It was the second place I looked at. I needed to get out of my apartment — fast — after learning the idiot building manager raised our rent an obscene amount. I already knew I was paying more than I could actually afford.
So I found an ad on Craigslist seeking a roommate for a house near my then-'hood. The rent was cheaper, and the post promised fruit trees, avocados, and "really great" men who lived next door.
I contacted the poster immediately.
I got to the house on this tucked-away street down the hills from the Hollywood sign. Two blondes welcomed me in, and we exchanged names. Then I looked up.
"Oooo, sparkly ceilings!" I said. "I'll take it."
I was serious; the house was beautiful. The blondes gave me a good vibe. Still, they insisted on giving me a tour while I asked some questions about safety, bills, and how the hell five women are supposed to share a refrigerator.
I had lived in a sorority for a few months during university (until I got fed up and told some of the mean girls to fuck off). I grew up with two sisters and a single mom. I could handle living in a commune of women again, right?
Plus, I figured, this would be a stepping stone to the next stage of my life. (Whatever the hell that was.)
What I ended up with is a great home, a pseudo-family full of the raddest and most interesting women ever. And yes, there are lots of avocados.
Our neighbors aren't so bad, either.
Despite having the confidence that living here — and getting to share a space with some amazing women — most outsiders wonder how a house full of five females in their mid-20s manage to not claw one another's eyes out on a weekly basis.
The short answer? We respect each other. Sure, we fight. But here's how we avoid plotting one another's demise:
1. WE DON'T COMPETE
Of course, the five of us have a lot in common: Our parents are all divorced, we're obsessed with the sexy-hot dude who delivers us burgers from the Oaks Gourmet. We love Glacier Freeze Gatorade.
We're all in creative fields and talk about yoga and fresh-pressed juice a lot — 'cause that's what you do in L.A. However, our career goals and taste in men are incredibly different (like really, really different). It's comforting to know that you can be yourself without worrying about having to walk on eggshells so someone else doesn't potentially feel like poo.
2. WE CONFRONT PERSONAL GRIPES, IMMEDIATELY
The morning after our Halloween party, our house was TRASHED. I was assigned the duty of harassing the non-responsive cleaning service, but was also on a tight deadline and had less than 10 minutes to submit an article.
"Caitlin, you were supposed to book a cleaner," one roommate said, hovering over me as I'm Skyping with an editor who's all, WE NEED THIS ARTICLE NOW. (Typical.)
"I'm sorry," I said, looking up at my roommate, then back down at my laptop.
"Well, now I can't bring my dog back here," she said. "She's going to eat a balloon and choke and die! This was your responsibility."
"I'M WORKING RIGHT NOW GO AWAY," I snapped. She stomped off.
Ten minutes later, my assignment's turned in. My roommate approaches me again.
"You know, I really don't appreciate how you talked to me just then," she said.
3. AND THEN WE MOVE THE F ON
I explained my situation — the stress of the deadline, the bad timing of her laying into me at that moment, how I don't want her adorable dog to choke on a balloon or used condom or whatever.
We hugged. And it was over.
4. PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE? NOT GOING TO FLY
We're too busy attempting to achieve our far-fetched Hollywood dreams and avoiding getting evicted for having loud parties. Ain't nobody got time for that Gone Girl garbage!
5. THERE'S NO "I HATE YOU BITCH" IN TEAM
We are not precious, saintly angels. We bicker over missing nail polish, who's been hoarding the communal Jurlique Rosewater Mist, and "I JUST CANNOT WITH YOU" attitudes often.
But try to get another roommate to join your side to gang up on someone else? Expect these sort of responses in return:
"Well, she's been stressed, Caitlin. She's overworked. Try to understand where she's coming from."
"This is our home. This is your family. You have to get over it."
"Her skin has been looking parched. Let's steal the mist back when she's at work tomorrow."
6. WHEN IT COMES TO HOUSEHOLD ITEMS, EVERYONE GIVES A SHIT
Similar to how you need to know that living in a house with five women who are from semi-broken homes and tend to be quite "expressive," you need to know that products like toilet paper, dish soap, and red wine are going to deplete quickly.
Suck it up, buy what's missing, and trust your roommates will do the same.
7. AND YES, OKAY, WE HAVE MONTHLY "HOUSE MEETINGS"
When it feels like those super ideal situations aren't working out — or someone doesn't understand that it's not appropriate to play Beatles records in the living room at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday night, it's time to tap those #rejectsorority roots and have an all-house meeting.
It sounds RIDICULOUS, but it works — if you're anal retentive like me and make an agenda with basic talking points, use a "talking stick," say "NO CROSS TALKING!" when someone's trying to interrupt one another, and don't allow anyone to use another person's name when discussing general subjects until we do a "communication exercise" at the end.
(Oh, rehab. What have you done to me?)
Meetings can get a bit tense, but if you STICK TO AN AGENDA and RESPECT SPARROW OR EAGLE OR HUMMINGBIRD'S TALKING STICK, you can usually resolve outstanding issues and come up with tangible solutions.
Like when not knowing when roommates were going to come home from vacations or have groups of people over stressed one roommate out, we concluded keeping a calendar would be helpful:
8. AT THE END OF THE DAY, WE TREAT THE HOUSE LIKE IT'S OUR HOUSE
We clean, we do laundry. I organize tupperware manically in the kitchen whilst listening to podcasts about zoo animals 'cause I'm typically procrastinating on a deadline.
A couple of us garden. One girl really likes purifying the house with gemstones or whatever. It's our home — we live here — why not enjoy it?
9. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: WE DO FUN STUFF TOGETHER!
I may have sulked and chain-smoked cigarettes while I watched some girls in my sorority shoot beer bongs in a corn field in Iowa. As an extrovert, though, I thrive from being around other people. And as a relatively new resident to L.A., sharing a space with four other women has encouraged me to explore the city more with the crew: Even if it's doing things like haunted hayrides, which I loathe.
But hey, I suppose they're like my sisters now. And we seem to have fun doing almost everything.
NO CROSS TALKING DURING HOUSE MEETINGS, THOUGH. That seriously pisses me off.
Follow me on Twitter: @caitlinthornton