You did it! After years of living under someone else's household rule, you finally have a place of your very own. A place where you can decorate, entertain and go about your daily business as you see fit - but before you tack up that first Gustav Klimt print, remember that along with this new found freedom comes new responsibilities (like not lording your art knowledge over innocent bystanders). With that in mind, here are few things you should know to help you get ready for living on your own.
#5. How to Feed Yourself
"Ha!" you say, "I've been feeding myself for years." While we do accept and acknowledge that you've likely developed the motor skills needed to propel food-stuffs into your mouth, that's not exactly what we're talking about. Sure, you know how to feed yourself, but do you know how to do it properly?
No. No you do not.
Man cannot live on Hot Pockets and fast food alone. You'll want to at least be aware of healthy, cost-effective foods to temper your taco binges. Some things to think about:
Learn How to Cook Healthy, Inexpensive Meals
While frozen pizza and ramen noodles are cheap and easy to prepare, you shouldn't forget the health costs you incur by subsisting on items with nutritional values just slightly above salted cardboard.
Honestly, the cardboard might be healthier.
Contrary to popular belief, healthy eating doesn't have to break your bank, though. A one-pound bag of brown rice costs less than two bucks and makes about 10 servings, throw in a few vegetables and chopped chicken breast each time, and you've created a series of healthy meals for the approximate cost of just two Baconators. The internet is chock full of recipes based on simple, inexpensive ingredients. Pick a few that appeal to you (no DIY Baconator tutorials, that's missing the point) and use them as your go to meals each week.
Have a Strategy When Grocery shopping
The fresh -baked cookie scent wafting across the aisles and the cleverly stacked end displays of snack foods (Look, it's a pirate ship!) are just a few of the tricks grocery stores use to help separate you from your hard-earned cash. To avoid temptation, the best plan of action is to always shop with a list and make sure to stick with it. Be extra careful when checking out, those numerous impulse goodies are positioned to tempt you as you wait patiently in the inevitably long line. Don't give in. Tabloid magazines exist for no other reason than to keep you entertained in long grocery store lines in a way that doesn't involve buying candy. Stay strong by reading about celebutante cellulite and your wallet and waistline will thank you.
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A candy bar tastes good for five minutes. Diabetes sucks forever.
Learn the Best Ways to Store Food
Once you get your healthy bounty home you'll want to make sure you store food properly. Airtight containers are a worthwhile investment. Not only will food stay fresher longer, but also there's the bonus benefit of keeping pests out. Just make sure what you're storing needs the extra security. Potatoes, tomatoes, onions and garlic cloves do best at room temperature. Refrigeration can actually dull a tomato's flavor. Bacon grease should be stored directly in the garbage. The Great Depression ended a long time ago.
Remember: Bacon is a drug, and you can overdose on it.
What we're getting at is that there are a lot of tips you should know. Fortunately, the technology exists to help you find them all. You're using it right now. If you're not sure if something needs to be refrigerated or "cabineted" (your word, not ours) just Google it, like any other question.
#4. How to Maintain Your Domicile on the Cheap
You've calculated how much of your budget will be eaten by rent, but be wary of incidentals. Gas, electric, cable and Internet bills add up quickly. To keep as much extra money in your pocket, you're going to need to learn how to keep utility costs down as well as learn how to be your own emergency handy person. Things break all the time and someone has to Tim the Toolman Taylor them back to life. In other words, you're Tim Allen now, act accordingly.
You're ready for a nail gun now, and all the accidental impalement that implies.
Quick, do you know where your fuse box or circuit breaker is? We promise it will be a lot easier to learn right now while everything is on and popping (so to speak) as opposed to when the only light you have to guide you is the lightning outside (which reminds us, always have one of those hand-crank flashlights handy). If you're renting, don't let the landlord keep the location of your electric panel a mystery. While it could be in a bedroom closet or right next to your front door, there's a chance it exists in a common hallway or basement. Make sure you have emergency access and get a tutorial on what to do if you blow a fuse or trip a circuit. If you don't, you may find yourself eating the entire contents of your fridge in the dark. That is not as much of a good time as it might sound.
Okay, sometimes it is.
Clogged drains, backed-up toilets ... let's face it, where you live is really just the decorative covering over a complex network of plumbing. It's a dirty job, but you'll have to learn how to do some unsavory things like plunge a toilet and snake a drain to keep these pipes running smoothly. If your new place doesn't come equipped with a plunger, make that purchase a priority. An overflowing toilet will make your housewarming party memorable for all the wrong reasons. To keep your tub and sinks from becoming indoor swamp creature habitats, regularly flush them with a mix of baking soda, salt and cream of tartar.
Guys, women are turned off by filthy sinks. Girls, no guy will care but, y'know, don't be gross.
Some of your biggest home expenses will come from heating and cooling your place. You'll definitely want to mitigate these costs by living as energy-efficiently as possible. Simple things like installing white mini-blinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40-50 percent and add a nice touch of flair to any time spent peering out your window and fuming at the neighborhood kids ruining your lawn. Hard stares are always delivered more effectively through partially-opened blinds. Energy efficient bulbs might not seem like a great deal when you get a load of the price, but those dollar store light bulbs are not a better deal. Not only will they burn out frequently (and usually at the most inconvenient moment, like when you've only shaved one half of whatever needs shaving), they use 3/4 more energy than their eco-friendly brethren.
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This dude would just look ridiculous with a normal lightbulb.
#3. How to Deal with Pests
Uninvited houseguests can be particularly unpleasant, and we're not just talking about the random friend who spent the night on your couch one time and never left. Pests of the four-and-more legged kind are certain to show up at some point.
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Just. Say. No.
The dirtiest trick Disney ever played was convincing the public that rodents are adorable creatures that light up a room with personality. Trust us, when you spot one in your own home you'll be less than charmed.
To avoid this scenario, prevention is the key. Make sure you aren't tempting them to visit. Don't leave food or dirty dishes out. Don't leave uncovered trash out. In fact, maybe don't even do that stuff if mice somehow cease to exist tomorrow. It's gross.
"I will continue pooping in your cheerios until you learn this lesson."
If you do end up with a mouse in the house, there are a few things you can do (besides scream). Peppermint is a known deterrent. Grow mint plants, sprinkle mint leaves in your cupboards and use a peppermint-based soap for washing floors. Rid yourself of rodents with the sheer power of minty freshness!
Noise devices are another option. These electronic devices emit a sound that mice hate, but people cannot hear. While there are many ways to trap and kill mice, a live trap is the most humane, just make sure to release the mouse at least one mile from your residence or within 50 feet of the residence of your mortal enemy.
"Merry Christmas! And a happy new staph infection."
To make your place inhospitable to ants, wipe down your countertops, pantry and refrigerator with a 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water. Another trick is to leave cucumber or citrus peels near places the ants frequent, like your sink. Both are toxic to the types of fungi that ants feed on, and therefore avoided by the ants. Bonus, your sink will have that fancy spa water smell.
These same tips should mostly keep the dreaded cockroach at bay as well, but pay special attention to crumbs when it comes to those disgusting creatures. Snacking in the dark on toasted crumbs is a roach's favorite meal.
"Next to your eye boogers, that is."
Bedbugs are a serious problem. How serious, you ask? Serious enough to warrant the observance of Bedbug Awareness Week. And while it hasn't quite received the fanfare surrounding Shark Week, judging from the state of reality TV, we wouldn't be surprised if there's a bedbug infestation marathon in your near future.
What can you do to avoid becoming a bedbug's next meal?
"PRAYER WILL NOT SAVE YOU."
According to the fantastically named 2013 Bugs Without Borders survey, clutter greatly contributes to the bedbug problem. Separate your raging messes into neatly organized messes and you just might avoid a fight with the greatest plague of the 21st century to date. And whatever you do, never succumb to the temptation of a free or cheap used mattress, even if the person offering it swears he "totally doesn't have bedbugs." In fact, especially if he swears this.
#2. How to Clean Your Clothes
If you've gotten this far in life without ever having to do your own laundry, buckle up; things are about to get real. For example, did you know that socks don't come out of the drier paired and rolled? It's true. And no, you can't solve the problem by washing them that way.
Just give up on matching, no one cares.
Also, if you don't already know that you shouldn't mix your reds and whites and wash them in hot water like a disgruntled roadie trying to sabotage a White Stripes concert, you shouldn't be wearing clothes at all. You're not ready for the responsibility.
Garment Tags are your friend
Those annoying tags attached to all the clothing you own have a purpose besides driving you to distraction with their itchy scratchiness. By law, all garments must have labels that disclose fiber content, country of origin and provide proper care instructions. They are there for your benefit, so use them. Most of the information is pretty self-explanatory. For example, if a garment can't be dry-cleaned, the label will state "Do Not Dry Clean." If that's math you can't do, consider moving back home with your parents.
Or wearing nothing but underwear.
Clean, Dry and Wrinkle Free
The last thing you want to do with your clean clothes is leave them balled up in the washer or dryer. After all that work, don't leave them to become a wrinkled mess. Hang wet clothes immediately and fold or hang clothes you've just removed from the drier as well. This will help you cut down on the need to iron your clothes -- something you're almost assuredly terrible at, just like the rest of us.
#1. Keep Your Home Safe and Secure Your Valuables
As renters, you are more at risk to be a victim of theft than a homeowner. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, renters are 50% more likely to experience theft than those who own their homes. We suggest purchasing renter's insurance and do the following to avoid becoming a crime statistic.
Electrified windows aren't a bad place to start.
Keep Your Doors and Windows Locked
Locking windows and doors is the most important thing you can do to prevent your house from being robbed. The U.S. Justice department reports that more than 40% of break-ins happen without the use of force. Don't leave your house without locking all the doors and windows, even if you will only be out for a short period of time.
"Who needs a laptop anyway?"
Be Careful on Social Media
No matter how tempting it is to brag about your upcoming vacation, you're wise to keep your travel plans on the down-low. You don't want to alert would-be thieves that your house will be unoccupied for any length of time.
It seems like common sense, but make sure pricey electronics and jewelry aren't left lying around. Install window treatments that prevent outsiders from previewing your home's contents.
Don't Leave a Spare Key Out
Why bother locking your doors if you are going to leave a key for the neighborhood burglar? If you need to leave a spare key outside your home, invest in a coded lockbox and don't give the combination out freely.
And remember: the only truly reliable home security system is a huge freaking dog.
Oh! And congratulations again on your newly-found independence!