Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Flying solo in your twenties, continued

3. Experiment with your own tastes in architecture
and design

Most of us furnish our first apartments with cast-offs from our parents’ basements. That’s fine, but eventually you will grow weary of knotty pine.

You may begin to notice that your friends differ in their decorating styles. One lives with a treadmill and a giant screen TV and not much else, another has collected so many knick-knacks you feel suffocated when you sit in her living room. Pay attention to the way you respond to these spaces.

You might want to look at some decorating magazines to see what appeals to you, and start clipping images you like. Eventually you’ll come to prefer a particular look, whether it’s modern or country or shabby chic, and will find color schemes that feel right to you. You can build your own bookcases, but head to IKEA for a couch and second-hand stores for lamps and side tables. Stuff doesn’t have to match, it just needs to be comfortable and pleasing to you.

Over the years I’ve noticed that we tend to surround ourselves with the same colors we like to wear. A redhead may be drawn to autumnal oranges and browns, or someone who looks great in dramatic colors will paint her living room electric blue. Go ahead and experiment, but keep in mind that if you want your security deposit back you may have to repaint before you move out.

I remember that my friend Linda’s very first apartment — a one-bedroom in a vintage building with high ceilings and hardwood floors — looked like something out of House Beautiful. Her towels matched her shower curtain. She’d slip-covered an old couch from her mother and made coordinating throw pillows. Everything was spare and clean and smelled like fresh lemons.

I thought with shame of my dingy efficiency in Washington, DC and vowed to do better.

I have done better, I guess, in that I’ve accumulated better rugs and more valuable antiques, but Linda, who has a wonderfully minimalist sense of style, still uses me as bad example. Whenever her husband complains about Linda’s (hardly noticeable) clutter she tells him, “That’s not clutter. If you want to see clutter, go visit Kit.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Flying solo in your twenties

“Never become romantically involved with anyone
who has more trouble and less money than you have.”
~ Classic advice

1. Ditch the roommates

"The postponement of marriage has led to a substantial increase in the
proportion of young, never-married adults," said Jason Fields, author of
America's Families and Living Arrangements: March 2000. "For example, in
the past three decades, the proportion of those who had never married
doubled for women ages 20 to 24, from 36 percent to 73 percent, and more
than tripled for women ages 30 to 34, from 6 percent to 22 percent."

When you are young and just starting out in life, it’s likely that you will share an apartment with others or rent a room in a group house. Eventually, unless you are remarkably tolerant, living with other people and their messes will drive you crazy.

You will long for your own refrigerator, so that you can come home from work reasonably confident that the chicken breast you planned to have for your supper will still be there. You will grow weary of stepping over prone bodies on your way to the kitchen in the morning. You will insist on a bathroom that is more or less up to code.

It’s time to find a small space you can call your own.

When I moved into my first apartment, many years ago, my best friend Judy sent me the advice you see above. The only thing I could add to this would be: buy a plumber’s friend and keep it handy because if you ever need it (and this will probably happen at some odd hour) you won’t feel like venturing out to Target or a hardware store to buy one.

2. Live in the city

What a great time of life — to be in your 20s, independent and fancy free.

Depending on your career aspirations, you will find employment where the jobs are. Great cities for young professionals include New York, Washington DC, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, L.A., Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, and (yes) Minneapolis. Smaller university towns are good bets, also — Ann Arbor, Chapel Hill, Charlottesville, Madison, for example.

Even if your workplace is in the suburbs, find a place in the city. You’ll have a reverse commute and you won’t be stuck out in the boonies with all the married people and their bratty children.

I know several single women who bought (admittedly, affordable) houses in developments so far away from the rest of us you have to take a light plane to get out there, and I think they were out of their minds. Nobody wants to go visit them and by the time these women get home from work exhausted the very last thing they want to do is get back in their cars and retrace their commutes.

The ‘burbs can be lonely places for the unmarried, so go urban. Ask your friends where other young people live. Twenty-somethings tend to congregate in cool neighborhoods close to restaurants and bars. Chances are you won’t have a car so you’ll want to locate within walking or cab distance of your friends and their hangouts. Have a great time.