When moving to a city alone, Spare Room is an extremely useful resource, listing thousands of affordable rooms for rent in flat and house shares. In exchange for living with complete strangers, you get a ready-made room complete with a bed, wardrobe and – if you’re lucky – bedside table.
However, in order to find a suitable living situation, you have to first upload a profile (much like a dating profile on Match.com). You upload a picture of yourself where you look fun, but not too fun. Sensible, but not too sensible. You send messages in response to adverts along the awkward lines of: ‘Hi John, I saw your advert for the room and it looks great! I’m a fun, sociable person working in recruitment and looking for clean, friendly housemates. Thanks! Jane.’
Oh, Jane. The en-suite in Clapham is long gone. Your much-redrafted message will go unanswered.
“Every three minutes, someone finds a flatmate on SpareRoom.com. That does not mean that every three minutes, someone finds a new friend.”
When I used SpareRoom.com, I did eventually find an alright flat in Brixton. But that was after many an awkward message, and many an even-more-awkward viewing. Each would take about half an hour to get to, and two minutes to complete. Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen. No living room, sorry. Any questions? ‘Are you psychopaths? Will you murder me as I sleep?’ Sadly, these most important of questions cannot be asked, as it will most likely prevent you from being selected for the room. So you just say, ‘Is there a dishwasher?’ while at all times maintaining a facade of extreme laidbackness.
It’s a gruelling process of rejection. One time I got rejected and the girl text me two weeks later saying the Chosen One had dropped out – and they really liked me at the time, it had been super close between me and that other (apparently flaky) girl, was I still looking for a room? Of course I was still looking. Of course I told her I’d already found somewhere else that happened to be much cheaper.
By far the worst viewing I attended was for a terraced Clapham house, with one of those cute stained-glass windows above the front door. I really, really wanted that stained glass window. The house share consisted of five girls, and I was to replace the fifth as she was moving in with her boyfriend. Upon arrival the evening’s schedule was explained to me: I’d be given a tour, while the previous viewer would be interviewed by the housemates. I would then move on to the interview portion of my night, while the girl after me would take her tour. The interviewers had a roster of fifteen girls on their list that night.
I do not rank highly amongst others girls in these situations. I can be a awkward at the best of times. And although most of the current housemates seemed okay, one of those five girls was wearing a rabbit onesie. Reader, I could not act warmly towards her. But the room was nice, spacious, and it had a window – one that would turn out to be seven times the size of the window I ended up with in my Brixton flat-to-be.
All I had to do in order to secure this Clapham room was prove myself to be a normal person, albeit in a Mean Girls situation. Gathered around their kitchen table, which was situated in a beautiful farmhouse-style kitchen, one of the ‘fun’ questions I was asked was: ‘After Lily came home from Infernos completely wasted one night, she tried to paint the table! [Points to random streaks of purple on wood.] What colour would you paint this table, if you moved in?’
I said pastel green. I did not get the room.
But eventually I did find a room: for six months, you could find me in the dank basement of an outwardly impressive-looking Victorian terrace. It was fine. I survived the Spare Room process, and lived with two guys, who I will never see again. A Spare Room will never feel like a home, but even if you have to hole up in your tiny bedroom for a whole year, don’t worry, you’ll get through it too.
Abby Parsons | @abby_aap
Abby Parsons is an editorial assistant and co-founder of Dear Damsels.