Why Jenn Kitagawa Kept Her Studio Apartment Search a Secret from Her Roommates

For the past two years, multidisciplinary artist and graphic designer Jenn Kitagawa (we’re obsessed with her colorful, carefree illustrations) has lived happily with her two roommates in a semi-detached house in Toronto with amazing natural light and rare outdoor space. Then she got the idea in her head that it would be better to live on her own. Here’s what happened when she decided to start looking for a studio apartment—in secret. —As told to Lindsey Mather

Jenn Kitagawa in her bedroom.

Photo: Chelsee Ivan

It’s kind of a funny situation.

I have two roommates, who are my good friends, and we have a cat. Our house is super cute: We’ve got lots of light, old original hardwood floors, a little patio out back, a little garden space—all of these great things. I also love our neighborhood. We have a great local market nearby, a park, a pool, bike lanes. All the things that I like. But you reach a point where you’re like, Maybe it’s time to live on my own. That would be nice, too. Somewhere similar to this but just smaller; something that’s more manageable for a single person.

I like to daydream about these things. At first it was just let’s see what’s out there, test the waters. Then it started to become habit. Everyday, I was like, I’m just going to look online. On the Canadian version of Craigslist, Kijiji. Late night, looking as if I’m on Tinder or something. I learned little tricks. Oh, you can just look at the new posts for that day.

Then I started feeling like I was cheating on my roommates. If this were a relationship, it would be like I was going behind their backs and going online to look for something better.

If I found something really great, I wouldn’t be a jerk, I’d give them notice. I wouldn’t disappear into the night. But I didn’t want to tell them because that meant committing to the idea of moving.

I had to make myself stop looking.

The relationship analogy stayed with me. It’s like when you’re with someone and there’s nothing wrong, but then you start looking around and you’re like, Oh, that person could be cool. And all your daydreams of these things are probably much better than the reality, but it starts making you miserable because you think, Oh, it could be so much better.

With apartments you think, If this was my space, we would put the couch over there. If this was my house, it would always be clean. Totally normal roommate situations where you know this isn’t really a big deal. I realized I didn’t want to move. I thought, no, look around, this place is pretty nice, my roommates are great.

Besides, anything I could afford would be a terrible scary basement in a far off location where at that point I’d be like, Why would I live in Toronto?!

But I’m getting the best of both worlds. I’m going on a trip to Berlin in a couple months. Because I’m a freelance illustrator and graphic designer, I can work anywhere, and I’ve never taken that opportunity. This is me finally doing that. I’ve subletted my room for a month. I’m going with my partner, we’ll be visiting friends and family, sightseeing, working. We are on the hunt for an Airbnb. And this time it doesn’t feel like cheating.

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