Places I’ve Lived: The Brisbane Edition
Where have you lived, Chloe Moss?
March 2010 — June 2011: Nathan Avenue, Ashgrove / 5.4km north-west of Brisbane CBD / $165 — $180 AUSD per week, my share, plus bills
I moved out of home when I was 20 years old and in my third year of undergraduate study. My friend from university shared a town house with her best friend from high school. My high-school-best-friend’s parents owned the townhouse and had purchased it so their two children would have somewhere to live while they were in Brisbane. Their son decided he’d prefer to live in a share house with his friends. Their daughter moved overseas for a year, and I moved into her room.
The total rent was split between the three of us, and I paid slightly more because I had the large bedroom with the ensuite, balcony, and air conditioning. The suburb is known for its well-dressed stay-at-home-mothers and Pilates studios. It’s the place to live if you want easy access to organic produce. I was studying and doing administration in the public service, so most of this was lost on me.
When the lease expired, my university friend moved out and the landlord’s weird nephew moved in. He rarely left his bedroom, except on the weekend when he drove his souped-up car to northern New South Wales to visit his parents. He would come back with a week’s worth of frozen meals that he stored in a giant chest freezer in the garage. I’ve concluded that you can either be weird or you can have a giant chest freezer. You can’t be both. I only lasted three months into the second lease before I found someone else to take the room.
The moral of the story: when your friend’s friend gets drunk at a party and smashes the top of the ugliest coffee table known to man, the owner will insist on replacement glass rather than a brand new coffee table. It will be expensive.
June 2011 — December 2012: Abingdon Street, Woolloongabba / 3.3km south of Brisbane CBD / $135 AUSD per week (my share) plus bills
I changed degrees and got involved with the political crowd at university. This is where I met the person who understands me the best of any of my friends, past or present. When we met, he lived with his mother and sister in a house owned by his grandmother. His mother and sister moved to Sydney, so he had the task of finding three housemates to fill the empty rooms.
It was the perfect share house. It was an enormous four-bedroom Queenslander with a yard, giant back deck, pool and an old trampoline which was mainly used by people making out at our parties. It was great for entertaining, and because it was owned by his family we were allowed to drill as many holes in the walls as we wanted. My two cats moved in with me, and a household of people who “didn’t like cats” fell in love with them.
I paid slightly more for the large front bedroom that had two windows, rather than one. In that house I lost my virginity, discovered my love of hosting parties, and experienced the wonder of housemates who are family, rather than random humans with whom you share a roof.
During this time I had a job that I loved. Unfortunately my employment relied on a particular political party remaining in government. When the government changed hands, I was immediately let go. I sat on the couch gazing out the window for three days, wondering how an election loss could feel so much like a break-up.
My housemate’s mum returned from Sydney and we were warned we needed to vacate. Three of the existing four housemates went hunting for a place together.
The moral of the story: If you find the perfect share house early in your rental-life, you will spend a lot of your later rental-life disappointed. Also, it is hard to clean vomit out of an open fireplace.
January 2013 — January 2014: Athlone Street, Woolloongabba / 3.1km south of Brisbane CBD / $170 AUSD per week (my share) plus bills
During this house-hunt, we realized exactly how lucky we were living in the Abingdon Street house. It was magnificent and we definitely hadn’t been paying market rent. I had taken a huge pay cut when I lost my job and was now working part-time only. I went back to university, which meant that I qualified for the student welfare payment and the small rental assistance payment as a supplement to my salary. Panicking about not being able to afford anything in the area, I went and inspected a townhouse in the same suburb. We applied for it, got it, and on moving in, realized what a terrible mistake we’d made.
The entire house was beige — walls, floors, carpets, and tiles. It was January, which is the middle of Australian summer, and there was not a single ceiling fan or air conditioning unit in the place, so the entire place was stinking hot all the time. We weren’t allowed pets, so my cats had to return to my mother’s house.
We all were independently miserable that year. I don’t know if the house caused it, but I will always associate that house with being sad. We counted down the days until our twelve month lease was up. I’d planned to move interstate, and sold all my belongings. I ended up getting a good job in Brisbane, so agreed to find a new house with my female housemate and her friend from university. I re-purchased new versions of my belongings for much more than I sold the old ones for.
It was also during this year that I finally went and spoke to my GP about my feelings. I was lonely but wasn’t coping in group situations, work was boring, I hated university, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I finally got a depression diagnosis, a psychologist, and anti-depressants. In hindsight, this probably had a lot to do with the gentle sadness that hovered above me that year.
The moral of the story: When you do an inspection, stop and note the way you feel in the space — it’s far more important than individual facilities. Also, life does not need to be hard all the time. If it is, go and talk to a doctor or a psychologist about it.
January 2014 — March 2015: Ross Street, Woolloongabba / 3.2km south of Brisbane CBD / $200 AUSD per week
Twelve months later, Ross Street — a sprawling Queenslander with a pool — was available again. We applied and were accepted. The cats moved back in.
The house had three bedrooms, and I shared it with my housemate from the previous two houses, and her friend from uni. The $490 week rent was split three ways, but I bid high for the front room. It had polished floorboards instead of old carpet, a ceiling fan, and two windows. If the housemate in the middle room was having sex, the bedrooms on either side shook. The Middle-room housemate also installed her boxing bag on the beam that ran under my bedroom, so sometimes I would be shaken awake and it would take a moment to work out whether the noise was coming from underneath the room or next door.
The day after we moved in, I went on a first date with the boyfriend-to-be. Thus, the honeymoon phase of the relationship played out in and around that house. I also started an enjoyable full-time job with an NGO. It was a very good year.
Outside there was a paved area, perfect for parties, and an in-ground pool. It was in this backyard that I hosted what was probably my best party. For my birthday, forty friends sat at long tables eating spaghetti Bolognese and drinking wine. Later, we scooped gelato for dessert and continued drinking and talking about stupid things. It was everything I’d ever hoped my mid-20s would look like.
My boyfriend moved in with me. I adopted a retired greyhound and the ease with which we had him added to the lease gave me a false sense of security about finding dog-friendly rental properties in the future. I do not regret adopting him because he makes my life better and I love him. I do acknowledge, however, that he also complicates my life. Finding the next rental will be harder.
We signed the lease for a second year, and shortly after my housemate and I had one of those fights you have with someone you’ve been living with for four years. The boyfriend and I were toying with the idea of finding our own house when I found the ad for a cute, cheap cottage with a yard, around the corner. We jumped.
The moral of the story: Do not move in with someone you’ve been dating for less than a year. Also, you can still be good friends with someone you can’t live with.
March 2015 — January 2016: Harrogate Street, Woolloongabba, $185 per week AUSD
This next house was a two bedroom cottage with a fully fenced yard for a surprisingly small amount of money. The photos in the advertisement had clearly been taken several years ago, and the paint was now peeling off the entire exterior of the house. The interior rooms, however, had high ceilings and polished floorboards. We loved it.
After we moved in, I noticed that the yard was not actually fenced.e. The couple who lived on the other side of the fence seemed convinced our greyhound would eat their baby. The home on the other side of the property looked like the home of a fairy tale witch with an overgrown yard and a large black cat who would sit on the roof and stare into our back yard.
I replaced the aged linoleum in the bathroom with the fake floorboards that stick on. I put a heavy coating of silicone around all the edges. Later, I sent all the receipts to the real estate who magically, reimbursed me for the unapproved modifications. I would later install a dishwasher in a similar fashion.
While shedding the housemates was wonderful, it was a difficult year. While my boyfriend was, and is, A Lovely Human, he was not The Human for Me. Cohabiting is hard. Cohabiting with someone who is not for you is really hard. Once you’ve signed a twelve month lease, the stakes are higher. We had a trip overseas booked, which kept us together until December. Once we got back we limped through Christmas before breaking up in the car on the way home from visiting family on Boxing Day. We decided I would stay in the house and he would continue to pay rent until he had removed all his stuff.
Initially, I was confident that I’d find a roommate. I loved the house, and I’d put a lot of effort into making the space home. After the third person came to look at the room, and nearly broke into a jog trying to get out the front door, I forced myself to think about my first reaction to the house. No one wanted to live there.
One night I walked into the kitchen, turned on the light and watched three mice scatter into the space between the wall and the ceiling. The kitchen window had broken shortly after we moved in and the real estate didn’t get around to fixing it. It made sealing the kitchen impossible. I decided it was time to move out.
We should have broken the lease when we broke the relationship. I ended up paying the rent and bills on my own for three months as well as covering the costs of actually moving. I did get to keep all of the joint furniture though, so it might have worked out financially. Moving on my own opened my eyes to the impact of having a house full of things — you are trapped by them. You can’t leave at a moment’s notice. I put everything I owned on Gumtree (for the second time in my life), and sold it all for far less than it was worth.
After the move was over, I had a recurring dream for months in which the keys were due back to the real estate in two hours and I would open a door to find a whole room full of tiny, delicate objects that hadn’t been packed.
The moral of the story: don’t give up straight away, but do give up eventually.
January 2016 — current: Camp Mountain, free
Having been somewhat overwhelmed by the process of moving out of Harrogate Street, I fled home to my mother. I’ve always been confident that I would not move back in with my parent, but at 27 years old it has happened.
Three years of living entirely outside my means, coupled with extensive dental work and a lack of self-control means I have a huge personal loan to pay off. My mother is kindly letting me live at home rent-free, for the moment. Fortunately (as a single parent and only child), we have always gotten on well. If anything, I worry that our relationship is too co-dependent.
Living at home bothers me because in my head it indicates that I am not successfully grown. I am living at home because I am useless with money and am living with the consequences of those bad decisions. My mother lives about 45 minutes from the CBD in an area not serviced by public transport. I can see my social circle shrinking, which doesn’t bother me at the moment, but may be problematic down the line.
I’m nowhere near being able to afford my own home, despite being on a reasonable wage for the majority of my working life. Housing affordability, which seems to be affecting my cohort across the developed world, may be part of it but it also has a lot to do with my own poor decisions. I am lucky that I have a parent who is able to facilitate me moving back home. I am incredibly lucky to have a mother who doubles as a best friend. I’ll probably move out again at the end of the year, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.