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Apartment Living with a Roommmate

‘Please tell me you aren’t my roommate.’

It is not easy navigating your apartment or house with family, let alone roommates.  Often you are coming together to share expenses and don’t necessarily have anything in common. Here are some practical tips to survive living with a roommate:

  1. Make a Contract:  Most roommate problems stem from not outlining things at the beginning. For example, who will take care of paying rent to the landlord, who will take care of utilities, what are the quiet hours, who will clean the kitchen and how will you share the common living area space?  Take the time over lunch or coffee to outline everything and put in writing. Make sure both of you have a signed copy. This will take care of conflict in the future over many issues.
  2. Act Fast. Don’t let problems spiral out of control. Instead, address your conflict early on.  While problems are small, it is easy to communicate and fix.  Once you allow your roommate to keep taking your food or make messes, it will become a pattern that is harder to solve.
  3. Respect Boundaries.  It seems obvious, but your stuff is your stuff and your roommate’s stuff is your roommate’s stuff. Don’t take his/her stamps for your mail; don’t use his/her butter to always cook your meals.  These are the small issues that can easily become big and make you both resent each other.
  4. Err on the Side of Caution.  Don’t assume you can have friends over whenever you please.  Instead, ask permission from your roommate so that he or she doesn’t get blindsided by a group of loud friends when he or she is trying to study or sleep.
  5. Lock the Door.  You wouldn’t want to come home to find out that your roommate just ran to laundry room for a second and left door unlocked which allowed a thief to come in and take your laptop and television– so ALWAYS lock the door and make sure your roommate does as well.
  6. Be Open-Minded.  You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate and that is just fine.  However, mutual respect is a good thing and will help both of you through the process of living harmoniously.  Keep and open mind about his or her habits, culture and background and this skill will reward you with different experience and provide peace in  your living arrangement.

What fees can you expect when renting an apartment?

When you need to rent a house or apartment, there are some fees you need to keep in mind when you are saving up to move.

  1. Application fee: Prospective landlords want to make sure you can pay the rent in a timely manner. Nobody wants to put someone in a situation that he or she cannot afford. Thus, many landlords will check your credit report for bad debt and evictions. The national average for these fees range from $30-$55.
  2. Security deposit: landlords are entitled to collect a deposit to hedge against any damages to the property. This deposit will be applied to any extra repairs, utilities and cleaning done after you move out that is beyond normal “wear and tear.” Check your state for guidelines. For example, in Ohio, landlords have 30 days to process these deposits and the deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent. If it is more than the monthly rent, you are entitled to receive interest on the extra.
  3. Pet fees or pet deposit: if you have a pet, be expected to pay extra monthly rent or a separate deposit to account for any damages your pet might add to the house or apartment.
  4. Document fees or bad credit fees: some landlords might require fees for extra work in doing paperwork or if your credit score is below a certain threshold.

While these fees are standard, there is one fee you should never pay— that is a fee to view a property. This is a classic scam— usually there is not a property to even see. So if someone asks you to wire or send money in advance, don’t do it. This is illegal and unethical.

It’s the middle of January, Are You Keeping Your New Year Resolutions for 2019?

With a new year comes new resolutions.  Here are 5 tips to help you re-evaluate any resolutions you may have made on January 1st:

  1. Write down your goals.

When you write down things, they have a better chance of getting done. For example, if you write bread on your shopping list, you probably will get it when at the grocery store.

  1. Tell everyone.

If you tell people your goals, you are more likely to accomplish them. Have a trusted friend or family member check in with you periodically to see if you are sticking to your resolution.  That person can encourage you and help you celebrate your victories. And being accountable to someone, will help you meet your goal.

  1. Track your progress

Break down your goals into smaller steps or set some deadlines to check in with yourself and see if you need to adjust your goals and to celebrate progress.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up.

If you haven’t kept to your resolutions, don’t get down on yourself. It takes several attempts to make a habit stick.  So if you fall off the workout wagon for a couple of weeks, don’t get discouraged. Instead, just take a deep breath and start again.

  1. Try, try again

It’s never too late to take a positive step in your life.  We use January as a starting point, but if you aren’t ready in January, then find another deadline.  Failure isn’t forever; you can start again!

New Year, New You! How to start the year out right

If you are like me, you are still writing 2018 on everything, but—here we are: 2019. Lots of people like to write down new year resolutions, but January is also a good time to reflect on 2018 and set a good attitude for 2019.  We all like to ask ourselves, how can we be better or at least, less stressed and more happy.  Here are three things to consider:

  1. Be Kind. Nothing bad ever came from kindness.  While standing in a ten person line waiting to do a Christmas exchange, you are going to hear a lot of grumbling.  Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, try being kind.  Tell the tired looking lady in front of you that you like her nails.  Most likely, she will light up from your praise and start a conversation on where she goes or how she chose her color.  Your time waiting will go more quickly and you have brightened someone else’s day.  This is all much better than the alternative—complaining and grumbling until you feel even worse than before.
  2. Be More Present. We all make jokes about how cellphones have taken over our lives.  Try putting your phone away at meals and when having conversations when friends.  You will be surprised at how much better you will listen and learn when you aren’t distracted by every beep and buzz.  Try taking a walk or run without it, and you will be better able to notice your surroundings and the beauty in nature.  Gather up your friends and family for a boardgame or puzzle instead of a Netflix marathon—you will be surprised at how much you will laugh and enjoy others.
  3. Be Positive. Research shows that merely by forcing yourself to laugh and smile, you will elevate your mood. Try wearing a rubber band or hair tie around your wrist and flick it every time you find yourself voicing or thinking negative thoughts.  Let this action be a reminder to change your attitude to one of positivity.  We know the power of positive thinking but sometime have a hard time wading through our own negative thoughts.  Make this the year that you subtly change your reactions so that you become more positive.

We here at Mitcham Group wish you a very kind, present and positive 2019!

6 Things To Do in Your Apartment When Traveling for the Holidays

It’s Christmas and you are traveling for the holidays. Last thing you need is more chores! But a few tips will ensure you come back to no issues in your apartment:

  1. Tell your Landlord and Neighbors. If you are gone for an extended amount of time, send your landlord an email letting him or her know that you will be gone. Tell any trusted neighbors so they can look out for any issues. Provide both with a contact number.
  2. Put your mail on hold. So your mailbox doesn’t fill up and attract thieves on the prowl, make sure you inform the post office. You can go online at https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/ to do this easily.
  3. Arrange for pet care. Don’t leave pets alone. Make sure you have a family member or friend come in and take care of your animals or take them to a kennel. If gone for extended time, have them take care of houseplants too!
  4. Adjust the thermostat but not too much! While it is good to take advantage of savings in not heating an empty apartment, you don’t want to cause frozen pipes. Most leases require you to keep your apartment properly heated in the winter months to make sure this does not happen.
  5. Open cabinet doors under sinks. This will also help prevent frozen pipes.
  6. Clean your apartment. So you don’t come home to odors or mess, clean the place up. At a minimum, take out trash and clean the refrigerator. These tasks alone will keep you from having to clean more when home again.

Stay Stress Free in December

Some days in December just aren’t long enough. By time you work, take care of your family and deal with other issues, you might feel like the holidays are just too crazy and need to be canceled! But take heart and read our tips to stay stress free this busy time of year:

  1. Choose your Traditions. You don’t have to do everything every year.  What is most important to your family? Is it your special reindeer cookies? Or trimming the tree? Putting up lights? Choose one or two items and save gingerbread houses and homemade eggnog for another day!
  2. Take a Breather. Check out of one or two activities if you need a mental health break. You don’t have to go to the Nutcracker this year or attend the city tree lighting. Instead, stay home and take a bubble bath and read a book.  You’ll be ready to take on the next event tomorrow!
  3. Don’t Sweat the Gifts.  Your gifts don’t have to be amazing every year.  If you planned to knit a bunch of scarves but time got away from you– don’t worry. Make a plate of cookies or buy everyone a box of candy.  Gift cards are always welcome.  People are just happy that you thought of them!
  4. Be Happy and Spread Joy. Doing something for others this time of year is always a mood  lifter.  Clean out the clutter and donate toys and clothes to the shelters and Goodwill where others can appreciate them.  Help stock up the food pantry at your local church.  Make extra cookies and give them out to your neighbors.  Making others happy will put a smile on your face too.
  5. It’s Good Enough. Pick a stopping point.  Christmas has to come and be enjoyed– you don’t have to kill yourself to decorate every nook and cranny or make every cookie recipe you pinned on Pinterest!

Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

From now until Christmas, we often feel like we are running a race— decorating, shopping, trying to balance our budget and attending lots of activities.  And let’s face it—we run ourselves down and expose ourselves and our families to large gatherings where illness and germs may be lurking!  Check out these tips to stay healthy during the holiday rush:

  1. Wash your hands and remind your kids to do the same. Wash frequently and carry antibacterial soap for those times when you end up shaking a lot of hands and hugging relatives.
  2. Disinfect your home space. Keep a can of Lysol disinfectant handy and spray it liberally on light switches, door knobs and bathrooms this time of year.
  3. Take your vitamins. Often we don’t eat well through the holidays. Stay on track by taking vitamin C and multivitamin supplements.
  4. Stay active. Don’t fall off the fitness wagon now or January and February will find you in a slump. It is easy to tell yourself you are too busy. But taking time to walk or workout will pay off in giving you more energy for your busy holiday season.
  5. Watch intake. Eating too much and overindulging in alcohol both come with consequences.  You are more likely to feel bad, succumb to sickness and lose energy overall.
  6. Take Time for yourself. It is easy to go crazy on serving others but take a moment or two for yourself. Watch a Christmas movie, enjoy hot cocoa with your kids, take a hot bath and enjoy this festive time of year!

Holiday decorating on a dime in your apartment or house

Transforming your space for each holiday can be fun for the family and lift your spirits.  You don’t have to break the bank to decorate in style. Here are some tips to decorate and stick to your budget:

  1. Check out yard sales and the Goodwill. Often people donate or try to rid themselves of decoration. All year long you can keep an eye out for cheap decorations at these venues.
  2. Do it yourself. The internet has gobs of posts about crafting. Check out Pinterest for ideas on crafts you can make using things you already own. For example, make a Charlie Brown tree—bring in branches and spray paint for whatever holiday is coming up: black or deep plum for Halloween, silver glitter for Christmas, bright red for Valentine’s Day and so on.  You can then hang ornaments you make from paper, cork, etc.
  3. Call out to Social Media. Telling people you moved into your own place and need some decorations will probably bring a lot of good cheer your way.  You might have an aunt wanting to get rid of a Christmas tree or a high school friend with too many Halloween pumpkins to display.  In any case, your friends will probably come through!
  4. Maximize your budget. A nice centerpiece that you see everyday on your dining room table and a good door wreath will serve you better than small pieces throughout your home that get lost in the shuffle.  By just adding these two pieces you can add holiday flair without spending much.

Making Time to Give Thanks at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for the whole family to reflect on their blessings and to give thanks for all the good things in life.  Sometimes, the day is stressful and busy with preparing a big meal, traveling and interacting with family, and the time to give thanks can get lost in the shuffle. Here are some tips on how to refocus yourself and your family on giving thanks:

  1. Start a New Tradition with a Gratitude Tree. The internet has many ideas on how to make a gratitude tree or journal. Make use of one of these ideas and start a new annual tradition. My family gathers a branch from outside and anchor it in a bowl or flower pot with playdough or dirt.  The kids cut out leaves from construction paper.  Before dinner, everyone uses a marker to write down their blessings on leaves that we tie with yarn to the branches.  During dinner we take turns reading out the blessings for all to enjoy.
  2. Write thank you notes. Sometimes family cannot get together for the holiday, and we miss out on visiting with them.  Before the big day, have your kids write thank you notes and mail them.  This helps your kids see the importance of family and to think of someone else.
  3. As a family, take up a collection of money for a charity with meaning for you.  Or have everyone bring canned goods to give to the local food pantry or pet food and paper towels for the Humane Society.  Have kids deliver the donation the next day so that the idea of giving to others makes an impact.
  4. Invite someone to share your meal. Every church, neighborhood or school has a family that has to work or has no family to share Thanksgiving.  Consider inviting them to join your celebration or make extra food to deliver so that they can partake in Thanksgiving as well.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you and your family have a day filled with blessings and gratitude.

Cleaning your House or Apartment at the Holidays

House cleaning product on wood table with green background

The holiday season is upon us and that might mean company is coming! Here’s how to prepare for a nice clean visit!

  1. Start with the Guest Bedroom. Your guest might be staying in a designated guest room, or a kid’s bedroom or even the couch—no matter what: Make sure sheets and pillows are clean and the area is pleasant for him or her. Lay out clean towels and have toiletries ready in the bathroom for use. If it is cold outside, have an extra blanket ready so they don’t have to bother you in the night.
  2. Keep Clutter at Bay. By simply picking up your house, you can ensure that the guests have a good opinion of your home. Stash toys and unused items in basement or storage to sort after the holidays.
  3. Make Room in the Closet. Your guest will have a coat to hang up and maybe even some clothing for parties, events or church. Take the time to clear out some space for them.
  4. Stay on top of Bathrooms. With extra people comes extra germs and dirt. Keep cleaning solution and a rag handy under the bathroom sink and use it to clean up everytime you are in there.  Spraying Lysol disinfectant on doorknobs, toilet seats and sink handles can ensure that everyone stays healthy this time of year.
  5. The Kitchen is the hub of holiday activity. Keep it clean. Enlist help from other family members to stay on top of dishwasher duty and wipe down counters each night. Using paper products can help immensely!
  6. Make Your Entry Inviting. Hanging a festive wreath is a cheerful greeting. Also, make an area for guests to put shoes and keys and keep other clutter away.

Taking the time this week or next to put these tips into action will ensure that you can spend more time visiting with your guests and less time worrying about the cleanliness and clutter of your home! Happy holiday season!

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