Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tales of an Apartment Dweller, Part II: The Practical

Having established where I live - a wee apartment with myself, the Husband, the Bee, and a cat - here are my tenets (ha!) of tenancy.

  • Practice good apartment-hunting.  The most valuable weapon you can have is time.  (I guess an unlimited budget would be even more valuable, but I'm being realistic).  We started looking at the apartment situation in Georgetown even before we knew we were moving here.  Was some of it just idle time-killing and wishful thinking?  Sure, but it also gave us a good idea of the typical rent, what amenities to expect, and how long apartments stayed on the listings.  Poring over apartment listings for months also enabled us to make only one epic trip from Rochester to DC to look at the "ideal" apartment we saw that was at the right location and in our price range, which is an important consideration if you're moving a considerable distance.  The other hunting rules are pretty basic - investigate your landlord, inspect the place before moving in, make sure you insist on any repairs you feel are necessary, get a lease, etc.  Getting an apartment that you actually like with a decent landlord goes a long way toward happiness, as do things like having a dishwasher and/or washer/dryer (if those are things you want).
  • Get unsentimental.  If you're going from big to small, you are going to have to get rid of some stuff.  No getting around it.  We sold our big couch and loveseat, my much-loved gigantic circa-1960 table, our large storage racks (I wasn't sentimentally attached to those), and our car (which is another post itself).  It's hard to just cut off so much stuff.  We also donated a lot of old clothes and some miscellaneous furniture.  Things we knew we wanted to keep but didn't need right now (baby swing, too-small baby clothes, outgrown toys) went to the grandparents, who have much more storage space.
  • Think in scale/less is more. Small, multi-function (when possible) pieces of furniture are the best.  Our living room furniture now consists of a sleeper sofa (the klick-klack kind), a small computer desk, and a television stand with as small of a footprint as we could manage.  Wall-mounting would have been my first choice for the television, but who wants to entrust their television to shoddy drywall?  I am probably going to pick up a couple of flat-topped storage ottomans in the near future.  Our dining table is a 2-seat bistro number where the chairs fit under the table when not in use (the Bee sits in her high chair on the exposed long side while the Husband and I sit at the ends).  Next to the table is a small 3-shelf wicker number for miscellaneous kitchen items that we use, but not constantly.  We had a small wine-rack on wheels that stores wine glasses, 9 bottles of booze (trust me, we never have more than that at once!), and miscellaneous bar equipment, but that has since been moved into the second "bedroom."  Which brings us to our next point.
  • Throw out room labels.  Bedroom?  Study?  Workroom?  Nursery?  Whatever.  They're just rooms.  Our living room is pretty standard (couch, TV/Wii/computer.  Our kitchen has a washer and dryer (the small, stacked kind but I love them just the same) right across from the refrigerator. Two of our three bookshelves are in our bedroom.  The weird room - or "The Workroom" as we call it - started out as a nursery.  We gave the crib to the in-laws, and the room now features one large adult dresser, a kid-sized dresser (which is also used as a changing/dressing table) a bookshelf, and a corner desk, along with a fair amount of miscellaneous items (baby bath, seasonally appropriate coats/jackets/shoes, and brewing equipment). The Husband keeps his laptop and science books in there and it is essentially his office.  Someday we'll probably put a futon in there for the Bee to sleep on, but I don't see her moving out of our bed in the near future.
  • Use those walls!  We try to keep the floor as uncluttered as possible - it really makes the rooms feel bigger.  No, we don't have those plastic sleeves that you vacuum your clothes into AS SEEN ON TV.  We do have 3 tall bookshelves, laundry bags that hang in the closet, hanging produce baskets, a shoe rack, and neatly Tetris-ed closets. Also lots of pictures because they're pretty - and at least with a small space you don't have to buy tons of wall art.
  • The whole city is your house.  Do you know why people put up with expensive, small or expensive and small houses/apartments in, we'll say, Boston, New York, Philly, DC, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver?  They are kick-ass cities.  So when the walls close in, we gear up and go somewhere!  Whether it's the "tot lot" (under-5 playground a block away) or something a bit more touristy, it's good to go see the amazing things that DC has.  Museums, people watching on the Mall, funky restaurants, general historic landmarks, the Canal that runs through Georgetown... it's all a lot bigger than our apartment, full of other people (yay!  I like people!), and pretty low cost (most things only involve the cost of bus or Metro fare).  I imagine the situation to be similar in the other cities on my "awesome" list.
  • One last thing:  childproof the bejeezus out of your tiny apartment so that little people can have the run of the place.  We do keep our bathrooms and the workroom shut, but the Bee can go from the living room through the kitchen into the  bedroom with no impediments, as of Saturday.  It is so nice to not have a baby gate!  It's even helping me get work (and blog posts!) done because she's happy to occupy herself for the most part now that she is free to check in periodically.  She is presently doing who-knows-what in the bedroom, and that's okay with me.  I think she's yelling at the patio.
Anyone else have awesome small space ideas that I missed?  I've got another four years to implement them.  Also... I would hate to give the idea that I am absolutely always happy with being in a cramped space; these are just the things I do to be mostly happy with it most of the time!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I've been reading a lot recently about fat acceptance and Health At Every Size.  I can't help but feel that fat-hating is right next to gay-bashing as one of the last socially accepted prejudices.  Life not turning out like you planned?  At least you can still look down at fat people.  It's okay to legislate against both groups (I'm surprised no one has tried to take away fat people's right to marry... because, you know, they might have fat kids) and to punish people for being either fat or gay (pity the poor soul who is both).  The reading actually kicked me into doing some hard thinking, because I was pretty guilty of buying into the OBESITY CRISIS! bullcrap.  Not that there isn't an OBESITY CRISIS! but... it's not so simple as saying, have a carrot and a jog and get skinny and you'll be healthy.  We could make do with a lot less shaming and a lot more acceptance.  Also, dieting is really, really bad for you, body and mind.

But, you say, we might end up telling people it's okay to be fat?  Well, guess what?  There are fat people, and they are still people.  They may stay fat whether we treat them with dignity or not, so I say we should err on the side of compassion and remember that they are people first.

Another important point is that in no way does skinny equal healthy.  You can quite easily have a skinny person who eats like a character in one of those awful Stig Larson books and a fat person who eats a balanced diet.  You can have a skinny person with truly terrible cholesterol.  Put them next to each other at a picnic, and only the fat person would be shamed for eating a cheeseburger.  I won't go as far as saying that obesity does not cause problems for the human body - joint issues and insulin resistance spring to mind - but it is important to realize that a person's weight is often the result of other health circumstances in the first place.  I also suspect that instead of addressing a person in a holistic manner that encompasses ability, diet, and genetics, a lot of doctors may just be saying "lose 100 pounds and come talk to me then."  I have had someone tell me that her doctor insisted she lose weight before he would address another problem.  How is that helpful?

For me, though, the most important thing I took away was this imperative:  honor your body.  Feed it wholesome food, use it to its full capability, and appreciate the wide (and yet ultimately narrow, since we are all humans) scope of forms of which you are a part.  I have come to realize that I should rejoice in my temporary able-ness.  (We are all surely temporarily abled just as much as we are temporarily alive.)  This body?  Except for an occasionally mutinous left knee and nearsightedness, it is in pretty good shape, and definitely capable of doing more than just walking to get groceries and back.  I should make it strong so that it will not atrophy.  I should have regular conversations with it.  With that in mind, I find myself four training sessions into the 27-session program of Couch Potato to 5K.  The weather is not ideal, nor are the sidewalks (the tracks are snowed over as of now, although that should change tomorrow with warmer weather and rain), but other people manage and so do I.  I am utterly amazed at how quickly my body is adapting and getting stronger in between sessions.  I am pretty amazed that I can run for 90 seconds straight without passing out.

So, let's stop hating ourselves and other people for not being thin and using that hate as an excuse to push a severely misinformed pseudo-scientific agenda that is making us less healthy than we would be otherwise.  If I hear one more person talk about the weight they "need" to lose, how they are watching what they eat, how they are "trying to be good" (what does that even mean?!), or anything similar, I may just have to say something ridiculous like "I think you're beautiful the way you are" until they get the message.