Saturday, July 24, 2010

If You Can Make It There... must have very few personal possessions and truly enjoy laundromats.  You should also enjoy walking up five flights of stairs to reach your home, and you probably shouldn't mind paying 8 dollars for a Miller Lite. After a week of apartment hunting in Manhattan, I told my husband on Sunday that I quit NYC. I wanted so much to believe that I was cool enough and low-maintenance enough to pare down my life to fit into 600 square feet, but, alas, I am just not.

When I thought about renting a tiny apartment in the city, I felt excited because I saw it as an opportunity to really simplify -- to rid ourselves of all of the unnecessary commodities we've acquired over the years and return to just the basics, just the absolute essentials. The problem, however, is that I seem to have a lot of essentials! In college, if I had contact solution and a toothbrush, I could pretty much crash anywhere (and I'm not even sure that I really felt that the toothbrush qualified as an essential -- more of a convenience). Now, to spend the night outside of my own home, I pack a bag that includes the following: make-up remover, night face cream, facial lotion with sunscreen for daytime, my Sonicare, dental floss, a pair of pajamas, slippers or flip-flops, a change of clothes for the morning, and two different hairbrushes (I'll even bring my blowdryer if I feel that the one in my host's home/hotel is not equal to my own). And it's not just in the way of personal toiletries that I've become high maintenance -- I also seem to have become irreversibly accustomed to having a washer and dryer and a dishwasher within the confines of my living space (how un-green, how uncool!).

I keep trying to justify my high maintenance by telling myself that as a woman of almost 30, I will only spend more and more time at home. NYC has a fantastic nightlife with awesome bars that stay open until 4 am, but these days, nine times out of ten, I'm asleep before midnight on the average Saturday night. This realization among women of my age, I am convinced, is what keeps Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, and Williams-Sonoma financially afloat. We women need a creative outlet, a way to expend energy. Once karaoke contests and drinking games lose their novelty -- somewhere in one's late 20s -- it seems that we turn our sights to coordinating throw pillows and redecorating our master baths. It's almost like we feel like if we aren't going to be out, in needs to get a lot more enticing. I'm not sure that this sort of hobby -- if home improvement/decorating can even be classified as such -- is really a good thing. In a lot of ways, it means buying into the kind of consumerism that I love to hate, but that I also can't seem to resist.

I'd like to believe that I'm not the kind of person who covets stainless steel appliances and granite countertops above the more practical conveniences of apartment living (like being near transportation and having enough closet space), but because I haven't been happy yet with an apartment that lacks these aesthetic accoutrements, I'm going to blame my materialism on my fear that moving home means that I am right back at the beginning again, completing a circle as opposed to moving forward. Perhaps I'm seeing a nice apartment and all of its trappings as some kind of indicator that I am, in fact, making progress, moving up and going forward. Hey look, everyone! I went from carpet to hardwood and from tile to granite! See -- I am making progress after all!

For now, I'm not going to beat myself up too much for being a little too attached to the material world. Leaving San Diego was tough, so if having some nicer features gets me excited about our new residence, so be it. So, in an effort to be able to afford those creature comforts (and have space enough for them), we're refocusing our apartment search efforts across the Hudson in Jersey City and Hoboken, where things are a lot more affordable. I may not get to become a New Yorker, but at least I won't be hand-washing dishes. Maybe I am more practical than I give myself credit for after all...


  1. I seem to remember hearing that no one in NYC has garbage disposals... is that true? Even if I could get over the inconvenience of hand washing dishes all the time I think I'd be grossed out by dumping all the yucky stuff in the trash.
    Hope you have more success with your hunt and find a place that will make you feel at home while still allowing room for all of your creature comforts!
    P.S. Matthew teases me terribly, but I bring my blow drier and two brushes everywhere too! :-)

  2. Ha! I'm so glad to know that I'm not alone!! :)

  3. New York is RIGHT THERE. You'll still have Big Apple gleam in your eye along with a little more contentedness :).

  4. But everyone on Seinfeld has a huge apartment. ???