I am sluggishly trying to return to work and life from a much-needed vacation, a vacation that included a five night stay in a stranger’s apartment. This is an increasingly popular plan people have if they live in major cities, or in our case, college towns around graduation time.
While I am thoroughly uncomfortable with the idea of letting strangers stay in my house (my nightstand contains items I would much prefer stay private), I am very grateful to the gentleman who rented his place to us. I headed back to Cambridge with my entire family –
Yeah, all these yahoos, plus Mom, Dad, Big Brother and little brother’s GF, who aren’t pictured
– for my little brother’s graduation from Harvard grad school. We figured if the kid was going to get in and graduate from such an institution, we could, at the very least, drag our asses across the country to support him. He is now a master actor after completing the ART program there, and holy crap, I couldn’t be prouder of the damn kid. He’s the super tall, freakishly good-looking one in the photos. He is super talented and looks like a leading man, so who knows what kind of adventures he is going to be going on now that he is out in the big, bad world. At one point during the graduation festivities, my older brother and I discussed that it was a really good thing we all had totally overblown self-esteems or the whole thing could have been very intimidating. Harvard? Really?!?
But I digress. Back to living arrangements. Because most people who attend Harvard are from out of the area, graduations bring families and friends in from all over the world. Finding a hotel room, even months in advance, wasn’t happening. Finding a place big enough to fit the ton of people we had rolling in? Impossible. The original plan had 8 of us crammed into my little brother’s two-bedroom apartment on air mattresses. Even though my family gets along exceptionally well, those conditions just aren’t pleasant for anyone. Luckily, as the date drew nearer, people in Cambridge realized they could capitalize on the situation and pay their rents for the month by crashing on a friend’s couch or taking their own little getaway and renting their place out to the incoming revelers. Jon and I ended up with our own little studio apartment to ourselves, which my siblings appreciated since we had made a pact to have sex every night we were gone. Hey, we never took a honeymoon, okay? This was the next best thing and I was going to get laid whether they liked it or not. The studio we rented was an acceptable place to lay our heads at night, but there are a few tips I have for anyone either planning on renting their place out or the questions to ask if you are thinking of renting one for a vacation. The more you know, knowledge is power, all that good stuff.
Be Honest in Your Listing
Look, we all know that apartment listings are full of carefully chosen descriptors that paint the place in the best possible light. Unfortunately, in this situation the vacationers don’t get to see it and make a decision before they give you their money, so be as candid as possible. I’m not saying one can’t fluff up the language a bit, but if you live in a building with no elevator, that should be disclosed. Thankfully Nana wasn’t staying with us, for if she had been I would have been giving her piggy back rides up and down the stairs all week. Also, mark your apartment number clearly on the set of keys, particularly if you aren’t going to be available to meet the guests face to face to exchange them and show them where the place is. Your neighbors will appreciate this, as Jon scared the shit out of the poor young woman in Apartment 16 by attempting repeatedly to unlock her deadbolt with the keys to Apartment 10.
Two Clean Towels is Not Too Much to Ask
This wasn’t too much of an issue since my husband randomly brought his own towel, but please, have at least 2 clean towels. The studio apartment had three mattresses (why? No idea.) crammed into it, but only one clean towel. Also, don’t forget to buy toilet paper. I received a text from the apartment owner letting me know he had forgotten to buy some before we moved in, but come on. When people are paying you over $100 a night, make sure they can at least wipe their asses with something.
“Bachelor Pad” Clean Does Not Always Equal Clean
The apartment was tidy, but definitely not clean. There was soap scum in the shower, hair on the floor and dust on all flat surfaces. The handles in the kitchen were sticky. I don’t want to pick on the men here, but I find that often, or at the very least in my house, my definition of clean and Jon’s definition of clean are two very different things. Because I am slightly neurotic about cleaning, I spent more time doing it on my vacation than I would have liked just so I didn’t have to wash my hands every time I opened a drawer to get a spoon.
Have Basic Amenities
Before we left, I emailed the guy to ask if he had an iron and a coffee maker. Jon thought I was being ridiculous, because who doesn’t have an iron and a coffee maker? I’ll tell you who- the guy we were renting from. He did not have either of them. I do not function without coffee. I heat up a cup of day-old coffee every morning so I have enough coordination to make a fresh pot. Yes, I am that disgusting. Getting from an apartment to a coffee shop down four flights of stairs without caffeine? Not going to happen. Thankfully I asked in advance and Starbuckys now has perfectly decent instant coffee, so I was prepared. How somebody gets by without an iron if they also don’t have a dryer is mind-boggling to me. I wasn’t about to go to a Harvard graduation in a wrinkly ass dress, so I now own a travel iron. It’s quite handy.
He also did not have a television. Not even a little one. I get that in this day and age a television isn’t really necessary since pretty much everything can be watched online, but if you don’t have a TV, let people know. It’s not like we planned on parking it in front of the tube all day, but chilling out and watching a sitcom would have been nice at the end of a long day. We had our laptop, so we would have brought a few movies. Not to pass judgement on his DVD choices, but they were Sex and the City, Made of Honor, and Knight and Day. Seriously. We couldn’t even get online the first day because his Wifi was password protected, so our awesome HBO Go app (seriously, best app ever!) was useless.
If you live somewhere that gets hot and humid, try to have more than one tiny fan, too.
If I Am Paying You A Substantial Amount of Money to Sleep at Your House, it is Not My Job to Clean it For the Next Sub-Leasers You Have Coming In
This one really got me. The morning we were to leave, the guy text me to ask that I make sure the apartment was clean because he had other people coming in and he wouldn’t be back to clean in between. Look, I am not an unreasonable woman. I had already planned on washing the sheets – there was only one set – because of the aforementioned pact between Jon and I. I figured the guy would be coming home, and nobody needs to see their navy blue sheets in the condition we would have left them in. When I realized new people were coming, I washed the towels, too, because I would have been pissed to have no clean towels and I took pity on the guy. I would never leave a hotel room in disarray, so I definitely planned on straightening up before we headed out. Faced with the possibility of new people showing up who might be less inclined to be good natured about bachelor boy’s apartment, I again took pity on him and cleaned as much as I could. I say as much as I could because, well, there were no cleaning supplies! The only cleaner in the entire place was a nearly empty bottle of Comet. No broom, no vacuum, no 409, no sponges to clean with, no paper towels (I bought toilet paper but I was not about to fully furnish the place). How is this even possible?
I realize I sound like a big ol’ whiner, but I really did have a lovely time in Cambridge. The town and Harvard campus is beautiful, there is awesome shopping and great places to eat. My utterly inconsequential first-world “problems” were honestly all things we just kind of chuckled about. I have seen people offering up their apartments and homes as rentals on Craigslist for years, and always wondered what it would be like to try it out. Now I know what to expect going forward, and hopefully these little tips will come in handy for some of you in the future. Plus, the only picture in the whole place was an 8 x 10 of the guy and Nancy Pelosi smiling together at some event, so even if he is a little lacking on the cleanliness front, he can’t be all bad.