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Apartment Hacks: Protect, Upgrade and Optimize your Place

January 10th, 2010

Though the stereotype exists that most people on the Internet live in their mother’s basement and eat nothing but packaged noodles, this is increasingly far from the truth. A good number of Well Cultured readers live on their own or plan to do so fairly soon- so here are some tips on how to make the experience easy, safe, and relatively pain-free.

Living Room/Office Tips and Optimizations

  • If you can, connect your TV to your PC (or have a similar system set up). The technical specifications of this can be either very easy or very complex, but the core idea is to have the two set up in a way to watch your movie collection, listen to music, and access the absolute plethora of online movies and TV shows available online from places like Hulu. Some consoles can handle this, and most video cards also have the ability to do S-Video out. If you’re connected enough, you could entirely go without normal cable TV.
  • Organize your cables. Cable ties can be purchased relatively cheaply and will keep your place cleaner (and easier to clean).
  • Though obviously hard-wiring is preferable in some cases, because of the advances of wireless technology, try to invest in a wireless router. Most apartment complexes are not wired for (and frown on you trying to wire them for) ethernet. Obviously, password the thing, don’t be stupid- even though WEP and the like are easily cracked, it’s worth it.
  • Depending on your monitor, try to build a monitor stand. Raising your monitor, in certain cases, will feel more natural and keep your head at a natural level, in addition to giving you further desk space underneath the stand.
  • That being said, this is a bit of a controversial statement, but look into an all-in-one PC, especially if you are willing to take the minor hit in gaming functionality and the raise in price. Their cleanliness (and the ease of moving them) sometimes makes them worth it- the pain of moving a full ATX tower and a widescreen monitor (with all cords) can be a pain.
  • This might be a bit fancy for most people’s palate, but look into ambient lighting options, like LED strips. Don’t be ridiculous and invest in “ambient light” TVs or anything- but the idea can be remarkably stylish and a nice way to light an area without using harsh bulbs. The only issue is that few LED strips can be found that don’t require being connected to actual electrical lines (few have plugs).
  • Invest in good art. No-one’s asking you to pay a lot of money- oftentimes, it’s cheaper (and kinda cooler) to look into newer emerging artists, or find people through independent sites like Etsy and DeviantArt (though both of those sites are generally more awful than interesting). Worst case scenario, be ghetto and rasterbate an image and print it out for your walls.
  • As silly as it sounds to say this, clean regularly. Every week or so, try to do a basic cleaning of your place, but every month or two, do a deep cleaning of your place- vacuum inside your couch, clean baseboards, and do other things you rarely do.
  • Try to move to digital where you can. While most are used to collecting and saving DVDs (and more recently, Blu Rays), this activity is increasingly having no purpose. Use services like STEAM, Netflix/Amazon on Demand, and other systems when you can.

Kitchen and Dining Tips and Tricks

  • Despite what most may argue, cheap food is not necessarily bad food. Though many claim to be able to “tell the difference”, for a lot of things (notably some produce and meats), there is little to no difference. Do not feel guilty shopping for cheap food.
  • You really don’t need a huge number of kitchen gadgets. You probably don’t even need half of what most have. Find yourself a good checklist, and go through it, discarding everything you absolutely don’t need. Even cookbooks can be discarded- the internet is a fine replacement.
  • Learn to open a bottle of wine. Don’t buy an overpriced electric offering- a Waiter’s Corkscrew will work just fine. You can also use a variety of other items, including anything from a screwdriver to a plain knife. There are so many ridiculous options that they would require an article of their own- Google is your friend.
  • When shopping, make a list and shop when you have already eaten. The former prevents you from making ridiculous expensive/pointless purchases, whereas the latter keeps you from purchasing too much.
  • Disinfect. As often as you can. Having mold and germs in your kitchen can be dangerous, and having any sort of meat residue laying around is INCREDIBLY dangerous. Get a good disinfectant and use it.
  • Learn to use a really sharp knife. Dull knives are dangerous and pointless- educate yourself. Hell, just learn how to buy and use a knife at all.
  • If you like coffee, buy a good coffee maker or french press, depending on the quantity you drink. A french press is a great option for a single person, but if you need both scheduled coffee and lots of it, go for an electric coffee maker.
  • Believe it or not, chopsticks can make eating some things (notably salad and smaller meals) easier. Once you learn how to use them, they become invaluable.
  • Slightly lazy? Boiling water can sometimes help clean off gunk stuck on the bottom of your sink. Just take boiling water and pour it on- with a little bit of scrubbing, most of everything will come off easily.
  • Freeze your meat. If you don’t do this, you probably should- for obvious reasons, it lasts longer. If you buy chicken breasts, for example, place it in plastic bags (with as little air as possible) and freeze it. You can also buy pre-frozen chicken breasts, which are actually a bit cheaper anyway- not as high quality, but good enough for most.

General Safety Tips

  • If at all possible, if you live in an apartment complex, try to live on an upper floor. Though it is harder to move in and out, it is generally safer- it is much more difficult for thieves to steal from an upper floor. In addition, it will keep people from potentially shining car lights in your windows.
  • If you can, find an apartment with a washer and dryer inside the apartment itself. It may be hard, but it will keep your clothes safer, and be ultimately more convenient.
  • For obvious reasons, avoid pasting your name on the outside of your door, your mailbox, or the like.
  • Every so often, take an inventory of your possessions. The best way to do this is to make a list of serial numbers of expensive items (game consoles, PCs, TVs, etc), then use a digital camera to take photos of everything in your apartment. Store these online somewhere you can find them later, like an online storage service.
  • Leave a light on. While this isn’t entirely eco-friendly, if you purchase a good fluorescent light bulb and stick it in a small lamp, it will be sufficient, and deter possible break-ins.
  • If you can, have an alarm system set up. This may not be worth it for small rentals, but for longer-term rentals, it is almost undoubtedly worth it.
  • If you feel as if your safety has been compromised (for example, if you may have lost a key, have a vindictive ex-girlfriend with a key, etc), ask your landlord to swap out the locks. It is worth it.

General All-Around Apartment Tips

  • Though most tend to believe bigger is better, you may find that a smaller apartment may ultimately be better than a larger one, for both cleaning and general upkeep.
  • For things like clothing and books- donate or sell what you don’t use. Not only will this put extra cash in your pocket, but it will eliminate clutter and keep you from needing too much space for extra storage.
  • Create or buy a small docking station (or at least a little power station thing) to put your various small powered items, like your iPod and cell phone. Keeping everything in one place is very convenient.
  • An ironing board and an iron are two things you absolutely need to have and learn to use. Unless you make a ridiculous amount of money, there is no point in paying someone else to do something so simple. A sewing kit is also something nice to have.
  • For both geeky reasons and space reasons, it’s generally easier to have flat screen TVs and monitors rather than traditional CRT tube televisions. Still, the price of the former make them somewhat hard to switch to easily.
  • Open windows to allow more ambient light, which is both good for saving electricity and giving yourself a mental boost. Mirrors also help spread light and give the illusion of more space.
  • Wash your sheets often- every two to three weeks. This is not only nice and clean, but it also keeps your skin nice. Flip your mattress occasionally.

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