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What I learned in 7 years, 5 apartments, and 9 roommates (brickunderground.com)
74 points by uladzislau on July 7, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments

Here's what I've learned after moving 20 times (that I can remember, including one hellish year when I had to move 9 times) in my life:

1. Books are heavy. Some people say that a Kindle isn't as good as real books. Some people are pretty women who don't have trouble rounding up help on moving day.

2. Getting rid of books you can't give away and have no justification for keeping is traumatic.

3. You have more small, difficult to pack, useless crap than you realise. It unfolds like a kind of malevolent, multidimensional quantum origami when you move.

4. For local moves, rent a 3-ton truck for moving day. Accept that this probably means moving on a work day because said trucks are booked on weekends for months in advance. Loading and unloading for a single trip is really unpleasant -- but there's something much, much more soul-sucking about doing lots of trips back and forth.

5. Long distance moving changes the work from a single day into multiple days. On paper it should be easier. Paper lies.

6. If you're moving long distance, don't bother with furniture or whitegoods. Ditch them and rent or buy at the other end.

7. Help your friends move.

Absolutely agree on the 1&2 (books). Description of 3 is great wordsmithing! On 5 I rarely need a truck, just multiple taxi rides (no furniture/whitegoods, see 6). Actually once or twice I had some, but used a load-bearing Chinese peasant tricycle (oil begone!). On 7, I help people move when asked or it seems useful to offer, but personally do not deal well with other people 'assisting' due to the wont to dispose of useless things and be fully aware of what's packed in what going where. Moving should be a spiritual process, like a sort of postmodern ritual cleansing of objects. The reproductive stage of the malevolent, multidimensional quantum origami of things that leads to still more beautiful future generations or the long suspected as looming, but never acknowledged, sudden and outright genocide of its entire genotype.

People do sometimes like to display their pop spirituality by throwing stuff away when they move. There was a blog post on the front page a few days ago about it.

I don't really have a deep California buddhist-slash-Fight Club reason for it. I just bloody hate moving.

Anyhow, as the saying goes. Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

With you on the pop spirituality... the posted article was semi-neurotic in tone. My own decade-long international itinerance leaves no option for 'stuff'. I used to cycle tour a lot, which is a great way to get stuff-conscious (eg. slogging it up a hill at 2000m... it really "weighs" on you!). These days I nearly always travel with a 20 liter backpack out of minimalist habit.

Earlier this year with the help of my (rapidly slowing down) grandparents, I moved out of a shared house in Santa Clara I'd been in since 2007, back to Washington.

I dumped everything "big", including dresser/desk/bed, and most of my books had never left the family home in Washington.

It took a week (in Santa Clara, not counting driving to WA and unloading), in no small part due to #3. We were in no great rush, mind you, but holy crap. It's incredible what ends up fitting in a ~12x14 master bedroom and a little corner of a garage. And I'd been used to moving with plenty of big, strong, healthy family and friends around.

Hiring movers seems to be a complete crapshoot, but it's probably what I'm going to end up doing if I have to move again.

All great points. For my last move from NYC to Seattle, I ended up selling just about all of my books (amazon is amazing for reselling books). Made enough to pay for my flight to Seattle. Selling all my furniture (mostly craigslist) paid for shipping what few things I kept.

As someone who has moved books across the country, 1 and 2 hit home. Well put - but I'll still take them (irrationally) on my next move.

Some things I've learned while renting a room in a house:

* Don't store expensive alcohol or munchie relieving foods in common spaces.

* Some people don't close the washroom door when taking a leak, even with strangers around the house.

* Establish a dish washing and house cleaning protocol. Split the costs of all supplies, or have a piggy bank for this stuff. Can be used to order pizza too.

* Some people believe Febreeze helps clean your fart repository sofa. Or mask the odour coming out of the organic waste bin on a hot day.

* A low rent is more likely to attract a problematic tenant. I've seen tenants ranging from complete slobs to the two students who could not pay the rent and eventually set the basement on fire (by accident). Fix up the place at least cosmetically, buy low-maintenance plants, take pictures on a sunny day with plenty of natural light, and up the rent. Good tenants are worth the extra work.

* A short-term tenant is more likely to treat the place like shit.

* A laundry machine in the house is great. If not available, check that the laundromat is within walking distance of someone carrying massive laundry bags, and that it closes at 12am and opens at 6am, or is open 24/7.

* A walking-distance grocery store and/or fruit market is a massive plus.

Store your compost bin in the freezer. :) We do that, on its own shelf - no more bugs!

Aren't you acting against the whole compost part then?

The point is to have bugs and so on decompose what's in the compost bin, as far as I know.

I think we're talking about different things. I meant my own organic waste bin, which gets emptied into the Green Bin: http://www.toronto.ca/greenbin/index.htm

Not really - a lot of composting is just so the compost stuff doesn't go in the trash. We empty the frozen bits out into our yard clippings container every couple of weeks, and then the waste management people pick that up alongside the garbage.

Wouldn't this retard the composting?

Plenty of time for your food scraps to compost after they're out of your house.

For the past four years, I've moved 1-3 times per year (I work in politics, and move to wherever the interesting elections are happening).

The only universally applicable piece of advice I can give is this: Your commute matters. A lot.

Seriously. Annoying roommates, beautiful balconies, new appliances - none of these things has had nearly the effect on my day to day happiness as living within a 3-4 mile bike ride from work.

I'm curious what age bracket you fall into? Most of my work is in a city, but I'm at an age where I want things the city can't provide (more space, a back yard, etc.) so some amount of commuting is unavoidable unless I change jobs along with a move.

Appliances and balconies are one thing - but a house and a yard are unobtainable in many urban environments.

I'm early 30s and still like the city, though that's still fairly young I suppose. I agree there are some lifestyle choices involved, though. I like outdoor space myself, but I don't personally feel a need for it to be my own private yard. It's more important to me to be near large parks, waterfront spaces, nice plazas, etc.

I'd say it's a fairly common preference here (Copenhagen) even for families, although some do prefer single-family homes with private yards. One difference in the urban architecture vs. NYC is that in the nicer neighborhoods, apartment buildings often have sizable private courtyards: the buildings are built on the edges of a large block, with a park left in the middle. That park may have playground equipment, BBQ equipment and picnic tables, etc., for the use of residents (also, off-street bike parking). I don't use it a lot, but families seem to.

Some of the buildings have quite active local communities as well, which some people like: dinner clubs where people will take turns hosting a dinner party (in the courtyard when it's nice, otherwise in an apartment), your kids can play with other kids in the building, you can leave them playing in the courtyard and someone else will watch them if you need to go somewhere briefly, etc.

I grew up in a suburb myself (about an hour outside of Chicago), and it was okay all around. But I think I might've preferred something a bit denser. One downside I recall is that everything was so far that someone below driving age ends up being very hampered in movement. I would have to bike 15-20 minutes just to get the houses of some friends who lived in what was considered my neighborhood. And many of my friends weren't reachable at all without adult assistance.

Your comments about green space definitely resonates. I live right next to an amazing park and am there almost daily. I'd have moved years ago if it wasn't accessible.

Not the parent poster, but I also live in an medium-density urban setting and obsess slightly over commute length. I'm in my mid-20s, which is probably the stereotypical age for someone in that living situation, but my neighborhood is age-diverse, and the lady next door to me is in her sixties and retired, and has less of a back yard than I do. I certainly think different people will have different lifestyles with different needs, but I'm generally skeptical of the idea that there's an age in which people need, for example, yard space, that they didn't need before... people can choose their own priorities regardless of age, and figure out how to make due without the lower-priority ones (maybe by learning to make better use of public green space instead of depending on a private yard).

My commute is ~15 minutes each direction on a bike. It's not uncommon for many of my suburb-dwelling coworkers to commute 45 minutes each way, which adds up to about two weeks' worth of waking-time days over the course of a year. Personally I don't think I'd see the value in having more outdoor space around my house if it meant having so much less time to spend there, and I don't see that attitude changing as I age.

Yeah, I guess correlating it to age maybe isn't the right metric. I guess in one sense, as you age you're potentially more-likely to have a larger family, requiring a larger living space to accomodate the additional bodies. Larger living spaces in a city will cost more, and a yard (or some form of property) provides a way to be at home without being on top of one another. But you're right - age isn't necessarily the right association for housing desires for everybody, and the lifestyles and family-lives of people are certainly varied.

This has a lot more to do with money than it does with age, especially in cities where there are neighborhoods in the center or near the center.

As for a yard, some of the richest billionaires in Manhattan don't have one. It's a matter of preference in which age isn't really a factor. Do you want a yard, or do you want floor-to-ceilng windows with a cityscape view? That's the choice in a select few cities like Manhattan, but in the majority of cities you definitely can get a yard very close to the center if that's what you value; it's just a matter of how wealthy you are.

Here in Houston, personally I don't know a single person who would prefer to live in Sugar Land (a suburb about 30 minutes out) over River Oaks (a very affluent neighborhood of gated mansions in the geographic center). But only the top executives, neurosurgeons, sports stars, etc., live in River Oaks because everyone else is priced out.

Some people value a yard and brick house so much that they commute in order to get it. Others buy high-rise condos and enjoy the panoramic views and central proximity. I haven't really observed much true correlation with age, though, with the high-rise condos. Apartments, yes, but expensive condos, no.

I'm in my mid 20's, and I'm definitely not at that point yet. Your mileage may vary. Regardless, I feel like commuting is still probably an important factor - but I absolutely believe that other things come into consideration over time.

Also, don't look at a prospective flat in the dark, when the landlord claims the electricity is off because the prior renters didn't pay their bills.

I just moved to NYC last weekend (from L.A.) and found an apartment in two days:

* a Friday/Saturday in L.A., slamming craigslist and building up a spreadsheet of leads

* a full Sunday of looking at apartments

* moved in Monday morning

I settled on a month-to-month 3bd/1ba in the East Village--no brokers involved. Buh-zam!

Now I've shifted focus to meeting people and looking for work (as a software developer)...

I've moved 4 times in the last year and here are my tips (I'm trying not to duplicate anything in the TA or the other comments):

1. Bills. Make sure you are in agreement with your roomates about them - I had an issue with a roomate that maintained that he shouldn't pay more than 10 percent of the huge electricity bill because he didn't heat his room (not directly, I might add).

2. Choose an apartment with good insulation - this might not affect others as much as me (look the previous tip). But climate change and changing energy prices will soon this for everyone.

3. Start looking early and use your friends to find roomates.

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I learn that first impression doesn't last. I have a housemate that seemed clicked ("you're an IT student? great, i graduated from IT!") but end up annoying:

- never flushes after urinating

- spends 24x7 inside the house (he skips classes almost 100%) with aircond+PC+lights on, but demanding we share the bills equally

- frequently forgets to turn off bathroom lights, tap water (when filling up his drinking bottle) and exhaust fan (after cooking)

- leaves dirty dishes for, literally, a week or two

- sometimes borrows pennies (smaller than $50) from me and return it after weeks even though he always says, "tomorrow bro" (i don't demand it, he simply says it), but it doesn't stop him from buying stuff like perfume

- controlled our internet so he "owned" the majority of bandwidth

- at his 30s

now, what do you call a guy like that?

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