life in a tiny apartment.

July 22, 2020

Tip #194: Ask for it out loud.

James and I started sending each other apartment listings this week. Thanks to my parents and popsicles, we were able to sit still long enough to think about moving and so we allowed ourselves the indulgence of daydreaming. We’re pinning tentative hopes on finding a Brooklyn apartment with doors we can close long enough for us to tap out sentences and teach students virtually and maybe find reserves of energy for parenting with a bit more grace and lighter spirits. In this world turned topsy-turvy, we’re trying to learn how to hang upside down.

The listings we send each other come via texts, auto-populated from rental websites. They appear on our phones with innocuous-enough greetings, “Check out this new listing…” but every time I get one, my heart jumps. I’m sorry to report that when it comes to apartment searching I have absolutely no chill. I’m not able to offer calming guidance for a stress-free search. There’s no leisurely scrolling through listings, tea cup in hand for me. It’s an all-out adrenaline fueled hunt. I see a listing and my mind begins making an involuntary catalog of what I would love and what might need tweaking and what I fear could break me. I’m poring over floor plans and furniture dimensions. Could our table fit there? Is that closet they’re calling a room big enough for a bunk bed? Is that an ancient dishwasher I see squeezed in the corner of that photo? Scroll back, scroll forward, pinch in, zoom out.

Spinning in the background there are the calculations of fees and income and what we’d be able to afford. There are maps pulled up and walking distances estimated and routes reimagined. There’s our current lease and permission to sublet to consider; a bevy of landlords and agents who might not see the urgency in finding a new place to plunk zinnias in a white pitcher.

I’m going to an apartment viewing this afternoon. I’m afraid this listing might be too good to be true, but I’m going anyway, armed for the hunt with the advice of a friend: “Ask for it out loud.” Please, and thank you.

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  • Reply Lexie July 22, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    Good luck in your search!

  • Reply Lee July 22, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    Eek! This post spoke to me on so many levels. My husband and I are also looking for a new place (with more room for a growing family + 2 adults working from home) that also won’t wreck our budget. Wishing y’all the best of luck!

  • Reply Molly July 22, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Good luck!

    • Reply Karen July 22, 2020 at 5:29 pm

      Wish Ya Good Luck, so could see ya Sweet and Beautiful family in an Farmhouse, in the country,
      oh my goodness sometimes wish we were residing in an apartment, did that and a second time waiting for house to be built.

      We were just looking for off the grid fsrmhouses with an Ocean view downeast Maine, as we reside in The Deep Extreme Northern Woods of Maine on an dirt road. ( Harsh Brutal Cold Looooooong Winters and Snow, downeast Maine milder winters.

      Love Ya Blog, Books…..
      Thank you

  • Reply Sophie July 22, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Ohh, best of luck! Hope you find what you asked for.

    • Reply Linda July 22, 2020 at 6:35 pm

      Wishing you the best of luck! I know that obsessive, adrenaline fueled hunt only too well – moving 6 times in as many years really honed my skills!

    • Reply Marie July 22, 2020 at 10:32 pm

      Good Luck!

  • Reply Cece July 22, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    Good luck! We’ve been in a 1000 sq/ft cottage with two kids over lockdown and what used to feel like loads of space has felt increasingly pinched as the baby has outgrown our room, we’ve both shifted to working from home and our daycare options suddenly disappeared for several months. Plus we laid our little garden to seed a week before lockdown in what, in retrospect, was a truly short-sighted move.

    We were saved by the rural area we live in and daily 2 hour exploration walks. Baby in sling, pockets full of snacks for my daughter and hunts for butterflies, leaves, birds, different nature sounds… basically anything I could think of. I’ve never been so grateful that we moved from London to a peaceful village as during the past few months.

    In short: I hear you!

  • Reply Elizabeth July 22, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    Best of luck on your search! I can imagine the want for a not-so-tiny apartment has preyed upon your mind for some time. We’re all hoping the best for you!

  • Reply Coreen July 22, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one for whom apartment searches contain zero chill. (Currently struggling through the same thing.) Good luck!!

  • Reply Jessica July 22, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    For you or, if you’ve already heard of it, for your readers: The Listings Project can be useful and/or fun. I’ve at a minimum enjoyed scrolling through the listings, even if I myself have never found a rental there.

    Also for you or, if you already know, for your readers: landlords cannot ask for a deposit greater than one month’s rent, which seems to be mostly understood as last month’s rent or security, not both. The state also tried to ban broker’s fees, but that ban is temporarily on hold, at least until a court date in September.

    Good luck!

    • Reply Alexanne July 22, 2020 at 3:31 pm

      I was going to recommend Listings Project as well! Much more of a community than Craigslist or brokerage sites.

    • Reply Anon July 23, 2020 at 9:06 am

      That’s great that NYC is taking some steps in the right direction. It’s pretty horrifying for renters where we are in the Boston area. First, last, security, and broker’s fee due prior to tenancy; and, in our particular lease at least, no subletting permitted. We’d love to move to a larger space as working parents with a small child, with everything that’s predicted for the coming year, but can’t risk forfeiting thousands of dollars to our (unsurprisingly, Trump-supporting) landlord.

  • Reply Shannon July 22, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    Godspeed, woman. 🙂

  • Reply Liz July 22, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    Rooting for you!

  • Reply Kristin July 22, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    Good luck!

    We’re in the same boat: my family has been happy in our current apartment, but four months mostly indoors and the prospect of many more months of the majority of our time spent at home has thrown into sharp relief what is important in there here and now. There are so many things about our small Brooklyn home that were just fine when we were at school, work or outside most of the time are really bothersome now. It sucks! But it’s where we are right now and I guess we all have to adapt.

  • Reply Monica July 22, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Good luck! I look forward to seeing how you made you the new apartament. Your ideas are always great and welcomed!

  • Reply Aja July 22, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    Ditto to all those apartment hunting tendencies! Good luck!!!

  • Reply Tabitha July 22, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Sending good vibes and best wishes!

  • Reply Megan July 22, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Wishing you nothing but luck! I have zero chill as well. After finding out in January we were *surprise* expecting another baby, we started the search for a home to purchase. Even. Less. Chill. Luckily the process once we started on a specific place went smoothly enough, aside from jokes from the agent about buying us toilet paper as a move-in present, we moved into our home exactly 1 day before our state went into the first Covid shelter in place. Clippings from the over grown back yard were cut and placed in a salsa jar as home decor and much needed cheeriness.

  • Reply Stéphanie July 22, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Good luck in your hunt, I hope that everything aligns and you find a place you love and that’s affordable too. It’s exciting, but I imagine very stressful too.

  • Reply riye July 22, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    Good luck!!! I’m with you–when I was apartment hunting I was so stressed out I couldn’t seem to calm myself down.

  • Reply Rebecca July 22, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    Good luck Erin ! Sending positive apartment-hunting thoughts your way.

  • Reply Judith Ross July 22, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    Fingers and toes all tightly crossed for you, today. You’ve got an enormous cheering squad in this community.

  • Reply Laura July 22, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    Good luck in your search! Apartment searching has hardly ever been super easy in my searches. I hope you find a new place that you absolutely love!

  • Reply Kate July 22, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    bonne chance pour la chasse!
    I’m w/ you, home-searching is fraught w/ adrenalin, sometimes fun, sometimes not.
    I read an article about NYC: seems there’s a lot of moving to an extra-bedroom-apartment within the same building…

  • Reply Amy July 22, 2020 at 2:49 pm

    I read your work in part because I enjoy your writing, greatly appreciate your sustainable solutions, and enjoy the encouragement to live in a more kind and caring fashion, and in part because I feel like a kind of kindred spirit. And so, I think that for anyone who strives to be kind, appreciates beauty, works toward a slow, rich pace of life, at the best of times finding a living space is always stressful; it’s such an abrupt, sudden thing – with little space for ease. But the amazing thing about any kind of new space, is that no matter what it is, a person who is kind, appreciates beauty, and revels in slow and loveliness, as you do so amazingly, can create something that is a wonder. I am hoping good things for you today, Erin, and sending up a prayer!

  • Reply Alison July 22, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    Wishing you all the luck to find the perfect spot!

  • Reply Claudia July 22, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    I totally know what you mean about being zero chill. Apartment hunting can feel like the worst, especially here! Even in the best of times, it can feel really scammy.

    My husband and I looked for a long time to meet our pretty selective criteria. Eventually we found a place through Craigslist, of all places. I also recommend the Listings Project. Both are more likely to have no fee rentals.

    Good luck with it all! You will eventually land in a really great spot.

  • Reply Charlotte July 22, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    I feel this so much. Months in a 650 square foot apartment with our toddler while working from home and no daycare also has me looking for listings. While another room would be nice so I don’t have to work from the kitchen table, what I most dream about is outdoor space. The freedom to step outside without putting on a mask or navigating hallways and elevators; to have some space that is just our own, where my child can run without me constantly giving him direction and I can sit and read a book with a drink. I worry about ending up quarantined and not breathing fresh air for weeks. Unfortunately we live in a HCOL city so getting that space requires more money than we have, moving to the suburbs where we have to give up our walkable lifestyle or moving to a small town where I worry about the lack of diversity for my non-white husband and child (plus being farther away from aging family and not great for our careers). No good choices.

  • Reply Evelyn Squadrille July 22, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    Good luck in your apartment search and I hope you the perfect place for your family …but why not buy a house and not put up with landlord restrictions?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 22, 2020 at 7:01 pm

      Just money, honey 😉

      • Reply Evelyn Squadrille August 8, 2020 at 1:57 am

        Best of luck in your apartment search

    • Reply Kim July 22, 2020 at 9:59 pm

      Good luck Erin! I’m going through a similarly stressful process looking for childcare and considering how to squeeze a workspace into my home. My therapist keeps reminding me not to “drown in the details” and “keep it simple”. Easier said then done but still sound advice. I’m always impressed by your ability to make do and make a space yours.

  • Reply Molly July 22, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    Good luck! Ask your current landlord if you can go month to month on your lease. If you’ve been a good tenant sometimes they let you and it makes things a little less complicated while you search.

  • Reply M July 22, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    Winter is coming, as they say, and this pandemic/quarantine thing is going to be a whole other situation for parents when the weather turns. We’re a family of three in a 1000 sq ft house with a yard, which is amazing, but not a day goes by when I don’t daydream about a house three times that size with an indoor basketball court and perhaps a ranch or small forest out back and maybe an indoor swimming pool too, because: winter.

    I hope you find just the right thing.

  • Reply Mary in Mryland July 23, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    As a person who has lived in many apartments, I would say “Beware southern exposure.” I’ve rented in November and been thrilled with the southern light, and then found myself wearing nothing but underpants June through September. Also, the top floor is usually the warmest in the building.

    • Reply Dana July 23, 2020 at 4:30 pm

      Godspeed, Erin!

      I second this reply & also want to add: take your search slowly & carefully even tho things are so stressful. Don’t want to end up in another lease that’s not a good fit–try to take in all the angles & obvs prioritize safety, etc.

      Would it be possible to stay with your parents for a few months while you search? That’s what I’m doing 😮 😮 😮

  • Reply Beth July 23, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    Good luck!! We just did one of the craziest things we’ve ever done…rented a place sight unseen (to us…we did have a broker do a walk-through) in a totally different state. Crazy times lead to big change.

  • Reply Lisa July 24, 2020 at 6:10 am

    I feel like I never really understood the crazed adrenaline-fueled rollercoaster of NYC apartment hunting until we moved here. I’ve lived in Boston, DC, and Chicago, but nothing compares. All the luck finding a new spot!

  • Reply Rose July 27, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    I want your apartment!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 27, 2020 at 9:49 pm

      All you have to do is ask! But really! If you’re seriously apartment hunting, feel free to reach out: erin @ readingmytealeaves dot com!


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