The Ten Commandments of Sharing a Kitchen

kitchen

Kitchens are tricky spaces to share with other people. Living rooms are a piece of cake – the TV might be the only real troublemaker in that common room. But in the kitchen there are countless ways to step on someone else’s toes. Most people are pretty finicky about their food and what’s around it, or where it goes, or who else eats it. The best way to prevent kitchen fights from breaking out is through good communication. You might not realize you’re doing something that bothers your roommate if you don’t talk! Make sure the kitchen expectations are well-known and follow these ten commandments otherwise (humor the old-school phrasing, please):

Honor thy roommate: the golden rule applies!

You know, you learned it in kindergarten – do unto others as you would have them do to you

Thou shalt not leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight

That food stuck to the dishes isn’t going to get any less stuck

Thou shalt not eat thy roommate’s food without permission or notification

Especially the ice cream

Thou shalt wring out the sponge when finished with it

Stinky sponges are the WORST

Thou shalt not wipe your hands on the dish towel

Ideally there’s a separate hand towel for that

Thou shalt not put empty containers back in the refrigerator

Just go ahead and recycle or toss it!

The dishwasher shall be loaded logically and properly

It will save everyone time later

Thou shalt not clog up the drain with food

Emptying scraps into the trash beforehand saves a lot of money in draino or plumbers

Thou shalt clean up thy crumbs on the counters

Crumbs attract ants!

Thou shalt not let food splatter in the microwave

And if you do, just wipe it up

5 Things You Can Put Plants in That You Already Own!

plants

Upcycling is a great way to find new uses for old things and cut down on waste at the same time. So, why not upcycle some things you have lying around and increase the amount of fresh oxygen in your apartment, too? If you’re hankering for some more green life in your place, but don’t want to fork out a bunch of money for new planters these are some simple substitutions you can make.

Depending on what kind of plants you have, you may want to consider: how much water and drainage the plant needs (to base your container choice on), how hot the container will get, i.e., metal vs. ceramic, and if the container will warp with moisture in it, i.e., wood. Some types of containers will work better for certain plants than others – keep these things in mind when making your choices!

Old teacups or mugs – If you’ve broken the handle off a mug or chipped a cup, it can still make an attractive planter like these here. Since the containers are small and don’t have drainage holes, it’s best to plant succulents or cacti in these.

  1. Tin cans – this is a great way to recycle canned food cans and make something useful. Thoroughly clean cans and poke a hole in the bottom for drainage. These work great for mini herb gardens in the kitchen. You can even decorate the cans to match your decor. If you want something bigger, try using an empty paint can instead!
  2. Colanders – these make great planters as they are full of holes! This lets the soil drain and breathe so your plants don’t get root rot. You can even suspend them from a chain like a hanging planter.
  3. Old boots – you’d be surprised how great these are for cute little planters! They give a whimsical look to a porch or patio.
  4. Cookware – baking pans, old mixing bowls, and all that jazz make attractive little planters for your apartment. So instead of throwing out your old stuff when you replace it with new, see what else you can do with it!

What I Learned in Copenhagen

copenhagen

I’m lucky enough to have recently gotten back from a trip to Europe, which is not somewhere I go very often. And this time I went somewhere I’ve never been before – the title is a dead giveaway, but it’s Copenhagen. I fell in love with Copenhagen and Danish culture almost immediately. I had a feeling I would like it, but I really didn’t know what else to expect and there was an almost immediate sense of belonging. It’s a beautiful old city of history, fairy tales (the home of Hans Christian Andersen), bicycles, and cozy spots to hunker down with a hot cup of coffee.

Copenhagen has a very comfortable vibe, and it’s no doubt with a culture that created their own culture of cozy, called hygge. “Hygge is a feeling you cannot translate” said one of the postcards I saw in town, but it roughly translates to a feeling of warmth, coziness, and comfort wherever you go. Many people have written about the Danish phenomenon of hygge, and Hyggehouse.com writes, “Hygge literally only requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present – but recognize and enjoy the present.” This is an idea embraced by a culture that spends part of the year in almost total darkness, when the sun is only out for a few hours in the coldest parts of winter. Even living in the southern United States, Seasonal Affective Disorder has a hold on a number of people, causing a seasonal bout of depression. While the idea of hygge cannot fix this, it’s a healthy mental state to adopt that can help with not only winter blues, but any day of the year.

I’d gladly go back to Copenhagen any day. The air was chilly, but the attitude was warm, nurturing, and exciting. It’s a city where outdoor cafes provide blankets on their chairs and nearly every building has a bicycle rack outside. If that’s not enough, beautiful modern Scandinavian design is everywhere and mixes seamlessly with the ornate traditional architecture of the buildings. If you ever have a chance, stop over in Denmark and see what it’s all about.

How to Survive Not Having a Dishwasher

dishwasher

I’ve previously written about how I’d basically live in a cardboard box before renting another apartment without a dishwasher. Well, as fate would have it, I have rented another spot without a dishwasher. Maybe I was being a bit dramatic about the life or death nature of the dishwasher, but I still maintain I’d much rather have one than not. Thankfully I’ve learned to live in harmony without the beloved kitchen appliance and I know you can too. So if you find yourself in a new spot where you’re the dishwasher you can keep these things in mind to help you cope:

  • Don’t let the dishes pile up If you wash the dishes every night before bed, you’ll thank yourself later. It only gets worse if you let it go. Not only does it make doing the dishes a much more time-consuming chore but things start to smell bad in there… better to nip this one in the bud.
  • Embrace the act of washing dishes If you give it a chance, washing dishes can be kind of a therapeutic, mindless activity. This is a great time to meditate or clear your mind while your hands do the dirty work. It’s similar to having time to think while in the shower, but in front of the sink instead.
  • Keep your sponge / wash rag clean Don’t walk away with smelly hands and dishes – keep your sponge fresh! There’s some debate currently as to whether or not it helps to run them through the dishwasher or microwave them. Some people recommend just replacing it every couple weeks. Or you can get a few of these bad boys and wash them regularly and cut down on the waste.
  • Cut down on how many dishes you use Reusing cups throughout the day and washing your plate for each meal will cut down on all the dishes piled up in the sink! Be conscious of how many dishes you’re using and it will keep you from stacking the dishes up a mile high.

Look Up! And Liberate Your Floor Space

floorspace

One of the great struggles of renting an apartment is figuring out how to fit everything on the ground in a small floor plan. The solution in apartments is the same as it is in city planning – build up, right? The question is whether or not you’re using your ceiling and wall space efficiently? What could you be hanging from the ceiling or on the walls instead of stationing on the floor? It could open up your apartment and help it feel airy and spacious.

Hanging side tables and shelves free up floor space and look super cool. Try DIY’ing a neat bedside table like this one, from website the Merrythought. You can find fun looking slabs of wood to work with on Etsy. This simple DIY allows you to put other storage underneath or just simply enjoy the minimalist and open look of the hanging table by itself.

I love those very 1970’s hanging fruit baskets in the kitchen, a la this right here. It’s likely that counter space comes at a premium in your apartment and freeing up any of that golden space is a welcome idea. Plus if you’re into the retro thing, this style of basket is right up your alley.

Another way to maximize the space in your place via the hanging method is to add hooks underneath shelves all over – you can do this in any room. For example, you can use hooks underneath a shelf in your kitchen for utensils or mugs. In your bedroom, hooks under a shelf make a great jewelry hanger for necklaces or for hanging sweaters from.

More cool than practical, the hanging chair fad is upon us – hang a hammock or fun rattan chair from the ceiling (check with your landlord first) and prepare to receive all the compliments. Because, how cool is this? Ok that one is a little pricey, but the hanging chairs thing is becoming popular again so there are some more affordable options out there!

What Makes An Apartment Feel Like Home?

home

I think it takes a little more than organizing all your stuff in an apartment to make it feel like home. So if it’s not just your stuff, what’s the secret? What exactly is it that we define as the feeling of home?

I’m sure a lot of it comes down to nostalgia and our childhood, but certainly not all of it. However, I do think you can break down the feeling into sense-based categories:

Sight – What colors calm you? Is there a certain style you really identify with? Embrace that style and use colors that make you feel comfortable. Lighting is an integral part of mood and comfort too. I use a lot of ambient lighting which calms me when I walk into a room. Plants also make a room feel homey and they come with the added bonus of cleaning the air for you, too.

Sound – Does the gentle sound of a fan sound like home? What about music? My ideal room (and often my real room) has an old record playing, preferably something soft and romantic like Billie Holiday. To me, that’s comfort. Sound can have quite an impact on our feelings of stress or comfort and white noise and music both can help you feel at home.

Smell – What does your apartment smell like? Is it a smell that makes you happy or is it something that needs to be addressed? When you walk into your apartment, do you recognize an old familiar smell? I like opening the door and smelling coffee or even spices from a meal I’ve cooked. Some scents are not as identifiable- a combination of how we smell as people and the things we use every day. Try and identify what it is you like to smell when you walk in the door and accentuate it.

Touch – There’s nothing like walking barefoot on a soft rug. Texture plays an important role in comfort, too so don’t skip this aspect. Find some throw pillows that are cozy to lounge on or a blanket that’s extra soft to the touch.

What’s On Your List?

list

Everybody has one when shopping for apartments. THE list- it gets more and more specific the more places you’ve rented, the more things you’ve encountered and learned from. I’m not talking price range or amenities included. I mean the details. What are those things that really make your place comfortable and feel like home? Is there an aesthetic you’re looking for? Or is it the fact that you really want to live in a certain neighborhood? Whatever it is, it can usually be narrowed down to about 5 things. My list is as follows:

  • Needs a balcony or patio. This is an absolute must because outdoor space is a big deal to me!
  • Must have a washing machine or a laundry room because I am never doing the laundromat thing again if I can help it.
  • I really, really like old buildings – historic buildings tend to have such beautiful charm and character that I love. Please don’t ask me about the cons of old buildings…
  • Good windows are an absolute necessity. Natural light is a great mood elevator and I don’t handle the lack of light well, so it’s essential to me. It’s also good for houseplants and cats (life’s other necessities).
  • A walkable neighborhood – I like to go places on foot and on a bike, so location is pretty important when it comes to what’s near my apartment.

These are things that while I could do without, I’ve decided I really don’t want to do without. After some time apartment hunting, you can tell pretty quickly what suits your criteria and what doesn’t. It may take a few apartments to really figure it out but eventually it will become obvious.

It’s good to know what your list is when you’re looking for a spot so you can keep track of which places really make you feel at home. You might be surprised just how much of a difference this can make in the long run!