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.

 

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!

Job Search Frustrations

My hours at work have been…… well…. pathetic. I was lucky to get called in for an extra shift this week, bringing my total hours for the week up to 9. Yes, you read that right, NINE whole hours this week. My paychecks are so tiny, I’ve had to dip into my meager savings just to pay rent. So, once again, I’m looking for a job.

Now, a little background for my newer readers: I’m actually an adult woman (in my 30s), with a lot of education. So far I have a BA(H) in Criminology, and am doing the paperwork to try and get my BA in Psychology. I have a Certificate of Office Administration, certification in Microsoft Word and Excel, and a bunch of job experience. I’ve worked offices, research labs, volunteer office work, and customer service. I’m polite, cheerful, professional, and can create the most complex organizational schematics you could ever need to keep all of your responsibilities in check. I don’t miss deadlines, I don’t mess around on company time, and I don’t slack off when stuff needs to be done.

And I just keep getting shit on.

Looking for a job today ain’t like it was for your folks, Sunshine. In this town, when my parents were in high school, you didn’t even need to finish high school to get into the local car plant. Most people just assumed they’d leave or finish school, and just get a job in one of the plants. Today, IF you’re lucky and IF they have enough Temp Part-Time positions available, you MAY get in part-time but ONLY if you’re a college or university student in good standing, taking full-time classes. And even then, you’re not guaranteed to be kept on the whole time you’re in school. There is actually an age limit on how old you can be in this program. So if you don’t jump right into schooling right out of high school and land one of these jobs, you’re screwed.

Back in those days, you put on your nice shoes and “pounded the pavement” to get your resume out there.

“Well, all you need is to get yourself out there! Go inside, introduce yourself. Hand in your resume in person. Get out from behind the computer and make yourself known!”

Any idea how sick to death I am of hearing that?

Where I work my VERY part-time job, we don’t take paper resumes. Like, at all. It doesn’t matter how nice you are, or how presentable you are, or how badly you need a job. Everything is done online now. You go to our website, follow the links, fill out some forms, and submit a resume. The only way you EVER get to see anyone face to face is, after all that, you get called in for an interview.

And we’re not the only ones who do that. EVERYONE is like that now.

“Get out from behind that computer! Go introduce yourself!”

Or why don’t you do something a little more helpful, Kind Elderly Relative, like getting me a job, or shutting the hell up?

I’d say that around 80% of my actual job search is online these days. I have a bunch of sites bookmarked that I check at least once a day for new postings: job search sites, company websites, government websites, temp agencies……..

“Don’t just check the agency’s site. Just go sign up with them. They’ll get you a job right away!”

Really? Because I’ve been signed up with FIVE agencies for a little more than a year now. One got me a six week gig a little over a year ago, and not one has found anything for me since then.

“Well then, maybe you just need a little more training. Go take some classes, upgrade your skills.”

What a great idea!  I’m just going to go out to the Education Tree and pull some of that free knowledge down for myself! Honestly, even using free websites like Coursera, you can’t get all the training you need without shelling out some serious cash. And all that education I already have? Well honey, it sure as hell wasn’t free.

Still, I’ve gone out for more training. I’ve signed up with government agencies that help the unemployed, I’ve taken their classes. I’ve gone to resume workshops, typing classes, Microsoft upgrading seminars, mock interviews……. I’ve done it all! And now, I can type up one hell of a resume that no one will read, and practice for all the interviews I won’t get!

“Maybe if you’d stop sitting around at your computer, complaining and being lazy, you’d have a job by now.”

My job search is not a fun hobby. NO ONE’S job search is fun! On top of my part-time job, I put in anywhere from 20-50 hours a week just in my job search. That’s time spent looking through websites, personalizing cover letters, writing emails, and tailoring my resume to positions. I go to job fairs, networking events, and free classes and seminars at local schools. I do online free courses in things like Conflict Resolution and Basic Accounting to fill in holes in my training. I am NOT sitting behind a desk, marathoning Netflix and eating Cheesies while I whine about being broke.

And neither are the majority of people out there in my same position.

Yes, we all have our times when it just overwhelms us and we need a break. There are days, or even weeks, where there’s just no new postings out there to apply to. There are the weeks you get 7 interviews, and are driving or bussing all over town. Then there are the weeks where you’d give anything just to hear the phone ring.

My darling Sunshines, you are not alone in this search. I know it seems like everyone out there has a job, and advice, and opinions, and they all want to help, even if that “helping” just makes things worse. I know what it’s like to have no one around who really understands what it’s like to spend 9 hours typing cover letters and researching positions, just to have people look at you like you’ve done nothing all day. I know the loneliness, the despair, the feeling like there must be something wrong with you because no one out there seems to want you.

So just know that you’re not alone in all of this. I’m here, and there are plenty more of us out there too. Just keep on shining, and someday maybe we can all blog about how great things are for us, and how these tough times made it all possible.

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!

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!

Things to Look For/Do When Looking to Rent; Pt. 1

Not that I have actually done most of these things. No woman in my family had ever moved out of the house until they were married, so no one was really forthcoming with advice for me when I announced I was going to move out. So, I basically thought it was going to be easy. I looked at a few places with different friends, and then decided to move into a place with my best friend (and her fiancée, and her mother, and their 6 cats, and their ferret). I moved a few more times in the years after that while in school, and am currently starting the long journey to FINALLY moving into a place that is just mine (no roommates other than my cat). With each new place, I learned from my mistakes. And damn, were there ever a tonne of mistakes.

So, before you actually start physically looking at places, or touring places, here’s a few things you should be considering (which I probably did not):

1 ) What is your budget?

Now, this will be different to figure out, depending on your income. For people who work a set amount of hours every day/week/month, this is simply figuring out how much money you make, and how much you can spend on rent. Many experts recommend looking at your budget as a whole, and working from there. Gal Vaz Oxlade (from tv show Till Debt Do Us Part, and the infuriating to watch yet amazing to gather tips from tv show Princess), has some great worksheets in her Resources section of her website ( http://www.gailvazoxlade.com/resources.html ) to help you do different types of budget and budget analysis.

One of the sheets in this resource section deals specifically with students (the Student Lump Sum Money Worksheet). For many students, the majority of your money for each semester is given to you in one lump sum through your student loans, bursaries, scholarships, and grants. This worksheet can help you work out your total budget for the semester, and break it down into a monthly budget.

Basically, you need to look at your money situation to make sure you can afford the place you want to live in. What would happen if you rented an apartment for $600 a month, but only had enough in your budget to afford $380? That’s $220 each and every month that you would have to make up for in some way, or risk being evicted.

2 ) Pick you basic location

This doesn’t mean “find an apartment building”. This means “look at the area you want to move into, that is most convenient for you”. For students, this is most likely in the immediate area of their school. Take a look through this area and take a good look at the housing situation. Are there more apartments, or private homes being rented? Are things run mostly by rental agencies? Is the area safe? What is around this area?

I know some of this sounds stupid, but hear me out. In apartment buildings, you’re more likely to be able to find a one bedroom or bachelor place, where you can live totally by yourself without any roommates. There’s also the option of a two bedroom place, that you can share with a close friend. House rental could mean renting an entire house with a group of people, or renting a room in a random house that has other random people living there. Also, there are more likely to be things like house parties at houses (obviously) than apartments, meaning there are more likely to be loud nights at your neighbour’s place.

Safety should be a huge concern for you when looking for a place. I don’t care if you’re not even 90lbs soaking wet, or the 350lbs linebacker for the school’s football team: you need to worry about your safety. Many local police websites have a section where you can look at crimes and crime rates throughout the city. Now, no area will ever bee 100% free of crime. It is always a good idea, though, to look at what you may be getting yourself into. Is that nice apartment building you saw surrounded by drug busts in the recent past? 27 murders in the building last year? Or is the worse you would likely see around there probably a loud party, or bike thief? It’s always better to know these things ahead of time, than to just take a place and find out the hard way.

And what is around this area is a HUGE thing you should be looking at. Obviously, if you’re trying to stay close to school or work, they will be near your chosen area. But what else is there? Things you should look for are grocery stores, laundromats, bus stops, restaurants, shopping centres, hair salons, banks, and any other type of business you would need in your life.

3 ) Know what you want.

Now that you know what’s in the area, and the types of places around, and the amount of money you can spend each month on rent, you can start looking at what you want in the area. I suggest looking at ads for a variety of types of places first (rooms for rent, bachelor, one bedroom, two bedroom), just to see what the prices are like. Sites like Kijiji often times have pictures of the properties, so you can see the size and condition of the places you are looking at. Also, they tell you if things like utilities (water, electricity, gas) are included in the rent, or if they are extra. This is SUPER important to know before renting a place, because it impacts your budget hugely.

Now, you can decide what it is you want. What do you want more: privacy, or a cheap place to live. I always went the cheaper route, and didn’t look into things that I now know are essential to me. I would rather give up a little bit of my privacy, for example, and have a roommate if that means I can have A/C in my place. I live in one of the most humid cities in all of Canada, and suffer from eczema that is made worse by sweating in the humidity. I spent one horrible summer in a dingy little apartment with no A/C, because it was an apartment and I only had to have one roommate while I was living there. After that, I moved into a house with 6 other random people just to escape the heat and to live in a basement room with no A/C controls (meaning it was absolutely freezing all year). Right now, I have my A/C and I’m down to 3 roommates (all males) in my current house, plus my cat. While this is not ideal for me right now (I miss being able to watch TV in my underpants and sing in the shower), there are certain benefits to it (A/C, utilities included, everyone loves that cat, house is in good condition, no infestations of any sort, no mould, and I get my own private bar fridge in my room for my wine, cheese strings, and candy bars). I know that I cannot afford all of these things if I were to move into an apartment right now. You need to know your necessities, and where you are willing to compromise. Some people don’t need A/C, or are so frugal with their utilities that they don’t mind paying them separately (many places offer cheaper rent if you will pay your own utilities).

And remember, if you decide you don’t need something, make sure you are really ok without it. If you opt for a place that does not have on-site laundry facilities, for example, you damn well better make sure you have a laundromat nearby that you can easily get to. There is nothing fun about carrying a month’s worth of laundry and sheets on the bus to get to the laundromat that’s too far to walk to.

4 ) Start looking

Now that you know more about the area, what you can afford, and what you are willing to compromise on, you can start seriously looking at places. I’ll have a whole other post on what to do when you’re inside the place, checking it out. Right now, you’re just looking at a bunch of possible places.

You’ll want to look at places that fit your budget (obviously), meet your standards of privacy, are clean and infestation-free, and are in the general area you’re looking in. Don’t get too narrow of a focus (can only look at one-bedroom apartments on the 5th floor or above with a balcony, A/C, and in-suite laundry, for example), but don’t make it too broad either (somewhere, anywhere, where there isn’t a tonne of mould and the neighbours aren’t running a house of ill repute, for example).

Also, you’ll want to look at some rather specific things. If you have a pet, make sure the place is pet-friendly before you decide to go see it. If you have issues with mobility, you would want to make sure the building and apartment/room are accessible to you. Basically, you need to make sure you can actually live in a place before you try to live in a place.

So that’s the basics for part one of Things to Look For/Do When Looking to Rent.  In my next post, I will be going into what you should be doing once you actually pick a few places to look at (yes, you should look at more than one, just in case the one you have your heart set on turns out to be a bust).