Moving Anxiety, or How to Stop Worrying and Move to a New Place

True story time!

Once, I agreed to help a friend move. I had just helped her and her roommate had just moved into their place a few months before but had a lot of problems with their landlord. He had covered up holes in the foundation, so there were bugs creeping into the house, and he refused to fix anything. Basically, it turned into a hellhole pretty damn fast.

I showed up the morning of the move ready to move boxes and lift heavy things, maybe even corral cats (she had a bunch of them) and keep them calm while we moved shit. Instead, I walked into a house that had barely packed.

Now, when she moved in there she noticed problems right away, so they didn’t unpack everything. There was still a bunch of stuff in boxes all over her living room, and they just rearranged their lives around that. But that was stuff that she didn’t need at the time: baby books, Christmas decorations, childhood memories, extra plates. Everything else in the house had been unpacked, and a good 75% of it wasn’t packed up yet the morning of the move.

Now, we only had the truck for a few hours, and the guys helping with the move had an event they had to attend that night. We had a very set amount of time to get things done in and weren’t counting on nothing being packed. So instead of just loading shit onto the truck, bringing the truck to the new place, unloading the truck, and then repeating this, we had to completely rethink our plan. We wound up breaking into two teams: one on the truck moving shit, and the other back at the house packing. I got stuck on the fucking packing team with one person who insisted on sorting and organizing clothes hangers for an hour, and another who cut out super early.  We were all stressed, snapping at each other and fighting, trying to just get a shit-tonne of shit done in a small amount of time.

This totally could’ve been avoided with a bit of planning. I’m super fucking anal when it comes to planning and organizing shit for moving because I’ve been through and helped with some pretty fucked up moves. I wrote once before about looking for a place to move to (and I’ll probably make an updated post like that again soon), but there’s so much more to it than just finding a place.

So here’s some tips and shit to help you get through your move, and prevent you from having The Move From Hell.

1: Figure Out What The Hell You Need — Dorm Room

College Check List

For a lot of you out there, moving into residence or dorms at school is the first time you’re going to be moving out on your own. There are a shit-tonne of lists out there on the internet, like the one above, telling you every little thing you’ll need to bring with you.

Please, ignore these lists.

Most lists will tell you that you need to bring cutlery with you when you move into a dorm. I know someone whose parents went over a list like that with him and decided he needed cutlery. Like, ALL the fucking cutlery. They bought him enough cutlery for like 8 place settings, PLUS a giant knife block, PLUS multiples of all the utensils you can think of (ladles, vegetable peelers, spatulas), PLUS like 4 cutting boards. Thing is, the kid lived in a dorm room in a residential tower, had a full meal plan, and had to share a 10’X15′ room featuring very little storage space with a roommate. They each had a desk, bed, and dresser, and that was it. Where the hell was he supposed to keep all that shit?

There is a tonne of stuff on these lists that you probably don’t need, like my friend above.  And there’s a lot of stuff that’s not on the list that you will probably need. It’s all about you, where you’re going, and what you’ll be doing. If you’re heading down to Florida for school, you’re not going to need a parka and snow boots. If your dorm room is some tiny little rinky-dink space that you have to share with another human being, then bringing a mini fridge, floor lamp, area rug, and a bunch of stackable drawers is probably a really shitty idea.

Dorm Check List

You’ve gotta think about what you fucking want and need, too. Do you want monogrammed towels and mugs and socks, so you always know when someone else is using your stuff? Then fucking do it up! Maybe you want to bring your annoyingly cute Emoji pillows to decorate your bed or your favourite stuffed lion you’ve had since you were 2 (yes, I have both of these things in my room at this very moment).  I’m comfy just sitting around the house in sweats and flannel shirts (ALWAYS flannel!!!!), and just switch into some old jeans with the same shirt when I need to go anywhere. I can honestly wear the same sweats for days. I’ve had friends who just CANNOT do this, and need a fresh outfit every day. They need a hell of a lot more clothes for their week than I need with my two pairs of sweats and my cozy flannels.

You’ve just gotta know yourself a bit, bring what you think you need. And if you forget something stupid, there’s always a dollar store somewhere. Need forks? Loofah? Socks? Ramen? Pens? They’ve got all of that at the fucking dollar store. Don’t stress yourself out too much about packing every single little thing you may possibly ever need.

2: Figure Out What The Hell You Need — Apartment

Ok, moving into an apartment is a bit different than dorm life. You have things like a kitchen and a bathroom that isn’t shared with 30 other people. You’re still going to need all the things you’d bring to a dorm, you’re going to need so much more than that too though.

The first thing you should do is talk to your roommates. Most young people today can’t afford an apartment all of their very own, so there’s a really really good chance you have AT LEAST one roommate. Hell, I have 4 roommates and a cat to help pay the bills around here. You NEED to talk to the people you’ll be living with to figure out what you need.

first_apartment_checklist

Figure out what you guys will need. Is someone bringing a TV? Anyone have a couch? Does your place have a microwave? What essential items are each of you bringing? I mean, it makes no sense for you to have three roommates, all four of you bring a microwave, and no one has a lamp. If you don’t want to go off of one of the lists online of everything anyone could ever need for their apartment, then at least look around you where you’re living now.

Do you have books? You’ll need somewhere to put them. Do you like to eat ever? You’ll need shit to eat off and with. What is your morning routine like? Some people need a single cup coffee maker, while others need a 12-cup pot, blow dryer, straightening iron, and lighted mirror to apply their makeup in (and there is NO shame in that, we all do it at some time!). Figure out what you need for your day-to-day life. Then figure out the things you’re used to that don’t seem all that important. Seriously, I didn’t realize how much I loved a squishy bathmat until I had nothing but an old towel and a cement floor. Then figure out who can bring what.

You’ll probably have some shit that no one just has lying around to bring. So start pricing shit out! Bathmat, microwave, cheap-ass dishes, a big-ass shelving thing for the kitchen and/or storage area, Tupperware that isn’t already full of your mother’s casserole….. it all adds up. Figure out what you really really need, buy as much cheap shit from dollar stores and second-hand stores, and check out things like yard sales and free online ads.

While we’re talking about talking to your new roommates, make sure you’re not bringing duplicates of things you have no room for. I have a large love seat that converts to a sofa bed. It was my grandma’s and she gave it to me before she died. It is very dear to me, I throw on slipcovers to match my roommate’s furniture, and it fits in fine. Fortunately, I only had a regular couch and big comfy chair to compete with for space in our living room. In the past, I’ve had to fight for room in my own bedroom, because a roommate had enough bedroom furniture to furnish a few rooms. She thought she was doing me a favour by displacing my stuff and letting me use her crappity-ass furniture she collected off the side of the road on move-out day the end of last semester.

Are all four of you planning to bring microwaves? Toaster ovens? Stereos? TVs? Figure out who has the best of what for where you’re living. As long as no one bought their shit brand new (which, to be honest, I have known only very few students and first-time apartment dwellers to be able to do), sell off what you don’t need to buy what you do need. If you have four TVs coming in, write up some paperwork saying you can all own it equally, and sell off the other three. Then use that money to buy other things you can all own equally. If, when you all move out, there is any dispute over who takes what (usually it’s the original owner taking the shit, unless everyone sold off really expensive shit), sell everything off and divide the proceeds.

But that is for Future You do worry about. Right now you have better shit to think about, like……

3: Pack Up Your Shit So You Know Where It Is

Don’t throw everything into one giant bag or box. You’ll wind up having to unpack EVERYTHING before you have to go to bed, and that shit fucking sucks. Even on my family’s ridiculous Move From Hell, we had the basics all separated: there was one bag with emergency underpants and all the hardware for the bed frames in mum’s van with the cat; we each had a backpack as an overnight bag (toiletries, jammies, change of clothes, my stuffed lion Pokey) with us during the move, and there was a box of stuff marked “First To Unpack” with shit like toilet paper, cleaning stuff, towels, and a shower curtain in it. Believe me, after the day we had, we needed that.

——-Ok, really long story short, my family’s move from hell back to my home town involved the movers bringing a van 1/3 the size we needed, calling extra family members from 2 hours away to come help us, some of mum’s good China being thrown under dad’s power tools in the moving van, bugs getting into almost ALL of the liquor (except what 18 year old me took for her own stash), and a day starting at 7am and going on until almost 2am. To top it off, our rental house we moved into had mold (which I turned out to be super allergic to), my parents’ bedroom had no heat, the laundry shoot emptied onto the furnace, and the dishwasher was plugged into an extension cord pulled through a hole in the floor that also had the washer and dryer plugged into it. It was fucking paradise.

Your move should be as painless and stressless as humanly possible. Moving to a new place itself is rough enough. Having to deal with misplaced shit and unpacking EVERYTHING just adds to the chaos. Take a few simple steps to help things go smoothly.

First, pack a box labeled “FIRST”. This should be left out in the open, where it’s plain to see that it’s the first box that needs to be opened. It should have essential shit you wouldn’t pack in an overnight bag, like toilet paper, bed sheets and blankets, cleaning supplies, extra towels, and maybe even a few dishes. If you know you can’t function without coffee in the morning, then pack the coffee and fucking coffee maker in there too. Whatever will make that first night and morning in your new place easiest should go in there. And don’t get into the trap of thinking, “Well, I’ve planned everything out, and the move should be done by 8 pm, which gives me plenty of time to unpack a few things”. That Move From Hell my family did was all planned out too. We didn’t know the truck would be too small. We didn’t know the movers would have only their newest employees working. We didn’t know there would be accidents on the highway extending out 2 hour drive time. There was a whole tonne of shit that extended our day. Our simple, “Get the cat unpacked into the bathroom upstairs, and get everyone’s basics unpacked and bedrooms set up before 10 pm” plan was WAAAY off. I stayed up until almost 2 am because I’m fucking stubborn and wanted the bed frames set up and sheets on the beds. And this had all been carefully planned to be done by 10 pm AT THE FUCKING LATEST!!!

Basically, plan for the worst first. Pack one bag as a weekend bag: all the things you’d pack for a weekend away at your folks’ place. Throw in anything you seriously are worried about too. My grandma always put a special wedding bracelet in her bag, because it was supposed to be passed onto every woman in our family on her wedding day. I used to pack my laptop; now that I use a desktop computer I backup everything to an external and pack that along with my iPad and chargers for EVERYTHING. Then, back extra shit you know you’d need for the next day or two in the FIRST box. You know you’ll need a shower, need to wipe your ass at some point, maybe need a fucking drink or four, so pack all of that in there. I like to pack snacks, cat food (for Bowser, not for me), a fresh flannel shirt (it’s calming, I’m Canadian), a book, and enough caffeine and coffee for a week’s worth of Irish mornings.

#3.1: Pack Shit Up Logically

Everyone has their own methods. I’m not here to give you 97 different methods of packing up to move to a new apartment. You want to know what I do, or what I want to do, you read my fucking blog. Don’t like my advice? Tweek it, or look for some more advice online somewhere.

From what I’ve found through my dozens of moves (both my own and helped) is that colour coding really helps if you’re moving somewhere with multiple rooms. Moving into a dorm? Just pack like shit with like shit, label the boxes, and you’re done. Have shit going to the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and possibly multiple bedrooms? Use a different colour Sharpie (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) to designate rooms. Red is the kitchen, blue is the bathroom, purple is the living room, and so on. You can even grab a piece of bristol board from the dollar store in each colour and throw it on the wall or door (whatever you would see first) so everyone knows where to go. And fill people in on your colour scheme: you never know when a colour blind person is amongst your helpers, or someone just didn’t notice the blue paper outside the bathroom and decides to put a box in storage.

Don’t want to colour code for whatever reason. Then just label the shit out of your boxes! “Beth’s room, last door on the right” gets rid of any confusion as to where shit goes. Even labeling something a little more than just “kitchen” can make a world of difference. “Kitchen – spices”, “Kitchen – bulk foods”, “Kitchen – shit to eat off”…. all of these little add-ons to the box label make your life just a tad bit easier. Chances are you’ll want shit to eat take-out pizza off of before you want your 10lbs bag of rice.

#3.2 Check Your Fridge and Freezer — Before AND After

So when we first left my home town, my aunt decided there was no possible way we could leave behind all the veggies in the massive vegetable garden in the back yard. Seriously, this thing was bigger than the room I pay almost $400 a month for in a shared house. We had corn, three types of peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, lettuce…… picture the world’s biggest salad bar, and we could fucking stock it.

My aunt decided we need tomatoes as memorabilia.

So, she took those tomatoes and threw them in the cooler with the frozen food left from the freezer in the kitchen. Her job for the move was “cleaning supplies and food”, and she was on top of things. When we moved stuff into the kitchen, she started putting food into the fridge and freezer to keep it from going bad. Those fresh tomatoes went into the freezer.

Months later, when I (the oldest of three) was babysitting, we found half a dozen rock hard frozen tomatoes in the freezer. The only logical thing to do was to whip them at each other. We had a frozen tomato fight until I whipped one really hard and high, hitting the low-hanging beam in the kitchen. I fucking dented the metal studs on it with a tomato.

When my parents finally noticed the damage (a few years later), they asked what the hell I hit the beam with to cause such a big dent.

“One of Judy’s frozen tomatoes from the garden”

When we left that house, they fucking took inventory of EVERYTHING.  They knew what was coming out of the freezer, and exactly what would be going back in. There were no stray tomatoes freezing into rock hard murder spheres at this house. There also were no forgotten chickens hanging on a hook on the wall by the basement freezer (dad did this once when I was a kid. Took us weeks to find where all the flies were coming from, since I was the oldest and couldn’t climb up on the freezer to see what was behind it). Keep track of your food, all of it.

In the week or two leading up to the move, stop buying food as much as possible and just eat what you have (I try to do this once or twice a year, just because I tend to stock up on shit when it’s cheap and then run out of room in the kitchen). Eat as much of your frozen food as possible. Treat yourself to frozen pizzas from last month’s sale for breakfast on Saturday. Eat frozen corn with every meal for a week. Whatever the hell you have to do, do it. I like to make stew, chili, and soup with just whatever is laying around the kitchen. It’s a hell of a lot easier to transport, keep track of, and unpack three or four Tupperware containers of chili and stew than it is making sure your massive fucking collection of chicken breasts stays cold enough to not thaw on moving day.

If you’re moving in with roommates and you all do your own grocery shopping, then it might be a good idea to inventory EVERYTHING. Like, write down what food you’re bringing into the house with you, so you no one “accidentally” takes any of it while you’re unpacking. I had a roommate who would take my food “accidentally” all the time. She even had the nerve to steal my cheese (repeatedly) and use it to make dinner for “everyone”, meaning she made tacos and shredded all of my new brick of cheese to hide in the back of her fridge for when she wanted it.  I did what any rational, normal adult would do in that situation: I wrote a passive-aggressive poem about my cheese running away (which I just spent a good hour digging through old notebooks looking for), and left it on the fridge for her.

Running Cheese

#4: Pay Your Fucking Movers

Most people use their friends to help them move. The universally acceptable method of payment for helping a friend move is pizza and beer. You don’t have to get all fancy with craft beers, but don’t pick on the vegetarians for wanting no meat on their pizza. You’d be a real asshole if your friend busted his ass all day moving your shit, and you piss all over him for his food choices. Unless he wants mayonnaise or pineapple on his pizza, shut your damn mouth and fill his with copious amounts of ‘za.

#5: Unpack Your Shit Logically

Now, after you spend all that time with the colour coding, and the “First” box, and an overnight bag, don’t fuck it up now. Get your bed set up. Put your furniture where you want it. Then start unpacking the stuff you’ll need first. Get your clothes in the closet, the food in the cupboards, and cleaning supplies under the sink. Plug in the coffee pot, and put the coffee grinds and filters by it. Get anything you’ll want to use early the next morning out of the boxes and on the shelves.

Don’t start with your books, or DVD collection, or anything that will take time to sit down and organize because it’s on display. Yes, your shit is going to look pretty rad once it’s all unpacked. But things like eating and properly caffeinating are a bit more important deciding if you’ll group your DVDs by genre, alphabetically, or by colour. Maybe get things like your closet and your kitchen set up first. Then you can curl up in your nicely unpacked clothes, make a drink in your unpacked glasses, and work on your stuff.

Back to School How-To

Hey there Sunshine!  It’s the middle of the night, going on the very early morning hours. I had a bizarro day (may have witnessed a very injured and mentally unstable young man steal a wheelchair and run away from a hospital ER), and that’s making my anxiety go through the roof tonight. When the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend was heading off to bed, I had to sit up in front of the TV for a bit doing my deep breathing, because I was sure I was about to have a heart attack.

Oh well, hope your night is going much better!

This whole combination of bizarro situations and ridiculously high anxiety DID remind me that school is starting soon, though. I moved a month into high school to a whole new city, to a newly opened high school. Somehow, my parents thought that the fact that the school was new meant that no one there knew each other yet, so I should have no problem making friends. Had to finish my fifth and final year at a new school back in my hometown. After a few years off, went back to college, only to leave after only getting my one year certificate (instead of the 2-year diploma) due to an incident there. Years after that, went back to university as a “mature student” and spent more than 5 years working on my degrees, only to let anxiety get the best of me and not apply to graduate school.

So believe me when I say that I KNOW back to school anxiety.

The thing is, there are so many different things that can worsen your back to school anxiety: financial woes, social anxiety, moving to a new place, the unknown in general, education itself, fear of the future……….  I keep seeing these articles on how to handle your Back To School Anxiety, but they only have band-aid solutions to things.  Sure, lavender might help you relax, but will it help you save money on school supplies and textbooks? Eating lots of veggies is great for your all-around physical and mental health, but how will that help you meet people? Companion animals are great, but most dorm rooms don’t allow them.

So what’s a student to do?

Hopefully, I can shed a little light on that for ya’ll. I researched things back then for myself, and research them now for friends and roommates. I’m digging through my ancient external hard drive, stacks of old half-used notebooks (I dare you to find a troubled writer who doesn’t have at least half a dozen of these in their home), and my very large pile of Research I Printed To Read Later But Never Did. I’m combing Tumblr blogs (I’ll have links to a few that are super helpful), old PowerPoint presentations, and that forgotten “Stuff For My Blog” folder in my Bookmarks. Basically, I’m digging through all my shit to find that shit that works best for you.

So, I’ll try and pour as much of this anxiety-fuelled awakeness into my research for now. Hopefully, I’ll have some posts for you on this all this week, while you’re getting ready for Back to School.

 

The Failed Grown Up Guide to Not Being a Colossal Douche

For-Rent.jpg

I’ve been showing our house to prospective renters the last few days, Sunshine, and I feel there’s something I need to address. I know that finding a new place to live is hard, that renting a room in a house full of strangers is intimidating, that the people you move in with will have a very real and lasting impact on not only your stay in that place but your life in general.

Believe me, I get all of that.

Since I first decided to go back to school, I’ve moved all over this end of town. I’ve lived with good friends, acquaintances, ex-boyfriends, an ex-boyfriend AND a current boyfriend at the same time, and total strangers. It’s never exactly easy looking for a new place, moving in with new people, or learning to deal with the people you’re now living with.

That being said, no one needs to be a complete douche canoe when they’re looking at places. Just showing this place to prospective renters, I have seen more douchebaggery than most people will see in a dozen life times. There has been enough douche in this house to build a douche canoe, with matching douche paddles, to be floated down a douche stream to the Douche Rapids, over the majestic Grande Douche Falls,   where the douche rocks will obliterate it into a million douchey pieces.

That’s a metric shit-tonne of douche.

So here, for your very own reading pleasure, I give to you……

The Failed Grown Up Guide to Not Being a Colossal Douche

Step #1: Show the Fuck Up

I had three people scheduled to come here today to see rooms. Two showed up.

I had one person scheduled for yesterday. No one showed up.

I have lost count of the number of times we have had someone scheduled to come here to look at a room, and they just don’t bother showing up. And it’s not like we give them no options in contacting us. The landlord gives them his phone number, I Facebook message with them, we all email back and forth, I’ve even given my phone number to a few of them to text in case they’re running late (which I stopped doing after the random 3 am attempted sexts from dudes who saw the place).

Now, I have a job. The other people in this house who help me show it have jobs and/or school. We have busy fucking schedules.  None of us are just sitting around the house, waiting for people to saunter up at their leisure to peruse the joint.

Today, I woke up at 4am to go over the list of things I needed to do today. I was up by 6am when the boyfriend left for work. I showered, drew in my eyebrows, and then cleaned until 9:30am when I left for work.  I worked until 3pm. Had to pick up cat food and dish soap, so I skipped my break in order to run to the grocery store in our plaza. Power walked home with a backpack full of groceries to be here by 3:25. Put away groceries, changed, did a quick sweep of the floors and ran a dust cloth over the tables, and was sitting on the couch waiting for my 3:45 appointment.

They never showed up.

I busted my ass cleaning all morning, then busted my ass at work without a real break, just to bust my ass to get home and get right to the cleaning, all because some douche nozzle said he was showing up here at a certain time and he never fucking showed.

The people showing you a possible place to rent bust their asses off to make sure they are there to show it to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s some tiny bedroom in a shared apartment or a penthouse fucking suite: someone is taking time out of their day to show you that potential new home. Be there, be on time, and if you’re going to be late for the love of all things sacred PLEASE let them know!

Step #2: When you DO show up, show some basic fucking courtesies. 

I have had people show up here in the middle of a driving rain storm, soaked right to the damn bone. I offered towels to dry themselves off with and to throw their socks and shoes on the heating vent to dry off a bit while we toured the house. One guy refused the towel, refused to take off his shoes, and insisted that his three friends do the same. Instead, they thought it was perfectly acceptable to track mud and water through the house.

Of course, after they left I had to report back to the landlord. I’ve studied sociopaths and psychopaths for years, so he sees me as a pretty good judge of character. The first thing I mentioned was their total and utter disrespect for the place while viewing it. If you can’t be bothered to show some basic fucking respect while you’re just viewing the place as a potential tenant, then what are the chances of you respecting the place while you live here?

That dude emailed the landlord and said he’d like to take the place. The landlord said “thanks, but no thanks”.

The place you’re looking at isn’t the only thing being judged. Whoever is showing you that place is checking to see if you’re a fit for them, too. No landlord wants to rent out their spaces to people who are going to just fucking destroy them.  If someone can’t bother to take off their muddy fucking shoes, then what are the chances they’ll sweep or vacuum or mop EVER?

The house manager here for years used to rent rooms to a bunch of his friends and frat brothers. A lot of them were pretty cool and easy to get along with. The one dude who lived here when I moved in became a really great friend to me and used to call himself Uncle Sandwich to my kitten (he’d feed him meat from his designer sandwiches from the Italian grocer’s down the road). Most of the time, renting to people he knew worked out. One frat brother caused some serious issues when he moved out though.

You see, my bedroom is one of two that is carpeted. Fratty McFraterton lived in this room before me. Mr. Manager never bothered to ask him about the places he lived before, or talk to anyone he lived with outside the actual frat house. If he had, he would’ve known that this guy wasn’t exactly someone who cleaned up after himself. As it turned out, he didn’t vacuum his room once in the more than a year he lived here.

When I moved in, I vacuumed and sat down on the floor to organize my books a bit. And that’s when the hives started popping up. Because that damn carpet hadn’t been vacuumed in at least 13 months, dust and food had been ground into it and had to be cleaned out. Like, Mr. Manager had to go out and rent a carpet cleaner and we had to steam the entire fucking room. But the damage had already been done.  That summer and early fall, I spent 94 days covered in hives. 94 fucking days! I saw doctors and specialists, had my eyes swell shut, had to carry an EpiPen and even had hives on my butthole.

The Landlord caught wind of this. The fact that he let someone rent a room here (a damn nice room, for a damn good price, with AC and everything), and that person showed so much disrespect was just mind boggling. The carpet has been cleaned half a dozen times since I moved in, and it will never be the same colour it once was.  He doesn’t want more people coming in and destroying his house like that again.

So the first impression you make, the respect you show me or anyone showing you a prospective place, has a huge role in whether or not anyone wants you to live there.

Step 3: You’re a grown up. Fucking act like one!

It’s perfectly understandable that sometimes you can’t go visit a place on your own. Some people take a friend with them for safety reasons. Others come from out of town and have someone showing them around, or someone who volunteered to drive them. Some people need a health aid, or a translator, or have a parent or two with them to show them that they’re not moving into a crack den. And some people have just never moved out on their own before, and have someone along to make sure they ask all the right questions.  That’s all cool.

But it’s you who is looking to rent the place. You’re the one who would live there, you’re the one who needs info, and you’re the one being judged here.  Having your mommy come along to talk for you is just going to give us something to laugh about later.

Had a young man come here the other day to look at a room, with his mother in tow. Well, actually it was more like she was looking at the room while he tagged along. She made a big show of telling me how her Special Little Man was 25 and moving out on his own for the very first time. I swear, she talked about him the same I was I talk about my baby kitten, who is an Extra Special Very Good Boy sometimes. He was going to go to university and get a BA in Psychology, which would make him a Very Important Special Little Man who would have people just throwing jobs at him. He didn’t have time for silly things like cleaning and cooking, so we’d need to do that. He was going to have a degree, did I have any idea what kind of doors that would open for him?

I so wanted to say, “Yeah, it’ll open the fucking door to the liquor store where I work. I’ve got the same damn degree sweetheart, with a second honors degree on top of that. And I still manage to scrub my toilet and wipe the counters down after I use them.” But I put on my best Customer Service Face, smiled and just said,”Oh ya, ok” while I nodded my head over and over.

The Special Little Man barely spoke. He seemed like a nice enough guy, the total opposite of his mother. A little spoiled, but totally eager to get out from under his mother’s thumb and into the real world. If his mother wasn’t there, I never would’ve known he can barely cook, and had never done laundry, and wasn’t allowed to even use a broom at home because he had better things to focus on. I probably would’ve recommended him to the landlord, told him he seemed like a nice respectable guy.

As it is, that boy won’t be renting a room here. Especially after his mother announced she’d be here every other weekend “at the very least” to make sure we were “taking care of him”.

Step 4: Read the fucking ad!

Single Bed for Rent.jpg

Our ads are pretty basic. It shows a few old pictures of the house, tells you the price of the rooms, you share common areas and a bathroom, and it’s a mature home; no loud parties, no selling anything illegal from the house, all utilities included except cable and the internet. It flat out says that you are renting a ROOM and that you will be SHARING a bathroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen with everyone else.  I come right out the second people walk through the door here, and I show them which areas are common areas.  That’s how people have always shown me apartments and homes in the past too.

The ad pretty much tells you what you’re paying for. You get a room all to yourself, with a lock and key and everything. You share a kitchen and living room with everyone. You share a bathroom with one or two other people. The landlord tells you that when you email him saying you want to see the house. I tell you that when you walk in the house to see the rooms.

But this is a small sample of the things I’ve still heard from prospective renters in the last year or so:

  • what do you mean I have to share a bathroom with someone?
  • can’t you just not rent out the room next to me, so I get the whole basement to myself?
  • I thought this room came with a private bathroom.
  • what do you mean I have to share a kitchen?
  • you mean it’s just a bedroom?
  • I thought I was going to be seeing a full apartment.

I think you get the picture.

The fucking ad has PICTURE of the HOUSE in it. It talks about the BEDROOMS for rent. It mentions all of the COMMON AREAS that you would be SHARING with other people if you lived here. It ain’t fucking rocket surgery to realize that this is a room available in a house.

And the last two steps combined bring me to our next step.

Step 5: It is what it is. You’re not getting any more out of it.

You pay for a room here. You cook for yourself, you clean for yourself, you take care of yourself, you even shop for yourself. You are a grown-ass person, who will do grown-ass things, and take care of their damn selves. We do not have maid service or a chef. I’m not here to take care of you. You are paying for a room, and that’s it.

Last week we had a fellow look at the rooms downstairs, and start asking about the maid service schedule. He asked about grocery services. He wanted to know who would be doing the cooking. When he was told that he had to do all of that himself like a Big Boy, he had the fucking gall to try and lowball the landlord for rent to make-up for what was “missing”. He wanted a $400 room for less than $200!

Remember the woman with the 25-year-old Special Little Man who was going to be so fucking important someday? She was fucking appalled that her Special Little Man would have to do things for himself. He was far too important to do things like feed himself, or wash a fucking dish. She seriously expected everyone in the house to chip in and hire a maid to come in and scrub the floors, do the laundry, wash the dishes, and scrub out the bathrooms three or four times a week. If we weren’t willing to do that, then she wanted a discount on the rent.

People come up with all sorts of crazy-ass demands when they come look at the place. I’ve had people try to demand we get a brand new BBQ because ours is old and used. I’ve had people demand no one keep things in the kitchen but them. People have wanted to have the entire basement or main floor to themselves, without paying to rent the other rooms there. They’ve wanted other people to cook for them, to clean for them, to do their grocery shopping, to be their private guide to the city. Hell, I even had one girl who lived here try to turn me into her personal stylist, even though I have ZERO sense of fucking style!

Unless an ad says something like, “Private maid cleaning/cook available for a price/ room and board, meals included”, don’t expect any of this shit. Your parents, or your last roommate, or your last partner may have done these things for you. But was anyone doing any of this for them? Nope, and it’s not getting done for you here either!

A Few Final Thoughts

If you go looking for a place to live, and you act like a total and complete douche, no one is going to want you to live there.

If you come here and start bragging about how smart you are, how your degree is going to mean people will be throwing jobs at you, no one here is going to be impressed.

If your mommy comes in here to tell me that you’re far too important and special to do anything for yourself, or you come in here demanding someone else do your cleaning for you, no one here is going to jump up and cater to your every fucking need and whim.

If your mother comes in here and refers to you by little names that sound like something I would call my kitten, the Most Precious And Perfect Fuzzy Little Baby Man,  I will do my best not to burst out laughing in your face. But that’s as far I’ll go for that.

Basically, if you come in here doing any of the douchey bullshit I’ve just warned you about, I am going to tell everyone about it. I’ll tell my boyfriend, our roommates, my coworkers, maybe even some of my favourite regular customers. And we’re not going to sit back and revel in your awesomeness. No, we’re going to laugh our fucking asses off, make fun of you, and try to figure out who in their right mind would actually want you as their roommate.

So don’t forget, Sunshine: don’t be a douche. Don’t let your friends be douches. Don’t try to out-douche other douches. Just be a fucking awesome person, like are right now.

 

A Little Research Goes a Long Way

I know people have been asking you this since you squeaked out your first words, and you’re probably sick to death of hearing it, but what do you want to be when you grow up? Any idea?

I wanted to do two things, Sunshine: I wanted to write, and I wanted to work in criminal profiling and research violent crimes.  They both seemed like the ideal career paths for me. I mean, I wrote all through my teens and early 20s (and then just gave up hope on everything for a good 10 years before trying to give it another go). And I’ve been reading true murder novels ever since I stole my first one from my mother’s bedside table in the 5th grade.

So, in my mid-20s I decided to go back to school and start working towards that whole profiling and research career. I studied Criminology (got my BA.H in that one) and Psychology (my second degree, just a BA), worked as a research assistant for a while, and obsessively read books and papers on murderers. I talked to a professor who was a former RCMP officer (those police officers in Canada that the rest of the world seems to think rides horses all day while they wear bright red jackets and doofy hats), and he told me all the steps I needed to get into the RCMP for a research position.

Dumbest fucking move ever.

You see, he hadn’t been an RCMP officer for a while now. Things change over time, like the qualifications for different positions. He told me I just needed my BA.H in a social science, preferably something where I studied crime (hence the Criminology), and a background in research. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

One simple Google search would’ve shut that down real freakin fast!

You see, in order to get the position I wanted, now you have to first BECOME an RCMP officer. Not only do I have no want or desire to do so, but my eyesight is bad enough that it disqualifies me from the position. Like, it is impossible for me to ever get this job, ever.

If I had realized this while I was still in school, there is a metric crapload of stuff I would’ve done differently. For starters, I would’ve done a little bit more research into what jobs my damn degree qualified me for. I would’ve gone for more career counseling, volunteered with different organizations, looked into addition certificates and courses to help me out. I would’ve switched to a double major in something else, got a minor or two to fall back on. Maybe even got a part-time job to fall back on once I was out of school (but that’s a whole other post).

As it stands, I have two degrees I got specifically to get me a job I can never have. They don’t qualify me for much specifically in the town I live in. I work customer service in a ‘spirits dispensary’ who would prefer I don’t name them in blog postings. I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from those degrees, plus credit card bills falling out my ass crack from trying to live on 4 hours work a week for months without falling behind in my rent and other bills. And I have to pay this all off with the CSR wages I’m making now, NOT the profiling and research job and salary I had been working towards.

And this was all totally preventable if I had just sucked it up and done a bit more research.

So, as I say way too much to be healthy for my self-esteem, don’t wind up like me. Do a little work towards the work you want to do.

Check Out the Education Qualifications

If you have a job or career in mind, know what you need to get in order to get hired. You wouldn’t expect to just show up on a movie set one day and say, “I’ve never acted, written, produced, or directed in my life, and I have a degree in forensic science. Let me direct your next big budget movie”, and to actually get the job. Some places or careers require schooling, while others prefer you get experience for yourself.

Want to be a teacher? Find out how much schooling you need for that, what courses and majors you need, how many years you’ll be in school. Want to write? You could go to school for creative writing, or you could just write constantly. Neither one is wrong, but they’ll both take you down different paths. Same goes for other creative pursuits. You may be better off just creating content than getting formal school sometimes, while in some situations an education might give you that little something extra that could land you a position.

Have a Company or Position in Mind?

Study and use LinkedIn like it’s your lover: learn it inside and out, make it the best it can be, make it feel appreciated and wanted. LinkedIn can help you get an in with a company, meet people working there, find out more about the company’s culture.

Most businesses have a website these days too. Ever think to look at it? You can learn a shit-tonne from half an hour browsing a company’s website. Find out what they do, their mission statement, who works in positions you’re interested in, who is in charge of hiring.

Find Out Every Step Needed to Get That Job

I knew I needed to get that honours degree. I had no idea I needed to become an actual RCMP officer, which I physically can’t do. A lot of people see that you need to become an officer before moving on to a different job and give up altogether. They’d rather not spend 5 years working in a remote northern community, far from home and everything they love, dealing with criminals and violence and such, to get a desk job doing research. Hell, even if my eyesight didn’t disqualify me from the job, I probably wouldn’t have gone for the officer position anyway. I was just over 30 years old (and still am, btw) competing with people in their early 20s for a physically demanding position, which I am in no physical shape to hold. I’m a desk job person, not chasing perps through vacant lots and hopping tall fences kind of gal.

There are a gazillion different things that a job could require from you that could wind up being a dealbreaker. Believe me, it’s better to know what these are before you throw down $60,000 in borrowed money for a degree that is going to do you no good once you’ve realized you can never get the job you were getting that degree for.

Basically, you need to go and power up The Googles, as my mother calls it. Start researching shit. Look into the jobs you want, the companies you want to work for, the schooling you’re doing, the people you admire. See if what you want is even feasible, and see if it’s something you can definitely be in for the long-haul.

Don’t wind up like me, Sunshine. I kinda love-hate my job most days. It would be great if not for the crushing debt of the schooling and living I did over the last 10 years. I could make a living off of it if I didn’t have all these damn bills.  Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes as me, Sunshine. Do your damn research. Plan shit for the future.

That’s Not How This Works!

I just walked out of my bedroom and saw this. I think it’s supposed to be a chicken cooking in a crock pot.

I think.

How the hell is this supposed to cook? I mean, the bird is sticking out of the damn crock pot. The lid doesn’t close over the bird. All the heat is escaping before it gets a chance to cook the chicken.

This is dangerous, Sunshine. If you cook meat wrong, like my roommate it doing here, you’re basically just hanging a sign up that says “Bacteria wanted here”.

Salmonella. E.coli. These things live in improperly cooked meat. I’ve had E.coli before, and it is the opposite of fun. It’s fever and chills and crapping your insides out until you feel so weak you might pass out. It’s bloody poop, and bringing stool samples to your doctor. It’s pain and nausea weakness.

The worst part of that chicken “cooking” in my kitchen is that it is spreading germs all over the area it’s cooking in. When he’s done cooking that thing, I have to sanitize the counters, stove, surrounding appliances, everything. 

And this isn’t some young kid who has never lived on his own before who is doing this. My roommate is a 46 year old man who has lived on his own for years.

Do yourself a favour Sunshine: learn how to cook safely. Watch a little Gordon Ramsay or John Taffer and listen to their food safety rants. Google how to cook things. Clean up after yourself properly. 

You don’t want food poisoning. And you really don’t want to randomly be called out on your roommate’s blog either.

Utilities Included……. To A Point

I would like to know on what planet the phrase “utilities included” means “the landlord will pay the utilities for you, and your friends, and their friends, and all your families……..”. Somehow, I keep getting these roommates who see “utilities included” as some sort of invitation for a free-for-all at our place, where everyone and anyone can do their laundry or crank the AC for free.

Now, out of all the places I’ve lived with roommates (both randoms and friends), I have had the landlord come talk to me about utility usage at every single place I’ve been in. And I’ve lived in a lot of places around here. Out of all of those places, there was only ONE that was a BS complaint. At my old apartment, the windows were drafts and leaked when it rained or snowed, there was no AC, and you could feel the heat leaking out the windows from outside. But it was my nightlight in the hallway that was using up too much power and making the energy bill go nuts.

At every single other place, the landlord had totally legitimate reasons to be pissed, and my roommates and I were completely in the wrong with what was going on in our place.

Every. Single. Other. Place.

Now, just so everyone out there is on the same page, no landlord is legally obliged to include your utilities (water, electricity, gas) in your monthly rent payment. Even if you sign a lease with them that says that utilities are included in your payment, there are legal ways for them to get out of that. Like…… say you totally take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to pay out of pocket for utilities and start using ALL THE POWER POSSIBLE!!!! There are safeguards out there for landlords to protect them from situations like this, so they don’t wind up with $700 electricity bills for a 2 bedroom house that brings in $850 a month in rent.  Depending on the local laws in your area, landlords may be to change your lease (lower your rent but make you put utilities in your own name), evict you, or increase your rent to make up for their losses.

So how do you know if you’re abusing your “utilities included” agreement? Here’s what some of my roommates did:

  1. My first place in University was a house near campus with a bunch of friends and cats and ferrets. I don’t think that place ever had real, natural air flowing through it unless I opened up my bedroom window or sat up in the attic window. There was always either AC or heat blasting. And I’m not talking, “Well, it 100 degrees in the shade,  better turn on the AC to cool the place down” like a responsible person does. No, my roommate would CRANK that AC anytime she wanted. I can remember coming home from the beach on a 90-degree day. She plopped herself down on the couch to cool off after setting the AC to 50 FREAKING DEGREES!!!! And she would do this all the freaking time!  I’m surprised we didn’t burn out the AC at some point. I only lasted 2 years there, while a few of them lasted 4 in that house. By the time they moved out, the landlord was begging them to try and conserve energy, even just a little bit.
  2. I have had multiple roommates try this one, but the worst was at my last place before where I am living now. We had in-house laundry facilities. Logically, this was so the people who paid rent to live in that house could do their own laundry there. One roommate (the one who threw away all my veggies so he could fill the shared fridge with meat) decided that the laundry room was open to ANYONE. His friends would come over and do a few loads. He’d have a small party in his room and everyone would bring laundry to throw in while they drink. He would do a load of three shirts and a sock if he felt like it. I can remember waiting for days to do laundry because he’d monopolize the washer and dryer for days on end. At one point, he and two friends slept in shifts for three days so they could do laundry 24/7.  Do you have any idea how much energy laundry takes?
  3. Right now, I live with grown-ass adults who have no idea how to adult. I AM THE ADULT HERE! If I didn’t lay down the law around here (or have the landlord email everyone with new rules to follow, giving me authority over certain things), they’d just do what they want when they want. Landlord messaged me to say the energy bill was almost $90 higher than it should have been a few months ago. Now, we have ‘peak hour billing’ here, which means the energy costs vary throughout the day. It’s always been a rule here that no one does laundry before 7 pm unless it’s a weekend or holiday. Same goes for running the dishwasher (which we never use anyway). We also have to be careful with the AC.  These grown-ass adults didn’t care though. They’d do laundry all day, crank the AC so upstairs was nice and cold, and the basement was freezing. Then they’d run space heaters in the basement. Instead of using the kitchen to cook, they got spare mini-fridges and hot plates and microwaves and cooked in their rooms. I once came home a little after 1 pm to find the dishwasher running for 2 plates, 2 cups, and a frying pan.

In every single instance here, the landlord had to contact us and say, “look, either you be a little more responsible with your energy use, or I’m going to have to take the ‘utilities included’ clause out of your rental agreement”. So in a alot of these cases, it’s one person ruining things for an entire house full of people. Do you really want to be that one person who pisses off a bunch of people and causes them severe financial harm, especially when they know exactly where you live?

 

There’s Lots of Things You NEED to Keep

Sometimes I like to mentally remodel the house I’m sharing with all these random roommates, and imagine it’s a house all of my own just for me. I’d move into the front bedroom, and tear down the wall between that and our office to turn the office into a giant walk-in closet. Then the room we’re using as our bedroom could be my office, where I’d have a wall of bookcases and a bunch of filing cabinets. And it’s the filing cabinets that really excite me.

Yes, I know how strange that sounds. My life is pretty sad at times.

But I keep finding out that there are things in life that you just NEED to keep, and I’m running out of room in my DollarTree accordion file folder for it all.

Some things are pretty straight-forward. I mean, you know you should be keeping your tax returns, right? Other things, I’m learning as I go. I mean, do you have a file on each of your past jobs? I know I sure as hell don’t (even though I definitely know that I should. I am still a procrastinating little turd when it comes to this). I know I should be keeping files on a whole lot of things, like my mother does. She is the only person I know who has a file marked “Cheques from Nigerian Princes” in her cabinet, and it actually has multiple cheques from email scammers who said they were Nigerian Princes.

I don’t think I need a Nigerian Prince folder though.

So what do I need? Probably the same things you need”

  1. Taxes. This isn’t just a file folder of your tax returns, either. You should have multiple files (those accordion file folders at dollar stores are great for this), with a file for each year. That includes this year. Use this to keep track of documents, receipts, emails, whatever else you need for your next tax return. And keep this stuff. Most tax preparers suggest keeping your tax documents for 7 years, in case you’re ever audited.
  2. Leases, rental agreements, mortgage papers. Anything that deals with you paying money in order to live somewhere. Keep all your papers, even after you  move, for a few extra years. You never know when you’ll have a dispute over some ancient crap with an old landlord, you need an example of a document to go off of, or you need to teach someone how to read  one (which I’ll go over for you another day).
  3. Jobs. Ideally, you need a separate file for each job. You need to keep track of your start date, your end date, the dates of any promotions, awards, or serious goals reached. Keep track of your managers, their managers, close co-workers, co-workers you had to work closely with, and all of their contact info. Keep track of salary, raises, bonuses, and any sort of performance-based prizes you won. And do this for everything, every job you have, every volunteer position you take, everything.
  4. Ok, you know all that detailed and useless sounding crap I made you keep for each job. You’re going to need that for everything. Keep track of every address you live at, how much you pay at each place, who your landlord is and how to contact them. Keep track of roommates and when they move in/out. Keep track of your moving dates, lease signing dates, and any changes to your lease. Track any issues you have with each place that the landlord should take care of, that you have to take care of, that involve calling the police because some random-ass kids decided to draw penises all over your house and lawn furniture and dig holes in the yard on your 30th birthday.Track ALL of it!
  5. You probably have bills. Phone bills, car bills, hydro bills, electricity bills, tuition bills. Keep them. Keep your tuition bills until you’re waaaay graduated and everything is paid off. Keep your monthly bills for a good 6 months, in case of any disputes. Keep annual-ish bills like your property tax bill for 7 years, just like your taxes.
  6. All those important papers that you look at and think, “Well, I’ll probably need this again some day. I’d better put it somewhere I can find it”. I keep Bowser-kitten’s vet papers and shots records in a file. The warranty on my mattress is filed. Paperwork from work about pensions and work pay-scales are filed. If it’s important and you think you could ever possibly someday need it again, make a file for it.

I know, this seems like a lot. But you have no idea how hard it is to find this info when you are looking for it and it isn’t right there at your fingertips.

For example, I had to go through a really super-intensive background check for a job I had applied for and went through hell trying to qualify for. *spoiler alert: I didn’t get it* After three interviews, a typing test, spelling and grammar test, math test, TWO psychological exams, and a medical physical, I had to have a private investigator go through my entire life and check out every little detail. I had to give the addresses for every single place I lived at for the last 15 years, every job (both paid and voluntary) I’ve held in the last 15 years including managers names and contact info, 4 professional references and 4 personal references, and the names, addresses, phone numbers, and birth dates of every person in my immediate family. And I had 72 hours to get all of this together. Now, if you’ve worked the same job for 15 years and never moved, then it would be easy for you to get this together. In just the 5 1/2 years I was in university, I had 6 different addresses (if you count my parent’s place and that place I hadn’t even unpacked at yet before they kicked us out so their kids could move in instead). In one semester, I volunteered at 8 different organizations and dozens of events, and held down two on-campus jobs each year. And that’s just 5 1/2 years of the 15 years they needed! Now, if I had a freakin file on all of this crap, then I could’ve just copied out the info I needed and been done with it. Instead, I was basically awake for 72 hours calling family members, friends, and old co-workers to try and get the info I needed.

I know, it’s not fun or glamorous to sit around and put together files. Start slowly though. Gather up the things you need to file and throw them in a big box together. Sort through things, organize them a bit. Then, little by little, start filing them away so you know where everything is.

 

Well Sunshine, that’s all for today. It’s July 1st, which is Canada Day here. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I are getting ready to head over to my friend’s old frat for a BBQ and drinks. Found out last night from AAB that the guy living on the main floor with us is apparently moving out mid-way through the month, which means he and his girlfriend won’t be around anymore. One guy from the basement wants to move up here, so we’ll have a room for rent down there soon. And once this guy moves out, I can see how many freaking suitcases he actually has stored downstairs! I counted 9 huge suitcases (big enough for AAB to fit into each and every one of them) just thrown into our “storage area” down there. It’s a damn disaster. Once I get a little time off work (today is my first day off in 30 days!) I’ll have to clean things up a bit down there.

Enjoy your weekend, Sunshine!