Things I’ve Learned When Moving. Again.

We moved again.

We’ve moved so many times in the last five or six years, I’ve essentially lost count. I mean I could figure it out, but it’s not like most people where they’re like “oh, we’ve moved once in the last five years” or “oh, we’ve stayed put for twenty.” Nope, not us. It’s been like six times.

Such is the life of a Southern Californian.

(Disclosure: I am not a Southern Californian. I’m just married to one.)

Renters forever, we found ourselves with no home again this spring when we received our lease renewal, and it came packed with a whopping $485 a month rent increase.

Yeah. Fuck that. I would highly recommend to you, oh faithful blog followers, that you avoid Avalon Bay Communities at all cost (they are, in fact, national).

So we moved on June 1st, and don’t even get me started on all the frustrations that led up to it. The short version of the long story is that my husband, his brother, and their parents own a condo that they bought pre-us. At first, my husband and his brother lived in it with some other roommates, then it eventually turned into a rental unit for a family friend. Fast forward to now: we received our lease renewal notice, and decided it was time to ask that the family friend be given notice so that we could occupy the condo.

So here we are. It’s bigger and more spacious, which is OK (until it’s time to clean, which I’ll get into in a minute). There are definitely some major maintenance issues that have gone unattended to for who-knows-how-long. But it’s a place to live, and we didn’t have to move back to Los Angeles (which was ultimately what we’d have to do if we didn’t move here), so we’re all content. For now, at least.

This move was the real kicker in the pants for me, though. Mainly because I did about 98% of the work for it. I’m talking the packing, the phone calls, the house projects, the moving day stuff, the unpacking, the handy work…I’ve done it all.

As a result, I’ve learned a few things.

A Double Vanity Means Double the Sinks To Clean

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The bathroom in my husband’s and my bedroom has a double vanity. We’ve never had this before; quite frankly we’ve always been sharing a bathroom with at least one person, so this is a real upgrade. To have our own bathroom, free of kid’s toothpaste gunk in the sink or my elderly father’s Groom and Clean hair gel scent – well, for a while it seemed like it’d be heaven.

That was until I realized how much more work it is to clean. Not only does our bathroom have the double vanity, it has a huge soaker tub and a standing shower. If you’ve ever watched those house shows on HGTV, you’d know this is called an en suite bathroom, and it’s great and all… If you have a maid.

If you have just me, it’s terrible and a lot of work.

I should also mention that I went from cleaning two bathrooms to cleaning three and a half. This is essentially double the work for someone that can’t stand any of it.

In That Same Vein, More Square Footage

= More Vacuuming

I just really hate cleaning, and it seems like I’m doing it every day.

It seems like? What a crock of bullshit that is. I do clean every day. Every. Single. Day. Of. My. Miserable. Life.

The smallest place we’ve ever lived in was 850 square feet. We now have a whopping 2000, and I’m finding myself pining for those days that I only had 850 to vacuum.

Sure, we were basically piled in like sardines in a can, and you couldn’t do a single thing in the bathroom without the entire apartment hearing you. But it was all worth it now, as far as I’m concerned, to not have to vacuum so much.

Renters Don’t G.A.F.

Nope. Nope, they don’t.

Renters don’t give a fuck. Not. A. Single. Singular. Fuck.

Family friend or not (quite frankly, I don’t even know the guy), the guy that was renting this place from my husband’s family ran this place into the ground. Like a fuggin’ pile driver digging for the center of the planet.

Everyone keeps arguing that this is just normal wear and tear. Just the standard course of affairs for an older home.

Um, first of all this is not an older home. Second of all, no. Just…no.

Destroyed carpet requiring an emergency – and expensive – carpet cleaning is not normal wear and tear.

The smell of rotting flesh and sulphuric eggs wafting from the washing machine is not normal wear and tear.

A broken hook rack on the back of the bathroom door, literally dangling from just one, rusty screw is not normal wear and tear.

A ceiling fan falling out of the ceiling, with tape hanging from it – as if some dumb fuck actually thought that masking tape would hold the thing into the ceiling – is not normal wear and tear.

Holes in the doors is NOT…normal wear and tear.

WRITING ON THE FUCKING WALLS IS NOT NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR.

There’s only one conclusion I can come to here: renters don’t G.A.F.

Having Your Kitchen Back Means People Expect Meals Again

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I packed up our kitchen maybe a month before we moved. We had other plans, vacation, and I just wanted it done.

What I’m saying is that for a month before the move, and for about a week afterwards, we ate nothing but crap. Total crap. We’re talking fast food. Take out. Frozen pizzas LIKE WOAH.

In a few words: it was heaven for this lady that hates to cook. I mean, I knew I was destroying my body and the bodies of my family, but my disgust for cooking overruled that. I kept telling myself it was temporary – which it was – so everything was spectacular.

Now that I have my kitchen back, though…it’s another story. Everyone wants real food.

No, I don’t mean real food like those losers on Instagram that incorrectly refer to whole fruits and vegetables as “real food” – as if Cheetohs and Cocoa Puffs aren’t something real I am putting in my body. I just mean three, square, home cooked meals. Every damn day.

With snacks. Homemade snacks. And desserts too.

Now that everything with the move has settled down, and I’m on my way to finishing the last of the house projects before settling back into my old routine of cleaning, cooking, and  acting as a chauffeur from tennis event to tennis event, I’m certainly glad it’s over.

But we’ve moved so many times, I just feel the next one breathing down the back of my neck. On one hand, my husband works in film, so it’s unlikely we’d have to move out of the area – which is the only situation under which I could see myself agreeing to ever move again. But on the other, you just never know.

Renters Forever, We Find Ourselves With No Home

My husband and I, we are lifetime renters. We love the perks of renting: we don’t have to deal with maintenance problems, we have the security of living under the wing of another entity, and renting in Southern California is – without a doubt – cheaper than owning. In the volatile market out here, the risks of renting as compared to the risks of owning are minimal. These are all facts.

What is also a fact, though, is that when you rent you live in constant fear that your rent is going to be raised come lease time. It doesn’t happen often, in fact my husband and I have only seen it happen once before when we lived in an apartment complex owned by a big, brand-name company. Otherwise, our rent has never been raised, unless of course it was because we moved up to a nicer community with more amenities. Which has happened a few times, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was of our own doing.

So in May of last year, we moved to what we thought would be at least a semi-permanent place. It has by far been the nicest place we have lived. Nice area. Gated community. Plenty of room. Quiet neighbors. Clean pool. The only complaint we’ve had has been that the parking situation is a little tenuous, but even so we’ve been really happy. Comfortable.

Almost too comfortable…

As our lease renewal has drawn near, I thought for sure they would raise our rents. It seemed a given – the economy has been rebounding in the last several years, and this is a nice place. But then again, the anxiety has always been quelled by common sense. Reason. Rationality – they can’t raise it that much. Can they? Sure, the economy is rebounding, but not to such a degree that we can’t justify staying here. There are constantly people moving out of there, so they must want to keep some people around…right…?

On Friday of last week, we received our letter in the mail. They were “offering us” another year here – oh how gracious of them – and for only a 16% increase in rent.

Sixteen percent increase. That’s FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIVE DOLLARS A MONTH.

$485 a month. That would raise our rent to $3041 a month for 1400 square feet.

Let that digest for a moment.

Initially in shock, because I had never heard of anything so outrageous in my life, I asked around, emailed the company, and posted on Yelp and ApartmentRatings.com. I thought for sure this was a mistake. I mean, really. When we first moved in, the man who owns the other three-bedroom unit on the other side of the complex told me we were getting “ripped off” for what we were paying as compared to him. He is still here, and I included that in my emails and reviews.

I wanted to be reasonable and understanding, and honestly I didn’t want to leave. We like it here, we are very comfortable and happy. But we also live on the incomes of a freelance writer and a film editor who hasn’t seen a decent raise in his wages in as long as we can remember (in fact, we have lost benefits in recent years).

So I waited patiently, started looking around some more. And I figured that if we didn’t hear by the end of this week we’d have to get more serious about finding someplace else. Finally, after not hearing back from anyone, today I went on Yelp to find a response to my review. Here is the candy-assed response they gave me.

Response

So basically: don’t want to pay our rent increase?? – SEE YA!

Renters forever, we find ourselves with no home.

As the day wore on, the reality of this situation started to really sink in. Not only are we completely unable to pay the increase of rent at our current place, rental rates in the area actually are around the same as we currently pay but there is nothing available – so far – in our time frame. I cannot even wrap my mind around that, let alone how many people I know that rent for cheaper than we do but that are holding on to their good prices for dear life.

It’s starting to sound a lot like New York City. I always knew there was a reason LA and NYC seemed so interchangeable.

We have family that owns property down the street from where we live and rents it out, but they don’t want to offend the person they are already renting to by giving them notice so we can take over the lease.

Let that one sink in a moment too.

So in just eight, short weeks we will have no home. Or a new home, but where or how I have no idea. The other alternatives are equally as terrifying: we move into an hotel until we find a place that is in our price range; or we finally decide that this is time to cut the ties of my husband’s career and move all the way across the country with no home and no jobs to speak of.

Nonetheless, I am left with this more philosophical mind frame of the times in which we live. Where no one is safe or secure. Own a home and the market could crash and you could wind up in foreclosure with nowhere to go. Rent a home and the market could soar and you could wind up on the streets with nowhere to go. No one is safe, the middle class is being squeezed out of existence as far as I can see it.

It’s terrifying, really. We were so comfortable.