More millennials and Gen-Zs are leaving the nest earlier than ever. Whether it’s to live closer to their workplace or to carve out a slice of independence for themselves, the number of young adults moving out of their parent’s homes has more than doubled since 2015 – and many of them aren’t even eligible to buy their own homes yet.
This leaves them with a few options: they could either bunk with a few like-minded friends, or scour the property sites to rent a room from a landlord. Robin (not her real name) had a different idea.
A unique opportunity opened up when two of her longtime friends offered her one of their spare rooms. They had received the keys to their 5-room resale flat not too long ago, and Robin was looking for her own space. The timing for everyone involved was perfect, and the three became housemates in December 2021.
Getting my own space after sharing a room for 20+ years
Robin has lived with her parents almost all her life, not counting the few short years when she was studying at the National University of Singapore. At home, she shares a room with her younger brother, and this has been their status quo since they were kids. But 2 children sharing a room is not the same as 2 adults sharing a room.
While she has a close-knit relationship with all her family – her brother, parents, and grandmother – Robin felt that it was time to be accountable for her own well-being. The clock was quickly ticking as she was set to get married in June 2023, and she wanted to experience living by herself before moving in with her future husband to their BTO in Toa Payoh.
But that would mean giving up plenty of creature comforts that she’s grown accustomed to in the 2 decades living with her family. “My family is very close, and we often catch up on daily happenings in our lives,” Robin shared. “These opportunities only arose because we shared a physical space that made communication easy and effortless.”
Still, it was about time that she and her brother had the privacy they both deserve, and she made the decision to start looking for a place at the beginning of 2021.
One of Robin’s main considerations was her potential rapport with her housemates. “I didn’t want to move from a comfortable environment that I love to one I hate,” she said. She also values the freedom to use the common areas, something that those who have lived with friends or strangers would understand. This is when Marshall and Lily came into the picture.
Deciding to move in with my friends who are married
Robin has known Marshall and Lily since they were students in secondary school. More than 10 years later, Marshall and Lily tied the knot and snagged a spacious 5-room resale flat in Simei.
The topic of Robin moving in together with the couple was one that was brought up naturally one day whilst they were chatting about her house hunt. She needed a room, they had the extra space, and Robin was officially made a housemate in December 2021.
Now, you might be wondering – why would someone willingly move in with a married couple. All I could think of when Robin told me her story was how I was in a similar situation many moons ago. I was studying abroad in Australia and rented a room close to my university. It so happened that my landlord was also my housemate, and his girlfriend was living with him.
I had no reason to leave my room anyway, especially with a spacious bed and my workstation.
Image credit: Josiah Neo
My time living in that 2-room apartment was far from awkward, but I spent the majority of my days holed up in my room as they would be cosied up on the couch Netflix and chilling day in and day out. I was not about to commit a social faux pas and jio myself into whatever was happening in the living room, especially since I barely knew them.
Let’s not even bring up the times when I had to quickly put on my noise-cancelling headphones. While I’m no prude, there are just some sounds my housemates make that I’m better off not hearing. Ever.
My colleague Denise (not her real name) had a worse experience. In 2018, she rented a room with a couple who had every corner, wall, and shelf decorated with their pictures and travel souvenirs. “I felt very much like an outsider,” Denise said.
Image for illustrative purposes only.
To her credit, she did try to join them for dinner on several occasions for the first month, but she always felt like an accidental third wheel. “They would do lovey-dovey stuff like putting food into each other’s bowl and talk only about their days,” she said. She ended up hating it so much that she broke her lease and moved out early.
“I wanted housemates whom I could hang out and eat chips on the couch with,” Denise told me. With all these horror stories about living with a married couple in mind,
So why did Robin decide to move in with a couple, and a married one at that?
The difference between my, Denise, and Robin’s circumstances was while Denise and I moved in with strangers, Robin has known Marshall and Lily for over a decade. “They’ve been the closest to me, and it helped that we knew each other’s personalities very well,” she said about their friendship. “We also deal with conflict in a very peaceful manner.”
Rather than it being a “moving in with a couple” situation, Robin, Marshall, and Lily’s dynamic was more of “moving in with friends who so happened to be a couple”. Prior to Robin’s becoming their housemate, all three of them had also discussed their concerns about personal space, privacy, and the right to use common spaces like the living room and kitchen.
Being able to use common spaces without feeling awkward
Being able to use the living room was one of Robin’s main concerns.
The freedom to use common spaces like the living room and kitchen was one of the most important things to Robin. When she stays over at her fiance’s house on the weekends, she feels awkward using said spaces because it’s technically not her house. Anyone who has lived with a live-in landlord would know what she’s talking about, and it was something she’d like to avoid if she were to move in with Marshall and Lily.
Thankfully, the couple had zero qualms about Robin using the shared spaces. “They have been exceptionally graceful and kind to let me use the common spaces comfortably,” Robin said. “This makes the overall dynamic between us very easy and less transactional.”
Carving out clear boundaries
Boundaries, or the lack of them, is one of the main reasons why friends-turned-housemates usually end up in disaster. After all, too many people romanticise the idea of sharing a house with their besties, only to realise that being around each other 24/7 will reveal incompatibilities that Sunday brunches or nights out at Marquee would not have uncovered.
While she was away on a work trip, Robin’s housemates made her bed for her to cope with her absence.
Image credit: Robin
To ensure that their decade-long friendship did not turn sour, Robin, Marshall, and Lily demarcated a few rules of living together prior to her moving in with the couple.
First was the right to privacy. “As friends, it’s very easy to just want to hang out and forget that we all need our own space,” Robin said. If her door is open, she’s open to having Marshall or Lily drop in for a chat. If it’s closed, then all she asks for is a little bit of privacy. She also spends every weekend with her boyfriend at his house, so the couple can get some alone time to themselves in their home.
And I know what’s on your mind. No, Robin has not had to use her noise-cancelling headphones like I had to.
Image credit: Robin
They are also cognizant of each other’s habits, likes, and dislikes thanks to healthy and frequent communication. “It’s to the point where we are attuned to helping each other out to lighten our load,” Robin said.
For example, if Marshall and Lily know that Robin is going through a stressful period, they won’t question why the dishes aren’t washed but help take on some of these chores instead. Likewise, Robin will do the same for them when they’re too busy and stretched thin.
All this might sound like normal housemate behaviour. But being a good housemate does not automatically make one a good friend, and vice versa.
Marshall, Lily, and Robin often go for spin class together.
Image credit: Robin
Last, this living situation is just a temporary thing for all parties involved. Robin is set to get married in June 2023, after which she’ll be moving with her husband into their own private rental space while waiting for their BTO flat to be completed in 2025. Knowing that there’ll be an end date to this unorthodox arrangement definitely helped ease any awkwardness at home.
Having a space to call my own after more than 20 years
It might have taken Robin 20 years and a decade-long friendship, but she finally has her own room that she can proudly call her own.
Image for illustrative purposes only.
Sure, she misses seeing her grandma every day and the late-night heart-to-heart talks with her brother. But moving out was a rite of passage that she and many others have had to make for their own sakes. The only difference is that, unlike myself and Denise, Robin actually likes living with her housemates. Their marital status was more of a happy coincidence.
Even with their longstanding friendship, the trio worked hard through healthy communication to ensure that their friendship didn’t implode itself and caused any awkward tensions. Setting boundaries and having an acumen of consideration go a long way towards a home that they’ll want to come back to at the end of each day.
All that’s left on Robin’s plate is carving out more time to visit her family. They might only be a 10-minute drive away, but as we all know, life often gets in the way. But she’s committed to putting in the effort to spend quality time with her family at their abode in Tampines. Only she would have to leave at the end of the night as her brother has already claimed the room as his own.
Read more real Singaporean housing stories:
- “Upgrading” from a condo to a maisonette
- Moving out at 18
- How my flat housed 21 tenants without my knowledge
- Surviving living with a nightmare landlord
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