The concept of “home” is one that carries a great deal of significance for the average human being. It’s not just the place where you live, it’s also that abstract state of mind cliché that writers, musicians, poets, and greeting card companies prattle on about incessantly. “Home” is supposed to have a sentimental value that goes beyond merely having a place to sleep every night.
Of course, there’s the question of what “home” is being discussed. Is it your parents’ home where you grew up? Is it the college dorm where you received your first of many mediocre handjobs? Is it your car or workplace, where you likely spend the vast majority of your day? Is it the cramped, expensive rat-trap studio where you got the last of your many mediocre handjobs?
To me, home is wherever I can afford to pay my rent on time. In LA, the cost of an apartment is going up at an absurd clip that most of us can’t keep up with. New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and other major cities are even worse. As long as home isn’t behind a dumpster outside of an Arby’s, I’m happy. If the cockroaches don’t have names and 401(k)s, I’m ecstatic. Even if my bar for satisfaction is low, I still like to believe that I know what to look for and how to find it.
I’m about to move for the sixth time since I’ve lived in Los Angeles, and at this juncture, you’d think I would be an expert at finding a suitable residence. You’d be right. I’ve mastered the esoteric art of picking the perfect apartment despite all the many ghastly factors working against me. Following these foolproof guidelines will keep you from having to room with nine alcoholic grifters with excessive flatulence issues (don’t ask).
1. Stay off Craigslist.
I know it’s tempting to go for the free apartment listings. Everyone wants to be Indiana Jones and uncover some hidden treasure or coveted artifact of ancient times. In this case, “ancient times” means “back when you could rent a one-bedroom apartment in the city for less than $1,000 a month.” It’s not going to happen. You’ll waste most of your valuable time sifting through fake listings, deceptive listings, and general wackos. Pay for a service. I don’t care which one. Just don’t get hoodwinked by a band of tweakers who just want to steal your underwear.
2. Make a list of dealbreakers.
Pretend apartment hunting is akin to going on OKCupid or Tinder. There are just some things you won’t abide. For instance, when I was single, I refused to date anyone who liked Radiohead, didn’t drink, enjoyed “nature,” or listed her hero as Lindsay Lohan. It’s even worse if they list their hero as Michael Lohan, which has happened to me.
Do the same with an apartment. Stuff like pets, washer/dryer hookups, pool, covered parking, subway accessibility, and hotness of neighbors should all be considered… and not up for compromise. Refuse to settle and you’ll find eternal happiness.
3. Leave your parents out of it.
No one but you knows what you want, especially not the people who raised you. Your parents will swear that they have your best interest in mind, but what they’re actually doing is secretly having you move closer and closer to them. Every time you get a new place, they’re just trying to drag you back to their house. Eventually, Pasadena turns into Fresno, which a few years down the line becomes Lincoln, Nebraska. Avoid the trap. Tell them you’re moving after you the sign the lease. And keep going west, my friend.
4. Get an even-numbered address.
This is just a little superstition I have. Why even numbers? Because the other option is “odd” numbers. Odd? Really? The name itself is off-putting. I’m as square, normal, boring, and typical as they come. Ain’t no way I’m gonna live on no odd-numbered street. Call me Shia LaBeouf, because I’m Even Stevens.
5. Don’t move.
This is your best bet, by far. Stay where you are. Don’t leave. Sure, your place totally sucks. It smells like athlete’s foot and dog food, your landlord may or may not be in the Mossad, and the security guard hands out free methadone, but the alternative is moving. Moving is never fun. It’s expensive, time consuming, you are guaranteed to lose or break at least one valuable personal item, and all of your friends will find excuses to not help you. Planning a move is akin to cutting off a gangrenous limb to stop an infection. Sure, things are ostensibly better when it’s over, but not by much.