The highs and lows of apartment hunting

Months before our trip, I was on a bunch of sites looking for potential places to live.  I knew those places wouldn’t stil be available (probably) by the time we got to February, but it gave me a good idea of location and price.  In the few days before we headed out week before last, I made a ton of calls and sent a ton of emails, all to make sure we’d have actual places to look at in the five days we had.  The worst thing I could think of was the scenario where we show up, there’s nothing to check out, or they’re all terrible or too expensive or not available, and we end up coming back to Annapolis without locking down our next home.  I did NOT want to rent a place without seeing it first, and I did NOT want to have to move across the country without an actual destination (like we did when we moved San Diego, in our early twenties, young and stupid).

Luckily, we had plenty to see.  Luckilier (so much better than more luckily), we found our perfect house on Day 1 and our very good backup on Day 2.  In between, we saw some good, some bad, and some so-so places.

Our very first showing (viewing?) was at an apartment complex on Broadway, right downtown.  The location was perfect, the way the buildings were set up was really nice, they have underground parking available, and the apartments were cute.  Cute is the operative word here – they were small.  One of the things we were looking for (John in particular) was more space.  In the Annapolis apartment, we live and work in the same room.  When we’re done working for the day, we don’t get to close the door on work and walk away.  It makes it very hard to leave work behind, so one of the things we were looking for was a place with a room we could call the office – just the office.  This apartment complex didn’t have anything with quite enough room.

Our next place was an old house (1860s or something), yellow with a red door (I love that), big porch – it was a nice looking house, looked charming, in a good spot, right on the edge of downtown.  When we got there, the apartment manager had thrown open the front and back doors.  Welcoming, right?  No – we’re pretty sure she walked in, reeled in disgust, and opened the doors (and windows) hoping to dispel the animal odors.  This house was old, yes, and it was quirky, but it hadn’t been kept up well enough to make the quirkiness work for us, and the smell made it an almost immediate no.  It smelled like animals had peed all over it.  “We’ll have that taken care of by next week.”  Oh, no, you won’t.  Link.

We didn’t have another appointment until 4pm (and it was only 10 after 1), and we were beginning to feel a little nervous; what if we don’t find a place in the only five days we have to look?  We drove around the corner, spotted a very cute house for rent that hadn’t shown up on any of our searches, called, and got someone to come out and show it to us 15 minutes later.

It’s so cute (spoiler: it’s the house we’re renting, so you’ve already seen the pictures), and since it was a real possibility, we felt a ton better.

Our 4pm appointment was not so positive.  It was in the hills in the southern part of Eugene, and the area was beautiful.  The house was at least 100 years old, and it was a bit more remote, a bit more secluded.  Unfortunately, it was terrifying.  This house is where horror movies are made.  The owners don’t keep up the outbuildings (there was an overgrown shed and a garage with the roof caving in), and the renters aren’t allowed in the basement (basically a cellar) – they didn’t say why.  Perhaps to hide the bodies?  There was a giant round grate in the floor, I assume for heating, but I just kept imagining scary long fingers reaching up through it or carpets of bugs scurrying out.  Speaking of bugs, the sink hadn’t been used on so long that there was a little spider living in a web in it, and a freakishly large spider (okay, it was no bigger around than the circle made when I touch my forefinger to my thumb) hanging out in the hallway near the scary grate.  Just sitting there.  The eaves (which you could see outside the upstairs windows) were festooned with webs and nests and bugs and things, and the washer and dryer were in an enclosed porch off the kitchen that leaks, judging by the water stains on the top of the washer.  Also, just one bathroom that was…fine, I guess.  There was a cupboard under the stairs, but I was more inclined to make People Under The Stairs jokes than Harry Potter jokes, and there was a strange grate/opening in the wall near the floor of the master bathroom that overlooked the stairs: perfect for grabbing the hair of the unwary person climbing the stairs.  So….no.  No, no, and no.  Here’s a link to it.  The link we followed (that I can’t find) had more (and better) pictures, and the pictures at this link don’t do the scary parts scary justice, but I’m sure you get the idea.

After that place, we quit for the day.  Two absolutely nots, one yes PLEASE, and one probably not, but in a pinch, maybe.

The next day at 9am, we met a property manager at a duplex in the southern end that was interesting, but didn’t grab us.  It would do, but it was kind of dark.  The living room would have been cool – vaulted ceiling, big windows – and the kitchen was nice, but the bedrooms and bathrooms were on the lower level (sort of a walkout ranch) and were kind of dark.

Our 10am appointment was at a brand new complex a little west of downtown.  If this complex had had ANYTHING interesting in walking distance, it would have been a real contender.  As it was, it became our first safety apartment (until we found a better safety apartment).  Aside from being a little too remote, it was a crazy nice place.  Construction had JUST finished, so everything was as new as it gets.  The fitness center was a really nice, with a giant TV and space to use it for classes.  You could call up zumba or strength videos right there and use the space for them.  In addition to the pool and the tennis and basketball courts, they had a pet wash station and a bike repair station.  Of course, they had bike storage.  EVERY complex in Oregon has bike storage.  The apartments were really nice, too, but they didn’t have any three-bedrooms.  Could work, but not perfect.  The house was still better.

After that place, we looked at a house on a hill that could have been good.  It had a nice garage, the front yard was nicely landscaped, and the top floor was pretty good.  The bottom floor was a little creepy, though.  There were odd-looking doors in odd places, not enough light.

We spent the afternoon checking out a couple of complexes.  One was too far away from downtown, but it was super nice.  We looked at a two-bedroom loft apartment there that would have been really nice. It was also the most expensive apartment we looked at.

The other complex we looked at that afternoon became our actual backup.  It’s our true safety apartment if something happens with the house.  If we end up in our safety apartment, we will have a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, brand new, beautiful kitchen, full-size laundry in unit.  We will be very happy there (even though we really want our house).

So Friday had 1 eh, 2 nos, 1 possibility, and 1 yes.

We had one more place to see Saturday morning.  The pictures weren’t that promising, and we almost canceled it, but we showed up anyway.  The woman who showed it to us told it was centrally-located.  What does that mean exactly?  It’s centrally-located in relation to three malls.  So convenient!  Three bedrooms, one bathroom, super-nice yard, big garage.  Unfortunately (again), this was the other smelly place.  We walked in and were olfactorily assaulted.  No exaggeration – the house smelled like someone took a handful of cat poop and smeared it on the walls, in every room.  There was no sign of cat poop or anything disgusting.  The house was clean, but the smell was intolerable.  The property manager swore it didn’t smell like that a week before.  Not sure I believe her, but it made the place a big ol’ NO.

Happily, we’d found the place we wanted and a very acceptable backup (with more than one unit available), so we got online and submitted our application, and we were able to relax for the rest of our trip.  That also made it possible for us to spend Monday hanging out in Portland, which was very cool and which I will tell you about later.

I wish I’d taken more pictures so I could show you the awful ones, but at the time, it seemed silly to take pictures of places we were definitely not going to rent.  Oooh, but I can give you the links….links have been added for all except our house and the backup complex because I’m not posting my potential addresses online.

It’s a habit, but it’s not a HABIT, you know?

I was going to stop drinking coffee, right?  As soon as my creamer ran out?  Yeah, I’ve failed on that one already.  I used the last of the creamer Saturday morning.  Sunday morning, John flew for an hour, so I went with him just to be up and about.  I couldn’t fly with him (he’s not licensed yet), so after he took off, I went looking for a bakery I’d found online.  Got there, ordered a cheese danish.

“Coffee?”  “Yeah, sure.”

So yeah, I had regular coffee and a danish for breakfast Sunday morning.  I didn’t even realize what I’d done until we got home.  But it was January 31st, right?  So…maybe we can say I’m starting this in February.  My birthday present to myself – less caffeine, fewer empty calories.  Today (being February 1st), I had decaf tea and instant oatmeal for breakfast.  Much healthier.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch (we’re going to the store as soon as John finishes his Battlefront mission) and nothing but water to drink the rest of the day.

Except for the half-pint of Naptown Brown Ale I had when I met Jess for lunch.  Oops.  Baby steps.

Limited choices

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My bookshelf is getting shorter.  That’s both good and bad.  Good: I’m getting through the books I kept because I wanted to read them sooner rather than later (or never).  Bad: I have fewer books to choose from when it’s time to pick a new book.  Fewer books to choose from means more pressure to like the one I pick – wait, wait, no.

That’s ridiculous.  I don’t have to like every book I read (and I don’t – I’ve been through that before).  Just because I think I’ll like something doesn’t mean I have to.  And yes, I worry that if I pick up a book (because I feel like I have to) when I’m in the wrong mood, the circumstances will cause me to not like something I might love later on.  Is that a rational worry?  Maybe.  How can you tell if you would have liked something if only you’d read it at a different time in your life?  If I didn’t like it the first time, I’m very unlikely to pick up and try it again some other time.

This particular worry is affecting at least one book still on the shelf.  I’ve tried Kate Atkinson three times now.  The first time (a few years ago), I read Case Histories.  It was slow to start, but I really liked it once I got into it.  Then I read Behind the Scenes at the Museum.  It was okay.  Not really my thing, but I liked it fine.  Then I picked up Emotionally Weird and didn’t like it at all.  The very beginning was promising, but then it bogged down and never picked up a plot, and I ended up putting it down without finishing it.  The last Kate Atkinson book I have on my shelf is Started Early, Took My Dog.  I don’t know anything about it.  Should I try it?  The one people keep saying I’ll like is Life After Life (I’ll have to get it on Kindle, which I’m not allowing myself to do until I finish the physical books on this shelf).  If I’ll like Life After Life, shouldn’t I like her other books?  That’s usually how it works for me.  So I’m hesitant to pick up Started Early, Took My Dog.

Now that I’ve thought through all of that, though, I think the whole Kate Atkinson situation is different.  It’s not the same as the pressure to choose one of THESE books.  I have proven to myself (after three books) that I’m not sure I like her, so my reluctance to try again is well-founded and I don’t think it has ANYthing to do with the bookshelf pressure.  Except…the second and third ones of hers I tried were on my shelf.  I might not have read them at this point in my life except for the pressure to do it, and if I read them at some other point, might I have liked them?

I’m back where I started, and it’s still ridiculous because you know what?  I could say the same about any book I’ve read and liked or not hated.  This is dumb.  I’m not going to worry about this ANY MORE.  I have washed my hands of the whole affair.  (Really, I just did the hand-wiping/washing motion.  I’m committed.)

Come on, Oregon, now you’re showing off

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On Wednesday, John and I decided to head to the coast and sight-see (and give Will and Christina a day free of house guests), and I may have fallen into a beautiful scenery hole.  I don’t know if I can get out.  It’s almost overwhelming.  The road we were on to get there took us through the mountains and along a river and then there was a lake (with the trees on the mountain going right down to the edge of the water and the water was like glass and the trees were perfectly reflected) and oh, hey some elk (elks?) and it was SO beautiful.  I didn’t get any pictures of that section because I was driving and there was nowhere to turn off, but then we turned south onto 101 (the Pacific Coast Highway!!) and aimed for Coos Bay.  We went to a state park Brian (who used to live there) recommended and BAM.  There was the Pacific Ocean.  It’s been a long time since we last saw it, but hey!  It’s still there.

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There was a trail along the top of the coastal cliffs – I could have stayed up there all day.

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Thursday morning, Will took us running along a trail that runs next to a lake near his house, and really – how do you expect me to run in a straight line when I’m craning my neck in every direction to look at the lake and the trees and the mountains and oh look! there’s a house nestled in there and wouldn’t it be great to live in that house?

Will has done his job – we’re convinced.

To Facebook or not to Facebook

I am considering setting up a Facebook account.  I had one a long time ago, but I canceled it after only a couple of years because I NEVER used it.  NEVER as in not once did I post a status.  I had a profile picture, and I friended people, but that’s about it.  Then they changed the privacy settings, and I figured I’d just get out.  And I think this was around 2007.  Maybe 2009.  Hey, it was 2010!  (Damn, I was kind of funny in 2010.  Wonder what happened?)  Now, with all the moving around, I’ve gotten a lot of requests (some outright demands) that I get on Facebook.

I’m considering it.

I still probably wouldn’t use it much.  I’m on Twitter (@zannah42), and as of today, I’m on Instagram (also zannah42 – is there a symbol for Instagram?), although that’s going to be a little-used account, I would imagine.  I don’t take many pictures.  And (most-used), I’m HERE.  What would I post on Facebook that I wouldn’t post here first (or possibly on Twitter)?  I don’t really see the point, but for people being able to track me down and connect, maybe it’s worth it.

But that raises another interesting question.  (Well, it’s interesting to me.)  Should I link to my blog on my Facebook page (assuming I set one up)?  I know that all you people know who I am in real life, but technically, I am anonymous here.  I’ve never used my full name, never my last name, never the last names of my family members.  I’ve never given out my address or posted a picture that included my house number or even mentioned the name of the town we owned that house in for nearly 10 years.  NOW I’m fine with saying we live in Annapolis (for now), but I’m still not using my full name or giving out my address.  Someone would have to work at it (not that hard, but it would take a little effort) to find out who I really am if they stumbled across me here accidentally.  I am not a public figure.  But Facebook is not anonymous. I would have to use my real name.  And if I post a link to my blog on a Facebook account with my information in it, then I will stop being anonymous here.

Then again, what does that really mean?  What do I post that anyone out there couldn’t read?  I don’t go into details about work.  Once in a while, I talk about finding another job, but who doesn’t?  Besides, I haven’t yet.  (I’m not even looking.)  I have plenty of good reasons to stick with the one I have.  Being afraid of getting fired because of something I write here is not how I want to live.  I don’t discuss huge personal details.  I don’t say bad things about other people (not that could get me in trouble with anyone I know, anyway).

Of course, if I don’t link to my blog on my as-of-yet-hypothetical Facebook page, will I feel compelled to update there, too?  [Thinks about it for 2 seconds.]  No.  That is not going to be a problem.  So then it will be a basically unused page, there for people to find me if they want to.  But if I link to my blog, then it will be an unused page with a link to my blog.  Why link to my blog?  To drive traffic here?  As if people will really come find me on Facebook (a big if, aside from the people who have been asking me about it) and then say, “Oh, I wonder what she’s really thinking?”  Not likely.  So…I have not come to any conclusions.  Help!

Back to practical matters (if I decide to do it): do I have to have a personal FB account?  Or can I set one up that’s for me and John?  (There is NO way he’s creating an account under his name.)  I think if I set up a Facebook page for us, I still have to have a personal account to manage it.  Google isn’t really helping me out here.

Settling in

Our apartment is starting to look more like a living space instead of a storage space, thanks in part to Ikea.  After we donated our couch because it wouldn’t fit (and made our first trip to Ikea), we were left with functional chairs, but no comfortable chairs (aside from the papasan chair, but we can’t both fit in that at the same time).  We went back on Sunday and picked up a couple of chairs that will do, without breaking the bank.  (We found a couple that we REALLY liked, but balked at the price tag.  We’re supposed to be spending LESS.)  Also, if they’re not all that comfortable, perhaps we’ll break our habit of watching too much TV in the evenings.  I suppose we’ll see.  Having random moving-related errands to run after work has certainly helped keep us away from it (not having internet or cable until last Thursday helped, too), but I imagine it’ll be a bigger temptation in the winter, when it’s cold and dark again.  And I might not feel guilty about giving in then.

I hope we can take a break from making decisions soon, too.  I’m over it, to the point where I’m dithering about really stupid things.  I can still figure out what to wear in the mornings, but I wanted to pick up a couple of placemats for my desk, and I stood there staring at the selections for SO long.  It’s not like it was a big commitment; the silly things cost $2 each.  I could not decide.  I did eventually (I went with basic black – no risk to the room’s color palette (which doesn’t exist yet)), and there’s no buyer’s remorse (over the placemats OR the chairs), but I think I need a rest from decision-making.  And I’ll take one, right after we choose a new mattress.  That is not going to be easy.

Task completed

We signed a lease for a cool apartment in Annapolis this morning!  Yay for us!  That’s one thing I no longer have to worry about.  Now that the housing situation is taken care of, I can move on to the next couple of things, like moving.  We’re moving in THREE WEEKS, so I’ll just switch over to thinking/planning/worrying about that full time.

We took today off work and spent three hours in the storage unit going through the rest of the books.  There are twelve boxes in my car now, so I’ll ask my coworkers to go through them this week and then donate the rest.  The storage unit has officially been purged (except for the bookshelves, which are going to Brian (if he still wants some) and Sean and Emily (who will take as many as we’ll give them).  So this weekend, we’re going to turn a sharp eye on everything in the apartment.  What can go?  What’s being stored?  What’s traveling with us?  The biggest thing for me is trying to get all of my clothes into one dresser.  The smaller dresser.  I can do it.

Roller coaster

Apartment hunting is a roller coaster ride, and while I do love roller coasters, I’m ready to get off this one for a few months.  We’ve still got a month to go before we’re homeless, but I am not one to leave things to the last minute (I’ve changed a lot since college), so I’ve been keeping an eye out for apartments for a few weeks now, and we’ve been to Annapolis two Saturdays in a row.

Oh, did I not say?  We’ve decided our first stop is Annapolis or somewhere in that end of Maryland (either side of the bay).  Last Saturday, we went with not much of a plan, and we were completely discouraged.  We couldn’t anything short-term (3-4 months), and we left (after a very pleasant dinner with Jess and Chuck) pretty unhappy about it.  On the ride back, we decided we’d have to stay at least 6 months, and since there are some pretty big upsides to that decision, we’re happy with it.  The biggest upside is that staying somewhere for 6 months means we won’t be looking for the next place the whole time we’re living in one place.  And for this particular move, it means John won’t feel rushed through getting his pilot’s license.  AND, since most of the places we’re thinking about going are near friends we don’t see often, we’ll be able to spend more time with them before we move on.  Definitely the right decision.

After that, I spent all day Sunday on a couple new sites (Hotpads is great), sending out a TON of inquiries about apartments and saying up front that we’re looking for 6-months leases.  I got some pretty good responses, and we headed to Annapolis again yesterday with 4 appointments and the promise of a couple more.

But now I need to eat, and I’m going offline for the rest of the evening.  I want to tell you about how Saturday went (and the crazy real estate agent we met), but I will do my best to do that tomorrow or Tuesday.

The purge continues

We’re still going through everything we own and trying to get rid of as much as possible.  We want to lighten the load, both for moving and for living.  “As much as possible” = as much as we’re comfortable getting rid of, and we don’t always agree on that, but we’ll keep adjusting as we move along.

We spent about 4 hours on Friday in the storage unit choosing which of our children to give away and which ones to keep.  It was painful, and we only got halfway through, so we’re going to have to do it again soon.  On the plus side, I don’t regret our decisions, and I get to drive around with a carload of books until I get rid of them (the car smells good).  It was the right thing to do!

Then we got home and I started going through my dresser drawers again.  I’ve got a stack of t-shirts that are going away, and Molly has claimed much of my work wardrobe (such as it is), which is helpful to a point – I don’t dress up for work much (mostly jeans), so there’s not that much to give away.  I think I can get rid of more shoes…  Winter clothes are harder to make decisions about now.  I’ve already done the easy stuff (I didn’t wear at all last winter?  It’s gone.), but in summer I’m inclined to toss everything.  That won’t be all that helpful when it starts to get cold again, and I have to buy new things.  I wonder how much of a pain it would be if we used the storage unit to store seasonal clothes.  Too many trips?  With boxes?  Maybe.  I didn’t even go to the trouble of storing seasonal clothes in the house (which is why I needed two dressers and a closet).  But it would mean we’d be traveling with less.  Except when we go somewhere for longer than one or two seasons…yeah, I think that’s a bad idea.  Fewer clothes!  I need to get rid of more stuff.

Decision fatigue

We have to make a decision about every single thing in our house.  Does it come with us?  Do we store it?  Do we get rid of it? Sometimes the answer is easy, sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes we decide to take something to the apartment, knowing we’re just delaying the decision a few months.  It’ll be easier then, right?

We have a few projects scheduled for the spring and summer.  There are things we want to have while we travel that we don’t want to have to physically move.  Right now, there are two enormous boxes of CDs in the apartment.  CD project: rip every single of one of them so we have the MP3s.  Then give the CDs away.  Paperwork project: we both have boxes of paper (old school projects, letters, etc.) that need to be sorted through, organized, and filed.  We’ll buy more plastic file boxes – something better for storage than cardboard – and, depending on the type of paperwork, store that stuff in the storage unit or with John’s parents.

Right now, at least, it means we don’t have to make those decisions.  Right now, I’m all for minimizing the number of decisions we have to make.  Right now, I’d like to be able to focus on what’s in front of me, one thing at a time, and not everything, but I don’t think that’s in the cards.  Actually, the big decisions about those things in particular (CDs, paperwork) HAVE been made.  We know exactly what we’re going to do with that stuff.  We just need the time to do it.  That helps.

I like to keep my promises

I promised more today.  I don’t have a lot, but I have something.  This afternoon we saw a condo for rent about a mile from here, which would be SO convenient in many many ways.  It’s not in the best shape (and it needs a THOROUGH cleaning), but it’s within our price range, it’s available immediately, and it’s practically in our backyard.  It would make moving SO easy.  Our commutes would be the same, it would be no harder to get to either gym, and we could sign a 6-month lease.  Parking would be a pain (no garage, and only one assigned spot), but we could make it work.  Probably.

I’ll feel much better once I’ve seen at least one potential alternative.  And from the looks of things, we have plenty of alternatives.  I’ll be making some calls tomorrow.  We will also start packing tomorrow, although it’s hard to decide where to begin.  It’s a bit overwhelming.  We keep freaking ourselves out.  But if we don’t start, we’ll freak out because we’re running out of time.  So we’re going to freak out either way.  Might as well freak out in a productive way.  Which means I should probably be doing something right now that isn’t on the internet.  Or if I’m going to be on the internet, I should be finding us a storage unit.

Picking a book shouldn’t be this hard

Finally read Redshirts (John Scalzi), and I don’t know what took me so long.  It was hilarious.  I read it in about 18 hours, starting Sunday night – it was helpful to have Monday off work, and also helpful to have it on my Kindle app, so I could read it while charging away on the not-exactly-an-elliptical-machine at the gym for an hour.  I couldn’t put it down (and didn’t have to).  Just as well I wasn’t at work.

Now I face the always difficult task of picking my next book.  Will it be as good?  Should I pick something along the same lines or completely different?  I finished A Discovery of Witches Sunday (which I thoroughly enjoyed).  That’s different (as was going to Redshirts right after it).  Should I start the sequel?  Move on to something else entirely?  I don’t know.

No, I do know.  I have a few books already downloaded to my tablet that I haven’t read it, and I’m going to choose one of them.  Just because.

Now, having made that decision, I’m going to watch some TV.