Should I stay or should I go?
April 17, 2011 6:56 PM   Subscribe

My living situation is perfect. But I'm not satisfied with it. Is there a way to fix it? Should I leave? If so, how?

I'm a recent grad in my early 20's and the past 6 months I've been living in a great house, in an awesome part of town that is accessible to my job, and pay rent that is considered a steal in an otherwise very expensive city (think 50% of average rent). My 3 roommates are nice people - no one fights, everyone keeps clean, the house is generally quiet.

But. The house is generally quiet. Like really quiet. My roommates are all in their mid to late 30's - I didn't realize this until after I moved in, because when I was initially checking out the place after finding it on craigslist I seriously thought they were late 20's. But they are way, way older and don't really live the type of lifestyle I had envisioned in a group house after graduating. No one relaxes and chats and eats dinner in the common area, no one goes out to happy hour together after work, and I don't really have deeper conversations with them than small talk because frankly we have nothing in common. It sort of feels like I'm living with strangers.

Meanwhile, I'll see my neighbors - young 20's looking kids like myself - grilling and having beers together in their backyards on nice days. And I just get so jealous. I've introduced myself to some of them but (and I consider myself a pretty socially intuitive person) they just don't seem very welcoming or looking for an imposing neighbor-friend that goes poking his head around the fence like "hey guys whatcha up to?"

My lease isn't up until October but it feels really lonely here. I constantly browse craigslist and look at other group houses that look perfect and then get angry that not only am I stuck in my lease but also feel stupid for trying to get out of what is otherwise a really good living situation (low rent, clean dishes, no tension).

If I decide to leave, what do I tell my roommates? Should I leave? Should I wait till my lease is up, or is there a graceful way to get out of this faster? Sorry for being so scattered.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What about doing something else entirely -- taking it upon yourself to find friends outside your house and your neighborhood and bring those new friends back to enjoy your house for beers and burgers? This is what being sociable is about -- you can't just mope around and press your nose up against the fences, so to speak, ogling at what others have when what they're doing is perfectly attainable on your end, however daunting that may seem right now.

Where are your friends from college, from work, from home? What do you do as a hobby? What do you do that prevents you from doing things like volunteering, sports, etc?

In this kind of economy having a living situation as plumb as this one is a huge, huge benefit. Don't write that away because you haven't yet explored other options to make it what you need.
posted by patronuscharms at 7:02 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

So basically, you're looking for your roommates as a social life? Sometimes it works out that way, sometimes it doesn't. I don't necessarily think it's an age factor so much as maybe you live with a bunch of introverts. And unless you are moving in with people you are friends with beforehand, it would be hard to know if you're finding a social house or not.

I think you need to make your own friends on your own time. If it really bothers you, wait until your lease is up to leave, or maybe you'll have found some people to live with that you like by then, but don't pass up a good living opportunity just because they aren't becoming your BFF's. Trust me, it could be so much worse!
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:03 PM on April 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

How much longer is your lease for, another 6 months? I think you should think about leaving when your lease is up, and take the time from now until then to get out and start meeting people so you might get some personal leads on people to live with when it's time to move.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:03 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Think of it this way. After partying and all that, you still have to live with your roomates, everyday, every morning, every night. If you follow jenfullmoon's advice, you'll get the best of both worlds.
posted by ddaavviidd at 7:14 PM on April 17, 2011

You are living with strangers. You are not in college. I'll be honest, stick it out until at least October - there are some massive advantages of your living situation. Having your own life separate from your roommates means - you do not bring home drama from work or drama from your friends. Your home life drama is a business transaction and pleasant company: trust me - that is awesome. A boring home is a safe home. When you want it exciting, bring over friends.

Friends pay their share of the cable bill late and buy you a beer as a "down-payment" Roommates just get you the money ASAP, and if they don't (and its sufficient) its a court proceeding - no unusual hard feelings. Friends who are notoriously late or delinquent... well, that kills friendships. When your friend is loud and you need rest - you let it slide... when your roommate is loud and you need rest - you have no guilt in telling them to quiet down. Home life is a business transaction until you find some semi-permanent settling.

In other words, this is your time to save for down payments or travel, depending on your priorities. By not being socially involved with these people, you will get to financial goals faster.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:26 PM on April 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

You just need to make more friends and develop more of a social life. And that can take time regardless of where or with whom you live. I really wouldn't recommend that you move. Honestly, having been through a fair amount of early-twenties roommate drama in horrible rentals, I'd say you have the world by the tail.
posted by orange swan at 8:21 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking as a group-house person (in my late thirties!!), I bet those friendly houses were mostly friends first. I've had a lot of housemates in the last fifteen years, and in general, the ones I hang out with are the ones I hung out with before I moved in with them. There have been minor exceptions, yes, but in general the strangers who moved in stayed casual acquaintances, unless we also had some big commonality (activism, group project outside the house). I've had the most success in moving in with casual friends rather than close friends, although I became quite close to some of them with time.

The problem with living with friends--sometimes it messes up the friendship! I've lost a couple of friends that way.

I suggest that if you want friendly housemates, you move in with some casual friends (one of my best friends currently was a casual friend who moved in), not your best friends (because that can get too intense).

If you're starting a house from scratch, have lots and lots of planning and talks about how you want it to work--are you going to cook and shop together? Are you going to have house meetings or house happy hour? You don't need to actually nail this stuff down--it will always change--but you'll get some general ideas. And think about what you like to do and how much stuff you have--we had a bad situation develop once when we tried to combine basically two complete established households in one house. It's much easier when you yourself have a fraction of a house in terms of furniture, books and habits than when you're trying to integrate your cordon bleu cooking, chinese chippendale suite and 1000 books with everyone else's lives.

My successful houses have always been a bit of serendipity, actually. I know lots of people who live in really intentional activist houses, who do interviews before moving people in and so on, though.

You sound like you want to live with extroverts, too. It's not just a matter of age (my best houses have always been mixed; my all-time favorite housemates have been substantially older or substantially younger) but of temperament. You want to find casual friends who like hanging out. Probably--unless you have some kind of scene, like the arts or activism--these people will be close to your own age, since older folks will be mostly looking to form families or have serious day jobs. Look around a bit, since this is harder than it sounds. Maybe look for casual friends who have an established house.

It's okay, I think, to try different house situations when you're young--don't tie yourself down too much, because some of them will invariably be awful. Maybe a fun extrovert house will end up getting on your nerves and you'll long for clean, boring people. Maybe not.

And it's okay to look for friends/family in your housemates, as long as everyone is on the same page about having a close house. In my own House of Introverts, we're really looking for a fourth--we have a rotating cast of nice but slightly remote characters who live here for six months or so while going to school or between jobs, and I'd really like to find someone who'll click with us and stay long-term.

Tough it out through October, though--it's seriously good housemate behavior not to make folks scramble to replace you.
posted by Frowner at 9:01 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do not underestimate just how fucking awful a bad living situation can be. It can ruin your life financially, socially, and emotionally. Stay in your fantastic living situation as long as you can and make some friends outside the apartment. Seriously, even if you weren't massively underpaying, having a stable, drama-free apartment is much better than having a "fun" apartment that is also a hassle in any other way.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:06 PM on April 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Is your existing space suitable for having friends over for dinner and movie nights or setting up a grill in your yard? Are your current housemates OK with that?

If not, I'd consider moving. But otherwise, stay where you are and look for social stuff with people besides your housemates. It can be pretty hard to find a living situation that fulfills your social needs and is also good for creature comforts (clean, quiet, etc.) And with the money you're saving in rent, you can do lots of interesting activities.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:49 PM on April 17, 2011

N-thing most of the above advice. Your living situation sounds pretty good, but it sounds like you want to live in a sitcom.
posted by jroybal at 11:37 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

First you get friends, then you move in together. You're trying to do it in the wrong order.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:04 AM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have lived in shared houses with friends, and I have lived in shared houses with a random assortment of folks. And what made some of those houses work and some not was whether or not the kitchen stayed clean.

If your shared house's kitchen stays clean, grab that thing with all the claws on all your feet and don't let it go. Also, do your bit with keeping the kitchen clean.

It sort of feels like I'm living with strangers.

That's because that's exactly what you are doing. And they're clean strangers. This is a good thing. It's also a rare thing. Don't chuck it away just because you can't be arsed leaving the house to find friends.
posted by flabdablet at 1:16 AM on April 18, 2011 [12 favorites]

I can understand your desire to live somewhere friendly and welcoming and I think you'd be happier living with flatmates who are more up for socializing. Personally, I'd feel weird living in a house where people stayed shut up in their rooms rather than having a chat and sharing a drink or meal everyone once in a while. However, October's not that far away and I think you should stick it out out of courtesy (i.e. making them have to look for a replacement earlier than planned). In the meantime, focus more energy on making friends outside the house, and in August or so start looking seriously for another place to live that better fits your needs.
posted by emd3737 at 4:25 AM on April 18, 2011

Stay where you are. Use the time to find a lover. Move in with them.
posted by joannemullen at 5:02 AM on April 18, 2011

Oh, I add (now that I'm not incredibly sleepy and incoherent) that I like group houses partly because I liked dorm life more than I disliked it. Group houses, like dorms, have major drawbacks - even in my quiet house, there's sometimes music when you want to be quiet, your least favorite movie on the TV downstairs when you'd like to sit on the sofa and work, your housemate's unappealing friends over when you need to be in the kitchen, the occasional days when the normal laundry/shower schedules get totally messed up and you're late/laundryless. Plus a fridge crowded with other people's stuff. You can't have the friendship without the other things.

I think a gregarious house is both achievable and fun, but it's not a simple, natural fit (unless you really luck out).

Also, be prepared--a fun group house is usually a house where people have a lot going on in terms of relationships, travel, changes, etc (instead of being internet nerds who are basically fixed in place). So you'll just be happy with how everyone seems to make pancakes on Sunday afternoons when suddenly your favorite housemate will up and move to the west coast.
posted by Frowner at 5:10 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

So you'll just be happy with how everyone seems to make pancakes on Sunday afternoons when suddenly your favorite housemate will up and move to the west coast.
posted by Frowner at 5:10 AM on April 18 [+] [!]

Mine moved to Sweden. :( He was really the glue that held the whole thing together, it was sad times. But I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, it was like having a bunch of brothers and sisters (which I do not.)
posted by polly_dactyl at 6:58 AM on April 18, 2011

I say, don't give up on your dreams of the perfect communal living situation, although there is no need to be hasty because you'll need a little patience to find the right place. It really is worth it to have a living situation you like, and I don't think it's actually necessary to be friends first. That is one route to it, but being friends first can also complicate matters because good friends don't necessarily make good roommates.

If I were you, I'd just be up front with my current roommates and tell them I'm thinking about moving out a little early, and would they be ok with that? If the house is as much of a good deal as you say, they won't have any difficulty filling up the spot. If they're reasonable people, they should totally understand it if you say, "Hey, I'm looking for a little bit more of a communal party house than this one." (Hint: do not tell them that it is because they are "way, way older" than you. That would not be very "socially intuitive.")

If they aren't ok with breaking the lease, then just start looking for your new place 2-3 months before your lease is up. Save up some money so you can pay 1 or 2 months double rent if possible. This will give you enough time to really find the perfect spot.

Lastly, most likely if you find a really social group house, it's going to be messy, chaotic, and somewhat drama-filled. You're going to be making a tradeoff between the maturity of your current roommates for the excitement. But that's ok!
posted by yarly at 7:47 AM on April 18, 2011

I think Frowner has it. I've lived in group-house situations where it was a bunch of friends, and where it was strictly a business arrangement. So I understand your desire to have more social involvement with your housemates.

Finding housemates that will also be friends and will not drive you crazy is harder than you may realize. Count your blessings. In one iteration of a group-house with friends I experienced, two friends who moved in together were no longer on speaking terms after six months. And in one iteration of the group-house as business arrangement I experienced, the one guy who wanted to be my buddy wound up taking advantage of my generosity.
posted by adamrice at 7:49 AM on April 18, 2011

Friends are enormously improved by being able to leave them and go home.... and the best party house is somebody else's party house.
posted by emilyw at 7:52 AM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Right after I graduated from college I lived in the crazy professional group house with friends (with a very open door policy) we ranged from 22 people to 7 people living in it - all of us technical in nature with solid jobs.

I had two shirts from the Sunset Grill (which you get from completing all 200+ beers on tap), and almost every weekend night was a party of some sort. It was a ridiculously expensive lifestyle, and we spent boodles of cash on now seemingly stupid things.

Three years later I lived with two roommates with whom I was not friends. I saved a ton of money, had nice friendly conversations with them, and hung out with the wild friends every couple of weeks. I have to say - I hands down love the stories that stemmed from the group living stuff, but at this point - the stories are silly and the cash blown was a waste.

Now, I still hang out with the same folks a few times a year and we occasionally tie one on - but the reality is we all have work on Monday and kids that occasionally wake up at 1:30 in the morning... The party days really sort of suck in comparison to what I(we) have now. YMMV.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:26 AM on April 18, 2011

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