life in a tiny apartment.

March 29, 2017

Tip #151: You already know what to do.

I’m in a Spring cleaning kind of mood and with that comes a bit of Spring mess-making. It’s the time of year when I can’t help myself but to buy up spring bulbs at the farmer’s market and bring them back to my tiny apartment to get muddy with. I realize that I’m likely one of few people on the internet who could gawk at photos of delicate muscari and tiny narcissus all day and be content, but here we are. 

I’ve written a fair bit in this series about making the most out of limited space and limited access to the great outdoors. In a post that’s now so old that it refers to James as my boyfriend, I mentioned that it’s helpful to think of the city as your living room. In another post that features a 23-month-old Faye in all her pantless glory, I suggested embracing messes and getting yourself a drop cloth. This weekend I potted these spring plants and uncovered an entire family spiders had taken up residence in the bag of soil I keep in a metal tin in our linen closet. (Luckily, it wasn’t my first time at the bug rodeo.)

I was home by myself when the spiders emerged. (James and children on a mission to climb every stranger’s stoop in Brooklyn.) I vacuumed them up. I doused their tin in the combination of Castile soap and water that I call our all-purpose spray. I called my mom and asked if her if she thought I needed to dump the remaining soil and before I let her answer me, I convinced myself that yes, indeed, keeping a bag of spider-filled soil in a small apartment (or anywhere) probably isn’t worth the cubic foot of dirt.

What’s the point? I already knew the answer to my spider query. I just had to talk my way through it.

I get so many emails from readers, and I promise I do my best to answer them, but over and over again, I think the answers lie in the questions themselves. You can problem-solve a tiny apartment for the entirety of the time that you live in it. Indeed, you probably will. There’s no end game here. Life keeps evolving. Spider eggs hatch. Babies grow into kids. Spaces are mutable. We’re all in a process of feeling comfortable in our skin and in our own homes and there’s not one answer that’s gonna unlock a secret that changes everything. So while we’re all busily readying our minds and homes for a new season, here’s a reminder that I don’t have very many perfect answers, but I can lend a bit of encouragement to make tiny fixes, and add green things, and make the bed. If gawking at daffs is what helps, do that. It’s sure helped me, spiders and all.

Tiny apartment survival tips #1-#150 right this way.

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  • Reply Linda March 29, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Holy fuck. I would just let them have the apt and find a new one. Lol. I have such a hugh spider phobia. Yay you for being so brave!

  • Reply Sonya March 29, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I have to say, you handled those spiders way better than I would have, at least at first. I feel like I would have NOPED so hard out of the room, danced around a little trying to figure out what to do, and then gone back with the vacuum after texting my husband to complain. And it’s not even that I mind spiders; I just would have been too surprised to handle it right away. Also, your first sentence about Spring cleaning bringing Spring mess-making with it is so accurate. I love it.

    • Reply Auberie March 29, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      My reaction exactly! There was a huge one in my room once and I just left it! I slept in my brother’s room that night. Ok, it was late and I couldn’t really vacuum but it scared me quite a bit!

  • Reply Virginia March 29, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Almost the exact same thing happened to my mom when we were kids. After a slight heart attack, she too decided the vacuum was the best option. And then shortly later called pest control for good measure. Wasn’t funny at the time, but makes for a hilarious childhood story now.

  • Reply Connie March 29, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Hi Erin, thank you for this post! I love the way your advice transcends the simple how-to’s sometimes. No magic formulas for life!

  • Reply Kasey March 29, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Erin – This sounds like a slightly odd question but I’m curious how you buy your soil. I, too, live in Brooklyn, in a tiny apartment, and I just can’t rationalize buying a big bag of soil from a hardware store when I really only need to re-pot one or two plants. Have you found a way around this? or do you re-pot regularly, making the purchase of a large bag of soil useful?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 29, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      Hi Kasey! In my experience, I’ve been able to find pretty modest soil bags at my local hardware store! I usually buy one a year to get me through repotting and/or window box refreshes! That said, I know there are places where you can buy truly small amounts of soil by the cupful! A hardware store in the East Village where my sister used to live did that! Can’t point you to a specific spot, but might be worth poking around!

      • Reply Kate March 29, 2017 at 6:41 pm

        Also the farmer’s market in Union Square (and maybe others in NYC?) sells small bags of soil that LES Ecology Center produces from the food scraps they compost. Out in Queens our local farmer’s market partners with another composting group and that group doesn’t sell soil, but instead has a community day at the market where you can bring a bag or container and take however much soil you like (a way to “thank you” for composting your food scraps all year). So maybe inquire at your local farmer’s market?

  • Reply Michaela March 29, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Gosh, I don’t know how it’s never dawned on me to get a drop cloth for plant potting and such… And I love muscari, as well! I love all tiny blue flowers. Forget-me-nots are my particular favorite.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 29, 2017 at 3:15 pm

      Agreed. Give me all the tiny blues!

  • Reply Ellen March 29, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    Erin, I love the way you find unique ways to write about simple but important and meaningful content. You’re writing is just gorgeous and it’s nourishing to your readers. I’m a faithful reader so thank you so much.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 30, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks so much, Ellen.

  • Reply Nina March 30, 2017 at 4:04 am

    Ah yes, must get a drop cloth – especially now that we never have newspapers. I had a big plant to re-pot the other day and hauled it round to the community garden in my shopping trolley to avoid doing it indoors! Not sure if you can get it over there but here in the UK you can buy (in Oxfam shops) Fairtrade coir ‘compost’ in dehydrated bricks. When you want to use it you add water and it expands, and you can crumble it up and just rehydrate what you need. Not nutritious enough for long-term houseplants but spring bulbs would be fine. Got to ask: were they poisonous spiders or something? Did they have to die?! Wouldn’t they all have just scuttled off into crevices of their own accord, and then in a few months’ time have done you big favours by trapping and eating much more annoying bugs?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 30, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      Whelp, I’m sure a fair number of the little guys survived my murderous rampage (including all of those I put directly outside with the soil!).

  • Reply Erin March 30, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Yikes! I am glad you were practical about it and didn’t tell us we should sift the eggs/spiders out or anything like that.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 30, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Ha! Not that heroic!

  • Reply Camila March 30, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Leave it to you and Carmella Rayone to make me want to venture into the world of plants. That’s why I love her blog and coming over here. I just got the chance to read this post now. I hope to get some bulbs myself and finally get some green in our apartment. And for the answers? You’re right! We do already know what to do. I love your approach to the questions. Simplicity looks different for us all. But that’s the point. 🙂

    Thanks always for the tips. 🙂

    P.S. I need a drop cloth lol

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 30, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      the bulbs will be very short-lived indoors, but they are lovely while they last! glad the spiders didn’t scare you off!

  • Reply Robyn April 1, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Just wanted to say I love how you write. So funny and personable and I just love it. I never comment but thought I would today.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 1, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      thanks so much, robyn!!!


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