The number of young adults in the UK living with their parents has risen by 25% since 1996, bringing the total to about 3.3 million today. A year ago my boyfriend and I joined the ranks of the 21% of 25 to 29 year olds living with our (his) parents, and I'm here to tell you, if you're in the same boat, how to survive it.
When I gleefully packed my bags and flew the nest at the age of 18, I thoroughly intended never to darken my parents' doors as a resident again - and I never have, despite desperate periods of eating just rice and cabbage in an attempt to make it to the next payday without selling any of my vital organs. But when my partner and I suddenly found ourselves needing to move to yet another rented property we decided that our only chance of ever affording a real house was to take up his parents' offer of living with them for a few months while we saved for a deposit.
So we packed our bags and moved in to the small double bedroom next to his parents' room, along with our two cats and not inconsiderable trepidation. The room had black, faux leather wallpaper and was full of my partner's brother's junk (he is 30 and has never moved out), and smelt overpoweringly of stale cigarette smoke for weeks. I spent the first weekend sobbing onto my cat, who was extremely annoyed about being hugged and cried on. Then I pulled myself together and resolved to endure it like a lady.
Ten months later we're about to exchange contracts on our (our!) perfect little one bedroom flat, for exactly the same price that my parents bought their 5 bedroom house 15 years ago. 10 months may not sound like a long time, but believe me, 10 months living with a terrifying tiny Greek woman who is convinced you're scheming to entrap her firstborn son is long enough. We made it through, homicide-free. Here are my tips for surviving:
1. Set boundaries. My mother in law insists on going into our bedroom during the day while we're at work, and setting this boundary early on would have negated the need for me to passive-aggressively leave questionable items on our bedside table in an attempt to discourage her. Conversely they have some rules that we had to find out about by breaking, like Not Using the Shower in the Morning, which they probably wish they'd told us about too.
2. Set aside some money every month to do fun stuff, and use that money exclusively to treat yourself. It might take a month longer to save that deposit, but your sanity is more likely to be intact by the time you get there.
3. Your parents are going to treat you like they did when you moved out, at which point you were probably still a child, unless you establish yourself as an adult and relate to them in that way. Take the high road. They'll respect that.
4. Figure out what's important to you and what you can let slide. If cooking your own dinner is your priority, make sure you get this. If having your own space is the most important thing to you, make that a priority.
5. It may not feel like it, but this doesn't have to be time wasted just waiting to move out. Use the time for self-improvement - learn to meditate, do an evening class or allocate a portion of your income to a gym membership or a sports team and get fit.
6. Focus on the prize - I spent a lot (and I mean a LOT) of time researching, planning, pestering my partner to look at Rightmove forty times a day, I knew the Ikea catalogue back to front and read every article about first time buyers that's ever been written. It's easy to get really bogged down in the discomfort of your situation unless you stay focused on your ultimate goal, and reminding myself that tiptoeing around at night and enduring my mother in law's cooking was only temporary kept me sane. Remember, this will end one day.
7. When things get really desperate, there's always wine and the Breaking Bad box set.