As a student living in Toronto, I’ve had to settle into a house that has proven to be almost impossible to call home. I recently mentioned in my How I Survive On Less Than $1,000 Per Month in Toronto that I share one townhouse with thirteen roommates. Since then, one more has been added to the lease.
Many people are surprised by my living situation, but I pay only $550 per month in rent to live in Canada’s most expensive city. Living with 14 people is the key to my tiny budget, but it isn’t always comfortable. However, I accept that my living situation is one of the sacrifices I needed to make to make it through university financially solvent. In the meantime, I’ve found some ways to cope with my unusual housing situation.
What 14 roommates in one home look like
Four of my roommates share a bedroom, while the rest of us have our own room. Thanks to likely illegal subletting and visiting, we usually have about 17 people living in our tiny townhouse. The three boys downstairs have their own kitchenette, but the rest of us share one kitchen. Needless to say, it’s a lot.
As we know, your surroundings play a huge role in your mental health, so it’s imperative to make your living situation feel as comfortable as possible within your means. Even with this baffling amount of people (most of which truly horrible roommates) and this tiny house, I actually am doing really well! I think I’ve mastered surviving with crazy living situations as much as it’s possible to.
Coping with the Dreaded Roommate
For students, living with shitty roommates at one time or another is kind of a given. I’m not sure how so many people were apparently raised in a barn, but my roommates definitely were. I can attest to having some of the most nightmarish roommate stories, and the ones here in Toronto are no different. There are a few tips that I’ve picked up that can save you a ton of energy when dealing with crazy roommates.
My general rule of thumb is to be kind going into a new living situation. My intent is to make good friends with the people I share a space with. However, if people start stepping on my toes, I don’t take it lightly. If your belongings are being used, your space is being invaded, and the thermostat is constantly reset to 35 degrees Celsius (yes! 35! I come home to a sauna!), it may be time to make your voice heard.
I’ve complained to my landlord probably 15 times since I moved in three months ago. Although at first, I felt annoying, I realized it’s his job to provide a decent home! If an appliance doesn’t work, a roommate is breaking lease rules, or something is simply not up to par, ask for a change! At the very least your landlord can pass a message along to your roommate, which they might take more seriously than if it came directly from you.
When I first moved in, the Internet didn’t work, we weren’t allowed access to heat, and my room was not furnished, even though it was advertised as such. Unfortunately, landlords stand to gain from taking advantage of inexperienced renters, especially if they’re renting in a student-dominated neighbourhood. More often than not, tenants are expected to be silent whilst being used as a money dispensary. Rent is so much money (so, so much), so ensure you are being provided with what you deserve. As a last resort, you can always complain to the tenant board if your landlord isn’t providing for you as they should. There are laws that protect you in that situation!
Furnishing a tiny space
My bedroom is an absolute escape. The house is messy, and unorganized, and filled with loud people, but my bedroom is my own. It’s so important for me to make it as comfortable as possible.
I want nice furniture so desperately. I spend my spare time scrolling through Wayfair, but I have to keep in mind it’s not in the cards right now. As with many things when you’re a student patiently awaiting graduation, I have to accept standards lower than I want them to be. That being said, I do have everything I need. The furniture that was originally stated as included with the room was eventually delivered after a few annoyed calls to my landlord.
Beyond the basics, Wal-Mart or second-hand shops are your best bet for furniture in a temporary home. I bought a six-cube organizer and a clothing rack from Wal-Mart, which was the extent of my furniture shopping. I spent maybe $50 to set up my room. While scarcity, in extremity, can be incredibly damaging, minimalism is fine for now. I don’t plan on living in this house for any longer than absolutely necessary, and so I really don’t mind the build-your-own furniture route.
Making your bedroom a small sanctuary
Adding little things can help with the energy your room gives off. Try to decorate with meaningful things you can carry with you, like photos of your family. I have about ten or so photos of my family that hold a lot of value, so I tape those up to my wall first thing any time I move to a new place. Putting things like this up will change the environment completely without costing a dime.
Art is probably the best way to amp up the energy. If you want art, but you don’t consider yourself artistic enough to do your own work, ask around! Artistic friends are usually more than happy to do a piece for a birthday or Christmas present. If it’s not Christmas they might offer a friends discount for a commission piece. (But please never expect artists to work for free!)
To add some character as well as repurpose some trash, try to reuse containers. For example, I use old tea containers to hold most of my loose items, including makeup brushes and utensils. Old spice or coffee containers might be fun too!
If I could only give one piece of advice, it would to splurge a little on your bed. If my bedroom is my escape, my bed is even more so. I am of the philosophy that your bed should be used exclusively for relaxing. If you are still working on your laptop in bed, stop! No stress is allowed there! A nice duvet or sheets with a slightly higher thread count can help you create a stress-free place to snuggle up in.
Keep up with chores
This section might sound a little bit like your mom’s nagging, but she probably had a point. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable in my home than messy surroundings. Although areas like the kitchen are more or less beyond hope thanks to my roommates, that makes it even more important to keep up with what I have control of.
Do the simple things: wash your sheets every two weeks, regularly wipe down surfaces, and keep up with your dishes. Keeping your space clean makes such a difference mentally. I always find that if a mess surrounds me, my mind refuses to function properly. It’s especially important to tidy before bed. Waking up in a clean space is the only way I can have a genuinely productive day.
A couple of random things I’ve noticed that can make a world of difference in any living situation:
- Keep your window open when you leave the house if it isn’t too cold out. Coming home to fresh air is fantastic.
- Scents! I have an oil diffuser, which I got as a gift and love because cheap essential oils last forever. To each their own, though. Candles, oils, or incense all work, but try to incorporate scents somehow!
- Earplugs or sleeping earphones. There are special earphones you can wear to bed that are designed like a headband. With my roommates throwing parties every night of the week, these have been my lifeline.
If you’re feeling dismal about your living situation, know that you’re not alone. Keep your head up, keep working, and one day you will have the apartment of your dreams. Just hang on!