I watched intently as my boyfriend raised the pick-ax above his head and slammed it back down on my bulky couch. When I battled that same narrow doorway I knew two and half years earlier when I battled that same narrow doorway to move the couch in that this would be the couch’s inevitable demise. I felt relief as I watched the life get smashed out of the couch. That’s what New York City apartment hunting will do to you. Watching the life leave my couch felt like the perfect ending to the first chapter of my New York life.
I’d found that couch several years before, back in 2010, during my last year of college. Someone had been evicted from their apartment and all of their furnishings had been left by the dumpster in my apartment complex. This was a nice faux leather sectional, much nicer than the shit green, three person seater I’d bought off craigslist. I was so pleased with my finding that I immediately moved it into my apartment. The couch then moved with me to another Northern Kentucky apartment and then came on down to Savannah, GA, where I attended Grad school.
Prior to moving to New York, I knew that the whole sectional wouldn’t fit in a New York apartment so I left a piece of it in Georgia and the remainder came to New York. That couch had been with me through a lot. But now, as I stood there watching it receive its final blows, I felt no remorse or sentimentality. It had been a good couch and served its purpose, but there was just no longer any room for it in my life.
The truth is, everything about me, other than my physical appearance had changed since I first found my treasured couch. That’s the thing about life, it never stops changing. In fact it was an unwanted change that led to the death of my couch.
When Change Calls On You
When change calls on us it feels like a brick wall inside us crumbles down. I’ve met change many times. We’re well acquainted. We all know change to different degrees; it greets us in many ways. Three months ago when my landlord told me she was selling the building I lived in, I felt the walls begin to crumble. That Queens’s apartment – my basement penthouse – as I preferred to call it, was all I knew of New York. It didn’t just house me, but all of my New York memories. This apartment housed my laughter and lots of it. It was the home to my most violent of tears. This was my recovery ward as well as my dream factory. It was also my haven when I learned to love again.
This apartment was all that I knew of New York and I very much liked what I knew. My growth decorated the walls. I didn’t want to move because I was comfortable. But when we allow ourselves to get too comfortable we run the risk of stunting our growth.
The Struggles of New York Apartment Hunting
I approached moving like an enraged two year old. First I cried out of fear. Then came my tantrums of anger. Then I fought to catch my breath. Next I slowly found my balance. Lastly, I discovered the joy of the new situation.
It seems cliché to say apartment hunting in New York is a nightmare, but it’s a cliché for a reason – it is a nightmare. Apartment hunting in New York is hard for anyone. It’s competitive. If you see a place you really like you have no time to think about it, you just have to go for it because someone else is only a few feet behind you waiting to say yes. I actually had an apartment go off the market while I was on my way to see it.
The other nightmarish thing every apartment hunting New Yorker endures is brokers and broker fees. You can’t just call the landlord or apartment complex and view the place, 80% of the time you’re required to go through a broker before you can even see a place and those brokers require a big fee for merely unlocking a door. And by big fee, on average 12 – 15% of the annual rent. I’m ashamed to even discuss the cost of these tiny living spaces. I’ve had dorm rooms larger than some of the apartments I saw including the one I ended up taking and the cost of living in them was way more than my annual tuition.
My apartment hunting challenges didn’t stop there. Add not one, but two dogs to the situation (and they’re not little dogs), you’ve got a whole new obstacle on your hands. There are a lot of dog owners in New York; I just don’t know where they live or how they afford to live there. And New York is a concrete jungle and my dogs, being country gals, prefer grass. So I knew I had to focus my hunt around an area with parks. This is when you kiss your fantasies about finally starting that savings account goodbye.
We haven’t even discussed the actual process of moving in New York. You can hire movers and have the heavy lifting done for you. Or you can elect to con your friends into helping you. Then you get to navigate a big U-Haul through the busy, narrow New York Streets. But the fun hasn’t really begun until you have to double park the truck and unload the U-Haul like you’re running a sprint to avoid being ticketed.
The Good Stuff
Though this is the price you pay to live in New York – the great, the grand, the most spectacular city of them all – and I will endure any cost to live in New York, as will many. Despite all of her nightmares – and she has many – New York is worth it. Her highs are worth the rates of her lows. She is the sunshine and the rain. She is the whole hearted laughter and the most violent of tears. New York is worth every last broker’s fee.
I dreaded finding a new place, but after I got through my tantrums of panic, I caught my breath and I went out and found a place. A small cozy studio, about 1/3 the size of my previous apartment, but it’s surrounded by parks and is located in Manhattan (granted one of the most northern points, but still Manhattan)! It’s cute and very me. It’s a new place to make fresh memories, it’s another brick wall for me to break in.
Moving to a smaller place required me to depart with about 2/3 of my belongings. I had to give away my treasures and I’m a pirate, I tell you! I collect treasures! But your treasures in New York are required to be based on your experiences and memories, there’s not space for much else. It wasn’t easy letting go of my things. Some items had been with me for decades, but they are just things. But letting go of these things, including my bulky couch, was a cleansing experience. I bashed a pick-ax down on all of the things that were holding me back and only kept the things that can continue to help me grow as a person. Besides, who needs things as long as you have your memories?
So tonight I sit here, typing away from my new Manhattan digs, soaking in all the freshness around me. I’m excited to start a new year in a new apartment. I look at all the unfamiliar walls now decorated with my most favorite of treasures and I wonder what stories will they learn to tell?