Should I give up my life alone?
April 6, 2012 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Has you ever gone (voluntarily, without pressing financial/other need) from living alone to living in a roommate/group house situation again? Is it worth it?

So, I'm currently living in a pretty nice 1br apartment in DC. I can afford it, it's in a great area, has an amazing balcony, etc. etc. And I really enjoy living alone.

But lately I've been cringing every time I write my rent check. Although I can afford it, it's still a substantial fraction of my monthly income, some of which is theoretically variable. And while I currently have some ability to save money, that would pretty much go out the window if I were to lose the variable part of my income.

What's more, I'm not happy with my current rate of savings - currently, I can put away $1100 a month - but I want to travel, have a nice emergency fund/cushion, and eventually save for a down payment on a house in (very expensive) DC. Basically, I want to accomplish those goals, while not having to worry about money as much as I do now.

So I'm considering leaving my apartment and moving to a group house around the corner. I've met the people - they're very nice, seemingly friendly and undramatic - and the house is immaculate, although there's only one full bath shared between 4 residents.

Some potentially mitigating circumstances: two of the residents of the house are a couple (this could be good? or bad? you tell me). My girlfriend has her own place where I can stay essentially whenever I like, in case I get tired of housemates. The room is very large and would fit everything I own, minus my couch.

What do you think - should I do this, even though I have no real pressing need to?
posted by downing street memo to Work & Money (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Group living can be OK, but one full bathroom for 4 people sounds insane, especially if you're all on the same work schedule and will want to shower around the same time (i.e. when you get up).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:58 AM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

I did exactly this (same rent and everything!), though it was moving in with an old college roommate. I regretted it almost immediately, and did until he moved out and my girlfriend (now wife) moved in. He was an obnoxious fellow, though. Having your GF's place to retreat to would be nice, but even in that case, I would be seriously worried about the one bathroom, especially if everyone is on similar schedules.
posted by supercres at 11:00 AM on April 6, 2012

Do it! I lived in a DC group house situation for a few years and it was perfectly fine. We all knew each other beforehand, though, which may have made it easier. You'll have your own personal space, but also won't be the only person responsible for ALL of the cleaning, etc tasks.

Important, though: make sure everyone has a good relationship with the landlord. Ours RULED, but there are a lot of horrors out there.
posted by troika at 11:00 AM on April 6, 2012

I did this twice. First when I moved down to DC, I got a place with a roommate, then after a year, I moved into a place on my own, and then 1.5 years later went back to roommates.

The difference was that in both cases, I either had my own bathroom or shared it with just one person.

The only real problem was that I had accumulated quite a bit of stuff after the second time I went back to roommates, and I had to keep some stuff in storage, which I paid ~$100/month for. However, I DID save a LOT of money, which contributed to my ability to replace my car, which was falling apart, and allowed me to save for a down payment on a condo, which I now live in on my own.

It was totally worth it, financially. Your girlfriend might get a bit annoyed at the change in situation, though, if she's used to hanging out at your place.

Having roommates might be stressful, but worrying about money is more stressful. When I think about that money I spent on 1.5 years of rent compared to when I have a roommate, I cringe: I'm never going to see that money again.
posted by deanc at 11:01 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, also: there's another option, many of these group houses have a separate apartment in basement. They're probably cheaper than your 1br, but you still retain the autonomy of living alone.
posted by troika at 11:05 AM on April 6, 2012

I moved in with my (opposite-gender) best friend for about 7 years after 7 years of living alone. We were neighbors a block away from each other and were always over at each other's place anyway, and it seemed to be pretty easy going so we gave it a try. It ended when he got in an LTR (now his wife) and they got a place together, and then I lived alone again until I met my now-husband a couple years later. We were both aged 30-something at the time, and are still very good friends (we were in each other's wedding party). I would NOT have moved in with strangers as roommates, though, having had too many bad experiences with crazy roommates when I was college-aged.
posted by matildaben at 11:08 AM on April 6, 2012

There are many advantages in living with a roommate, even if can afford living on your own. I live (in DC, we should hang out!) and have two roommates. Pooling your money together has its advantages, and I usually have someone to be social with when I'm bored.

Four people to one bathroom is a (potential) problem, but not one that is insurmountable. If you like the house, you should talk to them about it, maybe their schedules are such that it wont be an issue. Or, take some of your savings and get a gym membership near your office. That way you can get ready there in the morning.

Because there is not an immediate, pressing need, you should take your time and be selective.
posted by gagoumot at 11:09 AM on April 6, 2012

I did! But because I wanted a nicer place to live for the same money, not to save money. I also did not really like living alone at that point. First year worked out really well because I got along great with roomie. Second, not so much, because I did not click with my second roommate. Nothing bad, I just never felt comfortable and wanted my own space.

So if you think you can truly be comfortable with 3 roommates sharing a bath, go for it. Keep in mind you will have no privacy other than your room. But this is a low risk experiment - you can always move out!
posted by yarly at 11:10 AM on April 6, 2012

If you need to cut costs, then live with one other roommate and not three others. But, I'd try cutting costs in other areas of your life before sacrificing your personal space to live with others.

Don't get me wrong, my roommates are great, but I'm getting older and craving my own space even more. I want the house clean to my standards. I want to adopt a dog too which I wouldn't do unless I lived on my own.

But, I'm lucky because my roommates have been great friends and living with others has helped me afford to get by.

As for the bathroom, it shouldn't be an issue even if you all worked at the same time. This is because your roommates will more than likely wake up at different times and take a different amount of time to get ready.
posted by livinglearning at 11:18 AM on April 6, 2012

I've gone from not-having-roommates to having-roommates (and back, several times). I totally understand where you are coming from - you don't have a lot of stuff, you want to save money, you find people that you think you can live with.

My advice is contingent upon two things:

1. $1,100/month apartments are plentiful and available if you hate the co-housing situation and want your own space again

2. You are able to live there on a "trial" basis (month-to-month, or a short lease)

3. (okay there are three things) You are capable and willing to move again if things don't work out the way you hope

If these are true, then I say go for it. What's the harm? If you don't like living with other folks, chalk it up to "learning something about yourself" and move out. You're not moving into a viper den, just down the street to try co-housing.

On a personal note: my main problem when living with roommates was that I always felt like a guest in someone else's home. Even when both Roommate and I signed the lease together, I never felt "at home". It may have been because, until a few years ago, I owned practically nothing that would live in the "common areas" of a house (I had a bed and a desk, but no living or dining furniture, very minimal kitchen stuff). My room felt like home, the rest of the house felt like someone elses' house. When I read about you moving into a home with three people that are already established in the house (including a couple, which I have no roommate experience with) and your lack of "house stuff", I wonder if you would experience the same sort of "outsider" dynamic that I experienced. I didn't like it at all (but dealt with it because, hey, money money money), but of course YMMV.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:26 AM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

I live in a house with two housemates: my friend (and landlady!) and her boyfriend. I live in a room that's very large (basically the length of the house), and in which I fit nearly everything I own. I have lived here since Oct. 2010. I'm the youngest of the three of us, at 29 -- the oldest of the household is 41. So we're not college students, is what I mean. We share one bathroom. I have a separate entrance, which is pretty neat.

All I can say as far as the living-with-a-couple goes is that it's completely dependent on the couple involved. The pair I live with is super low-drama, and the man works the night shift, so we're not all constantly in each other's hair. We're all pretty introverted and self-aware as far as that goes, so everyone is very conscious of everyone's wish to be mostly left alone. My boyfriend, like your girlfriend, has his own place, so we can have more privacy when we want.

If you're lucky enough to work out a situation like that, it can be amazing. If I lived by myself I might never go out or see anyone or get dressed, and on a bad day I might just stew. Sometimes running into someone in the kitchen is enough to brighten up my day. It's definitely better for my mental health to live with others, as much as I sometimes want my own place, and I could never afford to live this near to Central Austin if I didn't live with housemates.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:29 AM on April 6, 2012

If you really think you'll get along, I would do it. I live in an apartment with three other girls (!), and we never have bathroom conflicts. It just depends on doing your hair / glamourizing yourself in your bedroom instead of in front of the bathroom mirror. And sometimes showering at night, and checking in on each other's schedules every once in awhile. I also grew up in a house where six people shared one bathroom, and it wasn't really that bad.

I also stay at my boyfriend's every once in awhile. I've also lived alone, and it was great in a lot of ways, but I got lonely and I wasn't paying for it. So, it really depends!
posted by stoneandstar at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2012

Sorry, I should mention, I'm saving $1,100 a month (as in putting it in my savings account); my rent is substantially higher ($1700, ~$1900 with utilities; the group house is $1125, utilities included).

That actually reminds me of a wrinkle I didn't mention; I have a really good deal on my place, and rents are only going up in DC. I doubt I could find a similar apartment for a similar price if it turns out I hate the group house.
posted by downing street memo at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2012

I also think a lot of it depends on your personality and your age. I'm in my 40s, single, and in the past, I occasionally rented out my spare room to bring in some extra cash. I HATED IT. There comes a time in your life when you will pay anything for a drama-free life. At this point in my life, I'd rather live by myself and be able to come home to a house where I don't have to deal with someone else's mood swings, argue about who pays for toilet paper, or grumble about who gets what parking spot.

When things were a bit tight, I decided against renting out the spare room and opted to cut out some extras instead. Cut cable to basic, rented DVDs from the library instead of Netflix, turned down the heat, etc. That was a few years ago, and I don't regret that decision for a moment.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:46 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe you could see it as a temporary thing - 6 month, 12 month, whatever. Even if it does not work for that term it should not be a big deal of shattered life dreams, you know. Maybe you could even keep your apartment and sublet it (if this is possible at all).

See if some of your stuff could be stored at your girlfriend's so you don't have to move it again in case the group house does not work out.

Set yourself a goal of how much you want to save during that time [and try to make some adjustments to your overall spending habits to reach it faster].

It might be easier to see it as a temporary "project" rather than a "giving up my freedom" thing. And if it does work out great, you can still decide if you want to keep it up or if you stick to your original plan of x month.

I had 3 roommates, only one shared full bath and additionally a guest restroom. It did work.
When living with others there will be almost certainly compromises to be made. Think about how much personal space you need, how much alone time vs. socializing you like, how much time you spend at home at all. Be open about your needs and the needs of your roommate(s) before you decide on moving in.
Good luck!
posted by travelwithcats at 11:55 AM on April 6, 2012

My landlord offered me a much bigger apartment for a ridiculously low rent, with the idea I'd gradually renovate it like I'd done with my original home. At the same time, a friend broke up with her then boyfriend, and I invited her to share, even though economy wasn't a big issue. There is only one bathroom, I don't remember it being a big thing.
I still miss her, and sharing. It was a great time in my life. Obviously, there was a lot less privacy, and because she is ten years younger than me, was a student at the time, and came from a very different background, her lifestyle was very different from mine. Still, I enjoyed meeting her friends and family, and I still see her more as family than friend. With her came other residents, boyfriends, friends who were temporarily homeless, her fellow students who liked the homeliness and hot food an older friend would provide.
It ended because my then boyfriend hated the whole setup. My friend was cool about leaving for another share, but my boyfriend left just a couple of months after she moved out, so in the end, I regretted that decision.
I think you need to think a lot about your personal boundaries and quirks before you make the decision. A shared home is in a way a semi-public space. No one really takes responsibility for cleaning or maintenance. If you want it to be nice, it's your own thing, and no one will thank you. I've had stuff stolen at parties, in my own home! For me, it was a matter of adjustment. I don't need a lot of stuff or privacy to be happy. The extra money for travels and the occasional nights eating pasta and chatting in the kitchen meant a lot more to me.
posted by mumimor at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Live together! Form communities! I live in a house with about 6 people, and while it can get annoying, I can recognize that it's good for me. You learn how to be more tolerant, looser, freer, and more at peace with yourself.
posted by suedehead at 12:47 PM on April 6, 2012

I enjoyed having a roommate(s), both to save money, and because I made some very good friends, and expanded my social life. The group around the corner is not the only option. There might be a nice 2 BR apt. in your building, or a rental house with several bedrooms and more than 1 bathroom nearby. If you have some questions about the arrangement, either choose a trial month, or look further.

In my experience, it's important to have similar standards about cleaning, getting bills paid, and noise, and then consider if potential roommates are cool people you want to be friends with.
posted by theora55 at 2:22 PM on April 6, 2012

Having the right roommates can improve your life tremendously--I still hang out with my old roommate from seven years ago as often as possible (considering we live on opposite coasts). The bad roommates were really bad, and I sucked at getting rid of people, but on the whole it was worth it. If I had better skills at kicking losers out, it would have been ideal.
posted by jewzilla at 2:57 PM on April 6, 2012

Anothet vote for two people sharing.

I rented out my spare room, hated it, gave my lodger notice and had the flat to myself for a year. Then I realised I was bored and lonely, as well as broke, so got a new lodger, this time being more picky about who I chose. It's great, we're pretty similar in our attitudes, expectations of tidiness, shared vs private time etc. I much prefer it to living alone, but don't think I'd be happy in a bigger house share any more. I'm in my late 30s now and feel like I'm done with that.
posted by penguin pie at 2:59 PM on April 6, 2012

Why not just move to a cheaper apartment? Less drama/issues.
posted by Neekee at 7:23 PM on April 6, 2012

I did this in my mid-twenties. It worked out great, but only because I literally never spent time in the shared spaces; I was out and about 5 nights out of 7 and most weekend days. I moved in with my old college roommates when I realized that I was only using my expensive one bedroom apartment to sleep in, and it made no sense to pay that much for the privilege. We also shared a bathroom (4 people, one full bath), and I don't remember it being an issue, primarily because we all had very flexible work schedules.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:43 PM on April 6, 2012

I did this in my late 20s when I split up with my first wife. I moved in with four friends (two of whom were a couple). It was great, and I'd totally do it again with the right people in the right situation. BUT:

- All five of us were Into Communal Living. We didn't treat the arrangement as a halfassed substitute for Real Grownup Solo Living, as some stopgap measure that we were willing to put up with. We were actually genuinely excited about the social and emotional benefits of living together. That made a huge difference. Eventually I got into a serious relationship with someone who wasn't Into Communal Living in the same way and who did see it as inferior to living alone or with a partner, and that was the point when I had to move out.

- We could all afford to move out at any time. None of us felt trapped. And none of us had to worry that the others felt trapped. We could all be pretty confident that everyone was there because they genuinely liked it there.

- The couple did not act like your stereotypical Bad Roommate Couple. They were two independent (and incredibly stubborn!) people with their own opinions and separate finances who happened to share a bed. In household discussions, they'd often take opposite sides of an issue, and when they did take the same side you never had to worry that it was like "Oh, you're only saying that so your girlfriend doesn't get mad."

- We had enough facilities for everyone in the house. Two kitchens (!) and two full bathrooms, and none of us is terribly fussy about sharing bathroom space.

That's pretty much my checklist. If I found myself single again, or my partner decided she was Into Communal Living after all, I'd go back to it in a heartbeat if the arrangement had all those same properties. If it didn't, I'd be pretty hesitant.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:36 AM on April 7, 2012

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