10 life lessons learned from my first apartment

Guestpost by Kirsten on Jan 14th

How can cleaning the bathroom bend people to your will? Learn from Kristen's 10 life lessons. Photo by Evil ErinCC BY 2.0

Attention young Offbeat Homies: At some point, you will cease to live with your parents or in a dorm room, and will very likely live in a cheap apartment, quite possibly with roommates. I hit this particular milestone my Junior year of college, and here's what it taught me:

1. The vast majority of roommate disagreements will be about washing dishes. I cannot stress this enough. I have never lived in a situation where dishes were not a near-constant source of strife. It could be that the common denominator is, well, me, but I think it's just universally recognized that dishes are A) necessary, and B) a bitch to clean. Having a talk about dish-related expectations can prevent a certain amount of said strife.

2. Cooking for one person is way harder than it sounds. When I was living in the dorms, eating dorm food, I would spend hours daydreaming about cooking for myself. Home-cooked meals! Every day! I would only have to eat food I liked! And at first it was great. New recipes were tried, delicious meals were eaten. A couple of weeks in, I had an epiphany: cooking takes time. And effort. And sometimes, you have neither the time nor the energy to whip up something you like. This is especially true if you're cooking for one. Portions seem unreasonably large and sometimes the effort seems insurmountable. This is when Megan-simple meals come in really handy.

3. Of all the eating utensils, spoons are by far the most likely to wander off and hide in a sock drawer until you move again. Don't ask me why. It's just true.

4. A termite can be kept alive in a sealed jam jar for approximately six months. Which is to say, you will see household pests in a new light when they're your problem. When I was a kid, I would touch cockroaches with my bare hands. Didn't mind them a bit. But in my apartment? On my floor? Squish the fucker. When you're The Adult in the house, pests aren't just pesky — they're invading your privacy. Violating your trust. Squatting. Making you jumpy, or itchy, or grossed out. And you have to get rid of them. Even if it just means calling your landlord, it's a hassle. And suddenly, you don't just want the problem solved. You want revenge. Hence the termite in the jam jar.

5. Most people will do any other chore you ask of them if you volunteer to clean the bathroom. Seriously, the best way to endear yourself to your new roommates is to volunteer for bathroom duty. People will do anything to avoid getting that intimate with Things That May Have Touched Poop.

6. One of the best ways to feel loved is to make too much food and then invite people over to eat it. One of the best things about our college apartment was our tea stash. We had about fifty different kinds of tea, so we decreed every Friday at 4:00 Tea Time. Friends would come over and we'd make a pot of tea, sit on the dingy beige carpet, and celebrate the end of the week with the late-afternoon sunlight streaming through the chintzy vertical blinds.

7. The most dangerous thing you can do is clean out the fridge. If you have multiple people cooking, eating, and storing leftovers in one kitchen, I guarantee you will at some point hear a variation on the following: "Is this leftover pancake batter, or did the potatoes melt?!"

8. Have plants. Inside or outside, plants give you a bit of green and the satisfaction of caring for another living thing. Even something simple, like an air plant or a cactus, can be deeply satisfying.

9. Vertical blinds were invented by Satan. Every apartment on the planet that a student can afford has vertical blinds. They're cheap, they get tangled or blow off in a slight breeze, they make noise, and they don't block light effectively. If your apartment is affordable and you don't have vertical blinds, please tell me how you racked up that much karma.

10. The freedom is ultimately worth it. Your home truly is your castle. Even if your water heater is broken and you have an ant problem, it's yours. You have the keys. You vacuum the floor. You decide what brand of toilet paper to buy, where the couch goes, and when the bathtub needs cleaning. The sense of control and freedom that gives you is what makes your home worth the effort. Need proof? Go visit your parents for a weekend. Then go back to your place and sigh contentedly that the forks are in the right drawer.

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About Kirsten

Kirsten lives in Long Beach, CA with her fiance and two charming goldfish. When not musing on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, she can be found cooking large meals and playing with swords.