life in a tiny apartment.

February 12, 2014

Tip #92: Have a checklist.

In the spirit of not counting chickens before they’re hatched, I’m not going into details about last night’s apartment search. They’ll be plenty of time for that. Instead, here’s a list of things that I’ve found helpful to do while considering tiny apartments.

Here’s the thing: You’ll likely only get one chance to view a place before needing to commit, so it’s a smart idea to make sure that you’re covering your bases while you have the chance to be inside. If I’ve forgotten anything, I’m sure you’ll let me know:

Don’t be shy…

  • Measure: If you’re looking at tiny apartments you’re likely looking at spaces that may not fit your existing furniture. Will your double bed hang over the bathroom door entrance? It’s hard to know for sure without a tape measure…and honestly, it’s nice to be able to quiet the chatter of an insistent broker with an actual measurement. Beds don’t shrink and walls don’t move, so know what you’re dealing with.
  • Double check that the apartment has all of the appliances that you need or want. It’s easy to overlook the fact that there’s no oven, for instance, when the kitchen is really tiny. It might gross you out, but open the appliances up, too. Better to see what’s in store for you now.
  • Check the water pressure. Don’t wait until your first shower to realize there’s nary a drop of water. Or that there’s a steady stream of brown goo, or anything else unsavory. (And then carefully consider renting the space…plumbing isn’t something that’s likely to get sorted easily.)
  • Open the windows. Especially if you’re viewing an apartment in the evening and it’s hard to know what kind of air vent/rock band/screaming hellions might be lurking outside. Also good for determining whether there are screens, if the windows are painted shut, and whether the locks work.
  • Whip out your compass. I know. But if light is important to you, it’s nice to know what kind of sunshine you’ll be getting. If you’re not living in 1890 and spending time on a boat, there are apps for this sort of thing…
  • Open the cabinet doors: Try to overlook overflowing garbage cans and envision your own beautiful cleaning supplies lined up in a row…also make sure there’s not a disaster of a leak or mold or signs of buggy infestations, or anything else that needs more than a good scrub to fix. Do you know what roach poop looks like? Good. 
  • Along the same lines, peep along the baseboards. Look out for mouse traps, roach traps, ant traps, etc. Then proceed very cautiously.
  • Flip the light switches. Brokers love to turn the lights on for you in an apartment, but it’s good to turn them off, too, so that you have a sense of what a space looks like in the natural light.
  • Bring a cell phone charger or other small appliance. This one’s a bit fussy (and we haven’t done this in 99% apartments we’ve visited, but we have lived in more than one apartment with outlets that don’t work). Plug your phone into each socket and be sure that they all work, or that you can manage if they don’t.
  • Take photos. Believe me, you’re going to want to obsess over look at them later. If you have a fancy phone and can take panoramic shots, even better. 

Above all else: take your time. You have the right to do a thorough inspection.

Did you miss last week’s list of paperwork needed to rent an apartment in New York City? Head here.

For tiny apartment survival tips #1-91 here.



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  • Reply Mary Schaubert February 12, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    This is an awesome list!! I ALWAYS wish I'd brought a measuring tape because we have an oversized sectional, and my husband always remembers to check the water, but I have never thought to bring a phone charger to check outlets and we've had big issues with that before.

  • Reply lindsaymarie February 12, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    SO helpful! my fiance and i will soon start our hunt for a tiny brooklyn spot of our own (i refuse to get married while we still have roommates!) and i'm so overwhelmed already!

  • Reply Pat February 12, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Among the 'critters' to check for …. bed bugs!!

  • Reply Anonymous February 12, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Good list! Another one that's become important to me: check the doors to see if they shut. Our past two apartments have lovely vintage doors and knobs, but many either don't fully engage with the frame or pop back open. I know there are always compromises that must be made in old buildings, but when your bathroom door won't stay shut, it can just get weird–especially for guests!

  • Reply Kristen Y February 12, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I love this post. I'm not apartment searching, but I feel like I'm always rushing to get things figured out, that I never slow down and take my time. But definitely loving the tip of not being shy!

  • Reply east side bride February 12, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    I was sort of hoping for a roach poop link

  • Reply Brooke February 12, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Wow this is a fantastic list of things to check. We will be moving to a new apartment around summer time and I am definitely logging all of these tips away for future reference.

  • Reply blants February 12, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    What a wonderful list! So helpful!

    That comment about the doors opening and closing is so true! While the front door of our building opens and closes, the actual door to the apartment never has. We've asked the landlord to fix it but so far, no dice (we just use the back entrance).

    The other critical thing to measure is hallways! Even if your furniture fits, sometimes it can be impossible to get it through doorways/hallways.

  • Reply becky | accooohtrements blog February 12, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    such great tips, wish i'd had this list a month ago!


  • Reply Kari February 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Fabulous list. Thank you so much.

  • Reply Beth February 12, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Was totally drinking my green smoothie when I came upon, "Do you know what roach poop looks like? Good." Yep, done with that meal. Ack!

  • Reply Caitlin@OurNaturalHeritage February 13, 2014 at 12:33 am

    What a helpful list! Thank you so much and good luck with your apartment search!!

  • Reply omoriala February 13, 2014 at 12:57 am

    I agree–very helpful tips. In addition to bringing a cell phone along to check outlet charging, it's also a good idea to check your cell provider's signal in the building. Since many people rely solely on cell phones rather than landlines nowadays, you might not want to live in a building where you can't get a call to connect.

  • Reply Linda Zimmerman February 13, 2014 at 2:53 am

    A totally fantastic post!! You are involved in a tedious task for sure but an apartment will come your way soon. xo

  • Reply Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness February 13, 2014 at 5:11 am

    This is a great list even for those of us who live in not-so-tiny spaces. Everything but the tape measure is totally applicable. Thanks for such a comprehensive list!

  • Reply Amy @ Seven Grey Sweaters February 13, 2014 at 7:51 am

    OK, totally dorky question, but I'm curious if you can tell me anything about the tape measure in the photo? I've been looking for a non-vinyl one, and I've never seen one like that!

  • Reply Inge February 13, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Okay, this sounds rather horrible. Roaches, rats, brown water? And someone in the comments mentioned bed bugs! I didn't realize it could get that nasty. Here in the Netherlands you can have some mouses or mold in old houses, but nothing too far beyond that. With this new knowledge I wish you extra success and good luck with your mission!

  • Reply Debbie February 13, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    As someone else mentioned above, check for bedbugs – along the skirtings (I think you called them baseboards?) behind the beds…and yes, I do speak from experience!

  • Reply Heather February 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    You are an apartment-hunting professional. It's official.

  • Reply Arielle Findley February 13, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Two Forty? …an even smaller apartment?

    • Reply Erin February 13, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      Whoops! Didn't realize I wrote 240! The apartment is actually 240 square feet (always has been), but I've kept 250 because the original name <250 was making the page crash! Edited the title!

    • Reply Arielle Findley February 14, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      I lived in the city solo for a year and absolutley loved my tiny abode, but I have to slap you a virtual high-five (thought I'd bring it back-haha) for being such an awesome individual and sharing that space with your husband…and soon a little one. Hats off to you! 🙂

  • Reply SarahN @ livetolist February 13, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Great advice – relevant even more when you're buying too! It feels weird, but it's so critical! In Australia it bring your own appliances, so more to measure and be sure fits (or buy!). Without a fridge, it's hard to feel 'moved in' in my opinion.

    Thankfully never had any issues with power points, but one building (saw one to rent and one to buy over my life) seemed to have continual lighting issues – always blowing. When the rental had now power connected, I was VERY suspicious! I wouldn't have rented it til I could check the lights worked, but then the bedrooms weren't really useable (under eaves, midget wardrobes), so we passed on it anyway.

  • Reply The Quiet Reclaimer February 16, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    I'll be searching for my first apartment in a few months, so these are great tips that I wouldn't have even considered!
    I'm new-ish to blogging (I had a silly blog about six years ago but it's deleted thankfully.. haha)
    So my name is Brittany, I like your blog a lot, and I hope your new apartment goes well for you. 🙂

  • Reply megan February 17, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Great tips!! I would have never thought about these. Great Post!

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