Renting a crappy flat, or a series of them, is an unavoidable reality that awaits most of us after moving out of home.
After all, one in three Kiwis rent, according to Statistics NZ’s latest numbers.
Living without insulation, a clean kitchen sink, or walls thick enough to block out the dulcet tones of inconsiderate flatties is a rite of Kiwi passage.
We start out bulletproof 20-somethings who never get hangovers; become slightly apathetic entry-level job workers; then, devastating breakup survivors (following a bender, or taking up yoga – but not both), do OEs in London/Europe, and fly home to settle and kick on towards the “big 3-oh”.
*Terrible student flats I have loved
*Damp and cold flats rite of passage or student slum?
*Dunedin’s scarfie flats celebrated
*Flat where shabby chic meets luxe
During this time we rent (and have heaps of fun in) a number of black mould-y flat archetypes. Do any of these seem familiar?
1. STUDENT DIGS
A shelf of empty Smirnoff bottles is both the highest form of decor, and a source of collective pride for the flat.
Penne pasta is on the menu at least twice a week. If the flatties have agreed to “all cook one night” there is one person who manages to forget their night every week, for the entire year.
There’s no storage, so all groceries are displayed on a folding table, or some other kind of makeshift surface that got brought in to supplement the 10cm of bench surface beside the sink, which is always occupied by dirty mugs. Have they been there two days, or two months? Who knows.
There’s never anywhere to cook, so you’re better off taking that money you won at the pub quiz and to grab a $5 Dominoes. Hello fresher five.
Everyone has at least one set of flimsy cube shelves, a pin board, and a set of polaroids blue tacked to the wall. A clothes rack is shoved at the foot of a double bed, so between that and the barely used study desk there’s about four human steps of floor space remaining. Use them as you will.
And what do we pay to live in such luxury? At least $220 a week. You’re paying for lifelong friendships, say the universities. And they’re right, because it’s certainly not for much else.
They’ll also chuck an extortionate “activity fee” on top that goes towards….what exactly, we’re not sure – some random hot dogs and perhaps a game of laser tag? Brilliant.
2. UNIVERSITY TAKE 2 / PARTY FLAT
One year out of home later, and you’re starting to feel like you’ve got this adult thing down. But, mum’s food care packages are still appreciated.
You make fun of the lost-looking freshers when they roll in for O week in their sheet togas. You’re above that now— Now, you’re a connoisseur of all the 10-dollariest wines, which are consumed on a mere two, rather than many, nights a week.
A group of mates forged in the fires of one too many nights out, and library all nighters (still got to pass those classes!) has emerged. The flat mum of this group sent a bunch of TradeMe listings to the group chat, most of which were ignored. But after a handful of failed attempts, somehow you manage to nab a lease.
The building has a strange layout owing to the fact that it used to be a dairy, night club, factory or other— something that wasn’t originally intended to be a house.
Between the flatties, you’ve cobbled together a decent selection of flatpack furniture, a UE Boom, and some actual attempts at decoration to distract from the black mould. It’s far nicer than the last place, but probably not considered homely enough to warrant regular cleaning.
And, if it’s a Wellington flat some curated (stolen) bar hats may still be lying around.
3. THE ‘REAL WORLD’ FLAT
For some years now, grown ups have been talking about what it’s like to enter ‘the real world’. It turns out, they meant a villa.
This happens at the same time you first ‘real world’ job begins, whatever that may be.
An unusable fireplace indicates the bedroom used to be a settler’s lounge, which makes for a handy shelf. The room is spacious, which partially atones for the fact that you can feel a breeze on your toes, and there’s still no storage. It’s time to upgrade the plastic clothing rack to one that doesn’t look totally trash.
Overall, this house is pretty cute. It warrants a selection of tea boxes, a spice rack, and a couch that was inherited from someone’s parents rather than a curb.
You learn the hard way (again) that not having central heating in July really, really sucks.
4. THE QUARTER LIFE CRISIS
Mum and dad’s place – you’re back again, but this time, grateful for the small things in life. Is this what good water pressure feels like?
In-between jobs, or while saving for a house deposit your parents become your flatmates, who still act a lot like parents. It’ll drive you crazy, but the Sunday dinners are phenomenal, and the rent’s cheap. Cheers folks.
Alternatively, you and your long term partner team up to pay for the upstairs floor of a larger house, and an ensuite. It tests the relationship (for better or worse), and forces you both to KonMari into a shared space.
5. THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
28-years-old and you’re finally the proud renter of a home with a heat pump, and a dishwasher. You’ve been here for two – wait no – three years. Has it really been that long?
The furniture is all your own, and got paid off over time because it’s quality.
This flat’s not in a central suburb, which makes for a longer commute, but it’s worth it. The partner from flat #4 might still be there, they might not. Maybe it’s a different person. Or, the flatties are a group of close friends, the family you got to pick. You don’t always cook together, but when you do it’s nice. The garden has a compost and it’s own gold mine (aka an avo tree).
You’ve moved over half a dozen times now, and your 18-year-old self was quite right to feel upset about paying their first bond – because you never saw that money again.