life in a tiny apartment.

August 26, 2015

closet | reading my tea leavesTip #129: Reality bites. Bite back.

Last week I hunted a cockroach. I spotted it skittering across the living room floor at 2:00 am on one of our first nights home from vacation. In contrast to the cool evening breezes of Maine—or even considered all on its own—the night was a stifling one in our apartment. On hot city nights the temperature hardly dips from sunrise to sunset and the effect is magnified when you live four flights up. Faye had been restless and so I was up myself when I spotted the interloper. 
I’m not a cockroach novice. They were unavoidable when we lived in coastal Carolina, and I became adept at both avoiding and murdering, but I am out of practice. And I never enjoyed the hunt anyway. 
While I flapped around the apartment trying to exterminate the thing without also getting too close, my heart raced. I finally found success when I wielded a winter boot in my attack.  The insides of the cockroach splattered out across the apartment floor and over the white curtains that we have hanging by Faye’s closet. I knew white curtains might have been a regretful choice when I put them up, I just didn’t realize they’d meet their demise due to cockroach guts. 
I’ll spare you the morbid details but suffice to say that after successfully lifting the stain and washing the curtains and ironing them within an inch of their life, I realized that I’d also managed to shrink them an entire and improbable five inches, leaving a silly and unsightly gap between curtains and the floor. Curtains no more.
It’s fraught work, these little attempts at homemaking.
My cockroach story isn’t met to elicit any particular sympathy. (And I’m sorry if it’s elicited any disgust.) It’s just to acknowledge that cockroaches happen. Pillows get torn apart by puppies. Door jams get gouged by heavy furniture. Lamps got knocked over by toddlers. In the daily efforts we make to keep our spaces beautiful or practical or useful, sometimes the living part gets in the way. And sometimes the living part has six spiny legs.
Biting back means scrubbing at your curtain stain until it comes out. And when you discover that you’ve done even more damage in the process, you take a deep breath, fold up the curtain, and find another solution on another day.

I’m not sure what I’ll do about the curtains. Leave them off for now is the plan. I’ve got a little painting project in the works for that space, which I’m hoping might make me more excited about showing it off anyway.

In any case, the beat goes on.
More tiny apartment survival tips, RIGHT HERE.

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  • Reply Lisa Winlock August 26, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    I'm a fan of fabric. Listening to the demise of these curtains made me quite happy. You now have fabric to save and use on a project. I've been known to buy deeply discounted duvets just for the fabric. Oh, the possibilities.

    • Reply Erin P. August 26, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Exactly what I was thinking! Curtains are a motherlode of fabric you could use for tons of other things!

    • Reply admin August 26, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Agreed! Tucked safely into the linen closet for future use!

  • Reply bora August 26, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I found this incredibly entertaining, and it made me smile before I started work. Thank you for sharing, and I hope you don't have to ruin your curtains anymore with cockroach guts 🙂

  • Reply Laura Serino August 26, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    we do not have cockroaches in maine but we do have deer ticks! perhaps less gross looking, but infinitely scarier to find!

  • Reply Carol Ann August 26, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Every crisis is an opportunity, to borrow a hackneyed phrase. You show a lot of spunk.

  • Reply Joy August 26, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Could you sew a bottom border to the curtains to lengthen them?

  • Reply Anonymous August 26, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Noo! I think I jinxed you when I asked if you'd dealt with roaches in your NYC apartments.
    Good luck! I feel for you.

    • Reply admin August 26, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      Ha! Funny timing, eh?

  • Reply August 26, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    love the humanity and reality of this. absolutely love.

  • Reply Anonymous August 26, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I would also love to here about whether or not reality has bitten you yet about living in a one bedroom with a toddler and not just a baby anymore 😉 I first thought this post might be about that…

    • Reply admin August 26, 2015 at 4:41 pm

      Ha! Reality is still all good on that front, thank goodness!

  • Reply Emily Fleck August 26, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    I don't understand why your curtain is ruined because it's shrunk. Why do curtains need to be sweeping the floor? Or I suppose the better question is: why do people think curtains need to be sweeping the floor? I've lived in many a city apartment and the dust bunnies that get sloshed around on hardwood floors are bound to get stuck in curtains that graze the floor. Perhaps I'm just a Philistine?

    • Reply admin August 26, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Not a question of need, just a question of personal taste!

  • Reply Danielle August 26, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    What a great "can-do" attitude to bring into a small place! I remember fighting that defeated feeling when I got my first 400 sq. ft. apartment. Now, I'm content in any space because it's mine to cultivate. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply denovojournal August 26, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Ugh. We spotted and killed a cockroach in our apartment not long ago (Shouldn't living on the 8th floor make us immune somehow?) and I freaked out. (A) Because I'm from the Pacific Northwest and naively thought cockroaches lurked in tropical climates somewhere far from me, (B) because it was on a ceiling instead of on a bathroom floor, where cockroaches live in the movies, and (C) because I'm 8 months pregnant and pictured an infestation of them creeping into my baby's crib. Thankfully we've not seen another one. I admire your "oh well" attitude!

  • Reply denovojournal August 26, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Ugh. We spotted and killed a cockroach in our apartment not long ago (Shouldn't living on the 8th floor make us somehow immune?) and I freaked out. (A) Because I'm from the Pacific Northwest and naively thought cockroaches lurked in tropical climates somewhere far from me, (B) because it was on a ceiling instead of on a bathroom floor where cockroaches live in the movies, and (C) because I'm 8 months pregnant and pictured an infestation of them creeping into my baby's crib. Thankfully we've not seen another one. I admire your "oh well" attitude!

  • Reply JennyDSweetie August 26, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Have you tried getting them wet and stretching them back out again? (a la jeans that get too short in the dryer) Not sure if that would work, but maybe worth a shot? Though then I don't know what the ironing would do…

    I dreamt about cockroaches last night! Perhaps in solidarity.

  • Reply Jen August 26, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    "…sometimes the living part gets in the way." So lovely! And true. So lovely and true. Thanks for the reminder and for making something so human, so ordinary, also beautiful.

    • Reply admin August 26, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      Thanks for your kindness, Jen!

  • Reply Cordelia August 26, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    I appreciate your openness and honesty about this reality of urban living. I'm also dealing with these "roommates" as we call them in our tiny uptown apartment. Unfortunately it is a building-wide issue and we have had to succumb to traps and other poisons which has become an issue for me. But I'm glad to know I'm not alone in the 2am hunt.

  • Reply k.mandeng August 26, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Oh no! Hope you are able to keep "Gertie" safe from the intruders! My daughter just received the same teddy as a gift whilst on a trip to visit family in Berlin! Wishing you guys cooler nights ahead, we are finally getting some here in Toronto!

  • Reply welliewalks August 27, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    oh this hit close to home. the night after we returned home from our vacation last month, one of those crawled out of our bathroom sink. and…i washed our closet curtains this summer and could not believe that they were 5 or 6 inches shorter. uggh! the funniest thing was that with all my astonished laughing, my husband came in and looking where i was pointing…couldn't tell what the problem was. 🙂

  • Reply elizabeth August 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    oh, you know – real life.

  • Reply A August 27, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Ugh! We just moved to Florida and bugs are everywhere. I bought some Combat and that has helped! I don't like to kill things, especially with chemicals. However, finding droppings in our silverware drawer was the last straw. Haven't seen any in a couple of weeks, so here's hoping!

    • Reply Anonymous August 28, 2015 at 12:34 am

      Next time squirt the cockroach with soapy water. They breathe through skin so this suffocates them . Also If squashed cockroaches still might have eggs intact which can still hatch! Freaky insects indeed.

    • Reply Nina August 29, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      Yes! I was coming here to say you really shouldn't squash cockroaches, because the splattering can just disperse eggs around the room.

    • Reply admin August 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      Oh, believe me I thought of it! But I had to make-do with a boot in the middle of then night 😉

  • Reply Petite Josette August 28, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    ugh! cockroaches are not fun! I'm feeling quite lucky to not have to worry about them in Vancouver BC. Moths alwasy seem to make their way to the bathroom at night though, and start flying frantically around me when I go to the bathroom or take a shower, half awake…unpleasant. For the curains, have you thought of sewing an extension at the bottom? maybe in a contrasting darker color?

  • Reply Alexa August 28, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Reminds me of a time when I was at work and kept getting a whiff of something really foul throughout the day. At one point, I put my hand in my pants pocket and found a massive dead cockroach…maybe climbed into the laundry basket and then lodged in the pocket and swished around in the wash? Somehow, I survived, and my pants too. I'm sorry your curtains didn't make it! I appreciate your tale though- life happens!

  • Reply Anonymous August 29, 2015 at 4:05 am

    Perfect opportunity to sew on a fabric bottom border ( or use iron-on adhesive tape)! Just be sure to wash the fabric first, in case it shrinks.

  • Reply Elizabeth August 7, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    I dust the cockroaches with baking soda, when they make an appearance. Supposedly, their stomachs cannot digest the baking soda, explode and die. Their nest mates then eat their dead carcasses and the cycle continues. Seems to be working or it can be all Malarky? Whatever, I do not see them around as much.

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