Lessons Learned: 3 Tips for the 20-Something Living in Their First Apartment

Overflowing dishwasher

Suds of anarchy: Just because it’s labelled “dish soap,” that doesn’t mean that it goes in the dishwasher. You should probably avoid laundry detergent and shampoo as well. (Karen Apricot New Orleans via Flickr)

I moved into my first apartment when I was just 21 and a senior in college. It was one of the most interesting, exciting and mildly terrifying experiences of my life.

But, lucky for you, I learned a few things that might help those starting out on their own.

1. Get to know your neighbors

When my roommate and I moved into our place, we introduced ourselves to the people living across the hall pretty quickly. They seemed pretty cool, kind of into partying but still relatively nice.

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One night, about two weeks after we moved in, we heard loud knocks on the door and the sounds of someone trying their hardest to get in. We opened the door to discover one of the guys from across the breezeway standing in the doorway. He walked right in, lay down on the couch and went to sleep. We didn’t know what to do, so we just let him stay there.

The next morning, we came out to see him looking around, very confused. Apparently, he had been dropped off from a night of partying and realized he had forgotten his keys. In his confused state, he thought our door was his and came right in. He was so embarrassed that we didn’t see much of him for a while.

2. Don’t use dish soap in the dishwasher

This one might seem pretty obvious for people who have grown up using a dishwasher. But for those of us who had to suffer through washing dishes by hand, it may not make sense that you can’t use the two detergents interchangeably.

Awhile after we had moved in, we ran out of detergent for the dishwasher. We had a massive amount of dishes to wash after cooking a large meal for our boyfriends, and doing it all by hand was just intolerable.

In lieu of going to the store to get more, we thought it made perfect sense that standard dish soap could be used. It’s the same thing, right?

So in went the soap and on went the dishwasher. About 30 minutes later, I walked out into the kitchen to get a drink and shrieked as I stepped in a pile of sudsy water. Soap had started billowing out of the dishwasher. We had quite a mess to clean up. And even though the floor was now clean as well, it wasn’t worth the subsequent work.

[ Related: Not Just for Salads: Vinegar Works Wonders Around the Apartment ]

3. Don’t forget that you have potatoes

Early on, when we were still pretty optimistic about spending our free time cooking, we bought all kinds of fresh foods for the grand meals we wanted to cook. I knew that you don’t put potatoes in the fridge and that you want to keep them somewhere dark so they stay fresh. We were using the laundry closet as a pseudo-pantry. I set the potatoes in their paper bag on a shelf and shut the door. We cooked food and went grocery shopping again.

Ages later, we started to smell something like dead fish, which made no sense since neither of us ever ate fish. We cleaned the whole apartment, scrubbing the floors and taking out the trash. The smell just stuck. In fact it got worse.

Eventually, I pulled all of the shelving units away from the wall, and a paper bag fell to the floor with a thud. I opened it and dropped the bag again.

The potatoes. Apparently, as potatoes go bad, they take on the odor of rotting fish. Thank goodness for Febreze!

Hopefully my life lessons can help you find your own way through renting your first apartment.

Take a look at ApartmentShowcase.com and find your next place!

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