In college, there’s nothing as sweet as moving out of your dorm and into your own place for the first time. That autonomy that you’ve been building up to for nearly two decades of your life is finally here. But although we all love the feeling of having our own space, it’s not always easy to go from dorm life to apartment life. To ease that transition here are some tips to make sure you can make the most out of your first time in your own apartment.
The crowning jewel of getting my first place was having my very own bathroom. No need to rely on building maintenance to clean off the toilet seats from guys who couldn’t possibly hit the bowl if their lives depended on it. No more having to use a public shower! Hallelujah! It was easily the greatest part of moving out of a dorm and into an apartment. But after seemingly no time at all, the shower curtain started to get moldy. The shower drain was clogged with hair. The toilet was… less than savory. There’s no one who’s going to do this for you anymore, so strap on the rubber gloves, hold your nose, and get down and dirty. Obviously there’s more to clean than just the bathroom, but if you can conquer cleaning your own bathroom, other things like dusting the shelves and washing the dishes will seem easy by comparison.
No, I’m not talking about putting up your favorite posters or a tapestry along the main wall (although if that’s your thing, more power to you). I’m talking about making this an adult living space. We all want to come off as adults in our new spaces, but too often we act like we’re still living in freshman year. If you have the means, customize that space with more adult interior designs. Christmas lights and alcohol graveyards are great for dorm rooms, but they’re not so great for people whose ages are double digits and start with a 2. Don’t be afraid of IKEA or Bed, Bath and Beyond if you don’t know where to start. There’s no need to hire a professional either. Start small. This is a trial run for when we all hopefully have our own adult spaces outside of college.
Congrats, you have your own space now, away from the RAs and the rules against having alcohol on campus! What’s the only appropriate way to celebrate? With a party! But be warned: you can’t party every day like you did in the dorm. Most of us never thought about how we were all packed into a dorm like sardines, but those close quarters made it easy to give up any sense of privacy. You’ll probably miss those close quarters during the early days of living the apartment life, but having your own private space isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing. For the first time in at least a year (if not longer), your bedroom shouldn’t also double as the community meeting place. Make some boundaries. It will help you keep your sanity.
The other side of the coin to making sure you have space is making sure you don’t become a hermit. In dorm life, you basically lived on top of each other. You saw people every single day, made friends with everyone you lived around, and had to share everything: bathrooms, refrigerators, bedrooms, everything. In apartments, you almost never knock on neighbors doors. You don’t have nearly the same level of interaction as you did in the dorm. So it’s important to make an effort to get out of the house. Find a sport you like playing with your friends. Have a designated movie night. Make sure you invite friends over and put in the effort, because when you’re not seeing someone in the hallway every single day, it’s easy to take that for granted.
This one might seem a little strange out of context. What does being comfortable with making a phone call have to do with living in your own apartment for the first time. Well, you’re going to have a lot of amenities in your space: cable television, washing machines, dryers, maybe parking passes for the garage you keep your car in. And they’re all going to not work at times. Just about every modern living space has an online place to complain about these things and to try and place a work order, but the chances of those actually working are slim. The only way to get your stuff fixed is to pick up the phone, dial up management or building services, and proceed to bitch and moan until they get so annoyed that they can’t ignore you anymore. You’ll need to cultivate your persuasion skills, and your comfort in being able to dial up someone in less-than ideal circumstances is an essential skill that is best learned now.
Cooking every single day is something that dorm life in no way prepares you for. And as such, most people spend the first few months like they’re still living in a dorm room. The microwave is your best friend, heating up everything from mac and cheese to taquitos to whatever leftovers are left in the fridge. This is a fine way to live, but it gets old pretty quickly. Unless you’re consistently fawned over by someone who really knows how to cook, you’ll have to get some basic recipes down in order to survive. If you really miss home cooked meals, try to get a parent or grandparent to assemble some of your favorite meals in a handy booklet to give you a taste of home when you feel really homesick. Otherwise, experiment. Look up some recipes or some online videos of meals that look tasty and try them for yourself. Once cooking becomes less of a burden and more of a routine, you’ll feel a whole lot better than just making frozen pizzas every day.
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