Last Thanksgiving, I moved out of my childhood home and into my very first apartment. In the just over a year of "adulting," I've learned that I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Here are a few things I wish someone had told me beforehand...
1. Bill collectors don't mess around!
If you're as much as a few hours late on paying a bill, expect a letter dropped in the mail and/or an e-mail in your inbox notifying you about it. Stay ahead by keeping a calendar, and write in each bill's due date. Then, place the calendar where you will see it every day — either hang it on your fridge or leave it on your kitchen counter if it's a notebook calendar like the one I have.
If you are looking at the calendar several times a day — even if you are not sitting there and studying it — it becomes less likely that you will miss due dates.
2. The first of each month creeps up QUICKLY
Sometimes it will feel like you JUST paid your rent when it is already due again. Be prepared by having at least a few months' worth of rent saved up.
This way, you will never be late on rent, even if the first of the month catches you off guard (again).
3. It requires constant effort to keep everything in the house stocked
It isn't easy keeping track of everything from toilet paper and toothpaste to trash bags and laundry detergent. And their prices add up quickly! The best way I've found so far to try and not run out of everything I need is by keeping a grocery list and pen on my kitchen counter, right next to my trusty calendar.
When I notice I'm running low on something, such as dishwasher pods, I simply write it on the list. Then, when the list gets long enough, I bring it with me to Wal-Mart and try and get everything I need in one trip.
4. Cleaning is no walk in the park either.
I am hereby acknowledging my privilege and saying I totally took for granted when my mom, and then the maintenance crew in my college dorm, cleaned my bathroom for me. In order for things not to get out of hand, I keep a handwritten list of everything in my apartment that needs cleaning. And when I clean one thing, I check it off.
Once every item on the list has a checkmark, I re-write a new list for next time. This way, I don't get overwhelmed by trying to clean every single thing in my house all in one day. Instead, I do it little by little when I have the time.
Sure, I'll have a cleaning day now and again, but more often than not I perform one cleaning task a day to keep up with it without tiring myself out after work.
5. You most likely won't get your security deposit back in full
When I first paid my security deposit, I thought to myself, "for sure I will get that back in full whenever I move out." But, I learned that life happens. I've dropped heavy objects and scratched up the wall. I've accidentally burned a spot onto my kitchen table with a burning hot bowl.
I've spilled things onto the carpet that I was unable to get out, even with carpet cleaner. I've also broken things by accident, such as my refrigerator door handle, and the pulley attached to my ceiling fan. I've come to terms with the fact that I won't be getting my security deposit back in full, and that's OK.
That is what it's there for, after all.
6. Coasters are not a want, but a need
When I was growing up, I thought people who insisted you use coasters when you visited their house were annoying. But now I understand. I harass my friends when they come over to always use a coaster. It prevents rings from appearing on the tabletops, which falls under the category of that security deposit we were chatting about earlier.
I recommend buying a pretty set of coasters from a shop like Marshalls. That way, the coasters are nice-looking, and they all match.
7. Housekeeping is a big responsibility
You can't just pick up and LEAVE if you want like you could with your parents. If you want to go on vacation, you still have to pay your bills. You also need to find someone to come care for your pets, bring in your mail, etc.
You are also responsible for turning off your heating/air conditioning when you leave and locking up your doors and windows. You may also be required to have renter's insurance, in the event any damage or break-in happens to your home.
Although housekeeping is a bigger responsibility than I anticipated, I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world. I love having my own apartment, despite the expenses and stresses associated with it. It's the best decision I ever made, and not nearly as frightening as I worked myself up to be.
It is a wonderful journey I know you will do just fine on.