Weekend wrap-up & this week’s to-do list

How was your weekend? Mine was really great. Stan’s birthday was on Friday, so that night we went to see his boss in the play Murdered to Death, presented by Phoenix Stage Company. It was my kind of play — a murder mystery spoof — and Stan’s boss played the bumbling inspector.

I got all dolled up to go, because I rarely have a reason to dress up. I was the only non-actor wearing semi-fancy clothes, but I didn’t mind one bit. I apologize for the image quality — it was dark, taken with an iPhone, and I was standing in front of my curtained bedroom window. Still, I had to post this because I really loved my outfit!

Saturday was wonderfully busy, too. We did some more prepping for the Craftacular, then hung out with our friends Michele, Jeff, and little Noah for a few hours. After that, we had pizza and good conversation with some of my family, and again stayed up past our bedtime. But I was very excited when we got to Stan’s apartment because in his mailbox was his surprise gift from me:

Manly grooming products! These are all handmade and free of toxic chemicals by Sam’s Natural, which is essentially the male version of Poor & Pretty, I think. Their Simple Start Hygiene Kit has all the necessities a man needs to stay smooth and nice-smelling: lotion, soap, shaving soap, after shave, and deodorant. He shaved with the shaving soap yesterday morning and it smelled wonderful.

Yesterday, I did laundry, then came home and printed out this to-do list to get organized for the busy week of Craftacular preparations I have. Yes, it is going to be a busy week.

At some point, I will need to sneak in a pedicure:

My toes have not been painted since Scarlett introduced me to her strange method of painting them sideways a few weeks ago. I hope your week is off to a nice start!

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Apartment hunting tips for beginners, Part 2: General renting considerations

When Stan and I put together Apartment hunting tips for beginners Part 1, we generated a lot of advice — too much for just one post, so here is part two. Many of these things you may already know, but we hope that putting everything into two posts is helpful so that you can bookmark and come back the next time you’re apartment hunting.

Ask about utilities. What kind of heat and air conditioning does the apartment have? Oil is expensive, so gas heat is the best way to go. How is your water heated? Do you have your own hot water heater, or is it shared? What’s the water pressure like? {Seriously, turn on the shower and the kitchen sink, flush the toilet}. I love my new apartment, but the water pressure in the kitchen sucks and it takes forever for it to heat up.

As for air conditioning: do you have central air or are there one or more air conditioners throughout the apartment? If there’s just one AC unit, it is likely to be difficult {and expensive} to circulate the air throughout the apartment. Ask your landlord if it’s possible to use an additional AC unit, and find out what their policies are for doing so. Sometimes, they make you pay extra per month or a one-time fee, or require that you have renter’s insurance to install a window AC unit. If your apartment has central air, you are living the dream, my friend! Central air is wonderful. It can also be pricey, but in my opinion, it’s totally worth it. No hiding out in the one room where your AC is located! Also keep in mind that apartments right under the roof will be much hotter in the summer {and therefore more expensive to cool} and also much cooler in the winter {and therefore more expensive to heat}. Apartments on or below ground level — or those surrounded by other apartments — will have a much more stable temperature year-round and therefore will be much less expensive to heat/cool.

What’s the parking situation? How far do you park from your apartment? Do you have a long walk to your car from your door? Will you always be fighting for a space? Where can your visitors park? These are all things you should be asking as you look for apartments. My and Stan’s apartment in Manchester had the best parking — we parked right in front of our door and our guests parked right across the street {but still within the complex, so they weren’t crossing a busy street}. In Southington, we were always fighting for a parking space, and we had parking passes but no one enforced them, so there were guests taking up the resident spots and vice versa. It was a mess. In my current apartment, I park right next to my porch, but there’s only one guest parking space, so it’s difficult to have any kind of gathering. My landlady even said before I signed the lease “if you’re going to have a party, do it elsewhere.” That ticked me off a little, but she was probably thinking loud parties, which I don’t do anyway. {Except for my birthday, of course!}

Where will you be doing laundry? Is there a laundry room on premises? Is it secure? Do you have washer/dryer hookups within your apartment? I loved having a washer/dryer hookup in the Southington apartment, but man was it a pain to get the stackable washer/dryer in there. My dad almost squashed me getting it out of his truck, and we had to ask one of the neighbors to help us get it up the two flights of stairs.  Moving it out was no picnic, either. I don’t recommend getting a washer/dryer until you’ve decided to settle in to a place for a few years. Having laundry on-premises is definitely preferable, but you have to figure out how much you will spend on it every month. My current apartment does not have laundry onsite nor does it have a washer/dryer hookup, so I do my laundry at my Dad’s house or Stan’s apartment. If you’re in the same boat, find out if there are laundromats close to you.

Who owns the apartment? Are the units owned by individuals or a management company? Our Southington apartment was in a complex, but most of the apartments were individually owned and rented out by their owners. We should have asked about this! Our landlady had no control over the people living in the units in the same building as us, which was why it was such a disaster when we had these awful neighbors. There was nothing she could do about it. Our Manchester apartment was owned by a management company, and everyone was very quiet and respectful. We never complained about noise or anything else, but if we needed to, the management company would have jumped right on it. My current apartment is a multi-family home with four apartments, all rented by the same really nice couple. It’s very quiet, but at least I know if I ever have any complaints, it will be taken care of immediately.

Landscaping. Beautiful landscaping is indicative of how much the landlords care about the property. My current apartment and the Manchester one had beautiful flowers, lots of grass, and just generally a very pleasant setting. We even had a little picnic table and grill in the backyard {see above}, and would be frequently visited by deer. The Southington one had little patches of grass, no flowers, and was essentially just a “filing cabinet for people,” as Stan likes to say. They just wanted you to pay your rent, and weren’t really concerned about you having a pleasant experience.

Amenities. This is usually only applicable to larger apartment complexes. Are there swimming pools, tennis courts? A place for children to play? What does the apartment complex have to offer? Our Manchester apartment complex had all those things, plus a beautiful park right across the street! I miss that apartment. The Southington apartment had none of these things.

Lastly, and most importantly: Can you visualize yourself in that apartment? If you see it for the first time and you’re already envisioning where to put your furniture, this could be a really good sign, but don’t let your entire decision rest on that impulse. It’s important to carefully consider each thing individually {utilities, parking, laundry, surroundings, furnishings, neighbors, etc}. Apartment hunting can be very stressful, and if you’ve looked at a few apartments, you’re probably already feeling worn-out and you just want to settle on one, but if you settle on the wrong one, it will be a far worse situation {and far more stress} than if you had just kept looking. Trust us, we know!

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Apartment hunting tips for beginners, Part 1: What you may not think to ask

Remember earlier this year when I moved to Southington and then very quickly moved again? It’s because I didn’t do enough research on that apartment, nor did I pay attention to some pretty clear warning signs {if the shower curtain rod needs to be replaced because it was stolen by previous tenants, that is probably not a place you want to live}. But you know, you live and you learn and I learned quite a lot from that experience, so Stan and I thought we would share a few apartment hunting tips with you. I’m dividing them up into two posts so as not to bombard you! Also, please note: Southington is not a bad town at all. In fact, I was really sad to move away from Southington. They have a vibrant and active downtown community, some really cool little shops and restaurants, and is overall a great place to just walk around in. It’s our apartment complex that was the problem.

Drive around the area. What’s nearby? How far are you from gas stations, grocery stores? Are there any parks? {Typically a good sign.} What about shady-looking places? {Typically a bad sign.} Near my apartment in Southington, there was an abandoned building that had recently been burned down by some teens. I seriously don’t know how I tricked my brain into overlooking that one. Take a drive around the apartment’s neighborhood. If it’s a place you wouldn’t feel safe walking around, I’d keep hunting.

Ask about the water. Unless you’ve lived in a hard water area, you may not think to ask about the water, but you should. I grew up in New Britain and we have some delicious tap water. {Yeah, I never thought I’d describe water as “delicious” either}. I don’t know if our apartment in Southington was well water or what, but it was awful. I refused to drink it unless it was filtered, it made my hair and skin feel filmy after taking a shower, and this is my colander after coming out of the dishwasher:

Check for missing, broken, or cheap furnishings. Again, a red flag should have gone off when the landlady told Stan and I that she was buying a new shower curtain rod because the previous one had been stolen. {Stan will tell you that he protested the apartment a few times. Okay, Stan, you’re right. I should have listened!} Plus, our refrigerator was way too small, even for just two people. And while it gave myself and my friends a good laugh when the clothing rack broke in my bedroom closet, it was yet another indication of a bad investment.

Make note of damage to fixtures, appliances, and walls. You know what your security deposit is for? It’s to cover any damage caused to the apartment while you were living in it. For your sake, it’s a good idea to well-document any scratches, bangs, burns, dents, scuffs, marks, and so on in the apartment’s fixtures, appliances, flooring, walls, etc. Plus, if you notice a lot of damage, that could be indicative of both the tenants of that area in general and your landlady. The Southington apartment had lots of dings, scratches, scrapes, crayon marks, and even a bedroom door that was slightly bashed in at the handle {as if someone broke through the door}. I am continuously shaking my head.

Meet your would-be neighbors. I know some of you might think this is super awkward, and it totally is, but I can tell you: Stan and I would never have moved into that last apartment if we had met our downstairs neighbors. They’re the reason we moved out. They were loud, obnoxious, always had either the TV or radio on, smoked indoors, and somehow crammed 6 people into a 2-bedroom apartment. The mother was always screaming and cussing, and I swear the kids would literally bounce off of the walls. There was never a moment of silence. We would go to sleep with their TV playing and wake up with their TV playing. It was horrendous. Meet. Your. Neighbors. Yeah, it’s awkward, but you don’t want to wind up like we did. Knock on their door. Make polite chit-chat. Ask if they like living there. Even if we didn’t meet our downstairs neighbors, there were 4 other apartments in the building. I’m sure one of the residents would have mentioned how awful these people were.

Find out what the pet policy is. You probably won’t have to ask about this unless you have a pet, but your landlord will tell you the pet policy anyway. Now, don’t get me wrong, Stan and I are both love dogs and want one {or two} someday, but we don’t have one now because we live in small spaces and we can’t devote the time or love to a dog just yet. Whether or not you have pets, you should find out if dogs are allowed and if your neighbors have dogs. Add “constantly barking dog” to the list of reasons why our downstairs neighbors were the worst tenants ever. I’m sure there are plenty of apartment residents who own dogs that are happy and keep the barking to the minimum, but I for one, wouldn’t take the chance.

Drive to the apartment at night. This might also seem creepy and awkward, but it’s yet another thing Stan and I didn’t do that we should have. Not only would we have realized that our neighbors played loud music at night, but we probably would have also met the crazy drunk guy that hung around the parking lot, babbling about how there was water leaking into his roof. I honestly don’t even think he lived there. He looked like he emerged from the bushes the few times I encountered him. You can’t make this stuff up!

I know. You’re wondering how I could have ever moved into that apartment. The truth is, I was desperate and rushed into it. I had a month to finish out my job at the communications firm, find an apartment, move, get settled, and start my job at Timex {which would have been about an hour and a half drive from where I was living before}. Stan and I had to move closer, but we also had to be budget-conscious and make sure we both had a fairly even drive to work. I was under serious time constraints and nervous about starting my first corporate job. This lead me to go against my better judgement big-time, but it ended up not being worth it in the slightest. So, please learn from my mistakes! Be very careful and evaluative when looking for a new place to live. Even if you can’t afford much, you should at least be able to relax and enjoy the place where you spend a good chunk of your day.

Check back next Monday for Part 2!

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