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.

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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.

 

Roommates from Hell: The People Upstairs

When I first moved into my dirty old apartment, we didn’t have the two students living above us. For a short time, while the building manager was ill, a property management company came in and helped fill the vacant apartments. This company is well known in this city for not properly vetting their clients, and renting to some pretty shady characters. So, the apartment above mine was rented out by them.

At first, the people there seemed nice, from what I was told. It was supposedly a young mother with her baby son, and her boyfriend would be staying there on and off. They seemed nice enough, and the apartment was rented out to them.

Turns out, that wasn’t who would be living there, really. Yes, she had a baby son living with her, but she also had a daughter there too. And her boyfriend moved in full time. And so did his brother. And their two friends. And two cats and a few Dobermans. Then the Rottweiler. Did I mention these small, two bedroom apartments had a “no pets” clause in the lease?

People started moving in slowly. When the property manager would stop by, the girl would say that her friend was helping her with her kids that day, or that there were so many guys there because they were going to have a guys night and play poker.

What they were really all doing there was growing marijuana.

It turns out, they were growing, drying, and then selling marijuana from the apartment. They also were NOT cleaning, or paying bills, or taking care of the kids living there.

When I went to first look at the apartment, before we rented, the building manager told us that the tenants upstairs were being evicted and would be out before we moved in.

Well that didn’t happen.

They were served with an eviction notice, and ignored it. They had their power shut off, which inadvertently shut down the power to my apartment as well. Didn’t bother them, they brought in noisy, stinky generators. They got served with ANOTHER eviction notice, and ignored it. Finally, the building manager said that he was going to get the police involved, which apparently scared the people with the illegal grow-op in their apartment. They started making arrangements to move.

Until then, they raised hell.

We couldn’t sleep at night because they would be up all night, stomping and screaming and yelling. We still had no power, because when the power company came around to turn it on, they scared them away. The stink from their apartment was starting to waft through the hallways and down the staircases. They started throwing things out their apartment windows, without taking out the screens first: they just ripped them open.

One day, the threw their cats out the second floor windows. One landed and ran away. The other hobbled around, and you could see that it was sick. Some mechanics from the shop across the street took it in, and had a veterinarian friend of their come take a look at it. That vet said he had never seen a more abused, diseased cat before. Its bones had been broken, it was sick with almost a dozen different things, and its eyes were so infected that they crusted shut. They put the poor thing in a shoe box to make it comfortable, and it passed away a few hours later.

Once the poor cat was gone, a group of very large, very angry mechanics showed up on the doorstep upstairs, looking for whomever had hurt that poor thing. I don’t know what was said, but those people moved out a few days later.

The building manager and two of the tenants who had been in the building more than 25 years decided to do a walk-through of the apartment together, to see the damage. I don’t think they were quite expecting what they saw.

The carpeting in the bedrooms was ripped up, and they had let their dogs poop under it. There were garbage bags full of old diapers, rotten food, and cat litter all over the apartment. They had stopped using the toilet once they were told the police would be called on them, and started peeing on the floor, covering the puddles up with the kids’ clothes. In some areas, they had even punched holes in the walls and had shoved garbage in there.

The building manager said it would take at least a week to clean, and that the chemical smell would be pretty bad. Also, we wouldn’t be getting our power turned on until this was cleaned up, because they had to do both apartments at once for some reason, and there was feces shoved in the electrical outlets. Luckily, summer exams had just ended and my parents lived just across town. The roommate and I both packed our bags and bunked out in my old bedroom at my parents’ house.

In the end, they had to replace a few walls, rip out all the carpeting, and use industrial strength cleaners to get that apartment clean again. One of the other tenants who was helping cut his hand while cleaning up the cat litter, and his hand got so infected he wound up in the hospital for almost a week, getting his hand drained and his body pumped full of antibiotics. The doctors had never seen an infection that bad from touching cat poop, and said that the cat that came from as too sick to exist.

That was quite the experience, having to deal with all that. And that is why you check out the neighbours before you move into a new place, sunshine!

Roommates From Hell: The Break-In Upstairs

I once shared an apartment with a friend of mine. It was a dirty little place, where the hardwood floors never seemed to get clean. I couldn’t wear white socks at home, because they would turn black. This is the same place that had no air conditioning, and most of the windows didn’t open properly, so I was forced to sleep on a busted love seat in the living room. The only good thing about the whole place was the bedroom closet in my bedroom (all I want in life is my own place with a really big closet and a great big bathtub).

And the neighbours were some of the worst.

Now, there were actually worse neighbours living in the apartment upstairs when we first moved in, but they deserve their own entire post. After they left, and the apartment was sanitized, two young business students moved in upstairs. One had his very lovely parents come help him move in, and the other looked like a skinnier Thor in a rock band. The first few weeks, they seemed like very nice people.

Then, they got comfortable.

It started with the late nights. They would wear their heavy boots and clomp around, dancing with friends in high heels, blasting music all night. The staircase separating our apartments from the other two in the building muffled the sounds for them, so we got the brunt of it. They started smoking marijuana in their apartment, which was strictly forbidden in the lease (we had even created a smoking area in the back yard for anyone who smoked anything). Then, they started selling marijuana out of their apartment.

None of us knew about this latest development until one night in January, when whey were out at the bars again. I was curled up on the loveseat, trying to relax before bed, while the roommate sat in his chair watching cat videos on his laptop. Suddenly, we heard the complex doors open and someone come storming in, loudly yelling and stomping up the stairs. They stopped in the landing……. and loudly vomited everywhere. Even with my apartment door shut, I could smell it. Someone had extra garlic that night!

Then, they drudged through the puke and up the rest of the stairs, to the front door of the apartment upstairs. At first, they pounded on the door. Then they yelled and screamed. Then I heard kicking, and wood splintering. I tried to call the guys in the other apartment upstairs, but no answer. Turns out everyone was out that night, and my roommate and I were the only ones in the complex.

When we heard stomping up in the locked and empty apartment upstairs, I grabbed my phone to call the police. The stomping moved from the apartment, to the stairs, and back again, over and over. When I heard someone pound on my door, demanding I find the guys upstairs, I grabbed the biggest knife I own, hid my roommate in the bathroom (he couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag if you cut the bottom open for him), and told the dispatcher to tell the police to hurry.

The pounding stopped, the stomping upstairs started again, and then there was the sound of glass breaking and a giant thud. When the cops got there not even a minute later, they found a young university student, higher than a giraffe’s nut sack, half passed out on the livingroom floor upstairs, the remnants of a few (very expensive) bongs broken all around him. They arrested him, took a quick statement from me, and left a note on the now splintered and broken front door of the apartment upstairs, all the while trying to avoid the puke all over the hallway floors.

About an hour later, while I was still too wound up to sleep, I heard the guys in that apartment come home with a friend. She refused to walk through the puke, so Thor carried her. They got to their front door, where the note from the police was, and saw the broken glass all over their floor, and did what any concerned, responsible adults would do: they grabbed some of their weed, grabbed some booze, and went to her house.

The next morning, I left a message for the building manager about what happened. He said the cops called him that morning too, telling him what they found. He had called the guys upstairs, who told him that they didn’t come home at all that night, and were with a sick friend all day as well. I called them out on their bull, told the building manager about them coming home the previous night.

When it later came out that this guy broke into their apartment looking for drugs, and that they were selling them out of the apartment, things changed quickly around there. First, those boys had to pay for both the new door and all of the cleaning and repairs to the stairs and hallway. Apparently, the puke was so bad in some places it made the paint on the walls bubble. Then, the building manager called their emergency contacts, which happened to be their parents, to tell them that the apartment had been broken into and could they please double check with their boys to make sure nothing of value was stolen. He played it off as a concerned friend, calling to make sure these poor, shaken boys had someone there to help comfort them and to think clearly about what they own of value. When Thor’s mom showed up at their door, saw large bags of weed on the table, and read the copy of the police report that was left for the boys, she went outside to wait in a damn blizzard for the other boy’s parents.

This was by far one of the scariest things to happen to me once I moved out for school. I didn’t know why that boy was kicking in the door there, or what he wanted, or if he would try the same thing at my apartment if he didn’t find what he wanted upstairs. I kept a few steak knives on the end table at night, for security, until I accidentally sliced my palm open reaching for my phone one morning.

But that’s the past. After that semester ended, those boys moved out, and I never saw them again. I wish I could say I wonder what happened to them, but the only time I think of them is when I tell this story.

Until next time, sunshine!

Our Microwave Just Broke

So while I was making my dinner, one of my roommates tried to reheat his leftovers in the microwave. It made this awful loud noise that scared the crap out of the cat, and refused to heat anything. I messaged the landlord, and he said he’s look into it tomorrow.

Now, I like this roommate. He keeps to himself, doesn’t leave big messes everywhere, spends a lot of time on campus, is very respectful to everyone here, and the cat loves him. He joked that he was going to have to eat take-out now, and I suggested he reheat his food in the oven when I was done with in. He came back to the kitchen once my food was done, looked at the oven and said, “So how does this work? Do I just put my plate in there?”

I just had to teach a soon-to-be-grown-up how to use an oven.

He didn’t know how to turn it on. He didn’t know you can’t just throw a plate of food in there. He didn’t know how to use a baking pan.

This boy has never had to make anything more complicated than a pot of rice. He has buckets of leftovers in the freezer here that he just reheats and eats over rice.

So once again, I somehow get to be the adult in the house and teach people how an oven works. Is it scary that I’M the adult?

Roommates From Hell: How To Pay Rent

So yesterday, I walked you through some of the stuff you will most likely find in your lease. There was one thing I didn’t mention though, and that’s how to pay your rent.

Now, in our house, the actual home-owners live in another country. They bought this house while their son John was a student here, and their son still lives here now. Both he and his dad are members of the Armed Forces, and can have some pretty erratic schedules because of this. Last fall, John went away for a 10 week training program to complete his basic training for the Reserves. Now, when he is here, he is the acting landlord. It is his responsibility to collect rent, maintain the yard, keep things generally in order, and deal with all of the other tenants. When he left, he didn’t really appoint anyone to do his job. I offered to collect rent from our two newest tenants in the basement, if they had any problems with the options for payment provided in the lease.

Really wish I hadn’t offered that.

Now, our lease is perfectly clear on how we can pay our rent, and actually gives us a few options. Since the actual landlord can’t be here to personally collect rent, he gave us three banking options. One was to write a series of post-dated checks and give them to him. This way, the money could always come out on the date on the check. The second way was to go to the bank (not very far from here), and deposit the money directly to the house’s bank account. He gave the account number and detailed instructions on how to do this. The last option was to use online banking to pay either him or John. With all three of these options, the tenant automatically gets some sort of rent receipt (cancelled check, receipt from the bank deposit, or the printable email confirmation of rent being received).

Now, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumbass downstairs couldn’t quite grasp any of this. They insisted on paying their rent in cash, in person, to John every month. Pretty tough to do when John’s gone, right? So before he left, he told them the three options they have, and that they could talk to me if they had any problems. Then I wrote a note, detailing the three options, and put it on the fridge where they could see it. And, coming up on the first of the month, I reminded them of their three options.

First of the month, I wasn’t at home. We had a family crisis at the moment, and I was bedside at the local hospice. Again, I left a note and talked to the Tweedles, saying rent needed to be paid and I wouldn’t be around much for a little while. Instead of doing the sensible thing and paying their rent the way they’re freakin supposed to, they took a fit when I didn’t drop everything to personally collect their money from them. One guy actually pouted, and they gave me hell when I got home.

But wait, it gets better.

Remember how I said the options given automatically give a rent receipt? Well that’s no accident. The landlord chose those options so that when John was not here to collect the rent, the tenants would still be able to have some sort of receipt on demand. This was explained to the guys when they moved in. Yes, John had formal receipts that he could print out and sign if someone wanted them for tax purposes. But for the month-to-month workings of the house, if you wanted a receipt then you had to pay according to the lease.

When the first of the following month was approaching, and my family crisis was over, I approached the Tweedles in the kitchen and reminded them about November’s rent. I thought I would just point out how to pay, remind them to pay on-time. You know, how things should work. Well Tweedle-Dumbass flipped out! Since he paid in cash and I deposited said cash, he did not have a rent receipt from the past month. Apparently he needed one to show his father, who was helping him out financially. I explained to him again that he would have had his receipt if he had paid according to the lease, but that didn’t help. The little turd actually puffed out his chest, flexed his arms, and started crowding my personal space, claiming he was going to have his father call me to get a receipt. Turns out, he somehow wanted me to print out a receipt, and for John to somehow sign it from his military training more than 8 hours away. Logical, isn’t it?

I explained again that if he had paid according to the lease, he would have the receipt, but that did nothing. I told him to read the lease, read all his documents, and then we could try to work something out. I even offered to talk to his father to explain the situation. Well, it turns out the Tweedles never read their lease, and had no clue who the landlord was. Somehow they thought that I, another tenant of the house, was their landlord. I never said anything to them to make them think this, I wasn’t the one who toured the house with them, I wasn’t the one who had them sign the lease, and I wasn’t the one they gave their first month’s rent and security deposit to. Still, they somehow thought that, since John wasn’t here that somehow made me their landlord.

I explained to them again that 1) I rent a room here; 2) John’s parents own this place; 3) John is the acting landlord; and 4) they were already told to pay the rent one of three ways so that they could have receipts in events like this. I then explained further, going into detail about the benefits of each payment method. When I said that post-dated checks meant that rent was always paid on the first, Tweedle-Dee took his turn to flip out at me. He started yelling at me, claiming I was somehow implying that they were going to skip out on rent, or be late with payments, or try to jerk us around to get their rent. In the end, I gave up on talking to them, and messaged both the owner and their good friend across the street. They agreed that the friend would take their payments if they insisted on paying cash, so that they would have no reason flip out on me anymore.

Funnily enough, the first of the month came and went with no sign of Tweedle-Dee. It seems he went to a Halloween party, then downtown to the bars, then to a friend’s house, and didn’t come back until the 4th. When I reminded him that the neighbour still needed rent from him, he acted like I was a nagging parent forcing him to clean his room on a nice day. He stomped his feet, pouted, and actually said “I’ll pay it when I pay it”.

Damn, I really don’t miss those two!

Reading and Understanding Your Lease

A lease is a legal document. Legal document. That means that once you sign it, you are bound by it. So you would think people would read through these things before they sign them, wouldn’t you?

After getting burned by a bad lease once (they sold the house out from under us and forced us to move out with less than one month’s notice, which was perfectly allowable under a clause in the lease), I’m a little pushy when it comes to leases. I think everyone should not only read through their, but have to read through it with their landlord there to answer any questions or concerns. You need to make sure you understand what it is you’re signing, before you go ahead and sign it.

Now, before we get into specifics of your lease, there is one thing you need to know above everything else: you need a copy of your lease. No, I’m not being a smart-ass here. I mean after you read through it and decide to sign it, you legally have to be given a copy of your lease for your own personal records. And you damn well better keep that thing, too! You may need it if things go sour.

Finances: Your Basics

There are a few things you absolutely need to have included in your lease, such as how much you are responsible for paying each month, and when you move in. Most places will have you give them a security deposit, which is usually equal to one month’s rent. Legally, if the place is in good repair when you move out, you get this back. It should state all of that right in the lease.

Now, what you pay each month should be in there. What is your monthly rent? Does it include utilities? Right now, I’m lucky with the lease I have. I am renting a room in a house (currently have 3 other roommates, with room for one more). For around $400 a month, I get my room, all my utilities paid for, basic cable, unlimited internet, on-site laundry, on-site parking, a backyard, and some of the furniture here is also included.  Most places are not this amazingly great, though. Always check your lease to see what, if any, utilities are included in your lease. You may have to pay for your own internet, or electricity, or for all your utilities separately.

Also, you need to know any and all penalties in the lease. Some landlords throw in a charge for bounced checks, late payments, damages above and beyond the security deposit, or other such things. I knew one person whose roommate got hit with a heavy fine for smoking in his room, when the lease clearly said there was to be no smoking in the house.

Length

So just how long is this lease for? In college and university areas, many landlords have an 8 month option and a 12 month option. If you’re only going to be around during the regular school year, make sure you’re not signing a 12 month lease! Even if you move off site before the lease is done, you are responsible for the payments.

You should also see if the lease mentions what happens after the lease is up. Some landlords make you sign a new lease for a full term. I’ve known others who automatically transition the lease to a month-by-month lease, meaning you can move out any time you want with only one full month’s notice.  Know which one your landlord requires, in case you like the place enough to stay there multiple terms.

Boundaries

This is one part of the lease a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to. After getting burned by our previous landlord, my then-roommate and I made sure to go through our lease with a fine toothed comb. There were some things in there that made me laugh, which apparently had to be included after bad experiences with former tenants. No storing tanks of butaine, propane, or any other highly explosive or flammable gases in the apartment. No waterbeds. No keeping of fireworks on site. No creating compost piles in the livingroom. I shudder to think of the reasons why they had these rules!

There were also a few things in there that were really, really important to know. If we wanted to leave before our lease was up, we were not allowed to sublet the apartment to anyone else, and would be held responsible for all payments. We were not allowed to have any pets at all, not even a goldfish in a bowl. There was even a clause about the number and frequency of overnight guests (which is a long story you will probably hear about involving our upstairs neighbour and the grow-op).

When Things Go Wrong

Sometimes, things go wrong. Pipes clog. Stoves catch on fire. Homes get vandalized or broken into. I can remember a few years back, on my damn birthday, I was living in a basement room in a house. I could hear something hitting the back window, and young voices outside. It turned out to be two local teens (15 years old), who decided to draw all over the back of the house with a giant Sharpie and dig random holes in the backyard. I called the police, and listened while the boys were questioned (“Why were you drawing on the house?” “Duh, we were bored. And like, we didn’t know people live here.” “What about the car in the driveway, and the for rent signs, and the lights on in the house?” “We didn’t see any of that. Can’t we just go?” It was comedy gold). Afterwards, I had to contact the landlord. Thankfully, it said right in our lease what to do if something like this happened, since our landlord lived a few hours away. I took pictures of the damages (why do young boys like to draw dicks on everything?), and sent an email to the landlord, telling her what happened, showing her the pictures, and giving her the information from the police that I was asked to pass along. We were able to get the house cleaned up and everything taken care of in a matter of days.

Your landlord should include some sort of contact information in your lease. In larger apartment buildings or dorms, you might have on-site management who can take care of things right away. In other situations, you may have to make a few phone calls or send a few emails. Either way, how to take care of things like this should be in your lease.

Now that you know all of this, go take a quick read-through of your current lease, if you have one (and you kept a copy of it). And the next time you rent or lease some place new, you’ll know a little of what to look for in that document.