Congratulations human bean! You’ve moved out of your parents house!
This is a radical step in every person’s life, whether it seems like it or not, if only because you are now moving into a space where you get to define and design your living schedule. When do you sleep? Clean? Cook?
For some of the population we’ve been doing this sort of ordered reality since infancy, because life demanded it. Be it that you were an orphan or in foster, or a runaway, or that you had to play caregiver for your elders, the concept of being ‘in charge’ of your own life and time might not be something new.
For a greater part of the population there will be an ‘on your own for the first time’ feeling, and this is greatly exciting. Maybe it’s college? Maybe it’s housemates? Maybe it’s studio living? Maybe it’s human pods in Japan. There’s something wonderful about the freedom, and something ultimately terrifying, when you realize you actually have no idea what you are doing.
The largeness of the ‘no idea what you are doing’ comes from a double edged sword of being provided for. Were you raised in a 50’s style nuclear household, where one parent helped with cooking and cleaning while the other parent went to work? Were there chores? Did you have a part time job during high school? Did you have siblings to argue with? Did you have to cook dinner? Or do your laundry?
If college bound is your direction then it’s almost a guarantee that your upbringing was focused on getting good grades, and not running a home. That means there are a lot of practicalities you probably haven’t thought of, like beds and couches.
We’re gonna walk through this step by step. Whether you are living alone, or with mates, this will all be helpful information.
A Place to Live
The overall standard, pretty much the world over, for a room or a studio is $800 USD per month. This can obviously fluctuate based on a million things: economy, inflation, room in a larger house, quality of space, demographic. Full move-in cost is typically 3X’s the rent, i.e. first, last, and deposit. The deposit is to cover damages, and if you are a clean type you can easily roll that deposit over into your next place – which is ideal.
Finding a place can happen on a million websites, walk-bys, or recommendations. Most of the time landlords will want a reference or a co-signer, or some validation to show that you are trustworthy and will pay the rent on time. The first few years of being an adult, this serves as a giant pain-in-the-ass, as not all of us have any of those things. There isn’t a good way around this issue, short of experimentation, and settling for the truth that you are young you might end up living in a place that is of lower quality than what you are accustomed. It is just a phase. Live it up. Be young! You’ll most likely end up with roommates, at least one of whom will be on the lease and thus will be taking responsibility for the house – and damages.
So, you’ve moved into a place. What next? Here comes the great issue of furniture. Most kids of this age (being late teens/ early twenties) are going to be living paycheck to paycheck. This can mean finding furniture on the street, air mattresses, and futons. Lots of Ikea and Craigslist. It’s not very comfortable, but then again you are young and so what does it matter? Body aches and pains aren’t really a thing yet. 27 will be a fun year!
Where ya live, how ya live – when it comes to possessions – you’re young. No one is expected high end perfection here. Get to know milk crates. They are great.
For all that, where you live and what you live in, is not a reflection of how you live.
Cohabitation Killer #1
If you can’t afford the life you want then why should you try to live a quality life? What I mean is this: If you live in a poor apartment with furniture picked up off the sidewalk why should you bother cleaning up after yourself?
It’s a mental issue, really, which just about everyone has to face. If you live in a nice place you tend to treat it nicely. If you live in a shabby place you tend to treat it shabbily. Except treating a shabby thing shabbily is not what you should be doing, and for two reasons: The first is yourself, and the second is other people.
You are probably familiar with grades… like at school. Now, you may be in a position of age where you think being graded is done with. No more school. No more grades.
I IS AM ADULT!
Except that’s not true. Credit scores are grades. Taxes are grades. Everytime you treat your home poorly it reflects on your grades, except these grades aren’t waved in your face. They are quietly being taken note of behind your back, while you’re not looking. When you mistreat your home it reflects in your deposit. Every time your deposit takes a ding your credit score goes down, which makes it harder to find a nicer place to live in the future, even if you are making more money. What a bitch, right? So little things, like taking out the trash, cleaning the toilet and shower, sweeping the floor… these little bits of maintenance reflect over time in the overall cleanliness of the house, which is reflected in your deposit.
In short, if you want a better living experience you have to clean up after yourself.
The second, other people, which reflects in three terms:
Term one: Housemates
When it comes to housemate cleaning up after yourself creates less arguments and less hostility. #1 killer of cohabitation is dishes. Just do your dishes. Do them every two days. Make a method for stacking your dishes. Don’t think hiding your dishes in your room is gonna work. Those dishes will be missed. The only answer is to figure out a way to do them. Maybe that’s paying your house mate more to do the dishes. Maybe that’s getting a dishwasher. Maybe that’s making it into a game. Whatever. Figure it out. It’s dumb to lose a housemate over dishes, and the truth is, it’s a quiet hostility, a resentment which builds up over time. Welcome to passive aggressive behavior and quiet tortures. It’s not fun. Communicate with your housemate(s). I’m not talking accusations, I’m talking questions. I’m talking requisitions. I’m talking ‘I feel’ statements. Like: ‘Hey bud, I feel like I’ve been doing the dishes a lot recently. Can we take a minute to figure out a better method please?’
Term Two: Friends
It’s a great teller of your trustworthiness, based on how you keep your house. I’m not saying to be immaculate. That actually wiggs me out a lot, but a filthy house where you don’t want to touch anything, that’s not a good sign either. You want friends to come over to your house. You want your friends to feel happy and comfortable in your home. Your home should be a chill space, a safe haven. If you’re place is a wreck it means you’re a wreck of a human, which means you aren’t going to be a good friend in the long run. Yeah. People think about things like that.
Term Three: Lovers
Yep, getting laid. Let’s be real here, if you live in a pig-stye then you are probably a piece of shit and crazy too boot, and that means I’m only gonna sleep with ya once, if that. Being dirty means having less sex. Period. All you computer nerds out there – video games are great. If there is a day you do get someone to come home with you, no stacks of pizza boxes. Okay? Who wants that? No one wants that. I’ve walked out of plenty of one night stands and potential relationships because their house was too fuckin dirty. Like, ‘I’ve made a poor choice,’ runs through my head with people who are immaculate or awesome at the bar/ cafe/ game night, and having a filthy home.
Baseline: Clean up yer shit.
Cohabitation Killer #2
Food and groceries must be discussed between housemates. Full separation of food – as in separate shelves, do not touch my shit or I will cut you? Sharing – like group shopping and pitching money? My homegirl came up with the best plan. She made a list of stuff everyone eats – basic stuff like rice, ramen, bread, butter, eggs. She made a printed doc and stuck it on the fridge. When something ran out, she made a mark. When it came to shopping time, whoever went bought just that list. Everyone in the house pitched equally on the full bill of that list. Then, if anyone had anything else special in the fridge or pantry it was a ‘known’ that it wasn’t common domain – so no touchy. That way, costs were down, and no one went hungry.
Food theft is honestly based on this: one housemate eats crap food, and the other housemate eats healthy food. The body of the person who eats crap food sees the healthy food and wants it, but doesn’t know how to explain that to the mind. It doesn’t know how to say, ‘HEY, FEED ME SOMETHING ELSE THAN RAMEN.’ Most of the time food theft isn’t about money – it’s about not knowing how to grocery shop.
There’s also the mental argument that real food is expensive. It can be, but does not have to be. Don’t be scared of food-stamps or farmers markets.
Real food does not have to be organic, high-end, Whole Foods stuff what costs an arm and a leg. It can be Grocery Outlet. A lot of people get dissuaded cause their ‘healthy’ friends are buying the most expensive versions of real food to back up their health trend. Calm down. Safeway has discount prices on meat and veggies all the time.
Baseline: Ya’ll need to talk. If you’re a healthy eater and your housemate isn’t offer to teach them how to cook. That’s probably the problem, that they were never taught, and are embarrassed to ask.
Also, try and avoid one way streets, where one housemate does everything. If one mate cooks, the other cleans. Trade off on both. Try and be balanced, a two way street. Again, this comes back to social grading. If you learn to eat well you will feel better and be less depressed. Real food is veggies, proteins, and grains. McDonalds is not real food.
Right along with my homegirls method, another great trick is to sit down and make a list of the ‘must haves’ in the house. Once a month go to a cheap grocery together and split the cost. Go bulk. That way you both have full time access to food stuffs. If ya find in three months that one person isn’t really eating something then rebalance the split. I had a housemate where what we both purchased every time either of us went to a store was arugula, bacon, and cheese. Those things were always fair game and we always replaced them when they ran low, no matter who bought last. It came around. There were weeks I was too depressed to shop and there was always bacon and cheese. There were weeks he wasn’t home and there was always bacon and cheese.
In the event you are lucky enough to live alone: a whole slew of different problems come to light, the biggest of which is alienation. It’s good to live alone, to have your own space, but you have to make sure you don’t become a hermit, unless, of course, you want to. Humans need physical contact. We are mammals. Be sure to go outside. Sit at a cafe or park. Interact on a basic level, even if it’s just looking at people. Leave the damn house. Humans are meant to have community. Go play some DnD or go swimming.
Alas, it must be said, there are two things you may eventually have to cope with in renting, and that’s credit reports and your rights. Credit Reports are what you are doing with your credit card. Often when applying for a place you will have to submit a credit report. This-can-be-about-a-bitch. For example, at 30, I have never owned a credit card. That means my credit report is blank, my credit score low. It’s not that I’ve screwed anything up, it’s that I refused to play the game. We’ll get into credit cards later.
Thing is, landlords may not want to rent to me because I have low credit. Often I need to live with someone with good credit, or I need to put down something closer to 4x’s the rent price to move-in, and prove that I have a job that makes 3x’s the full rental price monthly, with pay stubs as proof. Whow. Who makes that kind of money? Not me! A nicer place may want to see that you have almost a years rent in savings. Yeah. It’s oddly like that. It’ll be easier to rent with good credit. That’s just the truth of things, at least in California.
Renters rights, on the other hand, are a bitch. This has to do with rent control, maintenance and accountability. Like bosses at jobs, landlords try to make you feel like the underdog, like you’re lucky if the landlord chooses you for the house, just as you are lucky that the boss has chosen you for the job. The truth is that YOU choose to accept the landlord, as well as the job. We have a lot of control in this. They actively try to make us feel like we don’t have a choice by playing off our wants and desperations.
The landlord is accountable for things like plumbing, electrical, safety, heat, health and more. It’s worth looking up your county or cities Renters Rights. Often places must have things like blinds on the windows, fire escapes, etc. It’s worth checking up on these things because if stuff goes wrong you need to know what rights you do and do not have, and how to cope with those issues. If your fridge stops working and your landlord does not fix or replace it in less than a week what do you do? What’s your right to do? If your ceiling is leaking and your landlord doesn’t do mold prevention or clean up, what do you do? Mold is a big one. Mold is a silent killer.
What about a construction worker walking into your home? Your landlord must give you 24 hours notice before they, or any worker on their behalf, enters your space, and you must confirm that notice. In the event your house breaks, like really bad, and your landlord does nothing, the next step is code enforcement. Every city will typically have a local renters law number which you can call for free advice. Most of the time those calls will help inform you as to whether legal action can or needs to be taken. Taking out a lawsuit against an abusive landlord is not wrong. It will not ding your credit history. It will ding your renters history (yes, an entirely different history block of information landlords can access, usually via your social security number – another background report card). On the same token, there are plenty of people out there who don’t read their rights and try and make problems, or skirt the system. I’ve heard stories where an eviction took 18 years, and because of the nature of the court process the tenant didn’t pay rent that whole time, which basically bankrupt the landlord. That was an example of abuse by a tenant. Abuse in renting can go both ways. Be prepared, be reasonable, be informed, don’t be a dick.
Also, application fees. Listen. Application fees exist because the landlord needs to access the IRS for your rental history and the 3 big credit report companies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) for credit reports. There are fees incurred in that process. That said, a registered landlord is typically not paying $30 per run of applications. A private renter, as in they own the house and go through this process once a year or ideally every 5 years; they might pay the full $30 per application. Hopefully though, they only look up a handful of applications in their process. Hopefully they’ve vibed off the possible tenants before running the application. A bigger company, one that owns multiple properties or apartments, they will have purchased a bulk processor which they can run applications for way under cost, just a few dollars per application. In short, often application fees are a racket. There’s no real solid conversation to be had about it, just be advised that you shouldn’t spend that money unless you are reasonably sure the deal is done. The application fee should be the last step before signing the lease. You should feel comfortable with your landlord by that time.
Take photos. I wish I’d known this. Before you sign the lease do a ‘walk through’ with the landlord and take photos of every wall, ceiling, floor, etc. Any dirt, scratches, issues. Document all that shit from the start, with the landlord there. In a year neither of you will remember what was and was not there. This evidence may save you your deposit as you’ll be able to see natural wear and tear of what was already there. Do a deep clean before your final walk through with the landlord. Spend $100 on a professional cleaner to get your deposit back. Just do it, unless you are a professional cleaner.
Live Your Only Life
No matter where you’re living or how you’re living the biggest truth of life is that you should be comfortable and enjoy the life you are living. You only get one chance – there is no trial run. We are all figuring this out as we go and where some folks have tried more things and have more experience, we are all basically faking it until we make it.
Try everything on for size, experience everything – figure out what you like and don’t like. You are in control of your life. Be engaged!
Gystilyn O’Brien – 8/16/19 – The Millennial’s Grimoire, available 2020.