Posts Tagged With: tiny living

Tiny Vampires

Hello my lovely 20-something followers! It’s been a while. But don’t worry; I have a whole new cornucopia of excuses to justify my lack of commitment to my blog. First and foremost, I’ve started actually getting paid to write (not a lot, but enough to motivate me to choose the gig over blogging). Second, I’ve had a whole host of life changes recently that kind of threw my routine (if I ever had one) out the window.

The most interesting of those is the subject of this post. After quite some time deliberating on the subject—and getting over some embarrassment and mild PTSD—I decided I am comfortable enough to share my experience. Don’t you feel lucky?

So here it goes.

Over the summer, my life was almost destroyed by a creature the size of a flax seed.

Those who’ve been victimized by this agent of Satan probably already know what I’m referring to. For the rest of you lucky, bright-eyed, blissfully ignorant bastards, I’ll elaborate (and ruin your night’s sleep): I’m talking about bed bugs. Sounds creepy right?

Well…

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When I first heard of bed bugs it was probably whilst combing travel websites. Bed bugs are often mentioned in the realm of hostels, dorms, and cheap motels, especially those abroad. I believe I checked for them half-heartedly a few times while staying in hostels in Costa Rica, not really even knowing what I was looking for.

However, everyone seems to forget to mention some very important information about bed bugs, predominantly that they are FUCKING EVERYWHERE. That’s right kiddos, nowhere is safe. Since the 80s, bed bug infestations have exploded in developed nations. Bed bugs aren’t just in hostels or motels, but in high-end apartments, restaurants, laundromats, and even libraries—yes they hide in books, and yes you can get them from these books. Commence psychotic breakdown.

Most attribute this rise to an increase in travel and pesticide resistance as well as a lack of education and the stigma surrounding infestations. Well, I’m going to do my share to tackle the last part of that sentence and school anyone reading this about these little vampires:

 

Bed bugs don’t give a shit if you’re dirty or clean, poor or rich.

Anyone and any place can be infested by bed bugs. My apartment definitely wasn’t what I would consider “high-end” but it also wasn’t a slum. Bed bugs may seem to plague poor areas more than affluent ones due to larger amounts of clutter, less responsive pest management practices, and the circulation of second-hand furniture. This doesn’t change the fact that the evil little shits will live anywhere, hitchhike on anything, and feed on anyone. Anywhere they can find warm bodies is good place to settle down. Oh, and they can also wait around for months without a meal. Like I said, nowhere is safe.

 

Bed bugs aren’t just annoying.

Some sources refer to bed bugs as an “annoying pest.” People who write things like this should try waking up to the feeling of something snacking on you, and then dealing with the knowledge that said something has actually been living in your bed frame for weeks, living off your precious life energy and shitting in your bed the whole time. Then they can tell me just how “annoying” that is. It’s not annoying, it’s fucking horrifying. This is the stuff of nightmares. Though they don’t spread disease, bed bugs can turn normal human beings into paranoid, anxiety-ridden insomniacs. So not exactly a great experience for someone who already suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Now I have the added delight of experiencing a mini heart attack any time I see something vaguely reminiscent in shape or size of a bed bug or feel an itch while in bed. For more on “Bed Bug Madness”, check out this article.

 

There is hope. Kind of.

The internet and brazen honesty are our friends in the fight against bed bugs. Through my research I found that in addition to professional extermination services, the most valuable weapon against bed bugs is plain old heat. You can purchase a product called the “Bug Zapper.” It’s basically just a portable oven that will heat your possessions (in a much safer and more effective manner than a conventional oven) to a point that cooks the tiny vampires alive. You can also freeze possessions to kill bed bugs, but this takes a lot longer and is less reliable. Most importantly people need to stop acting like this is something that only happens in the third world. All apartment complexes should warn tenants about bed bugs. Parents should teach their kids about bed bugs. President Obama should deliver an address and turn national attention and full military power towards bed bugs. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Oprah should be solving the bed bug crisis.

 

So maybe I’m just a little bent out of shape about this. But the reality is not that bed bugs ruined my life but that they took something sacred away from it. The second most devastating loss of my bed bug infestation (the first being my sanity, naturally) was my love for second-hand items. I hate buying new things in a world full of unwanted stuff and I love the character of used books, furniture, and clothing. But now that I’ve peered into the rabbit hole of lunacy, desperation and paranoia that is life with bed bugs, my zeal has been replaced with fear. I still buy used clothes, but I throw them immediately into the wash on hot and dry them for 60 minutes to set my mind at ease. I’ve also bought a few used books after flipping neurotically through the pages. But my love affair with used furniture has officially ended. I feel as though my innocence has been taken. I find it tragic that I must pass up a perfectly good futon on craigslist, or a unique end table with a turkey on it at the thrift store for fear of another infestation.

I’m not sure what the answer to the bed bug epidemic is, other than spreading the word to avoid curbside castaways and inspect hotel beds. I don’t know if throwing infested furniture in landfills or using new pesticides will do anything but prolong the inevitable: a hostile takeover of human society by nefarious bed bug overlords.

Ok obviously I’m kidding but it’s still pretty frightening, don’t you think?

 

So for anyone with something important to do today, here’s the ANGTFT (Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That) version of the last six months of my life:

Just when I was starting to really love my new tiny apartment lifestyle, it was unceremoniously demolished by demonic arthropods. My cat and I moved in with my boyfriend, almost infested his place as well, and I salvaged what possessions and sanity I could. Despite all this, we still managed to escape Michigan just before winter truly set in. We now share a small apartment in downtown D.C. where we are hoping to find work before our modest savings run out.

Thanks for reading friends, and may you never wake up in the middle of the night to find a tiny vampire hiding in the pages of your scifi novel.

Cheers.

Categories: About me, Lifestyle, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Checking in: Six Months of Tiny Living and Carlessness!

So remember that time I said I was going to try to write a little bit each week instead of waiting and then doing a massive thought dump? Well, I did try.

I’m not very good at keeping routines and as much as I liked writing regularly, it didn’t take long for me to become distracted by various other things. You see there are just too many fun activities out there to occupy my time. I have far too many hobbies and not enough (free) hours in the day. So much like meditation, yoga, and waking up early, my newfound habit sort of fell by the wayside. Furthermore since the golden, short time of summer is finally upon us Michiganders, I spend 90% of my day riding my bike, hiking around in woodlots and fields at work, and otherwise recreating outside. Thus, I’m not exactly sitting in front of my computer frequently.

Me, every week.

Me, every week.

Now that I’ve got my excuses out of the way, let’s get to the main purpose of this post. I am officially into month six of my simple living lifestyle design experiment, or whatever the hell you want to call it. It’s not so much an experiment as it is just my life…but since it’s all kind of new to me and more or less uncharted territory as far as my peers go, I’m taking note of the results. I have to say, so far things have gone remarkably well. I’m smitten with my tiny apartment, my job at the university is enjoyable, and the majority of the time I love being car-less. In the interest of organization and keeping up with themes, I’m going to construct this post much the same way I did my pre-move in post. Yup, cliché internet list style. Enjoy.

6 Triumphs and Failures of a Simplified Lifestyle

1. Living a 10-minute bike ride from work is amazing.

If you’re a sane human being you hate commuting to work. Who the hell wants to get early up just to sit in traffic with thousands of other miserable people? Getting to work is basically just like an extra punch in the face on top of the drudgery of the average 8-hour workday. However, biking or busing to work in 10-20 minutes has basically taken all the stress out of this experience. I find that I actually show up to work in a decent mood most days (well, now that it’s above 45 degrees in the morning that is).

2. Living in a small space has helped me prioritize my needs and wants.

When your kitchen is the size of a walk-in closet you really start to learn which cooking implements are really necessary. Spatula? For sure. Strange contraption that peels an orange for you? I’ll pass. I’ve gotten rid of a fair amount of stuff, from video games to clothes to toiletries and it honestly feels fantastic. Not only is a small living space incentive to purge (or not purchase in the first place) unneeded things, it’s a great (and valid) excuse as to why you can’t accept unwanted gifts or giveaways. “Sorry, I literally do not have room in my apartment for the most wasteful coffee maker known to mankind Karen but thanks for the biodegradable K-cups.”

3. Not having a car is surprisingly liberating.

You would think not having a car would be a hindrance, almost impossible depending on where you live. However, due to the fairly reliable bus system in my area, my love of biking and moderate distaste for driving, I’ve found it predominantly enjoyable. Finding parking, paying for parking, rush-hour traffic, wondering if I’d had one too many drinks to get my car home tonight…these are all things I miss worrying about literally 0 percent. My bike is also helping to keep me in great shape, even when I don’t bust my ass at work or take time to exercise. It’s nice not having to think about exercising, instead it’s just part of my existence. If my bike is reading this, I love you!

4. Not having a car is predictably constraining.

For out-of-city needs and adventures however, not having a car is undoubtedly frustrating. Things like the Greyhound, Michigan Flyer (basically a nicer Greyhound), and Zipcar are definitely better than nothing and I’m so glad they exist…but they don’t exactly close the gap. Zipcars get pricey when you need them for more than a few hours, and getting to and from a bus station can be an adventure in and of itself. Thus, I haven’t seen my out of town friends or traveled around Michigan nearly as much as I’d like and I do a lot of mooching off my boyfriend to get to metro Detroit. By far the worst part of this however is getting to medical appointments. My insurance blows and many of the doctors I need or would like to see are 30 minutes or more outside my city. It essentially makes the ordeal of seeing a doctor even more annoying, which I didn’t even know was possible honestly. Still though, I would take these relatively infrequent annoyances over stress and astronomical monthly payments any day.

5. Having more free time is a blast.

Until recently I was only working 32 hours a week. Due to my low rent and lack of car costs, this was more than enough to cover my expenses. However, due to my need to save for my impending move and the increase in workload that comes with field season, I am back up to full time. I was blissfully happy working 32 hours however. That extra day before the weekend hit was just what I needed to do the things I wanted to do, but was always too tired or burnt out to do during a normal 40-hour workweek. I found the extra free time gave me space to be creative, functional, and reflective, as well as relax. Saving money by living simply speaks volumes when it allows you to have this freedom. It’s unfortunate there aren’t more jobs out there that allow 32-hour workweeks.

6. Having less money to spend during it is a drag.

Chances are if you live 10 minutes from where you work and you take the bus everywhere, you live in a city. And chances are if you live in a city, you’re not exactly in range of a lot of free recreation options. Compared to the hiking, swimming, snorkeling, coconut husking free time of Costa Rica jungle living, free activities in the city are a little less enthralling. The ironic thing is that my lifestyle is what allows me to have this free time, yet that same lifestyle limits what I can do with it. Luckily I’ve found a few great low-cost hobbies that I genuinely love, like hula hooping in parks and hanging around campus on nice days. But the glory of sitting on sunny patios, drinking long islands and eating seasoned fries still beckons. Hence why I’ve eaten or drank about a third of the money I was supposed to save this month. Whoops.

So there you have it folks, a quick run through of the pros and cons of my lifestyle. I may also post some pictures of my tiny apartment (if I ever get around to taking them) in a future post, because I think it’s pretty rad. If I had to give the past six months a rating, I would probably say eight out of ten, do recommend. However, I’m still more than ready for a change…and I have a feeling fall is going to sneak up fast. It’s becoming increasingly important for me to save money and focus on how I’m going to get my ass from Michigan to somewhere warm…but that’s for another post. Till next time, Pura Vida!

Categories: About me, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hey internet: I made it through January and most of February!

Sorry I’ve taken so long to write a sequel to my resolution post (as I’m sure all ten or so of my followers have been eagerly awaiting it, right?). The dead of winter has its icy grip on me, so it’s basically been a ginormous accomplishment to even get out of bed and make it to work every day (Thanks, S.A.D.). Nevertheless, thanks to coffee and the fact that my power cord reaches my bed, I am committed to producing something today.

I have been living in my tiny apartment for about a month and half now and I have to say…I love it! It has been by far the easiest move I’ve ever done as most of my larger belongings fit into two SUV loads and thanks to my ever-so-patient boyfriend, I have been slowly moving the rest of my belongings from his place over the past month. Now finally, aside from a few oddball items like a cello and a yoga ball, everything of importance to me is here.

I measured the space and my apartment comes in at a whopping 250 square feet, cabinets, sinks, and bathtub included. In order to make this space feel like more than just a bedroom with a kitchen, I decided to invest in some appropriate furnishings:

– Queen size lofted bed: $160 (Craigslist)
(Dinner for boyfriend after he assembled lofted bed: $40)

-Compact but cozy mattress to allow for more space up top: $140 (Amazon)

– Space-saving vertical dresser: $90 (Ikea)
(Drinks for myself after assembling dresser: $15)

Covered litter box for kitty so her business doesn’t get in mine: $20

All other furnishings: ~$100 (Craigslist and hand-me-downs)

So, including the nurturing of wounded souls involved in the assembly of frustrating furniture, outfitting my new place cost around $460. Not too bad when you consider professionally renovating a space generally costs thousands. For someone as poor as me however, it did set me back a little when combined with security deposit and first month’s rent.

Here’s a visual of the most important part of my apartment, my giant lofted bed:

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And yes, that’s me awkwardly hiding underneath it. The walls are much less bare now and the area below the bed has been turned into a micro-living room. I have one of those papasan chair cushions and throw pillows on the floor as a stand-in for a couch. I also have a TV and shelves down there. All-in-all it’s a great, cozy little space. Lita’s litter box is hidden in the “basement”, aka the area below the little platform that leads up to my bed. I also keep some odds and ends under there like bags and my camera equipment. Lita seems to like the space. She loves using the bed as pride rock to survey her kingdom from above and the fact that there’s nowhere for me to hide when she wants to sit on my lap.

Although I feel like my apartment is pretty much the perfect size to house everything I own, and in fact I’d like to own fewer things, there are some drawbacks to the space:

1. The biggest problem with my tiny apartment is the tiny kitchen. I love to cook and I also love to save money by cooking big meals and eating the leftovers all week. Although I love my gas stove, there’s just not a lot of room for heavy-duty meal prep.

2. I wish I had a closet. Although my clothes fit quite well in my pseudo-closet (a clothes wrack on the opposite wall to my bed with a smell chest of drawers underneath it), I just don’t like the way it looks. I would much rather have all my clothes tucked away in a tiny closet, mostly for aesthetic reasons but also for the extra storage space a closet tends to provide.

3. It’s not the greatest for entertaining. My micro-living room is great for two, three if you want to get cozy with each other, but that’s about it. With it being the winter and me being broke, I feel this is a pretty big drawback. But hey, you can’t have it all. With the money I’m saving on rent and fuel I do feel a little more ok going out somewhere to have fun.

4. The final drawback doesn’t have to do with the space exactly but HOLY SHIT the electric bill! I knew it would be somewhat rough because I live in balls-cold Michigan, where the polar vortex means single digits for days in a row. I also knew it would be rough because this place has an electric baseboard heater. However I was not expecting it to be over $100/month (and it is!). For someone who obsessively unplugs everything when she’s done using it, this was a shock. However, I know I just have to make it until spring and then I’ll be alright. I detest air conditioning.

At the risk of this post becoming self-indulgent I will try to wrap things up by addressing my other big change of 2015. So far, not having a car has been a mixture of pure delight and pure frustration. On an average day, I watch hundreds of people try to make their way through poorly-plowed roads in rush hour traffic and I count myself extremely lucky that I bus to work. On the weekends however, I curse my lack of mobility for limiting how often I can see my friends and doubling the amount of time it takes to run errands. All things considered though I’d say it is most certainly a win. There is absolutely no way I could afford a car payment right now, let alone gas or insurance. When the outside world stops being an icy prison of misery and slush, things will also be better as I love biking and am prepared to make it my primary form of travel. I’ve also yet to join Zipcar for lack of any real need, but it’s another option to add once I decide it’s worth paying the small monthly fee.

So there you have it, my preliminary reviews of living carless and in a tiny space. I know I am in no way the first to make these choices, but I believe the more people document their experiences with somewhat “alternative lifestyles”, the more people will see that we don’t all have to live the same way. I do sincerely wish there were more options for people who would like to live the way I do. Out of all my apartment searching, this was the only unit I found under 400 square feet and it is by pure luck that it is situated right on a major bus route and close to my work. But perhaps if the demand for these spaces goes up, developers will rise to meet that demand.

My next goal is in the works right now and it’s making my lifestyle as waste-free as possible. I already have a good jump on it with habits I picked up in Costa Rica but I still have a bit of a ways to go. I plan on making more, in-depth posts of my living experiences in the coming months. Also, feel free to leave a comment if you have something interesting to share: suggestions for me, your experience with “resolutions” or tiny living, whatever!

Categories: About me | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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