“It’s called apartment living.”

That’s what someone said to my sister once, back in her apartment days, long, long ago when she complained to a neighbor about their loud noise.

I’ve been living in apartments for more years now than I ever lived in a house, which is hard to fathom. I lived in a house until I was 18 and went off to college, and then for another year and change when I lived in Los Angeles (not my house, someone else’s). I’ve never owned any real estate. Finances and age being what they are for me, I likely never will. This is normal for a lot of big city, urban dwellers, even those with kids, but is relatively unusual for the Midwest, where, I’m repeatedly told by varying sources, owning a home is SO CHEAP and ANYONE CAN DO IT (well, not anyone, but a lot of people – certainly the majority of people that I know). As my Mom is fond of saying, “It ain’t cheap if you can’t afford it.”

The concept of owning a home is appealing in many ways, but the work and cost involved in upkeep and repairs sound completely overwhelming. There are positives and negatives of both, of course, as with most things. Apartment living can offer more immediacy in things that are interesting or which affect you when something is going on with a neighbor. Say, for example, they catch boiling milk on fire and the FD has to be called, or the building is evacuated due to a smell of gas, or someone has a medical emergency you witness, or a loud party, all of which are fairly regular occurrences where I live. Or when a building in the complex catches fire and burns to the ground, taking all 12 units with it, which I hope is something that never happens to my building like it did that one a few years ago; renter’s insurance or not, I’m not Zen enough to not want and need the few material things that I have and treasure, and money to replace them would be cold comfort. Sometimes, you realize too late that should have called CPS on your neighbor when you heard them fighting and smelled bad smells, but you didn’t. And sometimes, like this morning, you wake up to a DRIP-DRIP-DRIP sound and find that the stain on your ceiling that you told maintenance two weeks ago was likely a bathroom pipe leaking from the upstairs unit into the wall, which they failed to repair properly, means now there is a really bad problem, as water leaked all over your dresser all night, and onto your various papers on the dresser, which should not have been there anyway, but were, and now they’re all ruined. Then you place an angry call to maintenance and tell them they better fucking fix it the right way this time, and try not to worry about the ceiling caving in. Sometimes you threaten escrow when they don’t fix things, like after the 15th bathtub and toilet backup/overflow, this one on Thanksgiving when you had guests over, because they didn’t want to get the digger and the other thing and dig up the fucking hill behind your apartment to really fix the tree root problem once and for all. But then they fix it, because escrow, and no more backups.

I have never had to shovel snow. I mean, when I was little, sure, and a few times I’ve helped my Mom with her drive, but usually she handles it fine. I don’t own a snow shovel. I’ve never mowed a lawn, ever. My Dad almost cut his whole foot off with the mower when we were kids, so we were excused from ever doing it back then, and my house in LA didn’t have a lawn, only a weedy, overgrown small side hill that was beyond landscaping, even for Beverly Hills. I don’t pull weeds or have to change the furnace filter or buy a new hot water heater. When my stove broke, they gave me a new one for free. Not a small part of why I stay where I do is that I have free heat. And, if you live in one of these units long enough and bitch loudly enough, they will replace the cheap, kitchen linoleum (with more cheap linoleum, which scratches immediately, oh well). I even got them to replace the carpet at one point (for free) because it was so cheap it had gone threadbare in several places after only a few years of tenancy.

I have moments where I desperately wish for a garage. Or a lawn, where I could actually have a grill and have cookouts, where my kid could play. And then we have a winter with more snow and cold than ever and I turn up my free heat and just wait for maintenance to come and fix the ceiling.

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2 thoughts on ““It’s called apartment living.”

  1. I love this so much. While I enjoy owning a home, I don’t enjoy the million and one things that we have to pay for that go wrong. Maintenance is a pain in the ass, as I am also waiting for something to be fixed; last week our garage door springs snapped, and hunting down new ones is proving to be quite the ordeal. I tell my students to not ever feel bad about not owning. Ownership comes with many costs; I’d kill for free heat after this winter. 😉

  2. I love this. As someone who owns a home, I often yearn for the days of renting again. Replacing a roof two years ago wiped our savings. Now we have to reno a basement after a power outage wiped out or sump pumps, causing 2 inches of water to seep in and stick around for a few hours. And our bathroom is a mess, an “unpleasant” place, according to my dad, which is our next project before the basement because of cost differential. And we are now waiting on springs for a garage door, as ours snapped last week. The search for replacement is proving nightmarish; with our front door blocked off to keep out drafts, the only way outside is through the back garage door. While home ownership has some perks, it has its costs as well. I’d kill for free heat this winter; you totally win. 🙂

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