Lessons Learned From A One Year Lease

It's been almost exactly a year--give or take a few weeks--since I officially moved out of my childhood home. By that I mean I not only left my parents' house (that happened several years ago), I also moved beyond on-campus life. August 2010 introduced me to the world of rent payments, electricity payments and--horror of horrors--a fridge that would not automatically be full every time I was hungry.

Ah, we had room for such feasts at my parents' house!

As excited as I had been for this transition, I was in no way prepared for the amount of work that living on my own would demand. I recall more than one night at the end of last summer, sticky from the New Jersey heat and exhausted after assembling various pieces of wobbly Ikea furniture, in which I sat head-curled-over-my-knees in tears, so frustrated at the amount of planning and budgeting and compromise and physical effort (I have no car) that living in my new apartment required.

No Pimpmobile for Claire.

Looking back almost a year later, there are a few words of encouragement I’d like to have shared with that scared, overwhelmed version of myself.

Actually, I’d start by telling her to change out of her sweaty clothes and take a shower—she was probably smelly.

After that, though, I’d reassure her that in the end, everything would work out. Because she learned, grew, and eventually chilled out more in the turbulent year that followed than she had in any of her years prior.

Lessons Learned Within the Span of a One Year Lease

1. As straightforward as the furniture instructions look, they are not usually that easy. Sometimes, you have to ask for help. Or step back and figure out how you lost all the screws. Take that as literally or as metaphorically as you like.

2. Living with friends doesn’t mean living with people who automatically share your exact standards of cleanliness. Deal with it. If the dishes or dirty floor are bothering you, either speak up or fix the problem yourself.

3. Letting little annoyances occasionally slide is one thing. Constantly avoiding conflict, though? It only makes the problem worse.

Um, does anyone here have a megaphone?
It only. makes. the problem. WORSE.

Ultimately, signing onto this lease provided me with an unexpected crash course in existentialism. Happiness only existed when I took the steps to create it.

I also learned a few everyday things, as well. Including...

How to make my own crackers!

How to open a bottle of wine sans corkscrew (though to be fair, this did not take place IN my apartment).

How to throw the world's best Christmas party.

What were some of the hardest lessons you've had to learn from your surroundings? What were some of the most useful?


  1. First off I love your blog. I wish I had a way with words like you do:)

    Second to answer the questions:

    My hardest lessons learned are...

    1.) That not everything or everyone is perfect. Life is just just full of mistakes and those are what help you to learn and grow. If one thing doesn't work try another. If you fall completely on your face do no be afraid to pick yourself back up again.

    2.) Use your resources.. the people in your life (friends and family) are there to help and support you along the way. If you don't lean on them when you are down, then how will they help build you up?

    3.) Things happen for a reason. You may be somewhere or have to deal with something that you may not like, but maybe it happened to make you stronger or a better person. Look at it positively instead of negatively.

  2. First off, thanks so much for the compliment. You make me blush :) Thrilled to hear that someone's enjoying it.

    I absolutely love your thoughts on using your resources. So insightful. I tend to struggle a lot with that one for fear of burdening my friends and loved ones. But wow, you're so right. Thanks for the wise words.

    Also, completely agree with you about things happening for a reason. There's something to be learned from every situation.

  3. Good tips! I wish I had known that sometimes you need to talk to people about worst case scenarios so that it's easier {like what happens if someone wants to move out, travels for long periods of time, gets laid off, etc..}.

    I still haven't figured out the perfect way to approach the cleaning issue yet. sigh

  4. Ooh, very smart. That's definitely something to add to the moving-in protocol of all future living situations. The big "What-If" list.

    As for cleaning, are you the one who's always cleaning or always making the mess? Something tells me you're on the clean side (I am, too).


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