It’s National Clean Out Your Fridge Day

Stinky refrigerator?

I am not happy with whomever invented Clean Out Your Fridge Day which is “celebrated” on November 15. Do we really need to be reminded that although the rest of our place looks presentable, there’s probably something creepy, hairy, stinky, and unknown lurking in the back corner of the crisper drawer? Clearly, we do, or this day would not exist. My fridge is like my closet. It will go for weeks – dare I say months – looking tidy and clean and then suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, it looks like elves performed some horrible mischief in the night. My once neat, organized, color-coded (yes, I am THAT girl) closet is a sloppy wreck with clothes falling off the hangers and the fridge contains mysterious science-fair-like “stuff”. And it’s not like cleaning either the fridge or the closet is hard; it’s just an annoyance and an awful way to spend a Saturday morning when you could be brunching on eggs benedict and sipping mimosas. So what is one to do? As in the words of a dear friend of mine, “Just git ‘er done”. Here’s a few tips on making this god-forsaken process a wee bit less miserable.

Preparation

Obviously, you have to remove all food from the fridge to clean it. Short on counter space? Set up a little folding table or use a few chairs. I am pretty successful with just removing food from one section at a time, cleaning it, and putting it back before moving on. For a complete, and uber-thorough clean (completely emptying), put your food in a cooler. You’ll need at least enough room to hold a shelf’s worth of stuff. Make sure your kitchen sink is empty, too. While you’re at it, put the recycling bin and trash can nearby as you’ll likely be tossing expired items and items that no longer resemble food.

Supplies

You won’t need much: white vinegar and/or dish soap; a spray bottle or a big bowl; a sponge and/or a scrubby; and paper and/or microfiber towels — all or most of which you probably already have on hand (whew).  The vinegar breaks down grease and grime, and when mixed with hot water in a spray bottle (or bowl, or dishpan, or bucket), it becomes a food-safe cleaner that’s perfect for any gunk that might have accumulated on refrigerator shelves. The other items on the list will help you wipe, scrub, dry, and shine.

The Process

While some people have enough counter space (is there ever really enough?!?) to completely empty their refrigerators before cleaning, I find  working one shelf at a time is often the best method, because you don’t want to leave your perishables out for too long.

  • Start at the top.
  • Remove everything from a shelf and see just how messy you (or those darn elves!) have been.
  • If there are spills, carefully remove the glass from the frame or brackets, or the shelf itself (depending on your fridge) and clean both sides, as well as the edges, with the vinegar solution.
  • Dry with paper or microfiber towels.
  • Wash the frame that holds the glass before replacing the entire shelf. For that, I usually head to the sink and use dish soap and hot water.
  • If there aren’t any caked-on spills that require shelf removal, simply run a scrubby sponge under hot water. Give the shelf and fridge walls an initial scrub to loosen any gunk. Then, spray it all down with cleaner and give it another scrub, before wiping everything clean with a microfiber cloth.

NOTE: When you’re not actively working in the fridge, keep the door closed to keep everything as cool as possible.

Doors and Drawers

Refrigerator drawers often accumulate debris, especially if they’re used for produce. For a deep clean, remove the drawers and wash them in the kitchen sink with soap and water. If they won’t fit in your sink, spray and wipe them clean, and dry them before putting them back. While the drawers are removed, wipe down the walls and “floor” of the fridge with the vinegar cleaner. Use the same method for the shelves inside the doors.

Put Stuff Back Clean

Now that your fridge is sparkling (and you realize it wasn’t THAT BAD to clean), be sure to wipe down jars, containers, and condiment bottles so you don’t bring gunk back into the fridge. Even if they don’t appear dirty, it’s a good idea to give container bottoms a quick wipe with a damp sponge or paper towel, especially if the shelf was sticky. If any bottles or jars have accumulated a little goo on the outside, rinse them under warm water then wipe them clean and dry. If gunk has accumulated around the seal or the edges of the cap, take the lid off and wash it more thoroughly in the sink. Check all expiration dates and toss anything that’s expired (like the sriracha I just threw away from 2017. Yikes.)

Wipe Down the Outside

Once everything is back in your sparkling fridge, use a clean microfiber cloth and the vinegar spray to wipe down the outside of the doors, including the edges and seals, and don’t forget the handles! The worst area will undoubtedly be to top of the fridge as it tends to collect greasy residue from cooking and dust. I like keeping a kitchen towel on top that can just be thrown in the wash. If you have a stainless steel fridge, spray on a cleaner specially made for stainless steel and polish with a microfiber towel for a streak-free finish.

Keep It (and Yourself) Fresh

You did it and you lived to tell the tale! Enjoy your super-clean fridge. For a while, anyway. If you want to keep it smelling fresher longer, stick an open box of baking soda on one of the shelves. Now treat yourself to brunch with a bloody Mary. You deserve it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Hanging Art I – Placement

In a past work life, I staged model apartments. While there was a ton of legwork (shopping, assembling, searching for perfect accessories to complement the furnishings, spending someone else’s money LOL), there was a great sense of satisfaction in creating an environment that showcased the best features of the home and making it desirable for the prospective renter while ensuring that person felt so at home, they’d be inclined to sign a lease. During those years, I learned that not only is artwork like the frosting on a cake, there’s also an art to hanging art.

“HUH?” you ask. Let me explain. When my daughter was a preschooler, we went to the home of a classmate for a play date, Bethany. As we walked down the hall to the living room, my neck craned upwards to look at a series of framed pieces of art. All were the same size, nicely framed, and evenly spaced. But something felt so…off. Wait! I was looking up while standing up. These prints were hung just a foot below the ceiling. I don’t know what Bethany’s mom was thinking (or not thinking), but this was not good. How could anyone enjoy artwork if doing so gave one a crick in one’s neck?

Doing some research, I learned that this is one of several mistakes that you can make when hanging wall décor in your space; mistakes that will not make you or your guests feel at home and at ease, but rather feeling a bit discombobulated.

Mistake #1: Hanging Art Too High

See what I mean? Hanging art too high is number one on the ApartmentTherapy.com mistake list! So what, exactly, is too high? This will be different for every home based on where the art is going, what it will be hanging above, how high the ceilings are, and what the room is used for. In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula that can tell you exactly where on your wall an art piece needs to go. But fear not; here are some easy guidelines.

  • 60” is a measurement to remember. Although different homes can require different placements, 60” on center is a great starting point. This means to place the center of your art piece 60″ from the floor. Then step back and see how that looks and feels. When hanging two art pieces, treat them as one and still hang them 60 inches from the floor to the center of the grouping. This rule also applies to groups of three and four. Make sure they are spaced only a few inches apart, so they look together and not disconnected.
  • Eyes on center is another consideration. What will you most likely be doing in the room – sitting or standing? If in a hallway where everyone is standing, you’ll want to hang art higher (but not a foot from the ceiling!) than if you’re in a room where you’re sitting most of the time. Place the art so your eyes rest on the center as appropriate in the room. Consider where your eyes rest when you walk into the rooms you use the most, including the foyer, living room, and primary bedroom. Common sense must prevail here, however. If you are 4’10” or 6’10” eyes on center may not be the best placement methodology for you.
  • Let your furniture guide placement. For a sofa or a headboard, start with 4″ to 8″ between the top of the furniture and the bottom of the art. This method will depend on how big the art piece is, and how much space exists between the furniture piece and your ceiling. Start here then step back to see if it looks right. NOTE: If the art is going above a sofa or console, the piece or group of pieces, should be approximately 2/3 width of the furniture.
  • The buddy system is also a useful method. Ask someone you trust to hold a piece of art up against a wall while you instruct them to move it up and down an inch or so at a time until it looks right. Then change places to see if you agree.

Mistake #2: Not Realizing Size DOES Matter

A tiny piece of art on a small wall will look and feel just as awkward as a huge piece in a small space. Why? The wrong size art makes the entire room – and its furnishings – seem out of scale and out of balance.

If you’ve fallen hard for a piece that’s too small, consider creating a collage wall. Two ways to achieve a successful collage wall are:

  • Use prints and photos with a similar theme and consistent frames. They could be black and white photos, botanicals, sketches, vacation pics, etc. Mixtiles is a great, inexpensive way to have fun with same size and shape photos. An added advantage is that they stick to the wall, so no nails needed, and the photos can be moved around easily.
  • Go with completely different pieces in mixed frames for an eclectic look. Hang large and medium pieces 2-3 inches apart, and smaller pieces 1.5-2.5 inches apart.

Other options for your too small art piece are to reframe using a larger frame and mat to make the piece seem larger. Or, you can paint (or hang) a solid square or rectangle of color or a beautiful piece of wallpaper behind the piece to make it seem larger. But don’t worry about achieving perfect proportion when hanging art, just remember the “go big or go home” attitude: If you’re going to do something out of scale to the rest of the room, make it obviously out of scale with the room, either way too big or way too small, so it seems intentional.

If you find you’re staring at a long, cold expanse of barren drywall, that’s usually an ideal place to hang a favorite artwork. A short wall that is sometimes obscured by an open door may not need anything.

Mistake #3: Not Enough Variety
When I moved in with my fiancé, there were Thomas Kinkade prints in every room, in every size, all framed in heavy, ornate gold frames. Kinkade’s are not really my thing, but he had a sentimental connection to this collection. So we compromised by creating The Kinkade Room – a guest bedroom filled with the entire collection. While the Kinkade’s in every room were overwhelming, they look great in The Kinkade Room.

When you hang the exact same type of art on every wall in every room of your home it’s called the Art Gallery Effect. It’s also called as “boring.” Mix unframed canvases and framed art. Hang tapestries or quilts. Display a collection – farm tools, decorative plates, masks, old printing stamps – and group on the wall. Your wall can tell the story of who you are and what you love.

Mistake #4: Improper Hanging
I used to report to a fellow who, upon entering any room, went about straightening crooked artwork. His actions drive me nuts, so I quickly got in the habit of checking for crooked artwork every day. This has become a lifelong habit (just like making sure the seams on all lampshades are turned to face the wall). Crooked artwork lends an air of “no one cares” to the space and is easily avoided by:

  • Using two nails spaced a couple of inches apart (depending on the size of the piece) instead of just one.
  • Adding small rubber bumpers to the corners of the piece will prevent your art from moving about.

Mistake #5: Not Leaning
Like an attractive person leaning up against the bar, leaning artwork can lend visual interest to a room. Consider leaning a tall mirror against the wall in a bedroom or hallway, or leaning a piece of art placed on top of your sofa, dresser, desk, or TV stand.  Not only does this trick add visual interest, it also adds textural interest to your place.

Well there you have it. You’ve decided where to hang all the beautiful things in your home. Next step? The actual hanging. Tune in next week for tips on the handyperson part of the process – The Art of the Hang.

 

 

 

Let’s Get Spicy

 

The Spices of Life

Perhaps you’ve just moved into your first apartment (congrats!). Or maybe you’re sick of eating carry out and frozen dinners (I feel ya!). Or, maybe you want to add a little spice to your culinary life by creatively seasoning your food (now we’re talkin’). These are all great reasons to invest a bit of time, energy, and money into adding spices to your pantry, or your kitchen cabinet, or wherever. Let’s chat about which basic spices to purchase, where to buy, how to store, and shelf life. In other words, let’s get spicy!

 “Spices are the friend of physicians and pride of cooks.”
—  Charlemagne, first emperor (800–814) of what was later called the Holy Roman Empire

Basic Herbs & Spices

Online searches for a list of basics does not provide a definitive list as taste is deeply personal based on your preferences – do you like spicy? Herbal? Heat? So this list is also personal – my preferences. I am admittedly a spice junkie with some 75 containers on stepped racks filling an entire three-shelf cabinet, so the list below is what I’d consider necessary if stranded on a desert island (with a full kitchen LOL).

My spice obsession certainly did not come from my mother-in-law, who only had seldom-used salt, pepper, and paprika in her kitchen. We never looked forward to eating at her place because the food was so bland and so boring. My mom has a decent selection of spices, but she still has containers she got when she first married in 1952. Some of her are so old, it’s like adding dust to food. No, my passion is self-curated.

Salt

A must have. Kosher salt is less salty than the iodized version, so it’s easier to control the salty taste. It does not, however, contain iodine, which is essential for good health (in moderation). Iodine does not taste great, so get it from something other than your salt. Sea salt comes in many varieties and can be very nice for finishing. Think chocolate chip cookies dusted with sea salt. YUM.

Pepper

There’s a huge difference in taste and freshness between the pre-ground stuff you find in pepper shakers everywhere and freshly ground pepper. Invest in a pepper grinder and never look back. There are many varieties of peppercorns; start with black peppercorns, preferably Indian Black Tellicherry. Some black peppercorn jars include their own grinder, perfect when you’re just starting out, and until you decide to go big. Try freshly-cracked pepper crusted steak for a restaurant experience at home.

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Oh, how I love the punch red pepper flakes add to just about everything. I once brought a large bag home from an adorable little market in Siena, Italy (pictured above) and made little gift pouches for my favorite cooks. All it takes is a pinch. Crushed red pepper flakes will lose their heat over time, so add just a bit and then add more if you’d like more heat.

Cumin

Can’t make a pot of chili without it! But there’s so much more you can do with cumin. Toss some wedges of sweet potato with salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil and roast until crispy for an excellent, healthy side.

Cayenne Pepper

Use the tiniest bit when making buffalo chicken wings and chili to add a different kind of peppery kick.

Chili Powder

Also a must have for chili. Smokey and spicy, Chili powder is commonly used in traditional Latin American dishes like enchiladas and tacos. But a spoonful also adds a welcome kick to grilled meats, stew, soup, a pot of beans, and vegetables.

Paprika

While fairly tame compared to other pepper-based spices, paprika adds warmth and earthiness to a dish. You’ll find that there are many different versions, some with a smokier or “hotter” flavor than others. This spice adds vibrant color to any dish. It can be sprinkled as a garnish over deviled eggs or potato salad, or used as a flavoring for meat rubs. It has a sweet pepper flavor, without any heat. Smoked paprika is delicious.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon mixed with sugar on buttered toast (heaven!) is not the only use for this spice. It’s great sprinkled on your latte, and an excellent addition to certain savory dishes such as chili, tomato sauces, and other savory dishes as well as in sweet treats like gingersnap cookies or banana bread.

Ground Ginger

If you like to bake or enjoy Asian or Indian foods, ground ginger is great to have on hand. It’s the predominant spice in gingerbread and gingersnap cookies and is also used in many sweet spice mixes like pumpkin pie spice. Ground ginger is also used in savory applications like spice rubs, tagines, and marinades, and is part of the Japanese spice blend shichimi togarashi. A note here: for use in savory dishes, buy a knob of fresh ginger and finely mince it or grate it on your microplane. (TIP: peeling fresh ginger is a snap using a spoon.) It’s hot and spicy in every good way.

Garlic Powder

Garlic powder is a recent addition to my spice larder. I absolutely prefer fresh garlic, but the powdered version can quickly add a garlicky flavor without the harsh bite of fresh.

Thyme

Thyme may be my favorite herb. It’s woodsy, lemony, and can be used in so many dishes. It’s wonderful to use either fresh or dried. And paired with chicken? Sublime.

Basil

Dried basil is delicious in sauces, like tomato sauce or pizza sauce, and as seasoning on chicken or other meats. Basil is an herb that tastes best fresh if using in uncooked dishes like caprese salad.

Rosemary

Dried Rosemary is a must for French and Mediterranean cooking. It is earthy, woodsy and piney. Rosemary can be an acquired taste for some, but it does give your dishes a one-of-a-kind flavor that helps them stand out from the crowd.

Oregano

Nothing says Italian quite like Oregano does! A little dried oregano will give your tomato sauce a real Italian vibe, and it’s great sprinkled on pizza. It can also be a pungent add in for Greek and Mexican dishes. Oregano is one herb I prefer dried over fresh.

Nutmeg

Just a dash adds so much flavor in both sweet and savory dishes. It is a must for bechamel sauces and other cheese dishes. However, you’ll probably use it most often in sweet treats that contain cinnamon. Buy the seeds whole as they last forever; but you’ll need a little grater. If you’d rather not stock your kitchen with specialty tools, you can use your microplane grater instead (a kitchen essential!).

Okay, this is a good start! While these herbs and spices will be a nice start for your spice cabinet, base your selections on the flavors and foods you most enjoy. No sense buying something you’ll never use. Then slowly expand your spice collection and add more flavors so you can enhance the overall taste and profile of everything you cook.

Spice Library

When you’re just getting started, it won’t matter so much how you organize. Once you have a larger collection, however, think about the best way to organize so it’s easy to find what you seek. My cabinet is currently organized by type – herbs, spices, seeds, specialty blends, baking and, quite frankly, it’s a hot mess. Perhaps alpha order would be a smart rainy-day project.

SMART STORAGE

There are almost as many ways to store your spices as there are spices! Stepped spice racks, pull-out units, and lazy susans work great for in-cabinet storage. If you have an extra drawer (is that an oxymoron?!?), jars can be laid down or – if you label the lid tops – lined up inside. There are wall shelves, fridge magnet storage, and wheeled storage. Figure out where you have room and how much storage space you’ll need, then organize away!

SAFE STORAGE

Jars of spices over the stove might sound convenient, but because herbs and spices deteriorate when exposed to heat, light and moisture, it’s not the most ideal place to keep them.

The best storage temperature for herbs and spices is one that is fairly constant and below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This means your herbs and spices must be kept away from the furnace, stove, and the heat of the sun. Temperature fluctuations can cause condensation and eventually mold. If you store spices in the freezer or refrigerator, return them there promptly after use.

A good storage system keeps herbs and spices dry and in the dark as well. Amber glass jars with airtight lids are ideal. You might also keep them in a cupboard or drawer. Cover the jars with large opaque labels or use a cloth to cover them when not in use.

In summary, store your herbs and spices in clean, airtight containers, away from heat and light and handle them thoughtfully.

SHELF LIFE

Be Proactive

Write the month and year on the label every time you add an herb or spice to your collections. Some spices in particular have a tendency to outlive others. Frequently used spices are exposed to air more frequently and will need to be replaced sooner.

Use Your Sniffer

Don’t just look at ‘Sell By’ dates. Take the cap off and smell it. Since some expiration dates can be arbitrary or confusing, it’s OK to use your best judgement by using your senses: sight, smell and touch. The spice itself should be bright and fragrant. If it doesn’t have any smell, it likely isn’t strong enough to flavor your food. If stored in a cool, dark place, a spice should be OK to use as long as it holds its vibrant color, too. However, a spice stored in an area that gets a lot of light will show discoloration much more quickly and lose its flavoring power.

Ground or Whole?

Pre-ground spices might be more convenient but whole spices last the longest because the essential oils are kept inside and that’s where the majority of the flavor is. Whole spices can last three to four years, which will ultimately save you money. Once spices are ground, however, there is more surface area and they will quickly lose their “chemical compounds” that make them such great flavoring agents. In general, ground spices may last one to two years maximum, while dried herbs can last up to three years. But how does one grind spices you ask? You can purchase a small spice grinder, or get a mortar and pestle.

WHERE TO BUY

Thankfully, herbs and spices are readily available in grocery stores, big box stores, on line, and in specialty stores. When buying new additions for your cabinet, consider the container size. When I’m trying something new, or something that I may use only occasionally, I rely on Penzy’s Spices online store. They offer little jars and have an amazing variety. They also offer big bags of items you may use a lot of, like salt and pepper.

 

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.”
Frank Herbert, Dune

Now go add some spice to your life and enjoy every moment.

 

How to Clean Tile and Grout and Keep It Clean

woman cleaning shower

I dread doing many household chores. My least favorite has to be cleaning the tile and grout in the bathroom. It never ceases to amaze me that a place we use to get clean, and that’s filled with soap and water daily, can get so dirty. UGH. Because I loathe it so much, I have embraced a preventative measure – a cleaning routine.  An ounce of prevention – in this case less than two minutes a day – is worth a pound of cure – 30 minutes or more of scrubbing. Think of it as protecting your tile and grout instead of rescuing it.

My easy-peasy method utilizes a squeegee and a rinse-free daily shower cleaner. After each shower, before I even grab a towel, I do a quick dry with my squeegee. Then a quick spray of rinse free shower cleaner to keep everything sparking clean in between “big” cleans. When those faint pink blotches just start to appear, I dive in for a deeper clean usually once a week. Those pink stains are not mold; it a form of water-borne bacteria. ARGH!!

HOW TO DE-PINK

Make a Cleaning Solution

Mix one-half cup of baking soda with one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid or all-purpose cleaner. The resulting paste will be runny. Make a double or triple batch depending on how much tile you need to clean.

Protect Yourself

Do wear rubber gloves, protective eyewear, and a mask to protect yourself from exposure to the bacteria.

Prep the Area

Since the pink slime (it’s bacteria!) can grow on plastic and fabric surfaces, you should wash your shower curtain and liner. Toss washable curtains and liners in the washing machine and wash in warm to hot water with your regular laundry detergent. Dry fabric curtains following the care label instructions but air dry, or replace, plastic liners.

Scrub

Dip a nylon-bristle scrub brush in your baking soda solution and scrub away! Start at the top and work your way down.

Rinse

Rinsing is a pain if you don’t have a hand-held shower spray. You can rinse with a towel or by using a large water-filled pitcher or measuring cup.

Disinfect

In a spray bottle, mix a 50:50 solution of warm water and chlorine bleach. Use caution with the bleach mixture as it will remove color from any fabrics, towels, or rugs if you accidentally drip or overspray. Or, you can use a bathroom disinfecting spray.

Now we’re having fun, right?

Tips to Prevent Pink Goo Growth

  • Keep surfaces dry (use your squeegee after every shower!)
  • Close your shower curtain after bathing so it will dry quicker
  • Clean your tile with a bathroom cleaner weekly
  • Use your bathroom exhaust fan or crack a window (if you have either) every time you shower

CLEANING DIRTY TILE AND GROUT

“The best way to clean heavily stained or aged grout is to maintain a cleaning schedule. Do not allow stains and soils to build up over time,” said David Mowery, a business manager of Tile and Stone Installation Systems for the MAPEI Corporation. “The sooner you address grout stains, the better.”

What tools are needed?

How long will it take?

For a full-size shower, the entire process can take 15 minutes or longer depending on how much tile you’re trying to clean and the severity of the stains.

What kind of stain is that anyway?

Bathroom tile and grout stains caused by mold or mildew thrive in the damp corners of a bathroom shower and the porous, concrete-based grouts that are commonly found in between bathroom tiles.

These stains respond best to alkaline or high-pH cleaners like Tilex Mold & Mildew or StoneTech Mold & Mildew Stain Remover or Scrubbing Bubbles.

The other common source of staining in a shower is rust or lime buildup. Hard water deposits can stain the porous tile and grout in your bathroom. Rust has a reddish-brown tint, while lime scale usually has a chalky-white or pale green color.

To deal with these kinds stains, use a cleaner with a lower pH such as Bar Keepers Friend More Spray and FoamZep Grout Cleaner and Brightener, and CLR Brilliant Bath .

Cleaning the tile

Apply the cleaner by directly spraying it on the wall or onto a damp sponge, cloth, or brush. Let the solution sit for a short period, and then scrub with the brush, making sure to get the bristles into the grout itself. Rinse thoroughly and let the area dry.

No No’s

To avoid damaging your tile or grout, do not use the below items which can scratch tiles or chemically damage grout.

  • Wire brushes or steel wool
  • Abrasive cleaners like Borax or Comet

Okay, that wasn’t so bad. Now promise me you’ll keep your tile and grout clean because bathing in a dirty shower is gross and kinda counterintuitive.

 

 

Resources: Wirecutter.com, TheSpruce.com

Roommates, Part 2. Conflict Resolution.

When Conflict Happens

 

You did your homework, or so you thought. You carefully reviewed the pros and cons of sharing a living space with another human, found the perfect roommate, and took all the appropriate steps to ensure living together would be nirvana. Yet there’s trouble in paradise. UGH. Now how are you going to resolve the conflict that has arisen with your roomie? You may feel like this is the worst, but rest assured there are tales about roommate conflicts that will make your issue seem like a walk in the park.

Conflict happens. Suddenly two people who thought nothing could ruin their friendship find themselves struggling to communicate about even the smallest things. Speaking up about things that bother you before that bother festers is tough; most people try to avoid unpleasant conversations at all costs. When living with a roommate, it’s critical to maintain a good and cordial relationship with that person. Here are some tips on ways to resolve conflict regardless of the cause of the trouble.

How To Share Your Feelings Without Starting A Fight

While you may have discussed who will pay what bill, rules pertaining to guests, and how clean you want to keep the apartment, most of us learn the importance of these conversations after a few bad experiences. If you haven’t communicated your preferences with your roommate, they probably have no idea that they have certain behaviors that drive you nuts. Moreover, you’re probably driving them bananas, too.

When an issue arises, communication is key to successfully solving the problem. Most roommate conflicts are the result of miscommunication or, in some cases, a total lack of communication. If you can communicate effectively, it will be much easier to develop a comfortable living environment for yourself and your roommate. Avoiding an uncomfortable conversation won’t make issues go away, and will only increase your level of frustration.

  • Don’t be passive aggressive by leaving sticky notes, sending emails, or texting when you probably see your roommate every day. Instead, ask if you can have an in-person conversation.
  • Start the conversation by letting your roommate know that you care about them and about your home, and you want living together to be the best experience possible for both of you.
  • Don’t approach your roommate when you’re angry as that’s going to put them on the defensive, and they’ll be less likely to consider your concerns if they feel attacked.
  • Don’t accuse your roommate of anything. Instead, use “I” statements like, “I feel really frustrated when I wash the dishes and then I come home and there are dirty dishes in the sink. I would really appreciate it if we could come together on how to keep the kitchen clean.” By using “I” statements, you’re expressing how youfeel instead of placing blame on the other person.
  • Practice active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and showing that you are listening. Carefully listen to what your roommate says instead of becoming defensive.
  • Acknowledge your roommate’s point of view by saying something affirming like “I can understand why it’s difficult for you to wash the dishes when you work late and are tired.”  Making your roommate feel heard can really help to diffuse anger or frustration. Everyone wants their feelings to be acknowledged, and this is an important step in resolving conflict.
  • Don’t complain about your roommate’s behaviors before having an open discussion with them.

After you and your roommate have discussed the problem(s), work together to agree how to move forward. In a shared living space, you can’t expect the people you’re living with to acquiesce to all of your preferences. Instead, you need to work out a compromise you can all live with.

If, for example, the issue is something small like doing the dishes, it’s unrealistic to expect a messy roommate to suddenly become neat overnight. If having a messy kitchen makes you anxious, you may be able to agree that the messy person is responsible for a chore you don’t like while you do all the dishes. Understand that you both will have to give a little in order to create and maintain a peaceful living environment. The most important thing to remember is that letting minor issues accumulate and build up could result in one of you unleashing anger that doesn’t match the situation or living in an environment full of resentment.

While everyone appreciates honesty, presentation is everything. Before having that comversation, think about how you’d feel if that person asked you to change something about your own habits and behaviors — and how you’d wish to be spoken to, in the face of a situation like this.

  • Try to be careful about the frequency of discussing your roommate’s behavior.
  • Try to be fair and balanced.
  • Aim for a compromise that works for your both.
  • Respect your roommate’s views and try to understand their backgrounds.

Imagine a situation where your roommate brings over their significant other during a designated day over the weekend, but that’s also the only day you have to prepare for your next week’s work.

A potential solution may be to work out a reasonable schedule or timeframe, where quiet time is set for you and an alternate time is set for your roommate to entertain.

Remember that a well-constructed relationship is where both people involved are examining what’s needed on their end. If a common space is being shared, then you’re both equally liable to take ownership of what goes on in that space. Oftentimes the best roommates are the ones who are simply capable of being respectful and courteous to one another!

 

Roommates, Part 2. Before You Roommate.

meeting of the minds after discussing sharing an apartment

Hello, Roommate!

Roommates II – Before You Roommate

 

In our last blog post, we explored the pros and cons of sharing an apartment with a roommate and you’ve decided a roommate is right for you. Congratulations! Now, how can you ensure that you and your roomie will see eye-to-eye on life in the same space and prevent misunderstandings and conflicts during your time together (‘cause ain’t nobody got time for that)?

Here are some topics you and your roommate should discuss before you sign that lease agreement.

FINANCES

Rent

How will you split the rent? Will you share 50/50 or will one of you pay more for a larger bedroom/better view/attached bath? Click here  to explore these and other considerations.

Are you both going to pay the property owner separately (is that even permitted by your landlord or management company), or will one person pay and reimburse the other each month? If so, will you issue a receipt for payment?

Utilities

Some apartments may include a few utilities in the rent, such as trash removal, but for many, you and your roommate will be paying for utilities like electric, gas, water/sewer, cable, internet service, premium TV channels like Hulu and Netflix. You may wish to share some expenses and keep some separate. Here are some useful guidelines along with available apps to keep everything organized.

It may seem unimportant now, but talk about your preference in apartment temperature. One of you, like my brother-in-law, may like their space to be like a freezer box, while the other prefers not to have to layer up in the summer. And, are you willing to pay more to keep the apartment uber cool or toasty warm? My current housemate likes much cooler temps than I do, so I keep pretty throws in the living room and on my bed.

Schedules

Review your daily schedules – when you work (especially important if you work remotely), when you like to get up, and your target bedtime. My dad was a very early riser and hated to be alone, so he expected the entire family to get up with him…at 5:00AM. A roommate sleeping in is no big deal unless they require absolute quiet. Earplugs can be a game-changer as can a sleep mask.

When do you each prefer shower time? If there’s just one bath in the apartment, you’ll need to plan not only when you shower but for how long.

When and how will you eat dinner? Will you share cooking and clean up responsibilities or will your schedules or meal preferences mean you’ll each be doing your own meal prep and clean up? My daughter’s roommate is a vegan chef with food allergies. While these two often dine together, her roommate’s cookware cannot come into contact with foods that make her sick. Fortunately, the two of them made a plan to keep their own cookware in designated cabinets, and dine together only when they eat foods they both can enjoy. Another roommate-from-hell person lived with them for a short time and was a constant source of frustration because she ate food she did not purchase, used dishware and cookware that was not hers, and never cleaned up after herself.

Consider how you will divvy up refrigerator space as well. You do not want to come home with $50 worth of groceries only to discover your roommate has not left an inch of space in the fridge or freezer open.

Guests

Decide in advance when guests may visit your apartment, if there should be a limit on the number of guests, if you prefer advance notice of any guests coming to visit, and if you are okay with overnight guests.  What will you both do if one roommate becomes involved in a serious relationship and wants that significant other to move in? Will the SO share in the expenses and household chores?

Quiet

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What about your roommate? While introverts and extroverts can certainly live together in harmony, you’ll need to come to an agreement about shared activities, social time, and quiet time.

Pets

If neither of you has a pet, your lease permits them, will you both be amenable to adding a furry friend to the household? If yes, be sure to discuss what happens when the pet owner can’t be home to feed or walk the dog, who cleans up any messes, and what happens if Rover chews up the belongings of the person who is not the pet owner?

Sharing

Decide in advance what will and won’t be shared and how to share what must be shared. For example, sharing grooming supplies may be among the things you absolutely do not wish to share, but you may be willing to share clothing if requested in advance, whereas sharing the remote may not be a big deal at all. Sharing plans can address:

  1. Household Supplies
  2. Food
  3. Personal Property
  4. Kitchen Items
  5. TV
  6. Music

Cleaning

How will you divvy up cleaning responsibilities? You each can be responsible for your own bedroom and laundry, take turns cleaning the living room and bathroom, and clean the kitchen together. Talk frankly about your personal preferences as a clean freak living with a slob can create a lot of friction.

Courtesy

Courtesy and respect will go a long way in creating a pleasant home environment. Topics to consider include:

  • Smoking – will smoking (of any kind) be permitted indoors?
  • Alcohol – will there be limits on consumption?
  • Copies of keys – will you share copies of keys with friends and family members?
  • Parking – if limited designated parking is available with the apartment, how will you determined who gets the reserved space?
  • Parties – are spontaneous parties permissible or will you need to plan party time in advance?
  • Privacy – what spaces in the apartment are off limits to your roommate? Do you both want to share what goes on in your personal life or not?

Once you and your roommate become like minded about this myriad of living together topics, consider a formal Roommate Agreement so you have everything in writing – just in case things head south at any point. To get you started, ApartmentGuide.com has created a Roommate Agreement Template. Your agreement should also include language on what will happen if one of you needs to break the lease, and how you will handle any conflicts which may arise.

Now, go get yourself some boxes, pack up your stuff, and get ready to embark on a new adventure of living with a roommate.

Roommates, Part 1. The Pros & Cons.

To Roommate Or Not To Roommate

 

Over the course of my life, I’ve lived with roommates and lived on my own. Friends and family have asked which I prefer – it’s really hard to say as there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both living styles. If you’ve decided to get a new place and have thought about getting a roommate, let’s explore the pros and cons.

ROOMMATE YEA

There are many good reasons to say, “YES!” to sharing a space. Consider:

Loneliness

After the last year and a half living with COVID, loneliness was a big problem for many. My mom, who lives alone, really struggled – especially at mealtime. We’re all okay with eating a meal in the company of a good book or the TV from time to time, but almost every meal cooked or ordered in, and eaten alone can be rough. Sure, you can dine with friends and family from time to time, but you will undoubtedly eat alone most of the time.

Even if you’re not close with your roommate, just having someone else around and someone else to talk to makes a body feel less isolated.

Convenience

It’s so convenient to have a roommate about. For example, if you have different schedules, a roommate can feed your pet or water the plants when you’re not at home to do it. If you go out of town, your roommate will be there to keep an eye on your place and accept packages for you. My daughter was called out of town unexpectedly for weeks. Thank goodness her roomie was there to save her plant collection (and to keep up with the dusting).

Savings

A roommate will help you save money, and who doesn’t want that? You can rent a larger apartment – say a two-bedroom instead of a one-bedroom. A two-bedroom in a typical apartment community will not be double the price of a one-bedroom, so each of you will get more room and more value. For example, at Park Lane Apartments in Cincinnati, a one-bedroom/one-bath is $920 while a two-bedroom/two-bath is available for just $225 more. You and your roomie will split utility bills and can share the cost of groceries, and other apartment expenses. When it comes to cooking/eating in, it is less expensive to cook for two (or more) than cooking for just one. There will also be savings on cleaning supplies and other household items.

Help

When I shared and apartment with a good friend, I worked a regular 9:00AM to 5:00PM schedule while she had a job that required her to attend frequent evening meetings. She loved coming home to dinner on the table, and I let her OCD keep our place tidy. Think about the possibility of half the housework, half the cooking, half the responsibility of shopping for groceries and household supplies! Or, your roommate can do the chores you dislike and vice versa. Win, win! Sharing errands and chores helps lighten the load for both of you and gives you more free time to enjoy the fun things in life.

ROOMMATE NAY

Hmmm…that all sounds great, but what about living alone? Downsides to share a space include:

Privacy

Naturally, when you live alone you’ll enjoy considerably more privacy than if you share a space. You can do what you want when you want. Have guests over, throw a party, get home late, and leave early without having to worry about disturbing a roommate. Go ahead, leave your socks on the floor!  Hang out in your undies!

Conflict

Living with another person isn’t always that easy. My freshman year in college, I had a difficult roommate. At first, everything was great. We’d agreed on room décor (posters and bedding), and got along great. Then she started using my perfume (instead of bathing – UGH!), and wound up using it up without ever asking permission.  She also helped herself to my clothes despite having so many clothes her parents shipped her a new trunk seasonally. The final straw came the day I had a big date. My best friends had helped me pick out the perfect outfit which we laid out on my bed. Later that day I saw my roommate wearing the outfit to class. Grrrr.

Conflicts are almost inevitable when sharing a home with someone else whether that person is friend, family, or relative stranger. There’s a plethora of issues that can create tension in your home. Lifestyle conflicts (a roommate who likes to play guitar while you need quiet to work from home), financial issues (a roommate who can’t or won’t pay their share of the rent and expenses), cleaning conflicts (one person is tidy, the other is a slob), or respect issues (your roommate uses your personal things – like your perfume! – without asking permission). Living alone is the only way to guarantee that none of these problems ever arises.

So as you consider whether to room with someone, let me leave you with this parting question: are you an over or an under person? You know, with the toilet paper roll. I am typically an over (although the TP roll isn’t something I lose sleep over). When my mom recently came for a two week visit, I discovered she’s an under person. I’d put on a new roll (over) and she’d switch it. This went on daily during her stay.

Neither one of us said anything about it, but I giggled every time I noticed she’d switched it. So if you can live with the toilet roll upside down, you’re probably good roommate material (read our blog next week on things you can do to ensure a good roommate relationship). Otherwise, you might want to think hard about that one-bedroom apartment.