Apartment Searching 101

One of my best friends has been tossing around the idea of moving in to the city for several months now. For a fun, active and single 20 something like her, living in the suburbs, though cheap, meant a long commute for work and for fun. So, for the past couple of months, we’ve been casually checking out places in her desired neighborhood and just last weekend, she signed the papers on her new apartment!

Helping my friend find her dream place brought back a lot of memories, tips and tricks that I learned during my own apartment search nearly two years ago. If you’re in the hunt for a new place or just considering a new location, read on!

1. Narrow in on a neighborhood. Moving to a new city can make finding your desired neighborhood particularly challenging. Before you start viewing apartments spend a weekend exploring neighborhoods you’re interested in, both during the day and at night. Take special notice to things like availability of parking spots, the kinds of people you see, local restaurants and shops and how you feel walking around.

2. Find your price range. If you’ve never lived in the city before, prepare to pay more and get less than in the burbs. Do some research online to see what kinds of places you can get in your favorite neighborhood for what cost per month. Once you can an idea of what rent could cost you, spend a couple of months putting away that amount in a savings account (minus the rent you’re already paying). This will help you narrow in on what you can actually pay per month and avoid getting in to a situation where you’re in over your head.

3. Make a wish list. Is neighborhood a top priority? Or does location not matter as long as you have a washer and dryer? Make a list of what is important to you and take note of the things you’d be willing to give up. For me, living in Northwest Portland was a non-negotiable. From there, it was hardwood floors, a historic building and enough space to be comfortable. You can’t know that you’ve found your perfect apartment unless you know what you’re looking for, so take the time to make a list, but be prepared to not get everything you want.

4. Don’t just rely on the internet. Around here, a majority of the available apartments  aren’t posted on Craigs List or sites like Rent.com. The only way to get in is to walk around and make calls where for rent signs are posted. Saturday afternoons are best for checking out available apartments. Landlords are prepared to show apartments on the weekends and if you’re diligent (and lucky) you can see several apartments in a single weekend.

5. Pay attention to details. When viewing an apartment, don’t forget to check out the little things. Turn on the shower to gauge water pressure, count the number of grounded outlets (trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t) and ask about on-site laundry. Find out what isn’t covered in your rent (electricity, sewer, water, heat) and determine the terms of the lease. Also, don’t assume you can bring your furry friends with you without checking with your landlord.

6. Don’t discount location. The neighborhood you choose isn’t the only location you need to think about. Keep in mind what floor the apartment is on, what direction its facing and the number of apartments you share a wall with. Top floor apartments tend to be the quietest, since you’re removed from the street and don’t have anyone above you, but if your apartment is without an elevator, prepare to hit the stairs. First floor or garden levels are often a bit darker and are obviously closer to the street, so walkers by may get a view in to your place. Southern facing apartments get the most sun; Eastern facing get the morning sun and Western the evening. It’s easy to overlook, but if you’re a night-owl, you may kick yourself if your South-Eastern facing abode is filled with morning sun when you’re trying to sleep.

Good luck with your search!

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March 30, 2010. Tags: , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Dear Body: Prepare to Run

Last spring, after a couple of years of sporadic jogging stints, I decided to take the plunge and run my first 10k. Training was a challenge at first, but by race day, I had really come to enjoy running. As summer turned to fall, the weather became, let’s just say, less jogging friendly, and I didn’t have the guts, really, to continue.

Now, the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and again, I’m getting the itch to hit the road. Today was my first run, and damn did it hurt! Legs, lungs, abs. Everything that could hurt, did. So, in an attempt to preempt these ailments next time and hopefully get back in to fighting shape sooner, here are some tips for half marathon training.

1. Build mental stamina…I’m only laughing because, even with a goal of more than 13 miles, this tip will probably be most challenging for me. This is advice on a lot of peoples’ lists, but music is key for me to keep pushing – I will publish my play list later this week.

2. Get on a schedule. This is one of the most important aspects of my success last year. Having mini goals to reach and time scheduled on my calender was key to me reaching my goal. Here’s the schedule I’m following this year from the same site that I used for the 10k. TIP: for those of you who are often over-scheduled, remember, even if happy hour followed by running seems like a good idea, it’s not. Trust me.

3. Get some good gear. (guy readers, feel free to skip to #4) workout clothes can be a great motivator to get you up and running – literally. Although I’m not usually a fan, Old Navy actually has some amazing running pants that are reasonably priced ($12 on sale!) and super comfortable. You’re going to be needing several pairs and although LuluLemon has some really cute ones, I’m not in love with spending $86 a pop. Good shoes are clearly essential – try a place like Portland Running Company instead of heading down to Nordstrom. Running stores have trained professionals to determine the best shoes for your foot shape and gait. Also, make sure to have a supportive sports bra  to protect the ladies.

Welcome back boys!

4. Take a break. Finally! A legit excuse to watch reruns of ANTM, sorry guys, I mean COPS, after work. Rest is key to recovery and rejuvenation. Without a day off between runs, you could put your body in a tough spot. So just do it.

5. Drink water. Pretty simple. If you’re tempted to try another libation in place of good ole’ H2O, just remember what happened to Tiger after one too many Gatorades… too much endurance. Really, you’ll avoid needless calories and sugar, if you just stick to the clear stuff.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for now. Keep an eye out for more posts about my adventures in half marathon training.

Got a tip about training I missed? Have a recommendation about great running trails or killer capris? Let me know!

Ps: sorry Tiger. I couldn’t resist.

March 22, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Bloggers Block

I’ve written two posts this morning. – both suck, trust me. Perhaps the next one will be about regaining motivation and overcoming bloggers block. Maybe not.

March 11, 2010. Tags: , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Letting go and moving on…with a new computer

So, I’ve been toying with the idea of purchasing a netbook to replace my very old, about to die but beloved Sony Vaio laptop for several months now. I’ve popped in to Best Buy a couple of times to check out what’s available (aka what colors does this one come in?). But so far, I haven’t been able to pull the trigger. My old laptop, I convinced myself, was still semi-alive and kicking (albeit VERY slowly), so it seemed silly to purchase another one to replace the ol’ girl –maybe she’d be ok afterall.

…first stage of grief: denial.

However, last night while attempting to download NPR podcasts on my iPod (key word: attempting), I became a little peeved at her inability to successfully perform the simplest task (a little peeved = “I swear I’m going to throw this thing out the window!”).

…second stage of grief: anger

We left her to manage the download while the boyfriend and I went for a walk. Upon return, I felt guilty at how I treated her and asked my boyfriend if there was ANYTHING at all we could do to help her get back to fighting form.

…third stage of grief: bargaining

His answer: an unwavering, no. Over the next 12 hours, my entire hard drive flashed before my eyes: thousands of songs; pictures from Mexico trips, college graduation, family gatherings — all gone in an instant if she unexpectedly passes.

…fourth stage of grief: depression

But this morning, after much uncertainty, I finally decided that it would be best for both of us if I replace her, so she can die in peace, without the burden of holding on to my documents, music and photos.

…fifth stage of grief: acceptance

So, this afternoon, amid feelings of loss and sadness for the spent life of my Vaio, I will be purchasing a shiny new netbook. Though I’m excited at the prospect, I know that no computer will ever replace what I had with my college laptop. She was there with my through it all, and I will miss her.

(more…)

February 18, 2010. Tags: , , , . Life-in General. 2 comments.

The Upside of the Downturn

I’m just going to assume you know what’s going on in our country right now. Although it’s an exciting time, on the cusp of the presidential election, it’s also a really hard time for the average American in every aspect. Times are tough, but here are five great reasons why the economic downturn sucks for everyone but us.

1. It’s a smart time to invest in your 401K. With stock prices this low, now is the perfect time to buy because you get more bang for your buck. Check with your company to find out more about the investment options and just get investing.

2. There are tons of choices for your first house. With the housing market taking a dive, it’s a true buyers market. If you’re not in the position to purchase right now, start saving a little each month and keep up your good credit, so in four years (when the economy still sucks) you’ll be in the perfect place to sign on the line for your first home.

3. It’s a great opportunity to find out just how little money you can live on. Remember in college when ate Top Ramen for two weeks after you got tanked and blew your paycheck buying a round of Jagger Bombs for the entire bar ? This recession is kind of like that. Determine what you really need in life, spend your hard earned money on that stuff, and save the rest. It sucks, but hello! we’re in a recession people.

4. Now is the time to learn what differentiates the employee who keeps her job from the one who loses it. Find out how to make yourself an indispensable part of your organization. If you’re a slacker, a winer, a drunk, a hypochondriac, a perv, or just plain annoying to your coworkers, pack up your cube, because you’ll be in the first to go.

5. Times like these are an amazing reason to celebrate! Unlike the majority of Americans, you actually have a job, didn’t lose thousands in the stock market and the only other living thing you’re responsible for is your make-believe cat because your landlord wont let you have a real one. Live it up, and thank your lucky stars that you’re not in your parents’ situation right now.

image from mycrmblog.com

November 2, 2008. Tags: , , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Work-Life Balance? What the Hell is That?

When you start your career, there are going to be a lot of new terms thrown around that you might not have heard before. And if you’re like me, the phrase “work-life balance” will be one of them. For those of us lucky enough to work for an amazing organization that prioritizes this; your life and work at least have a chance of balancing.

However, no matter how hard the HR people at your office try to stress the importance of a balance between work and life, when you first start a new job, especially right out of college, maintaining this balance will be damn hard.

Not only are you probably working harder and longer than ever before, but you also have more responsibilities, and if your life is anything like mine your day starts long before the sun rises and ends long after it sets. This means that when you finally return home from your long work day and seemingly endless commute, you’re probably going to be so tired that spending time with family, socializing with friends or enjoying hobbies will be lower on your list than editing your coworkers’ collection of poetry about her cats.

In an effort to find a more even balance between my own work and life, I’ve embarked on a quest for advice. However, I got a little side tracked…thanks to youtube. Check these out.

Ok ok. They might not give you any tips for balancing your life and your work, but hey, you’re taking a break from work to watch them, right? That should count for something.

September 14, 2008. Tags: , , , , , . Career Advice, Life-in General. 4 comments.

Keeping You Apartment Clean: The Last Frontier of Adulthood.

In case you didn’t already know, the vast majority of topics that I choose to cover on PRprep are ripped straight from the headlines of my everyday life. How to turn down a job offer, succeeding in a new career, and financial planning are all issues that I have faced in my post-college, newly adult life.

So, in the interest of continuing to provide you with advice and tips for succeeding at life, I’ve decided to address an issue currently plaguing my life: keeping my apartment clean.

I’m a relatively tidy person normally. But in the midst of my new, busier life as an adult with a job, I’ve found it a little more challenging to, say, pick up my clothes, do my dishes, vacuum my rugs or dust my furniture. Needless to say, advice is imperative.

Clearly procrastination is a huge reason why my apartment remains so utterly unkempt, but I’m already doomed, so let’s get to the advice.

Tip # 1: Stick to a schedule and establish a routine. Making a list of everything that needs to be done and how often you should do it (daily, weekly etc) can help you stay on track. *I plan to stick my list on the fridge.

Tip # 2: Get all the right tools. Having cleaning supplies already avaliable can make it easier to jump into ridding your pad of filth. Although some things depend on the kind of surfaces in your apartment specifically, there are some standbys that everyone needs: a vacuum, rags and brushes, a mop and bucket, glass cleaner, wood polish, disinfectant for kitchen and bathroom counters…and the list goes on…

Tip # 3: Clean regularly. (Herein lies my most illusive foe). Do the dishes as soon as they hit the sink. Put your dirty clothes directly into the hamper. Wipe down the counters after you cook. Taking the extra minute or two to clean things as they happen will save you several hours of cleaning down the road.

In case you need extra help. Here are some more tips from the experts… Good luck!

image from momadvice.com

August 10, 2008. Tags: , , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Graduation Inspiration from a Magnificent Muggle

In case the commencement speech at your graduation was less than impressive, here’s a taste of the speech that a six-figure education at an Ivy League school would have earned you.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, spoke at the 2008 Harvard graduation ceremony. If you have an extra 20 minutes for a little inspiration, watch on.

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Video 2 of 2

July 2, 2008. Tags: , , , , , . graduation, Life-in General. 1 comment.

Tiger’s Tips FORE Life.

I can’t think of anything better than getting life advice from Tiger Woods. Anyone who knows me is all too aware of my passion for golf (both the game and the adorable outfits). And although I haven’t been playing long, I think that there are a lot of life lessons that we can learn from golf. My buddy Tiger agrees with me. Tiger Woods Rulebook to Being a Huge Success from the blog Dumb Little Man offers some of the golf great’s tips for life. Before I hyperventilate from excitement, let’s continue.

1. Constant and never ending improvement. Never settle for good enough, not when you can always be better tomorrow. That’s what keeps life exciting.

2. A bigger plan. Try to look at the bigger picture – this is often bigger than your own success and accomplishments.

3. Embrace defeat. And move on. Don’t hold on to your mistakes. Pick yourself up and face your next challenge.

4. Take life lightly. “If you can’t laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at?” -Tiger Woods

5. Don’t stop. Clearly Tiger took his own advice at the Open a couple of weeks ago.

6. Live your own expectations. Don’t get tied up with what other people want.

7. Do what you love. You’re going to spend your entire life working, so why not find something that you love to do.

8. Focus. Have a goal, focus on what’s important and put all your energy toward reaching it.

9. Pay it forward. Give your time and talents to others.

10. Learn from all mistakes. Life’s challenges are there for us to learn from, so take advantage.

11. Celebrate your victories. Positive reinforcement comes when you treat each of your successes as special. Don’t feel bad when you feel good about your accomplishments.

12. Pay no attention to naysayers. What do they know anyway?

adorable picture of Tiger from news.bbc.co.uk.

June 26, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Advice We Probably Don’t Want to Hear

Things have been crazy over the past couple of weeks. Now that my life has calmed, let’s get back on track. Advice for graduates is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to it. 23 Pieces of Advice that College Graduates Don’t Want to Hear by Valerie S. Johnson gives some good advice that we might need to listen to. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Show up at work. It’s not like class. You just can’t skip.

2. Deal with your debt before it gets worse. Step one: Stop charging.

3. Don’t rush to buy all the expensive toys and trappings of adult life. Just be patient.

4. Spend less than you earn. There’s a difference between a “want” and a “need”.

5. Start an emergency fund. Bad things happen, so be ready.

6. Put time and energy into worthwhile friendships. It may be hard to make time, but your good friends are worth it.

“Graduates, go forth and conquer the world. Follow your dreams. Take risks. Have fun. But please follow some of this advice. Otherwise, in the not-so-distant future, in a not-so-distant galaxy, you’ll wish you had.”

We will try.

March 22, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , . Career Advice, graduation, Life-in General. 1 comment.