Spinster How-To: Finding An Apartment – Part II

American Spinster How-To: Your First Apartment

Part II: Making Your Selection

Last week I talked about 6 things to look at while surveying your apartment options. This week we’ll go over what to do when you’ve narrowed your list down to a few places.

Finding An Apartment, Part II
Looks idyllic from the outside…

First, you’ll want to call the offices of your top picks, ask if they’re accepting new leasers, and – if they are – schedule an appointment to discuss your application and view a unit. Make sure you can sit down and talk to someone and see the inside of an apartment before you submit an application. It’s a good idea to bring a friend along when you go, for safety and as an extra set of eyes.

When you’re at the meeting, ask questions. Lots of questions. Even if you think you’re being annoying. Some import ones are:

  • Do you change locks between tenants?
  • How long do tenants usually stay?
  • What are the most common complaints from tenants?
  • What are the maintenance policies? Will they cover repairs on provided appliances without a fee?
  • Who should you contact if you encounter a problem?

If you want, you can also ask about the age of appliances and how frequently the carpets are replaced.

At this stage, you want to be an apartment complex’s harshest critic.

Finding An Apartment: Part II
Could it be love?

Look at other units to see how residents tend to live. Are balconies and doorways clean and trim, or litter-strewn? Also pay attention to the lawn maintenance. Is it overgrown or does it look regularly maintained? Is the area well lit with street lights and parking lot lights? Is it the sort of place you’d feel safe walking through at night? As I mentioned in the last post, it’s also a good idea to drive by the complex during different hours of the day to see what the activity is like.

If you’re the sociable type, definitely try to chat with some of the current residents about what life is like there.

If you like the place, it seems safe, and everything financial seems on the up and up, and your friend hasn’t found anything to worry about, go ahead and apply.

Good Luck.

Spinsterly Reads: Ann Pachett

The American Spinster Review of Ann Pachett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

I first heard of this book sitting in my car listening to NPR. I was on my lunch break from the grocery store, where I worked with some of the best co-workers I’d ever had. All but one were married women, and even the unmarried one planned to have a husband and children one day. Any spinster-by-choice knows what it’s like to be friends with moms-by-choice. There’s a gap of understanding that, no matter how fond you are of each other, will never really close.

So, that day, waiting for my 30 minute break to be up, I turned on the car radio. The NPR program had only just started. Though I’d never heard of Ann Patchett before then, after listening for just a few minutes I knew I had to read this book.

Review
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of non-fiction essays, articles, and speeches written by novelist Ann Patchett. Don’t let the title fool you; Patchett may include the story of a happy marriage, but the book is also largely about being a happy, unmarried, independent woman. From a young age, Patchett saw most marriage around her ending in divorce. Throughout the articles, she describes her family history of divorce (her parents were each divorced at least once, her grandparents, and even great-grandparents had been divorced), the divorces of her friends’ parents, and her own divorce (her first marriage lasted a very difficult 14 months). Ultimately, she realized the only way to “beat the system” was to never marry.

In the titular story, Patchett recounts the 11-year courtship that ultimately led to her second marriage. It may be the story of a happy marriage, but it’s also, in some ways, a blueprint to having a happy relationship. “[N]ot being married had saved us. Had I said yes to Karl’s initial proposal… I don’t think we would have made it. By not living together, we could fight and then step away to cool off. I would think at least we’re not married, which is so much better than thinking, I can’t stay married to you.”

Despite the fact that her boyfriend Karl had wanted to marry her from the outset, she remained firm. “[H]ow could I, who carried divorce in my veins all the way back to Denmark, be absolutely positive that it wouldn’t happen this time? … no matter how much I loved Karl, I wasn’t naive. And I wasn’t getting married.”

Of course, they do get married, after 11 years. They marry because they learn that he has a terminal heart condition. As a spouse, Patchett would be able to care for him and make decisions that she couldn’t make as a girlfriend. She sells her house, they marry, and she laments not marrying long ago, before the love of her life was dying. It was Karl who assures her that it was “exactly the right time.”

Other stories in the book speak to the childfree woman. Patchett writes about her dog, Rose, and how she doted on her. She kept pictures of Rose in her wallet, stayed home with her all day, left her with a baby sitter when she needed to run errands. Patchett writes,

“Look at that,” people said, looking at me but not Rose. “Look how badly she wants a baby.”

A baby? I held up my dog for them to see, my bright, beautiful dog. “A dog,” I said. “I’ve always wanted a dog.” The truth is, I have no memory of ever wanting a baby. I have never peered longingly into someone else’s stroller. I have, on occasions too numerous to list, bent down on the sidewalks to rub the ears of strange dogs, to whisper to them about their limpid eyes.

Others insisted that she really wanted a baby, sometimes going so far as to suggest she simply didn’t realize that’s what she was really yearning for. In the NPR program, Patchett uses the analogy of missing keys.

It would be like if somebody said, “Your car keys are in the drawer.” And you go and you open the drawer, and not only are your car keys not in the drawer, there’s nothing in the drawer. The drawer is empty. And you come back and you say, “The keys aren’t in the drawer.” And they say, “no go back and look again. They are in the drawer.” And you go back and you open the drawer and it is empty. And that’s how I always felt. Like people were always saying to me, “Go back and look again. Examine the inner contents of your heart, you will find it.” And I never did.

For the happily unmarried, happily childfree woman, reading Patchett’s collection is like finding a kindred spirit. At last, someone who understands! Someone who realizes that I’m not in denial, I’m not afraid. I just don’t want what I’m supposed to want.

Summary
Although the book at times seems like an unusual combination of autobiography and instructional essays, it’s a captivating look at the author’s life. Perhaps its fitting that the topics vary so widely, since in Patchett’s life, business and home life, personal journeys and public publications, are so closely entwined. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage will be a welcomed read for anyone who is happily unmarried, or happily childfree, but is also a wonderful introduction to the spinster lifestyle for those who are uninitiated. I recommend reading it, and I recommend giving it to friends and family who don’t yet believe that anyone can be truly happy in this lifestyle. Ann Patchett makes our case well.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage at IndieBound

Spinster How-To: Finding An Apartment

American Spinster How-To: Your First Apartment

Part I: Finding The Right One

So it’s time to move out. Or at least, you want it to be time. Deciding  on a place to live can be overwhelming. You don’t want to settle for the first empty unit in Cracktown, but you also don’t want to blow your monthly income on what appears to be the only safe place in town. You may have also heard stories about people getting swindled by shady apartment managers.

How do people do it?

Spinster How-To: Finding An Apartment
So many options…

First, research your options. Look at every apartment complex in your city (or the city you plan to live in). Go to their website (if they don’t have a website in this day and age, be wary). As you’re looking, make note of the following:

  • Floor plan options and their prices
  • Location
  • Application Fees
  • Lease Terms
  • Pet Rules (even if you don’t have one, it’s good to know how the apartment managers view them
  • Income Requirements

Floor Plans
Most apartment complexes have a few different floor plans at different price points. Make a list of the square footage or other important features (such as whether they have patios/balconies, how many entrances, etc), as well as the monthly rent.

Location

Spinster How-To: Finding An Apartment
How’s the neighborhood?

The biggest concerns with the location are crime and noise. Use a website like Crime Reports to see the crime rate of an area. It’s also a good idea, if you’re able, to drive through the complex at different times of the day, to get an idea of the neighborhood. Are people partying? Are their kids bicycling around? Drug deals (seriously, learn to spot this). The distance from your job is, of course, another factor when looking at locations.

Application Fees
Most places will require an application fee from you. Generally this is just to cover the cost of a background check and to ensure that uninterested parties don’t waste their time. But do be careful; if the application fee is unusually high, and they won’t tell you whether or not there’s a unit available, you might be out the fee and have nothing to show for it.

Lease Terms
What kinds of leases do they offer? Generally, a 6 month or month-to-month lease will cost more per month than a full year lease. Also find out what their policies are should you have to break your lease.

Pet Rules
Spinster How-To: Finding An ApartmentIf you have a pet, it’s important that you know whether or not they’re allowed, the rules if they are allowed, and how much extra it’ll cost you. Most places charge an additional fee, additional monthly rent, or both. If you’re thinking about sneaking a pet in, consider that – at some places – that’s considered a violation of the lease, and if you’re caught, you could be evicted or owe a hefty fine.

 

Income Requirements
Virtually all apartment complexes will require proof of income, and you generally need to prove you make 3 or 3.5 times your monthly rent. If you’re like me, this sounds crazy, because rent will be by far the biggest drain on your income. Some places will take your savings into account, or may cut you a break if you can show them that you’re non-rent expenses are minimal, and your employment status is stable.

Paying close attention to these 6 items can save you a lot of time and narrow your options to the ones that’ll suit you best.

Next week’s Part II will go over what to do once you’ve found the place you want.

You Don’t Need What You’re Waiting For

 

articleimage-you-dont-need

If there’s one great secret wonder of being a spinster, it’s this:

You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. And I’m not just talking about sex on the kitchen floor.

Most of my friends talk about what they would do if they had a child, or if they had a girl, or if they had a game room, of if they had a wedding. You know how it goes.

“Oh! If I had a little girl, I could buy her that.”

“When I get pregnant, I have so many ideas for a nursery.”

“My dream wedding board has 300 pins… one day I’ll be able to make them all happen.”

Ladies (and gentlemen), you can wait if you want to, but you don’t have to. That’s right, folks. Open up that Pinterest board and get to work.

What’s that? But you have no baby or soon-to-be husband? My dear friend, you’ve bought into one of the silliest myths of our human culture. Here is the truth:

You don’t need the excuses you’ve been waiting for. You have been laboring under the delusion that you need to

  • find the right husband/partner/sperm donor
  • give birth
  • donate the next 18-26 years of your life to feeding, clothing, and raising another human being

just to decorate the spare bedroom in a Where The Wild Things Are theme. These beliefs are false, and the truth shall surely set you free.

Go. Go and re-make your bedroom in a Where The Wild Things Are theme. I know you saw that nursery online and thought it was the coolest thing ever. I give you permission to give that bedroom to yourself. You deserve it. If it’s the bedroom you wish you’d had as a kid, give it to yourself now. Because here’s another secret truth: Your one-day kid might not love what you love. And you can only force them to wear the clothes you pick out and sleep in the room you designed for so long. Murphy’s law clearly states that any woman who spends years longing for a baby girl so she can buy her pretty dresses, will undoubtedly give birth to a tom boy who would rather have her teeth cleaned than put on a skirt. So just give what you love to yourself. You are allowed.

But what about my dream wedding? you say. Are you telling me to rent a venue, buy a gown, do the decorations, invitations, and walk down the aisle by myself?

Not exactly, but close. I know how it is. You love that Enchanted Forest wedding theme. There are so many great ideas you have for it. The decor, the food, the lighting It’s going to be amazing.

But here are a couple things to consider.

  • Most women say they remember very little about their wedding day.
  • You are going to be so stressed out that day.

Abandon your visions of dancing through the day with your heart full of love, surrounded by your dearest friends, saying your loving goodbyes to girlhood and joyfully stepping into holy matrimony. The reality? Your maid of honor bought brandy sniffers instead of champagne flutes, and for no explicable reason you’recramping, and even though you thought it would be sweet that your bff has to help you pee due to your wedding dress, it’s really just awkward and annoying. None of this would really be that bad except that it’s yourwedding day, and you’ve waited years, and you only get one, so everything really needs to go absolutely perfectly.

Want to take the pressure off? Have a birthday party.

I am as serious as a Sunday morning sermon. You’re a grown up! You can finally plan your own birthday parties (or any parties). Pop that Enchanted Forest theme onto your birthday and actually enjoy it. There is no rule that states adult birthday parties have to be boring and alcohol-saturated.

And there’s no need to settle on just one. Do something different every year. Your guests will have much more fun, and you can still get presents. Hell, give yourself a gift registry at Kohl’s.

Spinsters, you can do this. Buy yourself pretty dresses, and wear them wherever the hell you want. Or, if you don’t like the attention of wearing a frilly dress to Home Depot, go have Tea in a fancy restaurant.

Let go of your excuses, and don’t pin your dreams on someone else. It’s not fair to them or you.

Now go. Go and enjoy.

(And hey, post your ideas and comments on the forum or in the comments below.)

Thanks to Gratisography for providing the stock photography for this article.

Why You’re Not Selfish For Not Having Kids

You're Not Selfish For Not Having KidsThis belief is really almost too foolish to be allowed, despite its widespread acceptance. But it still hurts, when we believe it, and far worse than that, it sometimes leads people who shouldn’t have kids to have them. As though it would make them a better person.

Wonky Logic Example #1

Not having children is selfish, so having children is unselfish.

The idea that parents are unselfish for having kids is about as false and nonsensical as it gets. Some parents are very, genuinely, selfless people, but popping out or adopting a baby doesn’t make them so.

If we look at this realistically, people sometimes have very selfish reasons for having children. Reasons like, “I want to be a mom,” or “I just love kids,” are fine and good, if you can—and do—take care of them. The selfishness of having kids for your own sake is cancelled out by the selflessness of actually providing for them. Then of course there are the more obviously selfish reasons, such as “It’ll help my marriage,” or, of course, “He’ll marry me/stop cheating on me if I get pregnant.” I don’t think I need to elaborate on these.

Wonky Logic Example #2

People who don’t want children are selfish by not having children.

Once, in my church-going days, I listened to a pastor’s sermon on birth control. I had, and still have, great respect for this pastor, but I also disagree with him more often than not. At the end of his sermon, which included many lines from the Bible on childbirth and child-rearing, and culminating in the summation that children are sometimes a blessing (Proverbs 17:6) and sometimes not (Luke 23:29), he said “It’s alright to use contraceptives, as long as you don’t do so for selfish reasons.”

A reasonable statement, but his idea of “selfish reasons” is not my own.

If a couple or an individual doesn’t want the “bother” of having a child, that’s exactly the sort of person who shouldn’t have a child. That’s not selfishness, that’s responsibility. That’s having enough foresight and insight to see that having a baby isn’t all about the attention, cute little baby clothes, and sweet-smelling baby. It’s acknowledging that being a parent is a vocation, a full-time, lifetime, till-death-do-us-part commitment, and saying, honestly, “I’m not up to that.”

The person who acknowledges that they don’t want children, and doesn’t then cave to social pressure and have one anyway, should be praised. Praise the conscious non-parent 1.5x as much as you condemn the non-parent who had kids anyway.

Wonky Logic Example #3

People who don’t want children are selfish for not spending time/money with kids they don’t have.

At the end of the day, I think this is simply a misapplication of lifestyles.

For a parent to regularly leave their child so they can go clubbing, globe-trotting, or vacationing, is probably selfish behavior. For a parent to buy new clothes and electronics, while never providing for the needs of their child, is selfish.

Why You're Not Selfish for Not Having Kids

But childfree people do not have children. So remove the child from the equation.

For a single woman to go clubbing and globe-trotting or clubbing is not selfish. For a single woman to buy new clothes and electronics is not selfish. They are neglecting no one. “Well if they had a child” is not a valid argument, because, obviously, they don’t.

Lastly, and sadly, I suspect that people who hold others to their own lifestyle standards are, at heart, unhappy with their own choices. Have you ever heard a childfree globe-trotter say, “Well, I guess it must be nice to be able to stay home and play with your kid all day. I can’t afford to be that selfish. Those photos of Machu Picchu aren’t going to take themselves”? No. And if someone did say that, you’d probably say, “No one told you to go to Machu Picchu.”

And you would be exactly right.

How To Be The Cool Aunt

Lots of families have one. You may have had one growing up. That one, childless aunt who always gives the best presents. Or how about the bachelor uncle who, in contrast to the other grown ups, paid attention to what you were saying and listened to your side in a dispute.

My childfree friends, you can be that person. It’s actually pretty easy.

How To Be The Cool AuntStep 1: Pay attention. This is the most important step in being The Cool Aunt. It means you know what your niece/nephew is interest in and what’s going on in their lives. Parents tend to have, for better or worse, pretty fixed ideas regarding their child’s likes and dislikes, as well as the motives for their actions. You, on the other hand, claim no control over your niece/nephew, and no responsibility, so you can listen without ego or bias.

Step 2: Apply the resulting knowledge toward gift-giving. Here, it’s really about quality over price or price. Don’t compete with their parent for greatest number of gifts, and don’t buy them that expensive electronic device they’ve been dropping hints about. That’s in the parent/grandparent sphere.

The American Spinster: How To Be The Cool AuntInstead, look for something unusual that caters to their interests. Maybe your niece has a peculiar interest in furniture. Buy her an interior design drawing book. Or your little cousin has a real fascination with the planets. Buy him the original Cosmos series on DVD.

This is what makes you the cool aunt. You know them and encourage their interests, even the ones that seem strange for a child, and especially the ones their parent thinks are silly.