Keeping Safe: Your Apartment Safety Checklist

street light

The prospect of a new apartment is thrilling – a fresh start and new spaces to decorate and make your own. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun parts and let some of the more serious aspects slide. But safety is an integral part of making your new apartment your home. Feeling secure and knowing you’re prepared will give you peace of mind and help you enjoy your apartment. And even if your apartment isn’t new, but some of these things have been neglected, take some time to revisit them!

  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – Your apartment is required by law to have working smoke detectors, so when you move in you should locate and test these to ensure they are working properly. Depending on the building you may also need a carbon monoxide detector as well. Any fuel-burning system or appliance means you’ll need one on each floor of the apartment.
  • Check the locks – Make sure all the exterior locks in your apartment are secure and in working order. If not, contact your landlord immediately.

 

  • Check the windows – Ensure there are functioning locks on your windows and the seals are tight.

 

  • Have a fire extinguisher – Keep a small fire extinguisher readily available in case of emergencies. Remember that grease and electrical fires cannot be extinguished with water and a fire extinguisher is the safest way to deal with a small fire. Prevention is key, though – don’t plug too many things into a power strip or an outlet, leave cigarettes unattended, or candles burning when nobody is around. Know what to do in case of a fire (read here) and have a plan ready in case of a fire emergency.

 

  • Keep a first aid kit handy – This may be obvious, but do you know where your first aid supplies are? Are they easily accessible? Keep these things in an easy to find spot, clearly labeled for utmost safety.

 

  • Put together a power outage / disaster kit – In case you lose power for several days or more, have supplies ready. You can find a list of things that are good to pack here.

 

  • Get renter’s insurance – This way, if you have belongings stolen or there is a fire, you will be covered!

Keeping the Proverbial Glass Half Full

tea

A friend recently caught me off-guard when she complimented my ability to renew and reinvent myself following some major shifts in my life. She described how others shut down and were unable to function normally while I kept the ball rolling and continued forward. I was surprised (and flattered) to hear this and took some time to reflect on what she had said.

What it really boils down to is perspective and attitude. Needless to say, I’m not the first individual to come to this conclusion, but just one in an endlessly long line of those less interested in the enormous list of social expectations drawn up by contemporary society which cause anxiety. Apathy is a bit of a dirty word now, with more negative connotations than positive, however the original Greek word apatheia was used by the Greek Stoic philosophers to describe a lack of emotional response to events outside of our control. And there are a great deal of things outside of our control which still cause us anxiety despite that fact. I think that overcoming the desire to control what is uncontrollable is key in maintaining a happy and healthy life.

I can easily attribute this developing ability to roll with the punches and all of life’s lovely little hiccups to the teachings of British philosopher, Alan Watts. If you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Watts, I highly recommend searching for his lectures on YouTube (if for no other reason to listen to his lovely speaking voice) or reading one of his books on Zen philosophy. One of his more well-known statements is that life and our social conventions are games, which once taken too seriously cease to be games anymore.   And when this happens, we take them too seriously and worry over the outcome.

So it’s been a long time coming, but when things simply do not work out the way I expected them to, I am beginning to be able to keep going forward. And really that is the only direction to move in. This attitude is not due to some sort of melancholy resignation on my part, but a joyful optimism that while there will always be sad and difficult moments throughout life, there will be a great deal more beautiful and enlightening experiences. I can truthfully say my glass, or cup of tea more often, is most certainly half full.

 

Safe Snacking for Dogs

dog

I was absolutely determined to never ever feed my dog little morsels from the table when I adopted him. I did a fantastic job of refraining from doing so too until someone (cough, my Dad, cough) decided to start doing it anyway. And now, like most dogs he is a shameless expert in the soulful-eyed, innocent look from the edge of the table. “Please, no one here every feeds me,” he seems to say. Needless to say I often succumb to the manipulation more often these days.

I was surprised to find out just how many things are unsafe for dogs to eat. This goes especially for small dogs, who are generally more sensitive to toxic substances. Most people know about not feeding dogs chocolate, but did you also know grapes are considered toxic to dogs? Garlic and onions are also two things easily dropped on the floor while cooking that you don’t want your furry friend to indulge in. Some others on the ASPCA’s list are:

Nuts

Coffee

Coconut

Avocado

Xylitol (a sweetener used in chewing gum)

Citrus fruits

Alcohol of any kind

If you want to make your own treats for your best friend to keep in the kitchen, try one of these recipes from the Kitchn here.

So be careful what you’re feeding your pet from the table! The ASPCA’s list applies to both dogs and cats so you can make sure to keep your critters safe and healthy.

Are You Over-Washing Your Clothes?

washer

Chances are the answer is yes! Or at least somewhat. Do you ever wear something for a few hours during the day and then toss it on the floor with the other dirty clothes, throw it into the hamper, then wash it unnecessarily? We all do at least some of the time. Washing things when they don’t really need it is not such a great thing for several reasons: it wastes water, detergent, and energy, and it breaks down your clothing at an expedited rate. This is especially true if you also use the dryer- each time you dry your tshirts or jeans, the heat wears down the fabrics.

Another point to consider is how dirty are your clothes, really? It’s not mandatory to wash things like jeans, made of heavy denim, every time you wear them. It’s highly unlikely they are significantly dirty or smell bad. Of course if they are smelly, throw them in the wash, but jeans can usually be worn 3-5 times before they really require washing attention. I’m not sure I’d go so far as the freezer jeans people, but you may be able to lengthen the amount of time between washes. You may be able to simply spot treat clothing items that are mostly clean, but have a tiny speck here and there that needs to be taken care of. Airing clothing out between wears also will help eliminate small amounts of odors and help dewrinkle.

One method to help sort out the slightly dirty from the really dirty and really clean is to have what one Apartment Therapy writer deems a “clothes purgatory” – a place in your closet or on a rack elsewhere where you can hang up the only-a-little-dirty pieces which aren’t quite ready for the washer.

What to Do When You Think You’ve Run Out of Storage Space

storage

So you’re out of storage huh? Think again! There is pretty much always a way to add additional storage space to your little apartment. The key is to think outside the box! Or above the box, more often. Unutilized space can be easily hidden or overlooked, but that is remedied through rearranging and rethinking the space.

Add risers to your bed – If your bed isn’t on risers, you’re losing out on some serious storage capabilities! Plastic risers are cheap and easily found at Target or IKEA which open up the space under your bed to accommodate baskets or bins for additional storage, taking up no extra floor space in your room.

Install shelves around the upper perimeter of the room – when floor space comes at a premium, look up. Adding shelves above eye level all around the room creates a tremendous amount of storage for smaller items (nothing too heavy). Just keep a folding step stool handy for reaching the shelves and you’ll be amazed at how much you can keep up and out of the way.

Add a pegboard in your closet – Pegboards can be used to hang all kinds of tools or even baskets for other items. Using the wall space saves you floor space. They’re perfect for inside a closet, inside doors, or even above your desk or in the kitchen.

Buy double-duty furniture – This one requires more investment, but buying furniture with storage space built in is a great way to keep your stuff out of sight and organized. Not all of these items are expensive either. Target often sells ottomans with inside storage for $40 or less.

Help! How to Fight an Army of Fleas

dog

If you’re undergoing World War Flea (forgive me for that one), I completely understand your frustration on many levels. Fleas are especially prevalent during warm weather and it’s pretty easy to bring them into your apartment unknowingly. It’s even easier if you have a dog or an indoor/outdoor cat dragging them in. And once they’re in, they are a complete nightmare to get rid of. They reproduce rapidly, hide in all your carpet, rugs, dark spaces, forcing you to wash everything and wage a war of fastidious tidying until they’re gone. And the scariest part is, flea eggs can take up to two weeks to hatch so it’s difficult to tell when you’ve really gotten rid of them.

You have to fight the war on fleas on two fronts: the host front, you and your pets, and the environmental front, where you live. You can treat carpets and furniture with a baking soda and salt mixture which dehydrates the fleas and eggs, allowing you to later vacuum them up and get rid of them. This is a fairly safe and pesticide way to treat tricky surfaces that are flea breeding grounds. It’s safe for pets, but best to keep them out of the area as the substances can be irritants. Most other flea treatments are very harmful to pets and people and should be approached with caution. Hardware and home improvement stores sell chemicals that kill fleas and eggs which you can spray on carpets and furniture, but they are dangerous for pets.

Once the environment is treated, you should tackle the process of de-fleaing your pets. This process isn’t too horrible if you’re treating a dog, but I have yet to meet a cat who enjoys a bath. It’s best to start with the bath to remove as many fleas as possible. Using baby shampoo or a gentle pet shampoo, make a ring of shampoo around your pet’s neck so the fleas do not all run up to your pet’s head. Gently bathe your pet as best as you can (without getting your eyes scratched out) and make sure all those fleas coming off wash down the drain. Once your pet is clean and dry, go over him or her with a flea comb to remove any stragglers. Treating your pet with a flea and tick medicine is also a good idea to kill the eggs and ward off any newcomers.

The apartment cleaning process should be repeated periodically to ensure no eggs are left behind and starting the process over. You can also make a spray from essential oils and water to spray on your furniture and even your dog to ward fleas off. You can use rosemary, citronella, tea tree, eucalyptus, and peppermint oils diluted properly as a repellent. However, do not use this spray on cats because they are too sensitive to use essential oils on.

How to Sublet Your Space

sublet

There are a number of reasons you may want to sublet your apartment – if you’re going on an extended vacation or relocating before the end of your lease, you won’t want to pay rent unnecessarily or in two places at once. If you have found a responsible individual to rent your apartment or room within the apartment, it’s a good to know how to approach a subletting situation.

First, look over your current lease. It may include a clause disallowing subletting altogether. Read through the lease thoroughly to make sure you don’t miss anything. If this is not the case, contact your landlord or property manager to discuss the possibility of subletting your apartment.

The safest way to go about the subletting process is to create a binding legal document signed by all parties involved, including the landlord. You can customize a free one here, which can be tailored specifically to Florida laws. You may also want to go over a checklist with your landlord beforehand covering any damages caused by you and documenting the current condition of the apartment before the new sublease tenant moves in. That way you won’t be held accountable for the mess the new tenant might make. It’s also wise to remove all of your things while someone else inhabits the space or at least document the items and condition before you sublet, for insurance purposes.

Being able to sublet your apartment or even being on the other side and being able to rent a place temporarily can be a great situation for when you’re in between spots. I’ve done it before and it has bought me time to figure out my next living arrangements. Just make sure all your ducks are in a row and the process is documented and organized!