I loathe moving with a burning passion, especially since I have moved quite frequently growing up, during, and after college. It’s pure chaos, no matter how scrupulously I label all the boxes, or pack one room before moving to the next room, or compile a new to-do list every day. Chaos and I do not agree, as it makes my anxiety skyrocket and increases my feelings that I must organize everything, even though it’s impossible. Nonetheless, after only a month in my lovely suburban apartment, I found myself hastily moving all my shiz (again) to an old, quaint apartment in downtown Baltimore.
When I originally moved, I looked for what was familiar and safe, because peace of mind is a beautiful thing. Also, the majority’s default reaction to hearing “Baltimore” is to word-vomit all of the horrible things they’ve “heard” about the city, and, “Oh my god, ‘The Wire.’” So naturally, being the harm-avoidant person I am, I carefully researched the crime ratings and found a nice safe apartment in the suburbs outside of Baltimore. What’s a 30-minute commute compared to being secure in my place of residence?
I gleefully drove the giant Penske truck—with my car in tow, and three bordering-on-psychotic kitties in the cab—from Tennessee to Maryland and was quite pleased with my choice when I arrived. It was in good shape, nice complex, washer-dryer and dishwasher in-unit, central air and heating, and plenty of space. But then the reality of living in this idyllic space began to dawn on me.
Yes, l had all of these amenities at my fingertips, but at what financial and emotional cost? My place was going to be nice, but the cost would leave me with little extra spending money, which would only worsen when student loan payments kicked in. I started having nightmares about not having enough money to eat, being forced to live with my parents, and not being able to afford canned food for my kitties (you know, priorities).
I was in a great area, but not in an area where young people, who worked downtown, lived. Upon meeting me, most people would excitedly inquire where I lived, and seemed completely baffled why I was living in the ‘burbs. I was quickly faced with the realization that social interactions would be slim to none if I lived 30-45 minutes away from everyone else.
In addition, the supposed 30-minute commute to and from work turned out to be a Maryland fairy tale, and the drive home regularly took an hour. I worked long hours, drove home to my austere, lonely apartment, and repeated it day after day. I was miserable.
It only took a couple of weeks for me to realize I had made a grave mistake that I might be stuck with for the course of my year-long lease. One of my coworkers firmly told me that I could do better and to see if I could get out of my lease, which it turns out I could if I was out no more than 30 days from my move-in date. So, once again, I had to find a new place, pack everything up, finagle utilities, find moving people, pep-talk my kitties, and all in one and a half weeks.
I am originally from Texas (i.e., lived there the longest), where things are indeed bigger, cheaper, and space is not a tightly controlled commodity. The northeast coast is quite possibly the exact opposite of Texas—tiny spaces are more expensive, easy parking is never possible, and people are tightly sandwiched into every possible square mile. So, I went from a 735 square foot apartment in suburban Maryland to a 500 square foot studio apartment in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Baltimore. And to be completely honest, I desperately love it.
Between the rent and cost of commuting, I will be saving about $5,000 annually living in my new space. I can WALK to work in 10-15 minutes, which means I don’t have to mess with parking in the employee garage (another $75 per month), and I have more time to do what I love.
It turns out that the cost of electricity in the ‘burbs is outrageous (partly because the place was drafty and it was abnormally cold during that month), and it came as a nasty shock to see my electric bill ringing in at almost $300. The place I now live in is so old that it has radiators, which are actually warmer and less expensive than central heating, and the windows are well-insulated.
I don’t have an in-unit dishwasher or washer-dryer, so I wash my dishes by hand (gasp! the travesty!) and I take my laundry to a little place, for the tenants, several buildings down. The money I’ll save from not opting for a place with a washer-dryer and just paying to wash each load is probably at least $50 per month.
Finally, I live in a busy, vibrant part of downtown where I can easily meet up with people from work, or take public transportation around town, or even down to Washington, D.C. The type of building and space I’m now living in is actually the norm for my generation, which I only realized after talking to people from the area. I adore the walkability of where I live, I have yet to feel unsafe, and the culture and history of the area is delightful.
Yes, there are definitely challenges to living where I am right now, including brainstorming how and where to store things. For example, my small bathroom has no storage space, so the other day I bought, assembled, and mounted a rather massive shelf/cabinet on the bathroom wall. My belief that it was firmly ensconced on the wall was literally shattered when it decided to come crashing down at 1 a.m. that night—it sounded like apocalypse was nigh, it demolished the lid that goes over the toilet’s water tank, it dented the wall, and my stuff went everywhere. But even while I was picking up ceramic pieces of the toilet lid up in the middle of the night, I still didn’t regret my choice.
I know what I need in my life to keep sane and not burn out. I need people, a vestige of financial stability, and time for self-care. So while yes, my apartment is small and cabinets might come crashing down in the middle of the night, I think it’s worth it.
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