One girl, one room, one city...

Here’s what I learnt, through much trial and error, during that unique and well-trodden modern-day phenomena of room hunting in London. 

On being the best houseguest…                                                           

If you’re very lucky then you might have kind friends who will accommodate you on their sofa or their floor whilst you’re frantically searching for your own place.

In this instance, you need to learn how to be the best houseguest possible. This means curbing any weird, inappropriate or annoying habits. Sadly, it won’t be the season for raving, promiscuity or any loud/messy shenanigans...

It’s not okay to secretly smuggle the neighbour’s cat in through the window for kitty snuggles when you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable (…woops). Nor is it okay to break people’s things (I smashed a bowl and was guilt-ridden for weeks). Never start accidentally blow-drying your hair at 11pm, even for a nano-second, because… “GODDAMIT WOMAN! People are trying to schleeep! Ssssh!”

You are the house angel, earning your keep in heaven. Don’t be negative, and don’t overshare your room hunting debacles because it gets bleak and boring for everyone involved. Cook, bake, clean, polish, bring flowers, wine or beer. Stay out of in-house squabbling and politics. You need to make sure that your adoptees want to keep you around, because you radiate joy and sunshine, whilst simultaneously reassuring them that you definitely won’t be around for much longer at all.

Inevitably, you’ll have a lull in room-hunting activity - I went on strike for over a week for sanity’s sake - and when this happens you need to feign productivity, so that when asked ‘How is the room hunt going?’ you can respond with…

“You know, I think I’ve cracked it! I don’t want to tempt fate, but I MIGHT have struck gold! I saw thirty rooms last weekend and over a thousand clouds! I think we really clicked and I just felt such a connection! They said they’d let me know in 2019…yada yada yada.”

On knowing what you’re looking for….                                    

Because you probably won't get everything you want. This isn't a candy-grab game. So you'll need to develop some self-awareness over what's most important to you. Have a vague notion of which compass point you’d like to be aligned with and how much you can pay.The life size luminous cactus sculpture in the garden (sadly I missed out on this) or the TFL tenant offering free tube travel? And can you really viably live in a purpose-built shed in someone’s living room...? 

On befriending other room-hunters…                                                    

I started trying to make friends with fellow room-hunters to build a sense of camaraderie and fellowship. This is utterly fruitless and a complete waste of precious room-hunting energy! Make friends with strangers on the street, or stray foxes, if you must, but everyone else is your COMPETITOR! And this is London, not La-La Land.

I went to one viewing where 30 of us were ushered through a room viewing within an hour, a constant conveyor belt of desperately downtrodden weary home-seekers. After my allocated five minute window of interaction with the tenants went abysmally, I tried to salvage the evening by making a new acquaintance...

“Haha! It’s just soo ker-razey isn’t it, this malarkey! How long have you been a-looking?”

…which was greeted with a death stare and reluctant mumble of “yeah, urm, I have a bus to catch…”

Just embrace the awkwardness and don’t try be the chipper jovial one.

On dealing with rejection…

If you’re unlucky, then you will be rejected quite a lot – perhaps on a weekly or daily basis depending on the ferocity of your quest. People will also unintentionally forget to “formally” reject you, which is perhaps worse.

There are many parallels between the room-hunting realm and cavernous world of dating; you *can* emerge from both deranged, derailed and perhaps having lost a fundamental essence of yourself. FYI, ghosting is a cross-genre thang, so be prepared. It’s probably good karma to let someone know if you’re not going to accept their room or are no longer interested, just to quell the rampant rise of miscommunication, incomprehension and generic loss of faith in humanity. 

On acknowledging your powerless position…

Similarily, it can be a source of comfort, solace and distress when you realise how utterly powerless you really are. A mere pawn in an expansive housing crisis; at the mercy of greedy landlords; subject to constant scrutinzation and critique from tenants looking for 'the one'... a lot is beyond your immediate control. Learn to ride the wave and vow to campaign for a better deal. 

On finding an outlet for your emotions…                                  

Needless to say you will probably feel emotionally fraught throughout the whole room-hunting process, so it’s vital to find an outlet for all your feelings of rage, distress, frustration, grief, despair and hopelessness.

Take up running, kickboxing or revel in your teenage angst music collection. In true millennial fashion, you could wallow for a bit, whilst perhaps listening to Avril Lavigne’s ‘Nobody’s Home’. The lyrics should ring true; 

‘She wants to go home, but nobody’s home…with no place to go, no place to go, to dry her eyes, broken inside…she’s lost inside, lost inside….oh oh ooooh’

After you’ve done this, then you need to snap out if it and remember that you are *NOT* a special snowflake.

If you happen to stumble across a pair of red glittery shoes (…you never know) then squeeze your feet into them, and stamp furiously whilst repeatedly chanting ‘There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.’ (like this) Whoever said magic wasn’t for grown-ups was lying.

On embracing the weird and wonderful…                                        

You will probably have lots of weird and hilarious encounters; use these to sustain your soul and reel them off to your friends for comedic effect, as if you’re actually enjoying the whole lengthily process.

The viewing with the giant ginger rabbit will always be a humdinger. In an enormous and suspiciously cheap rooftop flat in Streatham, this rabbit (I’ll call him Frank) was so blatantly the master of his realm, that everyone else had moved out, bar his owner. Frank buoyantly bounced around the place with a maniacal grin on his smug furry face, whilst the lone tenant confessed that he did sometimes make strange night-time noises (but never for very long, promise!) and liked to escape from his cage. It became apparent that Frank was free-range, but not entirely potty-trained; and so the next question 'How do you feel about rabbit poo?'

On being the keenest you’ve ever been...                                         

You have to be on the ultimate Yes! flex to boost your chances of success. This is your time for affirmative action, not deliberation; you can’t be indecisive, you can’t play it cool, you can’t play hard to get! It might feel like the equivalent of agreeing to marriage after a first date, but you have to take the plunge, there and then on the spot, because guaranteed they’ll be a queue of others willing to snap up your dark dingey dreamscape...don't doubt, just say YES! 

On dealing with peers…                                                                    

Lots of people will be empathetic towards your predicament. Others won’t, and it’s okay to temporarily ditch friends who say the following:

“But, babe, I mean why is it taking you so long? I think you might just be being too fussy yeah…?! Because it’s Lahndan, innit. What are you expecting to find? Aladdin’s cave?”

“Yeh I mean, I found my place in Tooting in…well I think it was an hour? And I don’t even pay my rent in real money, just dandelion flowers from my dad’s allotment.”

You can rekindle these friendships at a later date. 

On other things you should know….                                                

  • You will get lost A LOT trying to straddle multiple viewings in different areas in one evening
  • You’ll also use up a hella lot of mobile data and shudder at the thought of a world without Google Maps
  • You’ll be asked about your interests and what you like doing in life. Saying that you like eating and doing London-type things is too vague. Reeling off every single hobby you’ve pursued since you started playing conkers in the playground aged 5, is too intense!   
  • You should savour every conversation which doesn’t revolve around ‘the hunt’, because these will be few and far between                      
  • Playing a game of Monopoly - ‘the fast dealing property trading game’ - could push you over the edge when you're struggling to find a shoebox to rent in Walthamstow
  • It will feel like a distant dream but you will eventually find a room (no timescale guaranteed though!) and officially join #generationrent. Celebrate! Revel in the glory and your serendipity, and then vow, never EVER to move again. 


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