Why Do They Call Them "Apart"ments…

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…when they’re stuck together?

Unlike many people our age, Paul and I have never owned our own home. We’d like to, naturally, but we have a few things we want to do first—like paying back our student loans in a timely fashion so the Feds won’t have to send Guido (head of “Special Collections”) to extract the balance from us the hard way. We’d also like to be at a place financially where making a house payment won’t stretch us to the ultimate limit of our budget. Over ten years of marriage, we’ve come to realize that we both value having a little “wiggle room” in the numbers (iPods and gym memberships don’t grow on trees, you know.) And, of course, reconciling ourselves to renting was part of the choice we made when I decided to stay home with our kids.

I know some of you are asking, very sensibly, “Why didn’t you just wait to have kids until you already had a house?” That is a fine, fine idea, and one which has my full support, if you can do it. Somewhere along the line, though, Paul and I both forgot to go to medical school, choosing instead prestigious-but-low-paying careers in the educational field, and since I had no desire to be one of those 57 year-old moms you see giving birth on the news, we decided to throw caution to the wind, as it were, and jump in with both feet.

Most of the time, I am content with our decision to put off our real estate dreams. I definitely wouldn’t trade a moment of my time at home for a walk-in closet or a garden bathtub (well, truthfully, I wouldn’t mind letting go of one or two of the potty-training, puke-cleaning, emergency-room moments.) We are truly blessed in many ways, and I am thankful for the roof over my head, whatever its size. Every now and then, however, as I watch a friend flip through paint swatches for her living room remodel or channel-surf across an episode of While You Were Out, I get a full force attack of “house envy”.

Today is one of those days. I hear Home Depot calling to me from across town, a melancholy lament about non-existent Pergo floors and lemon-yellow walls I don’t have. I think it’s time, once again, to remind myself of the many advantages apartment living has to offer. So, without further ado, here are:

Things I Like About Living in an Apartment

*When the toilet pipe breaks and starts spewing unnameable gunk all over the bathroom floor, rather than frantically Googling local plumbers, we can call the landlord to come and fix it for free. We don’t even have to be there (which is a lot easier than explaining how a Wham-o Super Ball got flushed down the potty in the first place.)

*When there’s nothing good to watch on TV, we can turn everything off and listen to the latest saga of “Days of our Neighbors’ Lives”. Will Candace ever forgive her mother-in-law for accusing her of stealing an antique spoon after she accidentally took it home in the chicken casserole? Can Jeff find a higher paying job that will support Jennifer’s out-of-control spending habits? And, most importantly, what happened to the last piece of chocolate cake that Mark was saving to eat when he got home from work?

*There are seven apartments in our building. That’s six other doors I can knock on when I need to borrow an egg, or a cup of milk, or an unabridged dictionary (those Scrabble disputes between Paul and I can get pretty fierce.)

*When Paul has to stay out late or be away overnight, I feel a little more secure knowing that any screaming I do will bring at least three people running to my rescue, one of whom owns a very intimidating-looking snow shovel.

*Houseguests never seem to stay very long. I’m not sure if it’s sharing one bathroom, sleeping on the living room floor, or being awakened at five a.m. by a three year-old doing a cannonball in the middle of the air mattress, but we rarely have anyone want to stay more than a couple of nights at Chez Notes.

*Four other children live in our building, so Katie and Caleb always have someone to play with in our lovely…uh…gravel courtyard. And, though we may not have all the little luxuries, like grass, the sidewalk around the courtyard makes a perfect Big Wheel raceway. (Just be careful when stepping out of the apartment–they don’t always yield to pedestrians.)

*Speaking of children, nothing creates more wear and tear on a house than the childhood years. With every dent in the wall, with every Kool-aid stain on the carpet, with every scratch in the linoleum, I can remind myself that there is one less injury to the future home of our dreams. Everyone knows you don’t get your security deposit back, anyway, right?

*Living in a two bedroom apartment with three other people has made me a master of organization. Everything is sorted, stacked, filed, and folded around here—and not so much because of my own intrinsic sense of order as because of the terrifying nightmares I used to have about being buried alive beneath a mile-high mountain of old baby toys and outdated bank statements. Nothing new comes into the apartment before something old is recycled, donated, or trashed to make way for it. Clutter is the enemy, and I am General Patton! (As some of you know, I do have one dirty little secret, but I won’t tell if you don’t.)

So there you have it–just a handful of what are surely the hundreds of reasons to adore apartment living. If you have any to add to my list, please, feel free. I’ve still got a little Home Depot ringing in my ears.

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29 responses »

  1. How about less floor area to vacuum?

    You don’t need to feed the crocodiles in the moat (as compared to castle living).

    You know how many rooms there are and you won’t get lost in your own house pretty sure Queen Elizabeth does.

  2. You crack me up!! Just this morning I’m telling LM that I am going to Find.A.Way to get OUT of our condo within two years and have our own single family dwelling. I don’t know how you do it, but I cannot stand the noise from the neighbors. The downstairs kids throw crap onto our balcony, put silly string all over our front door and this weekend broke my doorbell. Every morning at 6:45am their mother is yelling “KYLE!! Get out of bed, you’ll miss the bus!” no less than 4 times and then there is a series of door slams and bathroom noises that I could live without.

    God bless you for your patience and tolerance. I need some more of that!!

  3. I will give you a peak into the alternate universe. My husband and I bought a charming little 110 year old victorian last year. Home Depot doesn’t so much ‘call to me’ as it does ‘demand that I get my butt over there at 7:30 am every Saturday morning to beat the rush’

    I have grown to hate home depot. I cringe at the thought of driving anywhere near it. Home Depot will make you it’s slave and will treat you badly, then apologize, then just treat you badly again.

    Home ownership is good, don’t get me wrong, but homeownership mean shovelling the driveway and sidewalk extremely early in the morning after a snowfall because if someone falls on the ice and snow while walking by…they sue you…not the landlord!

  4. Homeowner-ship is nice, but newlywife is right. It owns you.

    Wanna go hiking? Can’t- have to mow.

    Wanna go shopping? Can’t- have to re-mulch the landscaping. (not that I do any of those things, mind you… it’s not in my marriage contract).

  5. Oooh, this is good stuff, good stuff! Let’s see:

    *Less cleaning (and no moat maintenance)
    *Avoiding death-by-fixer-upper (a là “Money Pit”)
    *No lawn care, leaving more free time for pursuing life’s passions

    Excellent…I thank you!

    Amy–You’re not helping me here! The patience and tolerance you see are just a thin veneer over a heart driven mad by the siren song of spare rooms and fenced backyards! Come on–what else ya got?

    🙂

  6. we are so in the same place – sans children – and i often have the envy and dont really like my apartment complex or neighbors. none of them would rescue me nor have eggs or milk. We do get the dregs in the bottom of whisky bottles often tho! yay.
    so we are hunkered down too – at least till harv can get all schooled in the ways of radiology.

    I do have a nice 6 ft pool to look forward to this summmer. it gets quite hot down here….. so there is something!

  7. I have been going through a little house envy myself this week. Thanks for putting it into perspective. I actually asked myself the very question this morning “Would she sue me or the landlord?” when a neighbor girl almost fell on some ice in our drive. Never dreamed I should come to you for the answer. Now I know – tenant legal question? Ask Katrina

  8. I certainly didn’t mean to inspire any envy ….
    And yes, Home Depot will become your master, much in the way Wal-Mart did in college. (and still manages, sometimes)

    I managed to sidestep the lawn care problem by paying a hefty condo fee every month. 🙂

    And my new neighbors brought me a loaf of bread on Saturday. So there’s probably a good/bad balance in there somewhere.

  9. Hmmm… Katrina – I don’t think I can help you out on this one. I think the only thing I miss about any of the apartments I ever lived in was the beautiful garden my patio opened too with a waterfall that someone else had to maintain.

    I currently own a condo and thanks to 24 inches of cinder block and double layers of sheetrock I don’t hear my neighbors ever. (Which is good because that means they don’t hear me either!)

    I can tell you that when I owned my last house I despised lawn work, shoveling, taring the driveway, gardening, watering, wondering if the siding needed to be repaired/repainted, looking at crap that needed to be fixed inside and knowing I would never do it.. like shimmy the bathroom door so it would actually close, fix the leaking sink, dust the picture window that some idiot installed at the top of a wall that looked out the second story of the house via a loft!

  10. My husband and I have spent 16 years raising two kids in this tiny little house, paying a mortgage that was a quarter of what most people were paying for their cars. While we’ll be able to send two boys off to a college of their choice with no change in lifestyle (in fact, we’ve built a new house…), our friends who have been living in luxury (at least by my standards) houses are taking on extra jobs to pay tuition. No, we couldn’t reciprocate the elegant soirees we were invited to over the years (we just took everyone out to dinner elsewhere), but by waiting we’re able to afford what we want without sweating every month to pay the bills.
    Also, there is a lot to be said for being able to sit in the diningroom and, hearing your four-year-old in the bathroom above, being able to just shout, “FLUSH!” and they hear you.

  11. I know, I’m not helping… I bought a condo which means I don’t mow, or mulch or shovel (okay i do shovel so I can get out before 3pm) but I want a garden, I want a yard for my child and my dog. I want a flower bed. I want a porch and a garage and all that comes with it. I don’t want a mortgage that’s over my head, so I’m saving for it, and building equity in the current place in the meantime, but I will always want to own. I need the colors on my walls, I need the ability to change the cabinets…

    still not helping, I realize.

    does it help that LM used to call our apartment the “compartment”? I always thought that was adorable!!

  12. We just moved from a house (on a lease to own) and back to an apartment. If I was skinnier, I would have done a snoopy dance at the thought of not having to do maintenance and yardwork (not to mention shoveling, etc). Plus, our space is sooo much more livable than in the 30 year old split level we were in.

    Yeah, we can hear the neighbors at times, and it’s a hike to/from the car, but we don’t have anyone playing ding-dong-ditch (there’s no where to hide) and did I mention NO MAINTENANCE TO DO? Plus, when I go to grad school, we may move to campus housing, and this is a good transitional step.

    (Did I mention NO MAINTENANCE ?)

  13. I’ve just gone from owning (a house) to renting (a house) again. I went from 1500 square feet at $1188/month to 1500 square feet at $650/month. Renting definitely has its advantages.

    Owning: Lawn care, sidewalk care, mortgage, taxes, insurance, “house repair bill” (no joke, that was at least $120/month), $200 electric bill.

    Renting: *front* lawn care, rent, $70 electric bill.

    Did I already mention the 100% difference of a mortgage payment versus rent?? 🙂

    I just got a new refridgerator without spending a dime, too.

    If you’re dying for that fenced in yard, with some privacy, there are some nice houses to rent – the home without the hassle. This is my second time renting a 2 bedroom home in this area, with a fenced in yard, and living room to roll around in… and it’s so much less stress than owning a home and worrying about how I’m going to afford a new roof so the insurance can continue through next year, a new fence because as pretty as that barnwood is it won’t stay standing in a strong wind, new windows that won’t let in a draft, new carpet, etc..

    I’m living all the benefits of owning a home, except the equity is being built in my landlord’s name. Oh, darn. 😛

    Stay renting until you’re ready to make that investment, that leap into extreme debt, that leap to headaches and stressful nights of worry at the cost of <1% equity a month. 😉

  14. I also enjoy the swimming pool, weight room, playgrounds and tennis courts. I have someone to sign for packages if I’m not at home, and I LOVE MAINTENANCE!!! I’m glad I live in a nice apt complex that has all the amenities. We moved from a house, and I wonder why we didn’t do it years ago.

  15. I definitely agree with everyone on the yard work thing. And having a pool — five in my apartment (one Texas-shaped, but being an Okie, what do I care?) — that someone else takes care of is nice.

    Someone else paints the exterior when it needs to be done.

    And if I decide to move, I simply tell my office, pack up and leave. No dealing with Realtors or having to show people my apartment. When I’m done, I’m done. And I can take all my curtains with me (if I ever get around to hanging some). 🙂

    And by the way, when I own a house someday, I am so going to have yellow walls, too! They’re just so cheery! Whoever Paul is, I’m sure he would love your yellow walls if they existed and he could see them. 🙂

  16. Great reasons, all!

    And don’t think I’m embittered toward you happy homeowners out there. Lisa and Amy, I rejoice for you. If I didn’t get to live vicariously, I’d hardly be living at all!

    Cuppy–That’s a great idea. I think we probably will be renting a house sometime before owning one. A boy and a girl can only share a bedroom for so long before the cootie factor kicks in!

    m.l.i.b.–Paul is my husband, and he only makes fun of my fantasy yellow walls because he knows that when the time comes, he won’t have any choice!

  17. Hubby & I owned a house, then lost it in a bankruptcy several years ago. We were making just under $100K a year, so when we bought the house, it wasn’t a stretch to pay $1750/month (plus taxes and insurance). Then we both lost our jobs within a month of each other (thanks to the Enron thing here in Houston – we weren’t employess, but we both worked in the technology industry and that was greatly affected), and eventually lost our house and allot more.

    Frankly, I don’t know that we’ll ever own again! We downsized into an 1800 sq. ft house for about 18 months, then super-sized into a 2800 sq. ft house for the same amount of money we were paying for the smaller house! It was a huge blessing for us since we really needed the extra space with baby #3’s surprise arrival, and the fact that our home business required a large office to accommodate the 12 servers required to run the business!

    Anyway, we rent our home – we have the luxury of the awesome subdivision, lots of space (inside and out), great neighbors (that we cannot hear unless they call us on the phone), and the ability to paint (pale yellow in my daughter’s room) and decorate to my heart’s content! Another luxury to renting our home? On-call maintenance for when the house breaks! We pay to have the lawn manicured every-other weekend (only $20), and spend ‘family time’ cleaning flower beds, planting flowers, and trimming shrubs. It’s not a task that I’ve ever enjoyed, but being out there with hubby & the kids makes it fun. And, I’m learning about plants and flowers, so that’s adding to the enjoyment factor! Having a friend tell me that our yard was ‘beautiful’ brought a smile to my face 🙂

  18. We just bought our first house a year ago, after being married for 10 1/2 years. So we know what its like to rent and not being able to paint the walls the color you want, but also the convenience of having things fixed for free!

    I must admit that I got jealous when people who were way younger than us (not that we’re old, early thirties) were buying houses and not having to go through the “hard times” because they got financial help from family, etc. but never ever mentioned that to people when they said they bought a house.

    Anyways. The house that we bought wasn’t too old (15 yrs or so) but it was a disaster. The people that lived in it before us went bankrupt and made a mess of it. But if they hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t of been able to afford it. Out of the deal, we got ourselves an almost brand new house (we had to replace the kitchen and all the flooring upstairs). We’re thankful for what we have, its not our dream home, but its “our” home. When it comes time to “move on” we’ll make a goog profit off of it. But until then, we value it and appreciate it so much. It was all in God’s timing, not ours, He knew what we needed and when we needed it way before we did.

    Good luck with finding that place when it the “right” time to find it. Take care and thanks again for the kind comment! Its nice to know that I’m not the only one up in the middle of the night!

  19. wow, what an awesome post! I totally needed this. My hubby and I are also in a two bedroom apartment, shared with our 5 years old daughter. We have a little one on the way, and I’m pulling my hair out wondering how the heck we’re going to manage in this little nook. I so badly want a house! But it’s so amazing how God will speak to you through others, you’ve given me a new hope, that it doesn’t matter, and that not everyone who has a family is in a house (a misconception I believe more often than not). Thank you for reminding me of all the joys of apartment living. The only thing I could do without is the fighting next door and the music upstairs. But…..c’est la vie.
    Blessings 🙂

  20. Hey Katrina,
    love the way uv put it!…
    *Houseguests never seem to stay very long*..
    sometimes feel thats the biggest blessing that a apartment-can offer!(especially smaller one) ..We too stay in an apartment and agree with you on the fact that atleast the wear and tear can be taken care of by the landlord!
    and U know the good part about wher we stay is that even the bags for the dust bin are provided by the building management…hah!!
    Thx for dropping by my blog and will keep hopping into ur blog more often!

  21. Katrina,

    Just a word about the advantages of home ownership. Your Mom and I are still living in the house where you and your siblings spent your childhood. After spending a number of years in the same home you begin to share personalities with it and it talks with you on occasion. Since I’m working from home now I have a lot of opportunity to listen to the ramblings of the place where 3 rugrats grew into responsible and productive adults. When it is quiet and you listen closely you can hear the walls whispering their experiences from when you graced their hallowed halls. This is particularly true of the walls next to the basement steps where you, Bill, and Amber had free reign to write and draw your greatest triumphs and deepest fears. We watched with interest how the thoughts from the walls matured as your tiny legs allowed you to reach another level in both your physical and emotional growth. Mom and I occasionally walk the steps to once again revel in our shared success of your development. Even though you and Amber live across the country, we still are able to sit down and have a quiet chat with the house about your journey here.

  22. This was so honest, I loved it.
    I have house envy to the billionth degree….but only when we are visiting with friends who have houses. My husband can tell, in the first five minutes of visiting, when that shadow of house envy crosses my face. He has to brace himself for the ride home as I go over how much I loved their living room, their this, their that…
    Because we used to live in an apartment that we now lovingly refer to as “The CAVE” and still do not own a home, I feel I deserve a little house envy here and there. I’m sure it is in the Bible somewhere…
    What your Dad wrote was so beautiful. I can see where you get “it” from. Ever been published either of you?(!!!) I love reading your posts.

  23. My husband and I spent 8 years living in a rental and letting our landlord take care of everything…got the finances in order and then took the leap and bought a house! Both worlds have tons to offer of good and not so good. The thing I miss about renting is picking up and going when I’m done with a house. We moved every year for 8 years to a new rental. New views, new paint, and new sounds, just from picking up and going 3 blocks!

    Your blog is very entertaining and I love reading you!

  24. Wow! It’s so good to read all the shared experiences here–thank you so much. I no longer feel like the last thirty-something alive without a mortgage!

    Dad–that was beautiful. I love you guys, and the home where we grew up.

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