Sometimes I don’t leave the apartment for a week at a time.
I started to think about why I’m so comfortable not going out, and I thought at first that maybe it was tied to my current sleep routine. Every night I spend time doomscrolling and obsessive news lurking, then reading on my Kindle until my eyes are bleary, then listening to music until I’m actually drowsy. Then and only then do I actually – finally – fall asleep. Most nights, that’s around 2am. When I spatula myself out of bed the next morning for work, I invariably insist to myself that I will go to sleep earlier the next night, but I never do. Hell, I even have a cron running on my computer that makes it speak aloud, “go to bed you idiot” at 10:30 each night. I guess I don’t sleep much.
Part of the problem, for me, is that I am never, ever bored at home. There’s always something to read, a video to watch, small projects to put off. All my stuff is here! There’s always something to do when I should be sleeping like a sane and normal person. (Yes, I know my sleep hygiene is garbage; that’s not what this post is about.)
In the last two weeks, I’ve left the building perhaps three times. Once to the dentist, once to the grocery store, and the other time was a walk with a friend to pick up some dinner. I recently mentioned to that same friend that I hadn’t really been out in a while and she asked why- and I didn’t have a good answer. I mean, yes, part of it was that work had been particularly contentious, including a weekend full of twelve-hour workdays.
I feel a little guilty that I’m being a bad friend by holing up in my apartment instead of trying to socialize more with my friends, but then most of them who are too skittish about Covid to actually do anything social. I don’t blame them – everyone has their own comfort level about being out and about during the pandemic. I don’t know anyone up here who would dine inside a restaurant. And it’s just cold enough to be really uncomfortable dining outside.
Switching to pandemic lock-down was easy for me because my own built-in inertia already makes me predisposed to stay in. Without social plans – a concert, a movie, a musical, pub trivia, or dinner with a friend – I’m perfectly happy to stay at home and do my own thing. Left to my own devices, I can easily stay at home for days at a time. Longer, with food delivery.
There’s really just not that much going on in the outside world lately. Honestly, though, I can’t think of a good reason for not going outside, other than “I just don’t want to.” The only real down side is that the longer I stay in, the harder it is for me to finally get up and go outside.
Do you get stir-crazy when you can’t go out for a long time?
I mentioned in the previous post that I purchased and returned an uncomfortable, inadequate sofa. This is the story of that sofa. It begins with the arrival of my previous sofa, on the day that the movers brought my furniture.
The Sofa was an Ikea Ektorp, a fairly comfortable seating arrangement, but one made of pressboard and held together with little metal fasteners and happy thoughts. When the movers set it back up, I noticed that there was a big ripped and stained hole in the cover.
No biggie, I thought, Ikea sofas are designed with replaceable covers and the contract with the movers included insurance for just this eventuality. I didn’t realize just how broken the couch really was until later when I finally tried to sit on it. It had a variety of damage to the undercarriage, and it wasn’t level in all sections. It had the look and feel of a sofa with a broken spine. I won’t bore you with a photographic record of all of the damage I found when I looked more closely, but here’s the most egregious part.
When I realized how broken it was, I put in a claim with the movers and they paid me replacement cost minus my moving insurance deductible. With that money in hand, I set about trying to find a replacement sofa.
I settled on the LoveSac Sactional. I’d seen them before, years ago. There’s a LoveSac store in the Town Center Mall in the Boca Raton. Aside from the exceedingly silly name, LoveSac’s idea of modular furniture is pretty neat. I like the idea of being able to design the furniture to meet your needs, choosing sections, sides, and covers to shape how you want.
I went to the LoveSac store in a nearby mall, not far from the Pentagon. I sat on several different chairs and weighed my options. After some deliberation (and a little waffling) I took advantage of a Labor Day sale and ordered my LoveSac Sactional, a two seats/four sides configuration. I thought it would be wide enough and if it wasn’t, I could always order another seat and side later to expand it. It arrived fairly quickly, packaged in a bunch of boxes.
Once the new sofa pieces were here, I disassembled my poor Ektorp and took its main pieces down to the trash room. I put aside the sofa pillows, not sure yet if I wanted to do something with them. This proved later to be a very good decision.
Assembly of the modular LoveSac Sactional was fairly straightforward. The two largest boxes contained the seat, cushion, and back pillow. The other four slimmer boxes contained the sides, and the two smaller boxes included all the covers. The boxes themselves had unboxing and assembly instructions printed on them. All the clamps and accessories I needed were included. It was difficult to pull the covers onto the individual pieces- it’s probably a lot easier with a second person. Ultimately, I was able to muscle them into a proper sofa shape.
I sat on the LoveSac Sactional for a few weeks, and I was dissatisfied in the following ways:
It wasn’t as comfortable as I had hoped. When I sat on the floor models in the store, I thought it would be fine, but at home I found that the foam seats were not firm enough. I sank into the foam every time I sat down- some people might enjoy this sensation, but I did not. I need a firmer seat.
I need a sofa with a taller back piece. The sides are all the same height- that means that the back support is only as high up as the armrests in the completed Sactional photo above. The pillows are taller than the top edge of the back pieces, which meant that if I leaned back, it was just weird, with the top edge sort of jamming into my back.
The Sactional wasn’t long enough to lay down on. Laying down on the couch after a long day at work or any time I want to pass out for a little living room nap is absolute bliss, and it’s absolutely necessary. Laying down on the couch is an important part of my life and I couldn’t do it on this one. The width of LoveSac seat parts are just a little bit weird- the modular sections of a LoveSac seat are 35 inches wide by 29 inches deep. You do have the option of doing the sections sideways, to change the width. I tried orienting it the other way and found that the back pillows were too wide and smushed together. 35 inches is a weird width- the two sections were just a few inches too short to be comfortable for laying down. If I had added a third section, I would have been able to lay down, but then my sofa would have been almost ten feet long.
Last, but certainly not least: LoveSac Sactionals are on the pricy side of things. They’re relatively well made and guaranteed for life against manufacturer defects, but I never really felt like the Sactional was worth the more than two grand I shelled out to purchase it. Mine was a relatively small example, too- for a bigger room, you could easily shell out eight or ten thousand dollars for a Sactional.
Ultimately, I decided it wasn’t for me. After 24 days of life with the Sactional, I disassembled the thing and boxed it back up to ship back to LoveSac. Fortunately, they have free shipping and a 60-day in-home trial, so this was quite simple.
Allow me to pause my retelling for just a moment to talk up how amazing LoveSac’s customer service was throughout this process. It’s easy to complain online about bad service, but truly excellent service is rarely commented on, and it should be. LoveSac was so great throughout all of this that I am willing to consider them again in the future- their giant beanbag thing, the hilariously named SuperSac, does look kind of amazing. Here’s how they excelled: First, their in-store help was amazing. Secondly, when I reached out to return it, the process was dead simple. They sent me FedEx shipping labels and boxes, and when I had boxed it all back up they arranged a FedEx pick-up to come to me and cart them away. All I had to do was disassemble and rebox them. Once the boxes were received back at the mothership, I was given a full refund. The service was effortless and so much less difficult than I expected.
In the time since I boxed up the LoveSac and sent it on its way, I’ve been using the cushions of the old Ikea Ektorp on their own without the rest underneath, just set up on the floor- I call this the Boneless Sofa. It’s comfortable enough, in a Bohemian sort of way.
Ultimately, I know that this isn’t a good permanent sofa. While the Boneless Sofa has been acceptable for the very short term, I do want a proper couch in the future.
I’ve already located a part of Falls Church that I refer to as the Arlington Sofa District- a place with at least five different stores that have sofas within approximately a single square mile. I’ll go there some weekend in the near future, sit on a bunch more sofas, weigh my options- and then I’ll probably just order another Ikea Ektorp.
As I pack up my apartment and prepare to move for the fifth time in six years, I find that I have learned a great deal about what I don’t want in an apartment. I also have a short list now of things that I do want in a future residence.
First, there are a few non-negotiables:
A clothes washer and dryer in the apartment – The condominium that I owned from 2004 to 2011 didn’t have a washer and dryer. It didn’t even have hookups to buy them. I could have converted the front hall closet into a washer and dryer nook, but it would have been cramped and I would have lost a valuable closet. Instead, I spent more than seven years doing my laundry down the hall, using many, many quarters. Never again.
A dishwasher in the apartment – Most US apartments have a dishwasher, but my flat in Germany barely had a kitchen at all. For three years, I hand-washed all of my dishes. I’d rather not go back to that.
Most (but not all) modern US apartments have my non-negotiables, so I’m not too worried about finding them. What I really have to focus on while looking for my next apartment are these other niceties that come with having space:
Deep sinks – There are several things I do regularly that are hindered by shallow sinks. For example, I have an 18 cup Pur water filter on my counter, and another one inside the refridgerator. In order to refill them, I have to use a pitcher as a medium step. In my previous apartment, the faucet had one of those extendable hose things at the end, and I could use that. It would be nice to just be able to put the entire tank inside the sink and fill it right from the tap. (Or maybe just have a fridge with a water dispenser in the door- that would work well also.)
Lots of storage space – In the apartment before this one, there was a small walk-in closet off the bedroom and a mediocre amount of kitchen cabinet space. The space under the bathroom sink was tiny. That was it for storage space inside the apartment. It was a miniscule place, with tiny amounts of storage. The apartment I’m in now does well on that front- there’s tons of cabinet space in both the kitchen and the bathroom, with lots of drawers for stuffing things in. I even have one kitchen drawer that never really got used at all, except for a label maker and some kitchen gadget instruction manuals. This is the dream, folks- so much storage space that you can afford to mostly ignore an entire drawer for a year.
A wide bathroom counter – My bathroom in Germany had no counter around the sink- the sink attached to the wall and if I wanted a cabinet underneath it, I had to put it in myself. There was a five or six inch deep ledge set into the wall over the sink that ran the length of the bathroom. That’s where I stored all the things that you would normally have out, like a toothbrush, shaving stuff, and so forth. There was also no medicine cabinet there, so my regular pills were on that ledge. Anything I didn’t need often was stuck into the tall cabinet that I purchased for the bathroom.
A kick-ass shower – I never really take baths, but every apartment shower is also a tub. I hate having to step into a tub to take a shower. I would much rather have a dedicated shower. Maybe something like this:
Lots of counter space in the kitchen – I have learned that if I don’t have a lot of counter space in the kitchen, I won’t try to cook very much. It’s important to have room to prepare things. In my condo, I had very limited counter space and most of my cooking was of the nuke-and-eat variety. In Germany, I had no counter space at all, and I rarely even went so far as to microwave stuff. I brought fantastic cookware back from Germany that had barely been used at all.
A good layout – This is the sort of thing that you only figure out after a lot of moves, but the right layout is very important. A washer and dryer on the patio means going out into Florida humidity to get your freshly laundered but somehow already swampy clothing. A bathroom door too close to the toilet means never being able to step into the bathroom without some sort of interpretive dance. A patio that looks out onto a parking lot means you’ll never really get to open your window blinds in the evenings unless you want to entertain all of your neighbors.
Above all else, privacy and a quiet apartment are the things I hold most dear. I’ve lived in places where you hear the nearest road very clearly and I don’t ever want to endure that again- it’s a subtle, slow moving stress that builds up over time, until you’re ready to do truly nefarious things to loud people outwside.
What are your must-haves when seeking a new place to live?
Editor’s Note: I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers. I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?
Hello, old bloggy friend. I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. I thought I would be able to maintain my previous rate of bloggery, but then things just went sort of sideways.
January was kind of crazed. My responsibilities at work increased in a pretty massive way. My apartment hunt occupied much of my time. Amelie and I took a brief trip to California to see Information Society and Book of Love. We spent a day at the Magic City Comic-con in Miami.
And then, in the first weekend of February, I moved into my new apartment. A bed was purchased. Belongings were moved. We took a detour to Orlando for our anniversary, and spent the day in both Universal Studios theme parks- Spider-Man, Optimus Prime, Homer Simpson, and Harry Potter were all in attendance.
On the fourteenth of February, we emptied my storage unit. For the first time since early 2011, everything I own was in one place, under one roof. I was finally able to unpack everything and inventory. I finally see just what survived the various downsizing runs that occurred during my time in Germany.
Now that I know what I still have, I can see much more clearly what I still need. On the day that I moved in, I brought the stuff that was with me at my brother’s house, along with a brand new bed, couch, and two bar stools.
After the storage unit was emptied, I had my Muppet-fur carpet from Germany, along with my beloved coffee table. That coffee table is the only piece of furniture from my old house to survive the four years of storage and downsizing.
My new apartment is 617 square feet, with a tiny balcony suitable for a pair of chairs. For my German friends, that converts to just over 57 square meters- larger than my German apartment even though it doesn’t feel like it.
I love moving into a new place- the apartment is a blank page at first, waiting to be filled and personalized. I get to make decisions about which cabinet to put my dishes into, and which wall is best for a bookshelf. I get rid of still more of the things that I have stored because I will never use them again, and I purchase a few new things because I don’t own them any more.
When I moved in, some of the first mundane home-making purchases I needed to make were a front door mat, a cookie sheet, a shower curtain, and a toaster. I love purchasing that sort of ordinary stuff to round out a new house.
So that’s where I’ve been for the last two months, bloggy friend. I’ve still got more stuff to say about the repatriation process, and I promise to write more often as we go forward. Now that I have my own lovely quiet apartment again, I feel like I’m starting to get caught up on things.
I was talking with my sister yesterday via the miracle of inexpensive international calling that is Skype, and I was telling her about some of the smaller differences between Europe and the US, things that are just interesting to me because they’re different. To someone who’s been in Germany for more than a year or two, these are the kind of differences that probably don’t get much notice, but to me, they’re huge and fascinating. Here’s a few of them.Plumbing:
Urinals and toilets here are different. Not so different that it’s difficult to use them, but even just the flush mechanism. In the US, there’s typically a handle that pulls up a flapper inside a tank. The mechanics of it may be the same inside the tank, but here the flush button is usually on top for tank styled toilets, and it if you press the button the other way, it will stop the flush. There are also toilets where the tank is set into the wall, and the flush button is a big panel- I haven’t the foggiest idea how that works, but I’ve seen it in several places. Heck, even the stall doors in public restrooms are different here. They’re more private than in the US, and there’s a little occupied/vacant indicator built into the door handle. I think that’s kind of nifty.
Phone jacks in the US are a tiny little modular affair, less than half an inch wide. Here’s what they look like here in Germany:
While interior doors aren’t much different, front doors here have a tendency to have a knob that does not turn. The entire purpose of this knob is just to have something to grip in order to open the door. The actual latch part of the assembly is built right into the keyhole. The lock is different also- the normal setting is locked from outside but not from inside. There’s a keyhole on the inside of the door too, and from either side of the door you can extend the deadbolt halfway with one turn of the key or all the way with a second turn of the key. I had to go through the settings with the door open so that I could see the deadbolt positions before I fully understood the door lock.
This is my favorite difference so far, when it comes to normal house stuff. The windows here are just cooler, no pun intended. In the US, windows usually open via an upward or sideways sliding motion, or they can be tilted up with a hand crank. Not so, here. The window handle has three positions. In the downward position, the window is closed. In the horizontal position, you can open the window inward. The third position is the one that made me go “Neat!” – when you flip the handle upward, you can tilt the window in so that it pivots on the bottom two hinges. This gives you ventilation without having the entire house exposed to the rain or wind or snow, not unlike a car sunroof, but done vertically. From left to right, these pictures are closed, open, slanted open:
The best part of the windows here though is that it’s very common for there to be external rolldown shutters on very window. In other words, the windows have built in shutters on the outside of the building that you control from inside. Here’s the shutter on my bedroom window, and the strap mechanism that’s used to roll it up and down: