But that's the only time I've ever really loved it. I'm not saying I haven't had some awesome flatmates over the years, or that I haven't enjoyed some of the moments I've had - indeed, even some of the worst flatmates have their moments - but most of the time, I wish they'd just bugger off, pay the rent, and let me live blissfully by myself.
In the flat I'm currently in, for example, we don't really do much with each other at all. It's almost like living with myself, only I share a kitchen, bathroom and laundry. My flatmates are generally kind, considerate people, but our timetables are frustratingly similar which means we always want to cook at the same time, do our laundry at the same time and we're always home at the same time.
This causes issues when trying to make dinner in our very small kitchen. It also causes issues for me because I can't clean when other people are at home.
In my last place, it used to get disgustingly filthy very quickly. Rubbish would spill all over the floors, dishes would pile sky high and the living room would get cluttered with my flatmate's junk. I'm not saying I was perfect in the situation, but let's just say my ratio of mess making to cleaning was vastly different to that of my flatmates. Don't believe how bad it was? One afternoon I was so disgusted, I took photos. If you wish to suffer bad-flatmate induced nightmares, click here or here.
Maybe you're asking why I didn't take more pride in my house, why didn't I clean? Well, I did. For the first month or so, every Sunday we would all clean the flat. It was a system that worked. Sometime around the month-and-a-half mark however it started to fall apart. Flatmate #1 was happy to vacuum and take out the rubbish but created piles of dishes and didn't tend to take the initiative - he just didn't see what we saw. Flatmate #2 was good at doing dishes, but due to Flatmate #1's ability to magically create them at the speed of light (and being fair, my habit of not-rinsing), got fed up and decided she'd had enough. I just saw mess everywhere and wanted it to all just be clean. I'd wait until I had the house to myself and clean everything. The toilet, bathroom, floors, dishes, stove, fridge, living room - it was actually very satisfying to take it from the state it was in to sparkling.
One day (possibly the day of the photos) I decided to clean even though I wasn't alone. That was a mistake. About half way through, Flatmate #1 walked out into the kitchen, made a big mess (and many dishes), then went back to his room again, leaving it all there for (I assume) me to clean up after him. After that day, I pretty much gave up.
The cleaning (or rather, the mess) became a sticking point. While Flatmate #1 didn't seem to care at all, Flatmate #2 and myself did - except we both had very different points of view on it. You can battle uphill for only so long with an onslaught like that before you essentially give up. I still cleaned, but not as often as I once did. The lack of appreciation and reciprocation got to me. I withdrew, kept to myself, and stayed in my (clean) room. More than one person asked how I could put up with the other two when they could see by looking at our rooms where the mess was coming from.
Moving into this flat was like a breath of fresh air. It's not as nice as the last one, and it's not as social, but it's clean. If I had to pick between those three things, I'd pick clean. I'm not a clean-freak, but I can't live in mess like that. Here, we have a roster - which I hate, but abide to because it works, and it's better than the mess.
It doesn't mean it's perfect however. The problems are generally small, but because we're not friends or social with each other (and the flat is set up in such a way it's difficult for that to happen) we all seem to just grit our teeth and bear it. Currently my biggest problem is that the last person to mop the floors apparently did so with cooking oil - I've fallen over twice this week and had numerous close-calls. I'm very lucky my hips are still whole!
What would be nice? Well apart from living with Holly again, or by myself, a flat with 3-4 sane, reasonable, tidy professionals in their late 20's-early 30's. People with their own lives, but who still want to know their flatmates. People who will share the cooking - it gets tiring cooking for one every night and sharing is so much more satisfying. People I can sit around and discuss the news with, people with opinions and quirky taste who can introduce me to new TV shows/music/food/experiences. It'd definitely have to be a mix of sexes. In my experience too many boys means it gets messy and too many girls means it gets catty and bitchy. A mix of lifestyles and experiences would be nice too. People able to compromise, with the ability to listen to, and empathise, with other people's points of view.
Unfortunately, that magic flat is unlikely to ever exist. Very few people I know really enjoy flatting. It's the kind of experience that allows you to grow as a person due to the forced crap experiences. I think those who don't go flatting are missing out, but at the same time there's a limit to how much any one person can take.
Over a total of 7 years (on and off since 2001) I have had 20 flatmates. Some of them are close friends, sealed by the shared experiences we had flatting, some of them I haven't seen or talked to since our flats broke up. Some I harbour resentment towards, some I love with all my heart and soul.
Either way, every flatting experience I've had has has it's pros and cons, but boy oh boy I wish I could give it all away and settle down in my own apartment by myself.