Shortly after I graduated from college, I moved out of my childhood home and into my first apartment. I reveled in every moment of my new-found freedom. Living on my own enabled me to live as I wanted to live, to create my own home of peace and tranquility, and to come and go as I pleased. As a person who cherishes personal freedom, living on my own was everything I had hoped for and more.
Just before I turned into the driveway of my first apartment, I remember turning on the radio to find a good song that I would make my “moving out” song, something that would help me memorialize the moment. That song was The Year of the Cat by Al Stewart.
Always having a fondness for attics, my first apartment was an attic dwelling. It had the cutest built-in clothes closet, a screen porch that desperately needed work, a kindly widowed landlady, and some very strange downstairs neighbors. Very strange, as a matter of fact…but that is a story for another day!
I still remember the day I rented a post office box. Somehow this brought great joy to me as I felt I was officially on my own. I still have the special Italian dishware that I bought in sets of two from the local Italian gourmet shop minutes from my door. I spent a lot of time cleaning the place up, working my way through every nook and cranny until every surface sparkled. Every piece of furniture, every wall hanging, and every appliance and utensil was only put in its place after much deliberation.
Although there was so much to delight in, there was also much to learn. For instance, what a surprise it was when I suddenly received a tax bill for my car! Thankfully, the nice lady at the Town Hall was quite understanding (and amused) and helped me through the process. To this day I remain puzzled as to why our society fails to teach the true basics of home economics to every high school student. I believe that there would be less turmoil in the world of personal finances if we injected that practicality into the secondary education curriculum.
For anyone moving into their first place or for someone who is interested in some new thinking about running a house, here are some suggestions:
Life Skills 101: a Practical Guide to Leaving Home and Living on Your Own by Tina Pestalozzi is an absolute must for anyone moving out for the first time. It covers all the basics including skills that are so fundamental that they are often overlooked (like how to write a check). From meal planning to how to do the laundry, it’s all here.
Cash and Credit Information for Teens: Tips for a Successful Financial Life edited Kathryn R. Deering isn’t just for teens. This is a superb primer on all the financial basics from how to make a personal budget, protecting yourself as a consumer, understanding how to select a bank (and how a bank works), learning about taxes, avoiding financial risks, and understanding loans and credit cards.
Apartment Therapy Presents Real Homes, Real People, Hundreds of Real Design Solutions by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan would have helped me understand how to decorate my new space. The book takes a modernist and high-end approach to decorating. Most helpful for city dwellers with a large checkbook but even someone on a budget can find inspiration within its pages.
Feather Your Nest: the Complete Guide to Outfitting, Cleaning, Organizing, and Caring for Your Home by Cerentha Harris offers a room-by-room guide to help you enjoy and care for your dwelling. In a friendly, easy-to-read style, Harris covers the basics such as how to clean the sink along with more unusual tasks, like how to clean the piano.
Stop Getting Ripped Off by Bob Sullivan will help anyone learn how to avoid the seemingly never-ending ways that consumers get hoodwinked. First, Sullivan describes the sobering failure of most Americans to understand basic mathematical equations making them prone to being cheated without even knowing it. Then he looks at specific areas where people are most likely to get ripped off, such as with cell phones, car purchases, student loans, and more.
For the home dweller wanting a green approach, Sara Snow’s Fresh Living covers it with a room-by-room guide to greener living. Snow includes energy saving tips, how to eat and shop in conscious and healthy way, green cleaning alternatives, and essentials for good living. A fun, upbeat guide with lots to offer everyone.
Another helpful guide is the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch’s Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants in Connecticut. This handy guide gives a snapshot overview of the roles of lessees and lessors and covers such topics as security deposits, how to inspect an apartment, rent increases, utilities, discrimination, and what to do if you ever find yourself in a problematic situation.
Additional assistance on law and renting can be found in Landlord/Tenant Law by Margaret Jasper. This book provides a detailed look at illegal landlord actions, types of tenancy, how to find and inspect a property, renter’s insurance, roommates, leasing, evictions, and more. It also includes a number of sample form letters.
On a morning from a Bogart movie, in a country where they turn back time, you go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre… The Year of the Cat…
Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library who finds joy in the little things of life.