Guys, I fucking hate moving.
I hate it so much I couldn’t even think of a clever way to say it. I hate moving. Every second of it. I hate the ridiculous amount of time and energy it takes to pack (“How the hell do I have so much stuff?!”), how furniture that seemed so easy to move in somehow can’t fit through the door now, I hate going back and forth from the apartment to the moving truck like a soldier ant, the white-knuckle experience of driving said giant moving truck, knowing that with every pothole you hit, you probably broke every single thing in every single box labelled ‘FRAGILE!!’ I hate hauling heavy furniture up narrow stairwells and through labyrinth-like hallways, and how no you can never find that special box of essentials that you need right away. I hate the days (or weeks...or months) it takes to unpack all of your crap. For me, moving is like the twelve labours of Heracles, and I’ve moved seven freaking times in six freaking years.
In all my time renting, I’ve learned quite a bit about apartment living. And as I pack up to return to school in BG, debating whether or not I really need a replica of Anduril and a seven foot inflatable Freddy Krueger Halloween decoration (I do), I find myself reflecting on the youngling I was when I started renting and what’s become important to me now. When I was eighteen, all it took was a nice kitchen and a balcony to sell me on a place. Now…well, I still want a nice kitchen and a balcony, but I look for more practical things, like how many outlets are in the living room or how well the apartment complex is rated online. I’ve also grown up a bit in my expectations and what I believe I need in an apartment. Here’s pretty much what I’ve learned so far:
Space is overrated
This is a big one, and it’s one I’ve only come to truly realize in the last year. The house I grew up in wasn’t huge, but there was a basement and an upstairs with plenty of room to be on your own, even when everybody was home. I went to college thinking that I would absolutely need the biggest space possible when I moved into an apartment. Living in the dorms for a year reinforced that belief tenfold, and for years I looked for the most space I could possibly get, even if I had to stretch my budget to within an inch of its life to do so. Moving to Columbus was a big wake up call for me, because the cost of living is significantly higher than it is where I’ve rented previously.
Earlier this year, I visited a friend of mine in town. She lives with her hubby in a 400 square foot studio near downtown. The minute I stepped into their studio, I loved it, which shocked me. Looking at the size, I would have expected 400 square feet for two people would be a cramped, crowded hell. The apartment was adorable, with the bedroom divided from the living room by a gorgeous sliding door that almost mimicked a shoji screen. The open concept of the kitchen and the living room made the whole place seem communal in a very cozy way.
I was dumbfounded. Sure, it’s cute, but how could you possibly feel at home in such a tiny space? How could there be any privacy? But then I gave some serious thought to just how much space I used in my roomy two bedroom townhome with its sky high rent and utilities. We (okay, I) had transformed the second bedroom into a dance and yoga space, and that was a very lofty idea, but more often than not it went unused, save for a week or so before performances. I did most of my yoga in front of the TV in the living room because trying to follow a Yogaglo vid on a laptop way off in the corner of the room was a flaming bitch. The second bedroom became Prometheus’s room, and being a ball python, he doesn’t exactly require a suite to himself.
Ladies and gentlemen, the aesthetic paragraph break.
Our kitchen was used, sure, but when I was in this apartment, I spent the vast majority of my time in the living room. It’s where I relax, write, make jewelry, and eat. So why was I spending so much money on all this space I didn’t use? It seemed ridiculous. And it is. When you think about it, we humans do not require a ton of space, especially nowadays. We spend a great deal of our time either out of our homes or in front of our various electronic devices. I dance, and that certainly requires some space, but other than that, all I really need is a kitchen, bathroom, a place to sit, and a place to sleep. I’m blessed with laid back friends who don’t care about the square footage of my apartment when they visit, and I’m not one to host huge parties. There is no reason for me to be living in (and paying for) so much space.
Ever since that visit with my friend, I’ve been working on downsizing. Being a bit of a pack rat, I own far more stuff than I use. I even still have things in boxes from my last move. My new apartment is much, much smaller than where I’m currently living, and half the price. I’m willing to bet I’m going to be much happier in a simpler space with less junk collecting around me.
Damage is inevitable
Some people can leave an apartment as clean and perfect and undamaged as the first day they had moved in. I am not one of those people.
It’s not that I throw wild parties or set things on fire. I just seem to be plagued with utterly random damage happenstances. Well, that and my cat, but we’ll get to that. In my very first, fresh-out-of-the-dorm apartment, for instance, I had some wonderful red jersey knit sheets for my bed, which was against the wall. While moving out, I noticed that those sheets, which were washed countless times and went onto the bed clean and dry, had somehow stained the freaking wall. In another apartment, the first day we moved in, a bag full of cleaning supplies leaked and created a crazy Chemical X that melted the carpet underneath it (all somehow without damaging the bag itself!) There was also a liquid latex incident that is better left to the imagination, but needless to say, carpet destroyed.
Like I said, I’ve never laid waste to an apartment, but wear and tear will happen, from spilled nail polish to broken windows. I’ve learned to accept that I don’t always get the entirety of my security deposit back, and give major kudos to those who do.
Be meticulous in your first walk through
This is both a tip and a life lesson. No matter how laid back your landlord seems or how minute something you find might be, write it down. I’m normally totally exhausted from moving when I do my first walk through of the apartment, but I’ve learned over the years to write every tiny thing I see that could possibly in any way be damage to the apartment. In my aforementioned first place, there was a big scratch in the kitchen tile that had probably been there for a while. Young Dee skipped writing it down because, come on, they had to know about that already and know I hadn’t done it. Well, that preexisting scratch went right out of my deposit, and because I hadn’t written it down on that stupid piece of paper, I couldn’t fight it. In my last apartment I actually walked through with my video camera. You never know what your landlord/company is going to charge you with when you leave. Protect yourself.
It’s imperative to know your rights as a tenant
This is another tip and pretty self-explanatory. I haven’t personally run into any trouble, but I feel much better knowing exactly what my landlord can and can’t do when they’re the only other person with the keys to my home. I may be pretty (okay, extremely) open about my thoughts on everything from music to sexual preferences, but I value my privacy, and I for one feel safer knowing that my landlord has to give me 24 hour notice before entering my residence, for example.
For a summary of tenant rights in Ohio, here’s a link from the Ohio State Bar Association.
A decent landlord should be as important as the apartment itself
|"I heard you're going to be a little late with rent..."|
While we’re talking about landlords, I’ve found that it’s just as important to have a good landlord as it is a good apartment. Landlords are an area where I’ve been fairly fortunate, and that’s not by accident. I Google the shit out of the apartments I look at while searching for my next place to live. For me, it’s much better to have a nice living space with a friendly office staff and prompt maintenance than have an absolutely adorable! duplex that you rent from an old woman and her crazy ex-military son who thinks he can walk in if nobody answers the door. Not that I’m saying independent landlords are always bad. There are plenty of them who are fantastic, and I’ve personally run into more trouble with rental agencies than the latter. Just do your research.
Pet ownership is a huge decision
I’ve never been able to live without animals. I was raised with (by) my parents’ two cats in childhood, and I haven’t been without a creature companion since. I love all animals; dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, etc; and I’ve been Mother to many nonhuman babies. But with renting, pet ownership is a very difficult road. Owning a pet significantly diminishes your options while apartment hunting. Columbus is a very pet friendly city, the minute I put “pet friendly” into an apartment hunt search engine, my list cuts itself in half. Most landlords require a nonrefundable pet deposit, sometimes almost as high as the security deposit itself, and still others tack on an additional monthly ‘pet rent’ that I’ve seen climb as high as $100 a month. Add to that number of pets and species, breed, and weight restrictions, and your new puppy just made your apartment hunting process a challenge.
The reason owning a pet in an apartment can be challenging is because pets can do some serious damage to apartments. I’ve never had this problem with Stella, but dogs are notorious diggers and chewers, and many an apartment has become playground to their destructive tendencies. One of my cats was a major problem for a couple of years. In my first apartment, I had nowhere to put her litter box, so I put it in one of the carpeted rooms. Biggest mistake of my pet-owning life. All it took was one accident just off of the litter box, and the smell had seeped into the carpet. She ended up peeing all over that room, and the smell seeped into the furniture. I got rid of every piece of furniture from that room except for one bookshelf, which I cleaned meticulously...but not well enough! In the next apartment, that bookshelf (and the carpet it was on) became her bathroom. I later discovered from the vet that she’d had a pretty serious liver problem, which made it very difficult for her to pee and exacerbated her accidents (so don’t be afraid if you have to put your litter box in a carpeted area). But either way, damage had been done, and no matter how much I cleaned, those apartments always freaking smelled like freaking cat pee. Nothing, from enzyme destroying hardcore pet odour cleaners to professional carpet shampooers, could get rid of it. For two years I was the olfactory-obsessed version of Lady Macbeth, “Out, damn stench! Out, I say!”
For me, and many people I know, owning a pet is one of the greatest joys in life. For me, it’s a requirement. But think before you take home that fluffy little kitten who fell asleep in your lap at the local shelter. Think about pet rent, vet bills, and the nightmare of hunting for pet friendly apartments when you move. Also, think about how much it will kill you to have to give up your pets because you can’t find a place to live that will accommodate them all. My darling cats, Luka and Rufio, will be living elsewhere for at least a year because the apartment I’m moving into will only accept Stella. Because my pets are like my children, this breaks my heart. I’m lucky to have found temporary but longer term arrangements for them, because having to give them up would absolutely kill me.
I. Won’t. Paint. The walls.
As boring and sterile as white ass walls make a potentially beautiful apartment, I’ve found that it is never worth it to paint the walls and paint over them when I move out. Maybe that’s because I’ve only ever stayed in apartments for a year. Maybe if I stay in an apartment longer, I’ll feel it was worth it. But as much as I adored the chaotic process of painting words on the wall of my second bedroom in this last apartment, I will resist the urge to do it again.
Unless I have a baby. Then all bets are off. I don’t care where I’m living at the time. That kid is getting the craziest nursery you’ve ever seen.
Thick walls are worth a thousand square feet
I am one of those people who cannot exist in silence. When I’m home, the TV is always on for noise, even though I’m cleaning, making jewelry, or otherwise not watching TV. I can’t sleep without the soothing hum of a fan. I’m also a rather loud person. I talk to myself/my pets/inanimate objects constantly, I sing* in the shower. Stella fancies herself a watchdog and barks at every passerby or unexpected noise she comes across. I’m not always the best neighbor to have with thin walls. I also don’t care to know what kind of porn my neighbor likes to watch when his wife’s out of the house, or listen to every detail of their fight over where her mother is going to sleep when she visits. Thin walls fucking suck. Sometimes they’re unavoidable, especially if you’re living in a duplex, but if I have to sacrifice a spacious apartment for thick walls, I always go with the thick walls.
As much as I hate moving, I do enjoy the prospect of moving into a new place. It’s a fresh start, with new rooms to decorate (in accordance with your lease) and sometimes a new neighborhood to be a part of. Still, I’m just fucking tired of moving. I’d love to live in an apartment for at least two years. But I’m a restless little bitch, unfortunately, and as much as I cross my fingers that I’ll slow down, I still end up boxing up my life and shipping it off to a new place, even if it’s just across town.
Two weeks until Neverland. I can’t wait!
*if by sing you mean emit an eerie, tuneless wailing much like the cry of the banshees of lore.