Book Review: Flatter’s Survival Guide, by Lauren Earl

“Hi Steph. I came home from work today, and I thought the Invisible Man must have been in the bathroom, as the light was on and the fan was going. Please ensure that after using the bathroom you turn off the light and fan, as it wastes electricity. Malcolm.”
If you’ve ever been flatting, you will recognise the above as an example of the good ol’ flatmate-passive-aggressive-note.  Reading Flatter’s Survival Guide pulled me back in time through all the flats I’ve dwelt in, and face-to-face with all the colourful characters I’ve lived with. (And after 10 years of flatting, there’s been quite a few.) I lingered fondly in the memory-rooms of some flats, whilst bolting out the memory-door from others screaming ‘you’re not there anymore, you’re not there anymore!’ And when I came face-to-face with memory-Malcom, I told him that he’d totally walked in on the Invisible Man taking a shower, and that he was an inconsiderate jerk for not knocking first.

The main message I took from Flatter’s Survival Guide is that the decisions you make when going flatting can be the difference between having the best year of your life, or ending up bitter and miserable, only one step away from high-fiving your flatmate in the face with a frying pan. The first thing that went through my mind after finishing this book was “God, I wish this had been published when I was 18”.

23-year-old Lauren Earl wrote and designed Flatter’s Survival Guide as her major project as a student at Massey University School of Design. A luxurious hardback, printed on heavy card and exquisitely designed, it is a gorgeous object. The design and content are cleverly entwined, with the information being presented in a hilarious and informative way that is easy to read and a pleasure to the eye.

Earl takes you through the whole flatting process in beautifully laid out sections: Preparation, flat hunting, flat life, right through to an exit plan when it’s time to move on. The book has practical advice on things such as flat finances, a checklist of things to ask about when viewing a flat, how to avoid flat dramas, and dealing with problematic flatmates. I thoroughly enjoyed the section of creative ways to say sorry for being a bad flatmate – there is even a recipe for vanilla cupcakes! Image

It also has entertaining illustrations and diagrams of situations that all flatters will recognise: people not doing their dishes, late rent payments, passive-aggressive notes, and, my personal favourite, a flowchart on toilet etiquette. It is also peppered with “Top Tips”, comical quotes from previous flatters, and interesting surveys: FYI it is never all right to use notes, unless they are funny. E.g. “Whoever owns these eggs I give you 2 dollars. I am drunk. Thank you for chickens’ babies.”

Flatter’s Survival Guide would make a brilliant gift for anyone who has flatted, is flatting or will flat. I actually think that along with your diploma at high school graduation, you should also be issued with a copy of this book.

So, if you are about to embark on the journey of flatting, just remember this: “The key is perfecting the art of the smile and nod when all you want to do is punch them in the face.” And also, if you’ve been a douchey flatmate, always sniff your toothbrush before you use it.

Reviewed by Stephanie Soper

Flatter’s Survival Guide
by Lauren Earl
Published by Awa Press
ISBN 9781877551895