The Monday-est Monday that ever Monday’d

Today didn’t really do it for me. I need another weekend. Preferably one that I can spend watching episodes of the West Wing in between trips to the refrigerator. The weekend that just wrapped was ruthlessly productive. I’m thrilled by how much we accomplished, but my get-up-and-go is fried. We traversed the State on Saturday and Sunday, and now I can’t even muster the will to get a glass of water from the kitchen.

We visited five antique stores/flea markets, an estate sale in southern Mass, four big box stores, and our friends’ house west of Boston this weekend. We bought storage solutions, light bulbs, groceries, and a new ironing board to replace the one that survived the move and the subsequent month and a half in storage only to break the first time Sean used it. (I know.) We unloaded eight(!) boxes of holiday décor at our friends’ house (bless them and their big basement). We found three awesome pieces of vintage furniture for our place — a drop-leaf tea cart that I will take with me to the grave, a domed steamer trunk that Sean will probably want to be buried in, and a hutch that we’ll have to share in the afterlife. We unloaded that furniture on our busy street and carried it up our spiral staircase without breaking bone or wood. We got couches and chairs and coffee tables situated in their proper places. We unpacked almost all of our remaining boxes and decorated our living room and kitchen. We filled four recycling bags with cardboard and paper. We found five bags’ worth of items to donate. We ran out of steam at 10 o’clock last night and vowed to worry about all the pictures and shelves and vases and books that still need a place to live on a day that is not today or tomorrow.

Today I was useless. I crawled out of bed at 8AM and fumbled my way to my laptop in the living room. I have clean hair and I’m wearing not pajamas and I drank a cup of coffee and I sent some emails. I have not done laundry or emptied the dishwasher or left the house. I ate Cheez-Its and an apple for lunch. I had an Indian restaurant down the street make my dinner. (I chose the restaurant because it has online ordering and using a phone is hard.) I need a nap.

One week in a Boston apartment

It’s been one week since the leasing office handed over the keys to our Boston apartment and finally put an end to our month and a half of homelessness. The place is, understandably, still in a bit of disarray and not entirely photo-ready: half-empty boxes here and smooshed packing peanuts there — yikes! (In fact, I should probably be emptying the box of hangers in the living room instead of blogging. Shh, don’t tell Sean.) But we’re adapting to our new ‘hood pretty well and making quick work of putting our stamp on our new home. Below are seven quick-takes from our first seven days in Boston:

apartment_story_1The first few days in the new place were…rough. The only furniture we had when we moved in was a blow-up bed. And we couldn’t get the wi-fi to work. So I sat on the hardwood floor in the corner of the cavernous living room plugged into our modem from 8-5 for three days straight. And after work I laid on the air mattress for four hours and played on my phone. AT&T had some choice words for me about my data usage last week, I’m telling ya.

apartment_story_2One of my biggest fears about moving to Boston was — wait for it — grocery shopping. In Dallas I could usually get all of my groceries from my car into the apartment in one trip, but it was only a short walk down a hallway and I was always at risk of dislocating an arm. So I wasn’t sure how I was going to lug everything from the grocery store to my Boston apartment on foot. But on Wednesday I did it! I limited myself to what I could fit in a hand-held basket and the half-mile march back to my apartment wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I was so emboldened by my success that the next day I took the T (by myself, for the first time) to Target. That was more of a trek (about a mile each way from the T stop) but still very manageable. I can do anything now!

apartment_story_3Our apartment is on the third floor and is only accessible via a pretty steep spiral staircase. It took seven trips for Sean and me to move our measly possessions from his car into the building on Tuesday, and the whole time we were huffing, puffing, and praising God that we’d had the foresight to hire movers for the big stuff. Pray, tell, why have I never hired movers before!? It took Sean, me, and five friends eight hours to load our pods in Dallas — and we had an elevator. Our two movers were done unloading everything in an hour and a half.

apartment_story_4We’ve met a TON of neighbors already — way more than we ever met in the 2.5 years we lived in our apartment in Dallas. We introduced ourselves to the other people in our building last Thursday to warn them about our impending move: “Hi, we’re your new neighbors. Don’t park near our moving permit tomorrow or we’ll have to tow you. Sorry in advance for how noisy we’re going to be this weekend!” And quite a few people on our street welcomed us to the neighborhood on Saturday when we were outside keeping an eye on the movers. We’re surrounded by fine folks, y’all!

apartment_story_5Our apartment is a good size, especially by Boston standards, yet I have no idea where we’re going to put all of our stuff. Remember how cocky I was about how much we got rid of before we left? Yeaaah…Sean took two more boxes of stuff and two bags of clothes to Goodwill yesterday morning. Pretty much all of our essentials — clothes, kitchenware, bathroom goodies, etc. — are put away now, so only a handful of boxes and baggies are still cluttering up the main living spaces. But all flat surfaces in the place are piled high with random decor, and our spacious living room closet is stacked from floor to ceiling with boxes labeled “books” and “frames.” We had four bookshelves and a hutch in Dallas; we have zero bookshelves and zero hutches in Boston. WOE! So now we’re on a mission to find shelving that matches the style of our apartment and our other furniture. Craigslist and flea markets, ho!

apartment_story_6I get the feeling our landlord hired someone with multiple personalities to paint our place. The living room and kitchen are definitely Dr. Jekyll: classic up-market khaki with a pop of red. The bedroom and bathroom have Mr. Hyde written all over them — if Mr. Hyde were a 19-year-old college co-ed. The bathroom is light denim, and the bedroom is a searing robin egg blue. They aren’t necessarily colors I would’ve picked and I was afraid they were going to clash horribly with my stuff. But miraculously, everything goes together really, really well! In fact, I daresay I’m obsessed with the way our bedroom looks. I never want to leave!

apartment_story_7Sunday night was the first time we were able eat dinner at our coffee table while watching Netflix on our T.V. It’s been almost two months since we’ve been able to enjoy that evening ritual, and I don’t think either one of us realized how much we missed it until we were sprawled out on the couch nomming on pizza and happy-sighing repeatedly. It really is good to be home.

I rented an apartment in Boston (and lived to tell about it)

When Sean and I found out we were moving to Boston, we knew right away that we wanted to live in a brownstone. We saw ourselves coming home to a place with hardwood floors, a bay window, and a fireplace. We didn’t want the most modern unit on the market — we just drove almost 2,000 miles across the country so we could live somewhere with old-world charm. The landlord painted the original crown molding white? But why? What’s this in the fridge? An ice maker? Ha! The Pilgrims used trays and they liked it.
As it turns out, apartment hunting in Boston is a lot like apartment hunting in Dallas, in that eventually you wind up living in a place with running water and a stove. That’s about where the similarities end. Most of the places that fit our bill were privately owned, which seems to be the trend around these parts. (There are some big, corporate complexes here, too, but they aren’t nearly as ubiquitous as they are in Texas, as far as we could tell.) That — coupled with the relatively low supply and high demand for apartments in Boston — made for a very, very interesting shopping experience:

  • Want to know what’s available? Craigslist it. Normally when someone says to me “I found my apartment on Craigslist,” what I hear is, “My apartment is three two-by-fours and a tarp and my landlord keeps trying to lure me into his padlocked tool shed.” I’ve always found my apartments with trusty Google. But in Boston, all Google turns up is $3,500/month studios with granite countertops and stainless steel dishwashers. Everyone in the know told us to use Craigslist to find an apartment, and you know what? Every apartment that we looked at we found on Craigslist.
  • Deals are done through brokers. In Dallas (and probably in most other U.S. cities) you can go into one of ten leasing offices within a two-mile radius, look at a model unit, and walk out with a freshly-inked lease within an hour or so. Here, each unit is listed individually with a broker (or two or three), and you have to contact the broker to schedule an appointment to see the place. Some brokers are cool and will show you three or four of their listings that might interest you. Other brokers say “Oh, the landlord wants to meet everyone who’s interested in her building. Here’s her number if you want to schedule time to see the unit.” Regardless of how much (or how little) work the broker does, you have to pay him/her a pretty sizeable fee if you decide to rent one of his/her listings. (We got very lucky and ended up with an AWESOME broker who spent a ton of time explaining the process and acquainting us our new neighborhood and Boston in general. She earned every dime of that fee.)
  • Apartments are seasonal. All leases in Boston seem to begin on September 1, probably because that’s when the students attending the 60+ universities here like to move in. Since we were looking during an off-peak period, there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from in the areas we were interested in. (On the plus side, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition, either. And the rents were lower.) The Boston-based recruiter who helped Sean find his new job was surprised when Sean told him we’d already found a place. He expected us to be homeless until June at least.
  • Lease? What lease? Broken leases are MUCH more common in Boston than they are in Texas. Every single apartment we looked at was available because the current tenants had broken their leases for one reason or another. When we were signing ours, the broker essentially told us when the best months were to break a lease. She didn’t necessarily advise doing it, but I didn’t get the impression that I’d go to renter prison for it the way I would in Texas.
  • No vacancy. Almost none of the apartments we looked at were available for immediate move-in. April 1 was the earliest we could’ve gotten into any of them. All but one was still occupied — either by a living, breathing person, or a living, breathing person’s junk. I don’t think apartments sit vacant here. Landlords pretty much list units as soon as they hear the tenant plans on leaving, and renters scoop them up within a couple of weeks, so it’s just not possible to sign a lease and settle in the next day.
  • The application fee is your soul. The real fun begins after you’ve found an apartment you like. You can’t just hand over a check and get the keys the next day — oh no. Everyone over the age of 18 who’ll be living in the unit has to fill out a separate, detailed application before they’ll even be considered. Sean and I ended up submitting around 20 pages of information about our rental and employment histories, income, etc., and then we had to submit even more documents to verify the income from a job I had four years ago. Once the broker finished reviewing our applications, the landlord got a turn. Then and only then were we assured we had a place to live and were invited to sign our names to paper. (Evidently some landlords like to schedule “interviews” with prospective renters after they’ve reviewed the paperwork. Sean and I got to skip that step.) All told, it took about four days from the time we saw the apartment to finalize the lease. I understand why it’s done this way — landlords don’t want unwashed ne’re-do-wells setting up meth labs in the kitchen and defaulting on rent. But man! The waiting game — not knowing if we were going to get the apartment that we really, really wanted — was absolutely killer.

In the end, it was all worth it. The place we found is absolutely, 100% perfect. It’s in one of Boston’s hippest neighborhoods, steps away from a T stop, larger and more affordable than we expected, and meets all of our aesthetic specifications — with an exposed brick wall thrown in for extra va-va-voom. We even expect Her Majesty the Cat to love it (the bay window has very roomy sills and overlooks a street.)

We won’t be able to move in until April 15 — the sweet, current tenant agreed to leave two weeks before her scheduled May 1 move-out date so we could get in sooner — so we’re doing some creative living in the meantime. But I’m happy to do it if it means getting the ideal apartment in Boston.