On A Quest to Find A Room To Call My Own

Turning up Homeless in Reykjavik
21.3.2014
Words by LC
I was pretty certain that back in December I would be returning to Reykjavik in the Spring, for some period, but typically unorganized and somewhat lazy self dismissed the mission of finding a new abode; I was off travelling, so I just assumed it could be done as I flittered from place to place over cyberspace. Often stuck inside due to the harsh winter in Russia, I started my quest, peeking online, google-translating various housing sites and scanning the warped clunky poetry that was churned out alongside the bright pictures of soulless-looking magnolia boxes in the hopes of uncovering a cheap room, somewhere that wasn’t too much of a mission out of the city.

A couple of days before I was due to leave, time was running out and I was still homeless. All the pictures of places I found displayed only super-expensive, bright shiny squares for like 600 Euros a month. Despite visiting the city a couple of times before, I didn't anticipate finding a roof over my head could be quite so costly. I was seeking something not so suited to a consumer-way of living. White Ikea-filled squares do not suit me. Returning to a more 'conventional' way of living was going to be a challenge for me, let alone finding something. No luck.

Thus I had no choice but to turn up, and see what would happen. I wasn't turning up completely destitute, however, having found sweetness with a kind Couch Surfing host who permitted me refuge for the first couple of nights, and just in case, I'd also written to a billion people for backup spare floor spaces. So I left London's depths, with all the necessities shoved in my backpack for a new adventure in Iceland. I made it to the apartment of my CS friend. The sun beamed through the following days, spring-filled, and I could (almost) see the mountains through the window, yet my days were confined to the basement, plugged into technological bits and pieces, in an attempt to organise my life; to find some kind of home, a way of some income through a crappy dishwashing job or otherwise (fail) and to try to sort out my life, in general. I tip-tap-typed messages all day, called about places, but got no replies or answers. I uncovered more strangers on whose floors I could sleep.

Later that week, after I finally permitted myself a break from sorting my life, I bumped into someone at a show who I knew from my last visit; a sweet acquaintance of equally sweet kisses. I was pleased to see a face I recognised, but shy and embarrassed about admitting my state of flux. Not wanting to overstay the kindness of my Couch Surfing friend, I spent a couple of nights curled up in different places and spaces with the helpfulness my acquaintance. On and off, I swung between my CS host and other random spaces for a week: a bed in the basement, different apartments, beds, kind hearts, dragging things back and forth.

And oh, Monday came around again and I began work, still homeless, turning up with the mindset and effects of temporary homelessness, of survival mode, head in another space and place. And I felt like a fucking idiot, ashamed of my inability to be able to sort my life, only able to concentrate on finding a space for my sleeping bag and nothing else.

Finally, a few days later a very cheap room suddenly made itself known—an available 'hole' in the former attic of a big apartment block. I went to see it. Up the stairs I went, which clearly hadn’t been changed since, well, maybe the ‘70s? The teeny-tiny room was painted in a badly daubed sickly salmon pink and had a sloping, head-bashing ceiling. Used clothes and a blood-stained duvet were casually slung in the corner.  But it would do, and it was the cheapest I could find. I took it with delight.

In my head, I could already hear the echoing disdain of my mother’s voice. It’s definitely not up to the stereotypically high standards of Nordic living and well within poverty distinctions, but at least very far from the magnolia box I feared would hold my soul. The hallway is lined by a delightful and dusty ‘70s carpet and the walls decorated (or are they reinforced?) with hessian. A literally sawed-out cupboard storage room has been converted into the tiniest kitchen. This place definitely has some soul of the hippy bohemian and financially struggling kind. I feel right at home.

Oh yes. Unless I wish to jungle-bathe myself with hot-water-in-a-saucepan and drip all over what little floor space I have, or rinse my hair in the kitchen sink with a mug, my new bathroom is across the road at the swimming pool. A girl who asked me for sleeping space and temporary friendship from CS rejected me on the premise that she has nowhere to clean herself. On the day that I was supposed to move in, my landlord-to-be went to party, forgetting to call me about picking up the keys. I got an alcohol-influenced text way after midnight about coming to get them. But finally, a room of my own.

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