When you throw a party for yourself and 200 of your closest family and friends, it's easy to slide into a little bit of debt. Especially when a bout of pneumonia creeps up on you in the midsts of all this planning. As a result of these little setbacks, January and I decided to go cheap during our first year before we get ourselves into massive-house-size debt. That's how we ended up in our "starter apartment."
The shining feature is really the cost-to-space ratio. Because our landlord was in the process of moving to Florida when we looked at it (he was actually leaving that night) we were able to talk him into knocking $25 off the rent and throwing in one month free. Add to that room for an home-office (because sometimes it's just too cold to walk the 3/4 of a mile to the real office) and an extra room for all of our stuff, and it seemed like a good place to start out.
Without a doubt, the worst feature has turned out to be the neighbors. Not the ceiling that leaks when the tub is too full, not the basement that collects puddles whenever it rains, but the two grad students in the other half of the double. It started out with polite phone calls at 11:00 at night asking us to turn the music down a little. That's seemed reasonable, so we didn't have a problem agreeing with their suggestion that we both keep our music down after 10:30 on a weeknight. That's what do you do when you share a wall with other people; You compromise.
I won't bore you with the details of each and every encounter we have had with them in the days since that first complaint, but they do include several complaints about the volume of noise coming from our half, veiled accusations of theft of things that they left outside, and lectures about our responsibility to call them and the police whenever we notice anything "shady" going on in the neighborhood. We live half a mile from the Ohio State University campus, I don't get enough minutes on my plan to call the police every time I see something "shady!"
The highlight of our conversations came this afternoon, however. In passing on her way out, one of the neighbors said that she felt like she needed to tell me something -- that the wall between her bedroom and ours was "paper thin" and that she can "hear a cough" through it at night. I was dumfounded, and at first I couldn't believe she was actually going to say it!? I had always operated under the "unspoken rule" that, yes, we all hear "things" through walls at night... but you don't BRING THEM UP TO YOUR NEIGHBORS!? She went on to tell me that she knows we're newlyweds, but she thought we would like to know. She thought we would want to know that she's sitting on the other side of the wall listening to us?!? Maybe I'm in the minority on this one, but I really would have been quite happy going the duration of my lease without having a conversation with my neighbor about what she can hear in my bedroom!
I can sleep a little better, however, with the last little disclaimer that she left me with before we went our separate ways: "Just so you know, I don't sit there and, like, listen. I put in earplugs. As a courtesy."
I'm a digital packrat. I have tendancies toward the more traditional style of packratism as well, but that is usually overtaken my my tendancies toward laziness whenever it's time to move to a new apartment. Things that I once thought I would definitely need at some point in the near future become instantly worthless pieces of garbage the minute the prospect of placing it inside a box and moving it somewhere new presents itself. This is not the case with digital information, however. I'm also a paranoid multibackuper. Weekly archives sent to offsite storage, regular database dumps whenever I change anything, triple backups on iPod, media center, and external harddrive. And that's just my music files.
Except for SPAM, which my mail program deletes for me, I never delete an email. Even the bouncebacks telling me that the email I sent was rejected because someone's inbox was too full never find their way to the trash. I have emails taking up a total of more than 1GB of space, dating back to 2004. I'm not sure exactly what happened in 2004 that caused me to lose all my email before that, but it's probably good for the sake of my hard drive requirements that I did.
Similarly, I have transcripts of every instant messenger conversation I have had with anyone dating back to late 2002. This includes all of the important conversations that I would never want to lose, like the afternoon January and I officially scheduled our "first date:"
But for every conversation like that, there are a dozen or so of the following gems:
So every new blog needs some sort of gimmick, especially for bloggers who are fairly new to writing. As the need arises (translation: when life gets a little boring and I don't have any great observations to impart) I'm going to start making up for all the time I lost blogging by digging out some of these conversations. I don't have a middle school note box to open up, but this will be the next best thing.
What has been really refining in our lifestyle is learning how to better stick to certain lifestyle convictions we share but are, individually, oftentimes too weak to stick to. If you've ever had a conversation with me about Wal-Mart, you know my feelings on the place (if you haven't, I'll spare you the lecture -- instead, pick up this movie from Netflix, Blockbuster, Amazon, or your own local video store). This has, from time to time, been a particularly sticky point when shopping for certain items. 5' x 7' area rug at a local fair-trade home furnishings center: $159.99. Similar rug made with child labor in overseas sweatshops sold at Wal-mart: $39.99.
For every one of my stubborn points like this, January has been able to show me how we can take things a step further. Most recently, she passed along this little gem: Did you know that over 1.1 billion people on this planet live on $1 per day? According to 2dollars.org, more than twice that number and fully one-third of the world's population live on $2 per day for their total expenses. Can you imagine living on $2 worth of food per day? What if the McDonald's dollar menu was off the table?
January and I have decided to take the $2 a day challenge over the next week, with the goal of trying to get a better understanding of what poverty is like. We are allotting ourselves $2 per day per person for food from Monday, March 5th through the 11th. I'm going to clean out the kitchen of any leftovers? so we can start from scratch for the week. If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, 2dollars.org has some resources for getting through the week, such as recipes, sponsor forms, and flyer templates. January and I will continue to post updates on our progress and success with various meal attempts here, so check back in. Personally, I'm interested to see how quickly the novelty wears off and this experiment starts to really get uncomfortable.
I spent 30% of our weekly food budget this morning. That's not so unusual, but what is unusual is that I was able to carry all of them in one bag.
The flour and shortening get us pretty close to several dozen tortillas and the 2lb back of pinto beans, along with some yet-to-be-purchased onion, is all we need to make a metric ton of refried beans. Bean burrito lunches for a week!
With the essentials out of the way, and $8.65 gone, that leaves us with just under $20 to pick up the details.