Words | Elizabeth Laughton
Just before semester started, I moved out of my tiny studio apartment and into a dodgy one-bedroom duplex. Now that I’m stuck inside indefinitely, I am so fucking glad I opted for space when I moved.
My place is still a shoebox, but unlike my studio, I have separate rooms for eating, sleeping, and studying. When I lived in my studio, I would make dinner a foot away from my bed and study in between my sheets. It drove me a little crazy because my sleeping space was also my active focusing space.
So now I take great pleasure in walking more than two metres away from my bed to an awkward exposed-brick alcove where I study. The brick wall has a huge crack in it which the cockroaches use as their own front door. The window is dirty in a way that you can’t wipe away. I’m still immensely happy to have a separate, demarcated space to do productive stuff.
As for my kitchen, it’s totally infested with mice. My cat is a shit hunter and I can’t bring myself to kill them when I know I’ll leave once my lease is up. I seal everything in glass jars and don’t leave anything on my bench for more than a few minutes of food prep. Nevertheless, I actually have an oven in this place! It was illegal to have one in my studio, so I had to microwave everything. I’m still getting used to not burning everything and worrying about whether the mice are under the oven when I use it.
My bathroom is tiled with pool tiles. My real estate’s plumber has had to visit a few times (shitty tiny copper piping) and doesn’t find this as amusing as I do. It’s totally a move I would make when decorating my Sims’ bathroom back in 2013. Sometimes the toilet doesn’t flush at all. I can’t find a positive aspect of this bathroom other than the fact that the pool tiles are funny.
Lastly, I had a good twenty neighbours when I lived in my studio. There was a couple next door that argued a lot and a guy below me who watched conspiracy theory videos about the United States all day. Everyone was really nice though. My property manager was total dad material and would tell me he was doing work on the roof so I could leave the blind open a little and he could say hi to my cat. I felt comforted by the number of kind people around me in my first rental.
On my first day in my current place, I had an awkward encounter with my new neighbour. We live under the same roof but have separate entries and no way of entering each other’s space. I was coughing heaps from using cleaning chemicals in the apartment and she instructed me to call an ambulance and go to hospital. I was like, totally fine, but she’s a nurse with a heart condition. When I didn’t call an ambulance, I think she didn’t feel listened to.
When she found out I had a cat, she told me I was breaking my lease agreement. I insisted I wasn’t. She asked if my cat would “litter all over the yard.” I told her my cat was an indoor cat. She told me to “make sure it doesn’t get out.” It sounded like a threat. I don’t take well to being told what to do.
So, my first impression of my new neighbour was that she was a bit mean. It’s taken being in isolation right next to her to learn that she’s really not and I had judged her a bit quickly. She’s definitely bossy and I’m definitely irreverent, but we have a good routine where she pulls out the bins and I pull them back in. The other day we had a very honest conversation about toilet paper and we split a packet of sweet tender TP.
I also work from home at the moment. I work in admin so it’s all happening on my dodgy lil’ Lenovo laptop. I didn’t buy an internet router when I moved out of my parents’ house because I figured I could hotspot myself or go to the library. At the moment, I’m chewing through extreme amounts of data to keep up with uni and work. I don’t feel sorry for myself; I feel sorry for anyone studying online with the NBN.
My work involves taking calls from customers. I lost my shit when I took an abusive call sitting on my homely blue couch. After that shift, I made a distinct effort to only do work in one part of my house that I couldn’t see from any other room. By keeping work separate from my relaxation zones, I’m definitely more mentally healthy. At the end of every shift, I imagine myself walking to the bus that gets me home from work. Gotta spiritually detach from shitty customers too.
I’m really glad I moved out of that studio. My new place has been roach and mice infested, and my bathroom is pool-tile blue. I didn’t expect to be spending every bloody day inside for months on end, but I’m so grateful for the space I can afford, and even more grateful that I’m getting enough hours at work to pay for it for the next few weeks.