Important Considerations & Rules for Living in Your First “Adult” Place

Up until your first paycheck your requirements for housing were probably solely based around rent prices. Here are some other things to think about – and the law of the land once you move in.

You read Primer, so you’re familiar with The Intentional Apartment. Thanks to Faith Towers, you know how to decorate your apartment. But do you know how to live in your apartment? No, I’m not talking about Carpe Diem or any of that ‘live life to the fullest’ stuff. I mean actually live in it.

After high school you will find yourself in an array of living situations. Dorm rooms, off campus housing with your buddies, roommates, maybe back home with your folks. But something magical happens in your late 20s.

You have your own apartment. No roommates. No parents. Decorated however you wish. You can clean the bathroom once a year if you want (you … should probably clean it more frequently). Hell, you can walk around naked!

You are the King of your Condo!

Six Tips Before You Move In!

number Don't live near the trash room or elevator. Everyone must walk by your place. The noise from the elevators and trash compactor door will annoy you. Worse, if you’re near the trash room, you run the risk of getting bugs in your apartment.
number See the actual unit. The landlord might tell you the apartment you looked at last week is gone, but another same floor plan unit is available. There are no guarantees that it's in the same condition or the exact same size. Ask to see the unit before signing a lease.
number When attending open houses, always check your cell phone to make sure you get reception. Buildings are made out of cement and metal, which as it turns out, are pretty good reception killers.
number Can't stand living under someone? Does the sound of high heels clicking on hardwood floors drive you insane? Do you hate people who play marbles at 3 a.m.? Rent (or buy) a unit on the top floor.
number Conversely, the first floor might be the way to go, some folks tend to pay more to not live on the first floor. Safety concerns, ya' know? You might have some negotiating power on rent if you choose to live on the ground floor.
number If your building has underground parking, figure out how close your unit is to the door. People coming and going 24/7 can make for bad sleeping and ruined romantic moments. Are the parking spots tandem? It may be fine in your situation or it may be the most annoying thing in your life.  Also check unit proximity to stairwells, main entrances, gates, and balconies on adjacent buildings. It may seem excessive, but these little things can make life annoying and distracting..

But this ain’t no college dorm. Pizza boxes strewn about your front lawn? Parading around hallways in your bath towel? These are no-nos.

There are rules here, people!

You Can: Go to the lobby or laundry room in your socks and pajamas.

You Shouldn't: Go to the lobby or laundry room in your bathrobe or underwear.

You Can: Empty a dryer that contains your neighbors clothes … assuming the cycle is completed, the clothes are dry, and he’s nowhere in sight.

You Shouldn't: Be that neighbor who waits until you’re down to your last pair of everything before doing your wash. If your building has four washers and four dryers, develop a proper laundry schedule so you don’t hog every machine.

You Can: Make whatever noise you want. If you’re putting in a new kitchen or throwing a party, give your neighbors a heads up. And feel free to invite them to the party.

You Shouldn't: Be a dick. Be mindful of your building’s guidelines for noise and conscious of the fact that not every neighbor is a recent college grad. There might be an elderly person who lives below you (although if they’re deaf …). 

You Can: Notify new neighbors above you that you share a common drain in your kitchen. If they put something down the sink that is not suitable for disposal, it will cause their sink—and yours—to overflow.

You Shouldn't: Wait until it’s too late and you’re standing in an inch of water. Be proactive. Not all folks are familiar with what foods can and can’t be shoved down a disposal. Bring them a Jello Mold, introduce yourself, and cut right to the chase. If you’re an introvert, leave them a note.

You Can: Be a total slob in your apartment.

You Shouldn't: Let your mess spill into common areas like the hallways. Don't leave trash bags outside the door to take out later. Don't leave junk mail sitting around the mail room. Just because you’re okay living in filth doesn’t mean your neighbors are. Try your hardest not to get roaches. If you share a kitchen wall with a neighbor, you’ll be sharing roaches, too.

You Can: Have a pet if the bylaws permit it.

You Shouldn't: Let your pet roam the hallways as if it were a yard. Some people are allergic to cats. If Colonel Sanders is roaming the hallway, rolling around on the carpet getting dander all over everything, I will sneeze every time I leave my apartment. If the rules state that you must carry your dog in all common areas, do so. Just because Mr. Bananas never had an accident in the hallway doesn’t mean he won’t one day. All dogs don't get along together, so make sure yours is on-leash. Mr. Bananas may be the friendliest pup in town, but Bruno in 318 loves to eat bananas.

You Can: Come home any time you wish.

You Shouldn't: Act like you don’t have neighbors. That means turn your headlights off before you pull into your parking spot if there are ground floor apartments. It also means using inside voices when walking down the hallway at three in the morning. If you live in a building with a main gate or door with apartments near by, don't let the door slam behind you when it gets late.

Condo living requires simple awareness of the fact that there are other people who live adjacent to you. If you’re conscious of that fact, then there shouldn’t be any problems.

Have any of your own tips on finding a good place, or unspoken social rules everyone should follow? Share it with us in the comments.

Kenneth Suna is a writer and self-employed stock trader who lives in Washington, D.C. His novel, Roman, was recently published. He is the founder of, an online magazine which features human interest stories and social commentary. Follow him @KennethSuna

  • Stephen M.

    Quick-fix for #3:

    Most cellular companies offer these at no charge if you complain that you have no service. SoftBank Japan gives them for free as long as it’s returned in the original condition.

  • Laura @MotherWouldKnow

    Re emptying a dryer in the laundry room – sure you can take out your neighbor’s dry clothes, but in doing so remember the golden rule. It may take an extra minute or 2 to leave them in the condition that you’d want to find yours (if that neighbor were the one emptying your clothes instead of vice versa), but the tables may turn one day or your good deed will be paid forward. Either way you are a winner. And if you leave them in a wrinkled heap, that’s bad karma that will follow you for years 🙂

  • Varun

    Definitely give your neighbors a heads up regarding excessive noise. It doesn’t have to be every time you have company over, but anytime you’re hosting a party or get together with at least 8 guests, make sure to give them a heads up!

    Attend the occasional event hosted by your apartment folks. It’s a great place to meet people, especially if you’re new to town!

    Manage the relationship with the leasing center staff, even if it’s a small token present during the holidays.

  • Jak C

    I used to work for a crime scene clean-up company. During this time, I learned to always get an apartment on the top floor.

    Occasionally we would get called to clean up “unattended deaths”. This means an elderly person who lived alone died of natural causes and went undiscovered from anywhere between a few days to a few months. About 72 hours after someone passes away, the body begins to decompose rapidly from enzymes and bacteria in the gut and quickly turns the whole corpse into putrid-smelling greasy slime. Gross.

    How does this relate to buying an apartment? If you live on the floor below someone who happened to pass away unnoticed, their remains will have saturated through your ceiling and into your apartment within a week or two. We saw this happen ALL THE TIME. The worst one I saw was a man who lived on the top floor of an apartment in Florida who passed away during the hot, muggy summer season. It took 4 weeks to soak through all 5 stories and the entire building had to be quarantined and demolished.

    Not that this will happen to you (although it happens way more frequently than you might expect). After learning firsthand about this, I decided to always live on the top floor. You might want to as well.

    • Andrew

      Very interesting, and great suggestion!

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  • Tammi Carson

    The Top Floor is always the best. My Friend lived in a Condo on The Middle Floor and her neighbors drove her up the wall with their walking all over the floor.