How to Win at Apartment Living

By Jess Hutton

How to Win at Apartment Living

Sometimes apartment life is anything but ideal. Living units are small, neighbors are noisy, and landlords can be tenacious. However, with just a little bit of creativity, you can turn your temporary rental into the perfect home. Here are 10 tips to help you start maximizing your apartment life.

1. Customize your space.

Most apartments feature outdated home fixtures and boring paint colors, but you can fix that. Use your contract as a guide to transform your apartment into a space you love. Many apartments allow you to paint the walls if you repaint them to their original color before you move out. You can also hang art pieces or apply temporary wallpaper to modernize your space. With a few simple fixes like installing new fixtures and replacing “pretty much everything in your apartment that’s just being held on with a screw,” as Lifehacker puts it, you can make your apartment feel like home without losing your deposit.

Photo by Stacie/Flickr

2. Invest in noise-canceling alternatives.

If loud neighbors are disturbing your beauty sleep, reduce the noise that gets in. Buy some good earplugs, use a white noise machine (or a white noise app), lay down thick rugs, or turn on a loud fan. The Huffington Post shares some unique ideas, too — they recommend moving furniture, mounting acoustic tiles, and even using curtains to muffle noise.

3. Learn to love where you live.

A great neighborhood can make all the difference in apartment living. Explore your city like you’re a tourist. Take weekend day trips to new locations in your hood. Visit the local shops and parks that surround your apartment. Experience a sunrise and a sunset from your patio. When you go for a walk, take a new route and discover the hidden gems around your apartment — maybe you’ll stumble upon a pretty pathway or some interesting street art. Do as much as you can to find what makes your neighborhood unique.

Photo by La Citta Vita/Flickr

4. Be a model roommate.

Being a picture-perfect roommate goes beyond washing your dishes and cleaning your hair out of the bathroom drain. Consider setting some general roommate rules, too. How will you handle overnight guests? Who will purchase shared appliances? Do you need to establish quiet hours? She Does the City recommends you get all those boring, nitty-gritty details out of the way first. Decide how you will split costs for communal apartment supplies like toilet paper and garbage bags. Set a policy for sharing food. Agree on a mutually acceptable thermostat setting.

Photo by Christina Murillo/Flickr

5. Follow apartment rules.

Every apartment has a set of rules that are usually easy to maintain. Things like quiet hours, pet policies, and garbage removal may seem like guidelines that were made to be broken, but they may be important to your fellow apartment dwellers, so be courteous. If you respect the rules that matter to your landlord and co-tenants, they’ll (hopefully) return the favor when you have requests, too.

6. Host a great event.

One of the best parts about having your own space is sharing it with others. Invite your friends and loved ones to enjoy your apartment with you. Host an event that’s your style — a dinner party, movie night, or cocktail hour. You don’t need a huge space to do this. As long as the place is clean and clutter-free, your guests will feel pampered with space to sit and set drinks. Additionally, the importance of great food, plentiful drinks, and a relaxed host cannot be overstated.

Photo by cdk/Flickr

7. Respect common spaces.

Hallway railings are not bike racks, front stoops are not trash dumps, and the common room isn’t your office. Everyone’s rights must be considered in these common areas. Keep phone conversations quiet in the halls, return misfiled letters in the mailroom, and never make someone clean up after you.

8. Get to know your neighbors.

You don’t have to be best friends with your neighbors, but do be friendly with them. Get to know their names, hold the elevator door for them, and wave when you see them outside. Good neighbors are rare, but by being one yourself, you’ll increase the chances that your neighbors will treat you kindly, too. Fellow tenants will be more willing to turn down the volume on the TV for someone they regularly chat with in the halls than for a hermit who ignores them.

Photo by Tony Alter/Flickr

9. Resolve differences peacefully.

An unfortunate side of apartment living is the fact that you may butt heads with your neighbors. The key is to keep your cool. Be direct about issues, but don’t start the conversation when you’re heated. Curbed’s guide to common neighborly disagreements suggests approaching issues with a bottle of wine in hand — the neighbor from hell isn’t going to transform into a model tenant, but there’s no need to start a war. Also, try to resolve the issue with the offending neighbor first, before calling the landlord. Use the apartment rules as your armor and keep records of your conversations. The latter is especially important if the issue does escalate.

Photo by Kurt Collins/Flickr

10. Maintain a good landlord/tenant relationship.

Be respectful and kind to your landlord, and your landlord will be more responsive to your needs. Beyond paying your rent on time, treat your landlord like you would treat a boss you want to impress. Engage in small talk when you see them in the halls, and compliment upgrades they’ve made to the building. Don’t be a nagging tenant, either. Fix minor stuff yourself instead of running to maintenance every time a faucet starts to leak.

Living in a small rental space in a high-density housing situation can be tough. But it’s also got its perks, like low costs and new friends. You’ll be spending a lot of your time in your apartment, so take the time to make the experience a good one.

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Featured photo by DennisM2/Flickr