10 life lessons learned from my first apartment

Guest post by Kirsten
Thanks to Viva la Frida for uploading this to our Flickr pool.
Thanks to Viva la Frida for uploading this to our Flickr pool.

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

Then they’ll 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 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

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.

Comments on 10 life lessons learned from my first apartment

  1. Awww, man. In my first apartment, I ran out of kitchen space after a big grocery run. I tucked a 5-pound bag of potatoes into a high cupboard above the stove and promptly forgot about them. Those potatoes DID melt. It took us like a week (and an unholy amount of bleach, cider vinegar, and flypaper) to figure out where the fruitflies were coming from. *shudder*

    • My university home left a bag of potatoes in the basement for… I’m not even sure how long. When the roots were poking out of the bag, 2 feet high, I decreed that the things HAD to be gotten rid of, because they were freaking me out at night. We planted them outside.

      • Oh I don’t know. Courgette/Zucchini [delete as preferred] that’s been left in a fridge drawer for 6 months is pretty rank. I tried to pick it up with a plastic bag over my hand and broke the skin of the courgette; the whole thing went kind of “flummff” filling the drawer with liquid vegetable matter. I just bundled up the whole drawer and threw it out. It was my flatmate’s courgette; she had got out of dealing with it by moving out.

      • I was just telling a story about my first apartment and one of my roommates forgetting a bag of potatoes in a cabinet one time. I thought we had a family of dead mice somewhere. Incidentally, Boston apartments tend to have the dingy malfunctioning pull shades, rather than the vertical ones. Still, no one wins.

      • Potatoes are gross, but moldy beans left in tupperware in the fridge too long make me gag just THINKING ABOUT IT. We eventually always put bean leftovers in disposable plastic containers. That way, if it was in there too long, we could just toss it and not have to release noxious gas all over the apartment.

        • Ha, the first time I lived on my own, I left some leftover beans in the fridge for about 3 months. I had to wear a mask to clean it out (since it was my mom’s bowl; otherwise I would have thrown out the whole thing), and there were THREE DIFFERENT KINDS of mold on it: black, white, and blueish-green. Ugh.

    • First apartment with a kitchen, I bought a bag of potatoes and promptly forgot about them. A drunken roommate then threw them on top of the counter. They grew about 4 feet long, and very prettily. I didn’t realize they were my potatoes until we were moving out 8 months later, and one of my housemates asked what I wanted to do with the potatoes.

    • Once, when I hosted a barbecue, a friend inexplicably made himself a pot of instant mashed potatoes and left the half full pot on the stove. It took us over a week to figure out where the ungodly smell was coming from.

    • Oh wow, this is pretty much what happened in my apartment when I moved out of my aunt’s house. She had been super nice and surprised me by stocking my kitchen while I was at work (the week I moved in). What I didn’t realize was that potatoes were involved and stored in the back corner of a bottom cupboard. I was seriously in tears a few months later when I couldn’t figure out where the flies were coming from and had scrubbed down what I thought was every corner of my apartment. And it was sooo nasty when I finally found the bag of mush…blech…

  2. I’m 22 years old and have been living in cheap, shared, rented accommodation since I started college at 18; I have 3 things to say about this:
    1. YAY for offbeat home posting stuff that appeals to a younger/less-settled demographic!
    2. BOO for cleaning dishes!
    3. Spoons, really? I always have an issue with disappearing knives…

      • No joke, this entertained me during my dinners as a youngster. See, Spoon was Knife’s daughter and was in love with Fork, who Knife saw as not good enough for his little girl. (Spoon’s mom was Serving Spoon, who was busy working and couldn’t care less, as long as Spoon was happy.) So Fork and Spoon ran away together…:)

        • I had the same cutlery narrative as a child, except mine ended with fork breaking spoon’s heart and spoon going back to father-knife’s protection. I still think about it every time I set the table these days!

          • See my spoons and knives were always male while the forks were female – no rhyme or reason to it, that’s just the way it was (is?).

            I also assigned genders/personalities to numbers as a child.

      • The deal is that one household’s spoons run off with a different household’s forks.

        I once had neighbors who invited about 8 people to a party, only to realize (after the party started) that they were down to their last fork. Fortunately, I always have forks but my knives tend to disappear.

    • my spoons have multiplied recently (seriously, I don’t know what happened)! knives on the other hand cannot be found for love nor money. Fortunately i have mastered the art of spreading butter with a spoon handle.

      • Probably your spoons’ multiplication is a result of someone else’s lack of spoons — and they’ve suddenly found themselves with an influx of knives! I think you got the better end of the deal, since you can certainly spread butter with a spoon, but it’s harder to eat soup with a knife.

    • We found, after i moved in with my dad when i was a teenager, that utensils often went the way of the takeout. Meaning that knives were left in pizza boxes, forks in plastic salad bowls and spoons in ice cream cartons, and as such often thrown away, something to keep in mind.

  3. Our dish washing solution (when I lived with 3 other girls) was that everyone had their own plates, and it was up to them when they washed them, but they couldn’t sit in the sink dirty because that stopped others from being able to use it

    • I finally made a rule about one dish per person. One plate, one bowl, one set of silverware. My roommates answer? Paper dishes, plastic utensils. Then we had to argue about the trash, lol.

    • My mother suggested instituting this when we were growing up: “In commune’s the way they fix this is each person gets one plate, bowl, knife, fork, spoon, cup. Then you’ll clean your own.” We never did it.
      However I stayed at a working hostel where when you checked in your got your lockable food cubby, with your one plate, bowl, knife, fork, spoon, cup, and it worked really well. If you left yours dirty in the sink someone else might take it. So everyone just took care of their own stuff/made deals to get others to wash up.

    • When I was growing up we had our own color coordinated towels. Each person had two bath towels, two hand towels and four wash clothes in their color (mine was purple- I still have one of the bath towels), because my parents were sick of never having towels because we would steal them all. I tried to implement this with my first roommate (purple towels are MINE- use whatever you want, but the purple ones are off limits) and it never, ever worked. She would use her towels and then go after my beloved purple. We also tried the dish thing, since she was a vegetarian and I wasn’t and she didn’t want my “murder dishes” (her words, not mine). She gave up on that about three weeks into it- she couldn’t be bothered to do her own dishes and kept stealing mine since I ate out or at work more than at home.

  4. A lot of this could also apply to newly-cohabiting couples – especially the bits about doing the dishes and getting the other person to do basically anything if you volunteer to do bathroom duty.

    • My partner believes that our household is a low-flush one (the whole “if it’s yellow let it mellow” enviro home-policy about toilets) and I believe that it is not. After years of sporadic disagreements about pee (if you have never lived in a ‘let it mellow’ home, let me assure you it’s not actually that gross until you need to throw up and forget there is pee in the toilet), we eventually decided it was his responsibility to clean the toilet whenever either of us believes it needs cleaning, that it must be cleaned if I think there’s any chance I might vomit, and then he can let yellow mellow all he wants.

      Also: I have a lot of respect for my partner’s feelings about toilets and water usage – this is actually a BIG THING that cuts down on household water use. Even more, I appreciate that he loves me more than he expects me to save the world through not flushing.

      • This may sound really gross, but if you want to be more hardcore about water, pee in the sink.

        Not even kidding. It’s easier if you’re a penis-haver, obviously, but vulva-havers can do it too. Urine is mostly sterile, there’s less splash-risk because it’s a shorter distance, and the toilet seat is never left up.

        • Or in the tub! Easier to get your butt over the tub than up on the sink I think. My husband thinks its gross but when I have a shower, I hold my pee until I’m in and let ‘er go, rather than pee first, flush, then go in the shower anyway.

          • Am I the only one who squats? (Probably. It’s not terribly common in the West–but it’s actually healthier and a lot EASIER when you poop. No straining necessary!) Anyway, it’s possible for women to squat over the sink if you have a.) long legs or b.) a sink that isn’t all that wide. (I don’t really have either, so I gave up on that quickly.) But when you squat to pee, it’s almost entirely centered between your legs–keep the stream gentle enough and both feet to the edge of your tub and your feet won’t even get wet.

            This was probably TMI for most people, but it’s part of the thread! And I’m anonymous! Woo!

      • Im assuming no one ever mentioned that you can save a drastic amount of water by placing a brick in the tank (no, not the bowl) and continue flushing like normal. This is only one trick/method from the very old, lengthy list of utility hacks.

        P.S. unless your pregnant, I wish you a future when vomiting is no longer a worry.

  5. I’d add the 3/7 rule. If a SO or friend is consistently spending 3 days out of seven living in the apt (showering, considerable kitchen/tv/bathroom use, and even sleeping over often) and it persists after a week, then a talk must be had. Maybe they pay for part of the utilities. Maybe someone moves in/out. Maybe folks band together to make it work. Doesn’t matter, talk about it.

    • In the UK, if a person spends 4 days or more out of seven in someone else’s flat/house then for housing benefit (money the council gives unemployed/disabled people to pay their rent) purposes, they are counted as “living together” and could lose their benefits.

      • There is a similar rule for American housing benefit recipients. I can’t remember numbers, and I think each program is a little different, but basically, if you have chronic visitors, you have to be prepared to hand over their bank account and income info.

        • Chronic visitors can become a major household problem. I don’t really voice my opinions when something bothers me a little ( why cause a spat if I’m not that annoyed?), but every month that resentment can grow. I know from experience…so please please keep it in mind if you are the person with the constant visitor. Offer to pitch in an extra 10 bucks to the electricity bill. Not much, but it can ease the annoyance level the other roomies may feel.

          • 9 out of 10 times, if someone is spending that much time outside of their normal residence (and isn’t at work) they likely don’t have any money to throw in. Also, paying for anything, no matter what amount, causes entitlement.

            Reserve your right to send slackers home whenever you want.

  6. One thing I recommend: before moving in, take pictures of everything. With actual film. Before moving out, after you’ve cleaned, take pictures of everything. If anything happens while you’re living there, take a picture and send a maintenance request/file whatever report you can. Just in case the management tries keep your security deposit or shaft you in any way.

    …I should really really write post about dealing with skeezy property management companies.

      • YES. Awful landlords can ruin even the nicest space. We moved out from a horrible guy, and cleaned that place within an inch of its life. He later claimed that we had “destroyed” the hardwood floors (like hell, we put down TONS of rugs and pads on the feet of every chair!) and wound up keeping about 3/4 of our 1.5 month damage deposit. We were mad, but then we realized that we would just let him have the money and NEVER have to deal with him again.

        • Indeed, the apartment I am in right now is not ideal- it’s tiny and in a scary neighbourhood and the (lovely) next door neighbours are running a car dealership out of the common driveway, but my landlords actually treat us like human beings and I’ll hold onto it for dear life. My last landlords sucked every last dollar out of us while committing insurance fraud and knowing we couldn’t get time off from work to take them to the tenancy tribunal. Definitely a case of handing over the money and never dealing with again.

          • Yeah, until now (cohabiting with partner in a very adult flat) I’ve always seen the security deposit as something I just won’t ever see again. It helps soften the blow when your stupid landlord keeps it all.

    • And if the pictures are not automatically date-stamped on the back by the developer, get them notarized (seal in an envelope and notarize across the seal).

      • If you’re using a digital camera the date you took the pictures will be embedded in the metadata for the file. (This can be edited so it may not “hold up” in a court of law, but it’s better than nothing if you’re really bad about getting pictures printed like I am)

        • I took photos with my digital camera, burnt a copy of them to disc, marked it with the date and our names then handed it in to the property management company the day after we signed the lease. Not sure what they actually did with the disc but we didn’t have any isses getting our bond back.

  7. I have to applaud this because each and every point is So True in my experience.

    Then I bought a house and had people living with me. Rental agreements came with cleaning agreements – though the bathroom that wasn’t mine was left off the list. After two years of the toilet not being cleaned, my mother came over, used it, and then cried. It ultimately needed to be replaced.

    Living with roommates is hard.

  8. Oooh, I’d add ‘Things that seem normal to you will weird your roomies out and vice versa’. I had no real concept of ‘other homes do different things’ in my first post-parent-habitation, and I remember crystal clear the look of severe confusion on my roommate’s face over “Um, guys…why are there batteries in the fridge?” (I discovered this was a family habit passed down from my grandfather from back in days when batteries kept longer in the fridge, though it no longer matters.)

    Less endearing was the roommate later who pulled my frozen bananas out of *my* quadrant of the freezer because “Who the hell put bananas in the freezer and why would you do such a thing?” And I had to respond, seriously dude? A) It was me, so stop bitching to me about the ‘crazy roomie’, B.) It was in my part of the freezer, so even if it’s something really crazy like a shoe, no touchy, and C.) Have you really never heard of banana bread? I thought the whole, bang bananas that are going soft in the freezer until you have enough for a loaf thing was pretty common.

    • I lived in a townhouse with two other girls and 3 guys, one of whom had a “Cake Cupboard” at his family home. Whenever someone baked something (cookies, brownies, cakes, etc…) he would put the container or cakestand in an otherwise unused cupboard, unbeknownst to the rest of us. We spend months thinking everyone else had just finished off the cake, then wondering where the hell the pans went! It was quite confusing the day a guest opened that cupboard and discovered months’ worth of old brownies and cake, which led to a discussion about the complete lack of wheevles in our area, and how if 5 out of 6 people have never heard of this practice before, YOU are the weird one.

      • I had a cake cupboard growing up! Nothing lasted long enough to make it there when I was flatting, and I don’t have enough space now that I am a mama (and it still doesn’t last long enough – I’m lucky to make it to a cooling rack before it disappears).

          • We HAVE to put things in our microwave, due to a lack of pantry and enough cabinets. Everyone is taken aback when they try to use our microwave and open it to see a loaf of bread, half-filled dog food bowls, and a package of peeps chilling in there. But it’s a great storage space!

            Plus, I do use the microwave occassionally, so I won’t forget about the things I store there, as opposed to the things I store in the oven and our breadbox, where I completely forget about them for weeks at a time…

          • My boyfriend’s family always stored their baking pans in the oven when it wasn’t in use. At some point, year before last, I stuck a plastic tub with baking implements (tubes of frosting, cupcake papers, etc) in with the pans.. then, because I still wasn’t quite used to the practice of keeping things in the oven (having never heard of it before), promptly forgot about it until a week later when I preheated the oven and couldn’t figure out where that burning/melted plastic smell was coming from..

      • Haha, oh my god, I’m just picturing this cabinet of forgotten baked goods with cookies rolling out onto the intrepid visitor. He must have been captain oblivious if this went on for *months* and he didn’t catch on that once he put stuff in that cabinet, no one was finishing it.

        I’ve had problems with sticky finger roomies in the past, so I imagine I would have ended up hoarding cookies in my room and giving people the stinkeye until that was discovered.

    • Oh I loved finding out about other families quirks. Things that seem completely normal to you are entirely bizarre to others. I feel like the student years are the only time this hallowed information actually gets shared.

    • Yes! For me this was never clearer than the first time we made boxed macaroni and cheese (cheez?) together. Four girls, four different styles of mac ‘n cheese. The diplomacy that ensued was worthy of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I swear. But we all got to eat our dinner OUR way, while staring in amazement at our crazy, crazy roomies who were clearly Eating It Wrong.

    • A point on the batteries: according to my electrical engineer husband, they do still last longer if you put them in the fridge/freezer, although most are so efficient now that their room-temp shelf life is quite long it really wouldn’t be a big difference.
      That being said, I do put my batteries in the freezer, and every time my husband opens the freezer, he comments on them (lovingly of course).

      • Good to know! Now that you mention it, I think my dad might have said ‘negligible difference’ rather than no difference, but he was kind of shaky on it too. I might pop the batteries I got today in the fridge, now, just to see what reaction I get from the boyfriend 😉

    • The whole no touching other’s stuff. I get this. I live in a dorm and today I saw my roommate using my little handheld mirror that I leave on my side of the counter.
      I know it’s just a mirror, but DUDE! Ask! Plus there’s two large mirrors that were unoccupied, so it’s not like she needed it.

  9. I actually like vertical blinds more than cheap metal horizontal blinds. Cheap metal horizontal blinds bend easily and are just about impossible to get back into their former shape. Bent blinds let light in (and let people see in) and might get you charged for them when you move out.

    Yes, vertical blinds can be a bit noisy, but if you open them fully before opening the window you avoid most of that unless it’s really windy: then sometimes the blinds close themselves. As a bonus, if you happen to have cats they can look out the window or sliding door even if you have the blinds closed. (You get used to the noises cats jumping into blinds make.)

    • Yes! Horizontal blinds are the WORST! My first apartment with vertical blinds made me so happy. Each panel is separate and so much easier to clean, and they combine the functionality of shielding an adjustable amount of light with the user-friendliness of a curtain.

      Horizontal blinds, on the other hand, take forever to clean, get stuck at different heights, and easily get those little dents and holes in them.

      Long live vertical blinds!

    • Another good thing about horizontal blinds: You can replace just one slat if it breaks and the landlord usually doesn’t charge to replace it. They do this rather often, usually at the top where they attach to the opening and closing mechanism. It can be a bit annoying, but is better than dealing with broken horizontal blinds.

      If your horizontal blinds are messed up, there is usually no way to fix them and you are more likley to be charged for the damage.

      • The downside of vertical blindes, however, is that if one doesn’t rotate correctly, they can all come crashing down at once! My last apartment had 1/2 the blinds come crashing down (with no abuse from us), and my landlord wanted to charge us $5 each! This was incredibly ridiculous since the hardware was the problem, not us! Fortunately, a friend of mine tipped us off that most home improvement stores sell packs of vertical blinds and will cut them to size for free. I felt so grown up and cunning the day I bought my own replacement blinds and installed them myself, outsmarting the landlord (who was a crook in more ways than one) 🙂

  10. The part about cleaning bathrooms is so true. I actually don’t mind cleaning bathrooms as much as other household tasks and this has served me well when I want to get out of some other chore.

  11. An apartment with a dishwasher: utterly worth it.
    I don’t have one in my current apartment but at least I’m living with my boyfriend now so negotiation is easier when necessary.

    • We have a dishwasher – my three roommates were in the apartment before me and don’t use it even though it’s perfectly functional (though sometimes they use it as an extra drying rack…?).

      I mean I’d use it, but waiting for one person to fill a small dishwasher’s worth load? It’s going to take a few days by which time I want to use the dishes again.

      Oh how I wish I could convince them to use the dishwasher! We’ve got the soap and everything!

      • It baffles me no end when people do this. Why would you not used a perfectly good dishwasher?

        “Must have dishwasher” is always high on my list of requirements when apartment hunting. And “Must be dishwasher safe” is a high priority for any dishes, pans or cooking utensils I buy.

        • I’m on the other end of the spectrum, lol. Dishwashers drive me nuts. Dirty dishes sit encrusting inside for days while you get together enough dishes to run a load. You still have to handwash a lot of stuff anyway. They use a ton of water. They cost hundreds of dollars. I know some people absolutely love them, but to me they just seem like a hassle. But it might also be because I’m one of those people who finds dishwashing a meditative way to decompress from the day.

        • Some people have different definitions of ‘working’ dish washers. Ours is a piece of crap. Every single particle of food has to be removed BEFORE it is put in the dishwasher. That machine is completely incapable of removing any food or grease, it doesn’t even have a working sanitize cycle. It is stuck on eco-wash. So we don’t use it for the most part. What irks the holy living F out of me is the people who are told repeatedly to remove ALL food and grease from their dishes before putting them in there, and they fail to do so, making the dishes useless and even more of a mess because now the food is all dried on there and has to be forcibly scraped off by someone who actually cares that dishes are CLEAN. On the other hand, if there is a dishwasher that actually WORKS, there is no reason to not use it. We have a housemate (soon to be moving out, for obvious reasons) who hides his dirty dishes in the dish washer because he knows that we don’t use it because it doesn’t properly work. We finally ended up taking the racks out of it and hiding them in the basement. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who are ‘clean freaks’ who can’t actually manage to remove food and grease from their used dishes, but just kind of barely swish a sponge around the surface while running it under water and maybe rinsing off the soap before they flop it onto the dishrack or towel in a way that leaves no room for more than 5 dishes. That’s not cleaning, that is just moving a mess from one place to another.

      • Growing up, my Mom never let us use the dishwasher. I think she believed that machines were making people lazy, and she had other “issues” with various machines in the house. My friends would visit our house and think it was funny to find our dishwasher used as storage.
        I never really knew what I was missing out on until I had a dishwasher in my last apartment. Now I can NEVER go back 🙂

        • I had a dishwasher growing up my whole life and my family used all the time. Then it was my sister’s or my chore to empty the dishwasher and put everything away (alternating loads). You can put an assload of dishes in the dishwasher. You cannot (or at least I can’t) put an assload of dishes in one half of the sink. So there is never an assload of dishes to put away. For me, at least, this is the only way you will ever get me to do the dishes. If there are too many I want nothing to do with it. That said, even when I have a dishwasher (unless it’s thanksgiving), I’m not using it.
          Hope this makes us anti-dishwasher folk seem (a little) less crazy!

      • Oh my god. Me too.

        Once it was me and then boyfriend living in a townhouse with three other people. WE HAD A BRAND NEW DISHWASHER. NONE WOULD USE IT BUT ME.

        I still have nightmares about icky congealed fat floating in cold soapy water.


        I might still be angry about that two years later.

  12. I can agree with a lot of this, but I haven’t had any true nightmares other than the occasional partiers (that were quickly quelled by the bitter snowbirds that live in here).
    I feel kind of bad because this is our first apartment in Orange Beach, AL, we pay like 600 a month for an 1100 sq ft 2 bed 1 bath apartment on the third floor with vaulted ceilings. It took me a week to find it. And since I and my love were used to splitting up chores evenly, we haven’t had real big issues..other than yes dishes and the things that seem to grow into science experiments in his room. I hope other peoples on here will someday find either a good one like ours or even have a home.. ohoh.. or a cool travel trailer..or camper..^_^ YAY!!!

  13. I’m lucky (I think) that I have never had to live with a roommate who I wasn’t sleeping with (my now husband), though several university friends have and I have heard the horror stories. One friend *never* did dishes, even the ones she used to cook with, and destroyed a nice set of someone else’s non-stick pans with metal utensils. Another would eat other peoples clearly marked food (including MY ice cream that I left for a few days). Yet another would have obnoxiously loud sex with her boyfriend in the basement.

    Thinking back to when my now-husband and I first moved in together, the transition went incredibly smooth. We pretty much never argued about chores; we did the ones we liked/tolerated. I liked vacuuming and cooking, and he enjoyed dusting and doing the bathroom. We alternated doing dishes if there was a lot all at once, and if we used just a plate and fork for lunch, we just did it when we were done eating. But I am so grateful for the dishwasher we have were we currently live!

  14. I lived in a 10-person student house for my second and third year of university — thankfully it was basically 2 five-person apartments. And I gotta say, this stuff is so true.

    Another thing to add, make sure you are absolutely clear with everyone right from the start about how all financial things are going to work, and have it in writing — even if you had something worked out with everyone, but then someone sublets out their room for the term, make sure you discuss everything really thoroughly. We thought we had an agreement about sharing food, but at the end of four months, one person didn’t submit his receipts for groceries and the pizza he’d bought (also, that was the *only* time anyone from there bought takeout for the whole group, so not all of us were that thrilled about paying for it, but…), and then basically called the person doing the accounts a liar, and didn’t want to pay his share because “there’s no way suppers for four months cost that much” — and he brought up how much he’d spent on things (after the whole group being asked to submit receipts multiple times…). Please note that the rest of us understood all food to be shared in common unless it had a name on it — that includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks. And it’s not like we ate a lot of meat or expensive stuff — it was mostly pasta, beans/lentils, basic ingredients like flour… A little bit of meat, dairy, and eggs, but it’s not like we were eating salmon and veal all the time. So, point is, if you’re sharing anything (even utilities, honestly…), make sure everyone knows up-front what the deal is, and make sure you have that in writing.

    • This can be very helpful. I would add that even/especially if you’re friends beforehand, having a paper contract (instead of verbal understandings) that everyone signs can help with a lot of issues. A roommate tried to get out of paying utilities because he was “gone a lot”. Once his room was subletted (so renter took on utilities too) that was fine, but battling with him every month simply because he traveled for work was not fun.

  15. I could add washing to this list. IT IS WORTH SPLITTING YOUR LIGHTS AND COLOURS!!!!! I cannot state this enough. I went through 6 months at university of every light coloured item of clothing I owned being somewhere from lime green to baby yellow due to mixing colours with whites. I only had enough clothes for one full load you see, so I just did it all together. I looked like I didn’t wash my clothes at all when wearing something that used to be pale.

    • I have never had a problem with this. I just wash everything on cold entirely and don’t use a fabric softener just basic laundry detergent. I have not had anything white turn pink.

      • I agree. I always wash my clothes using the cold cycle and I don’t usually separate darks and lights. The only time I’ve had a problem is with new brightly colored clothing items, which I have learned do really need to be washed separately (or at least only with things they can’t stain, like black clothes). Otherwise no problems at all. Which is good because I never had enough light clothes to do a load of just them when I was living by myself.

        • I have to hot-wash everything due to a really nasty dust allergy, and the thing about the white clothes is true for me too, since I live on my own. I can’t decide whether to buy more white clothes so I’ll occasionally have enough for a wash or to give the ones I’ve got away, because they’re all just sitting forlornly in a paper bag waiting to be washed now! They need some friends.

          • The trick is to buy white linens – towels, sheets, blankets, etc. Sure, you might wash your towels and sheets a bit more than you need, but I don’t think that’s really a major problem!

      • No softeners for me, I’m allergic. At uni however, there was only two settings on the washing machines on or off. And apparently a lime green jumper turns everything else a gross shade of greeny yellow. My darks were okay.

      • Same here! We always just do everything together and it hasn’t really been a problem. But we always wash on “warm” instead of “hot.” Gets everything clean and doesn’t make the colors run.

  16. “The vast majority of roommate disagreements will be about washing dishes.”

    In my first apartment, they were mostly about turning off lights. We had all sorts of adventures in trying to save money on the electrical bills vs. “I was USING that light!”

  17. PARTY RULES. HAVE SOME DAMN PARTY RULES. and ensure people are aware this means any group of people that will be using the shared space – nothing like coming home from a long day at work to find your lounge full of the local chapter of SAFE painting placards, or stoned students inhabiting every chair space. (At least the first group brings cake :/)
    But yeah. Party rules! Have some! Also: room boundaries.

  18. Oh man, the dishes. I lived in a house with 7 other people my second year of university and the most fights were definately about dishes. Allergies can be hard – my one roomate had a severe peanut allergy and decided to be nice and wash a sinkful of other peoples’ dishes so she would have room to wash her own and within 2 minutes her hands were covered in horrible hives: someone had left a knife covered in peanut butter in the bottom of the sink.I certainly didn’t blame her when she only washed her own from then on.

    You will also discover that some seemingly perfectly nice people can be extremely passive-agressive once you live with them, once again over DISHES. In the same house, another roomate got mad that there was once again a sink overflowing with dirty dishes, an decided for some unknown reason that they were mine. She then posted an absolutely horrible scathing livejournal post (yeah, remember livejournal?)about what a disgusting roomate I was, and then had all of her friends from back home commenting about what a horrible and disrespectful roomate I was – and the dishes weren’t even mine! I never thought dishes could be such a big issue.

    Also, never sign a lease and lock yourself into a year of sharing a room with a boyfriend when you’re 18/19 and too immature to realize that the relationship probably won’t last. You’ll inevitably break up 6 weeks in and spend the rest of the year living in what was supposed to be the dining room, with zero privacy while your inconsiderate roomate has a very loud orgy 3 feet away from your bed. Good times 🙂

    Living with roomates can be a ton of fun, but you will also discover which personality quirks you absolutely cannot stand, because your roomates will inevitably have them. You’ll also end up unconsciously running an experiment to discover just how long you can go without doing laundry, and how big you can really make a mountain of clothes before you can no longer see your bed or floor.

  19. The best advice I can give before you move in with people is to talk, talk, talk.

    Talk about things like room boundaries, turning on/off lights, what to do with laundry that’s been left in the dryer, what times you get up for work/need to sleep, who can use your computer/watch your movies/read your books, who can be in the apartment, how you’ll split up money, etc.

    Have an agreement that roommates let each other know right away if something bothers them. Everyone has different ways of doing things (like, if you’re someone who uses one towel a week, but your roommate uses a new one daily, you’ll be surprised to find there are no clean towels) and it’s easy to let annoyances fester and then blow up in a spectacular mess.

    Talk about how you plan to use the apartment. I had a roommate who apparently seethed for months about the fact that I spent most of my time at my then-boyfriend’s apartment, when she was expecting us to do things together. Another roommate would often have her out-of-town boyfriend stay for a weekend or two a month. Someone else spent most of her time watching movies in the living room. It’s easier to plan your lives when you know what to expect up front.

    Talk about what will happen if someone doesn’t pay rent on time.

    And put your name in all your DVD cases or in all your books so that nobody is trying to take your set of extended edition Lord of the Rings films when you’re moving out.

    • I want to second this (aye!) and also say: CONTINUE TALKING. I had some good roommate/friend relationships that went very, very sour because people change and communication stalled. I know it’s rough goings to have a conversation like, “You know how I used to like your music? Now I hate its face,” but it is so very necessary. People change a lot in their young adult formative years, and what someone is totally OK with in September may not be the same six months later.

      In the same vein, if you do live with a best friend or something (and I’d say: DON’T), when you feel things getting “weird and bad”… get out of there. Nicely! But gracefully exit if you can. If the lease is up, talk about finding new — separate — places, whatever it takes. Roommate-hood notoriously destroys long, meaningful friendships; it’s the emotions and the changing and the responsibility. If you even get a whiff of “this feels off”… first, talk about it in a very non-confrontational way, and if it continues, get out and save your friendship.

      • Agreed about the rooming with best friends thing. I let a good friend move in when I needed the money, and she was constantly late on rent (if she paid it at all). It really hurt our friendship when I had to kick her out. So, yes, don’t live with good friends if you can help it.

      • My best friend and I lived together during my senior year of college, and to make things even crazier we also took the same program (thats like taking ALL your classes together) at college, and we shared a massive bedroom! Our families both warned that it wouldn’t work but we totally loved it. We never fought once. The key was communication, we talked planned the whole thing really extensively before she ever moved to Olympia, and were really candid about our habits (good and bad). We were both honest and admitted clothes were going to end up on the floor and dishes were going to sometimes pile up in the sink, but that the living room and dining room would always be neat.
        In the end, we shared a lot of the same “bad” habits like eating in bed and leaving tea cups all over the place, since our bad habits were the same they didn’t bother each other, and every few days we did a massive clutter clean up together. The only downside was I think our other roommate sometimes felt left out of our best-friend-ness!

      • Thank you for your comments! Wow, this all resonates, doesn’t it? I had a series of roommates while going to graduate school. Yes, dishes were an issue, also, looking back, realize communication wasn’t happening, and in ways that it should have. Perhaps for all of us, living out our dysfunctional family relationships?
        Anyway. I was initially with two siblings, one of whom in relationship, she visited frequently, and would comment on my household tasks or lack thereof. Often found myself washing dishes that were not mine, just out of guilt or presumption.
        Felt ganged up upon (which I probably was) and again, due to lack of communication, roomie’s s.o. was there (also someone I was *friends* with). Still remember (and remember how it hurt) when roomies and the s.o. –in town for weekend–assumed we were going to spend great day together. I was dropped off unceremoniously at house I was sitting, no words, no explanation. wow. felt like being back in jr. high school!
        Ended up using the place as somewhere to sleep and change clothes. Kept my research (which was a good move) in my finally-awarded graduate student *office*.
        On positive note: roomies moved on, got new ones, kept the same great place with people who were friends but also flexible, especially given their schedules( one drove cab, getting home at around 2 .am around the time I was finishing my *day’s* work on my thesis). Have great memories of our time there.
        thanks for letting me rant! do not regret in any way the experiences with having roommates, learned so much about other people, and of course, my own short comings, what I can tolerate…

  20. Every place I’ve ever rented came without any type of blinds or curtains at all! Suffice to say I’m really good at hemming fabric into curtains by hand now.
    We have one of those big farmhouse sinks split into two basins (the luxury!!), so with our last roommate (who always did his dishes the moment he finished eating) my bf and I took the left basin and he took the right. We don’t do it with our current roommate because we all eat together pretty often, but it worked well when we ate separately!

  21. I think number #3 can also apply to bowls. I had a set of four plastic bowls when I moved to Miami for college, and one is still MIA 8 years later. Also, I think savvy kids could use #5 as a way to get a bigger allowance. I know I did, and it made me grow up to outright enjoy cleaning the bathroom.

    That said, I find #9 to be the opposite of my experience. I’ve never had any issues with vertical blinds, but horizontal blinds are the worst. Unless you spend money on quality wooden ones, horizontal blinds break all the time; the cords get tangled; and cats just love to compound to those problems. Thus, vertical blinds are the only thing I’ll ever have (because drapes and cats? It’s never a happy ending for me.).

  22. We solved the spoon problem by eating lots of frozen yogurt this summer! We got 10 pretty good quality plastic spoons for free, that are good enough people don’t mind using them but were free, so we don’t care when they end up at school or in the bathroom garbage!

  23. My huge first-apartment D’OH moment was failing to realize that the top of the range lifted up for cleaning. Because that fact, conversely, meant that when I set a bag of previously frozen chicken breasts on the range top for easy transferal to my skillet, the chicken juice drained through a hole in the bag and took up residence under the range top. A week later, we were desperately scouring the kitchen for the rat we were sure had died in there, and had to call in outside help to discover the source of the smell. I grew up with a wall-mounted oven and never knew lift-uppable range top thingers were a thing. Whoops, sorry roomies.

  24. I have lived in apartments the majority of my life and in the past twenty or so years they all have had the dreaded vertical blinds. Yes, they are dirty, messy, nosy, allow way to much light in at nigh and are ugly but unlike you I found a company that makes and sells the only vertical blind slip covers. I put them in my apartment and love them. I will never go back to uncovered vertical blinds. Trust me I hate them to but found a way to enjoy living with them. Check them out at blindsofbeauty.com
    And having roommates really can be problematic when you have food allergies and they just do not care and contaminate the whole kitchen. That is an absolute nightmare.

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