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How to tell a friend you don’t want to move in with them

IMAGE VIA HOMMEY

WORDS BY GENEVIEVE PHELAN

We need to talk.

Hard truth #357: Your best friend might not be the person for you to move in with. Out of five of your most inner-circle friends, only one contender might be right for you to coexist with in such close quarters.

As many of us embark on new living arrangements in our twenties, I believe this often neglected topic of conversation needs a little more attention. These years can really start to feel like ‘waiting room’ ones, when you aren’t anywhere near saving up for a house/apartment/shoebox deposit but feel ready to spread your wings and fly the coop.


Keen for more practical advice? Head to our Life vertical. 


It could be to kill time, flee your comfort zone or just have some fun. Maybe you’re pining for freedom, proximity to work, a seachange, or an adventure of some sort. Whichever it is, your out of home cohabitants are immensely integral to your Big Move, especially if it’s your first time. 

I live with a best friend and share house veteran. She’s a clean and considerate bedroom neighbour and makes a mean lasagne. We lead similar lives and share a lot of the same values, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervy when it was time to organise men with vans and scour Facebook Marketplace for second-hand washing machines. I was (and still am) new to the out of home mode de vie. 

I’ve only ever lived with my mum, so it was a huge change. Would it all work out? Will I be able to keep myself alive? What if I save literally NO money while concurrently setting aside a whopping sum of money each month for rent? These were my fears. It all worked out more than okay in the end.

We’re now four months into our 12-month lease, and with fellow friends houseshare hunting, shifting digs or contemplating moving interstate, I’ve realised the politics of the move-out can be really sensitive. What if you aren’t ready to move in with one of your closest confidantes, but they want to move in with you? 

Unrequited housemate interest is tough. The person who blocks the cohabitation feels guilty, shameful and cruel. The one who gets kicked back might feel offended, confused and angry. With a lot of us navigating new postcodes and teeing up Flatmates dates, I thought I’d turn to an expert for some advice on what to do when you’re not sure if your friend (who you love dearly) is the right human to share a bathroom with, for harmless and inexplicable gut feeling reasons. 

I decided to ask an experienced Melbourne counsellor, Christina Kioulafas, how to have the ‘I love you, but we will probably unravel under the same roof’ chat. Here’s her measured take.

It can be excruciating to tell a best friend (akin to family) that you don’t feel compatible enough to move in with them. How can we handle such a delicate situation? 

You can let them know that you don’t want to risk ruining the friendship. Spending time with our bestie is special, but seeing them every day can take the spark of a friendship and make it mundane. Explain to them you love the way the friendship is and are wary of jeopardising that.  

What’s the best way to have ‘the chat’?

Over a coffee, in a public place, and try to be honest but not hurtful. If your friend is unhappy, you have to sit with that discomfort. You are making the right decision for both of you.  

Why is it that even our closest confidantes aren’t the ideal housemates? 

Housemates who are just friends of friends or strangers can be kept at a distance and asked to clean up after themselves or pay bills etc. Best friends may take things personally. Plus, we love our friends, but we don’t need to know all about their habits. This can take all the mystery out of a person.

What should we look for in a prospective housemate when selecting from our current friendship pool? 

Respectful, responsible, safe and with shared ideals and values. Talk about what you want the house to be like to make sure you’re all on the same page.

If things aren’t working out with a friend post-move, what can we do when confrontation seems terrifying? 

Pick a time when you are both calm and relaxed and talk about the issues using ‘I statements’ e.g. ‘I think the bathroom needs a good clean’ and ‘I’m wondering if we can do it this weekend?’ Confront the little things before they become huge. Don’t worry if things explode, friendships can be repaired! Most people can move out and move on with maturity. 

You can find Christina here. 

Genevieve Phelan is Fashion Journal’s Lifestyle & Careers Columnist. Her writing fuses introspection with investigation, calling on her own personal anecdotes and the advice of admired experts in the realms of intimacy, money, friendship, careers and love. You can find her here and here.

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