The big yard that constantly needs mowing, weeding, and sprucing up; spending valuable time cleaning a big house; the costs of replacing air conditioner units, having the roof redone, getting the house repainted; the long commute to work – you're ready to give it all up in favor of a simpler, more streamlined lifestyle. There are a few things to consider when moving from a house to an apartment, and there will be a few changes that might take time to get used to.
First, finding the right apartment complex can be tricky. You will often rely on the apartment manager and staff to handle maintenance and other issues, so visit a few times and speak with as many of them as you can. Are they friendly? Receptive to hearing your concerns? Are they readily available to help? If you feel that you are being rushed or ignored, or if they seem distant or rude, consider looking around some more. When checking out your unit, listen carefully to the noise coming from above and beside you. If you can hear every little footstep, the walls may not be well insulated – consider looking around for a place more soundproof. Since there is less privacy in an apartment community, knowing who lives around you is important. Go ahead and ask!
There are other things you may want to check on before signing the lease. Is the apartment pet-friendly? (Even if you don't currently have a pet, this is still an important factor to consider.) Is there assigned parking, and is there enough space for guests to park? If you won't have a patio or balcony, is a park nearby? Or perhaps a community garden? How is the security? Is the parking area well-lit? Are you allowed to paint in your apartment? Can you sublet or have a roommate?
Consider the area the apartment community is in. If it is near a college or university, you could be living in a community filled with students – and all of the noise and partying that goes along with them. The high-energy atmosphere may appeal to you, but if it doesn't – consider a quieter community. A smaller apartment community may be more attentive than a large, densely-populated high-rise. Fewer tenants mean more time to take care of those issues promptly, and the apartment staff tends to know you by name. Also, just because a neighborhood is just 10 minutes from your workplace doesn't make it ideal – be sure to check traffic conditions during rush hour. If cars bottleneck trying to get onto the Interstate on-ramp a block from your building, your commute could be worse than if you rented a place farther away but without the traffic issues.
Once you've found the ideal apartment, it's time to purge. Houses hold much more stuff than any apartment ever could. You have attic space, possibly even a basement, and several closets for storage. Start going through your house, one space at a time, and gather the items you know you can't use in your apartment. (Don't forget the garage – that lawn mower, rake, weed eater, and shovel are no longer necessary!)
Also, measure your furniture and your new apartment space. What fit easily into your house may not fit in your apartment, so get rid of anything that won't fit. Once you've gathered all of the stuff you don't want to move to your apartment, have a moving sale. (Once you've moved and are unpacking boxes, you'll discover even more items you don't want – those can be donated to charity or discarded.)
After you move into your apartment and start unpacking, storage will quickly become a concern. Think of creative ways to store items: a hanging pot rack in the kitchen will save cabinet space. A bookcase hung lengthwise on the wall frees up floor space and creates visual interest on the wall. A tension rod under the sink is perfect for holding spray bottles – just rest the neck of the bottle on the rod, getting them off the cabinet floor and freeing up space for other items. Paint a pegboard in a fun color and hang it next to the front door, in the kitchen, on the back of your closet door, or next to your "home office" space. Add a few "S" hooks and this is ideal for hanging oven mitts, pots and utensils, and dish towels in the kitchen; a beautiful place to keep scarves, necklaces, and purses in the bedroom closet; or add a few containers to store paper clips, pens, clipboards, etc. in the home office.
Even with creative storage solutions, you may find you need to rent a storage unit or (if your apartment community offers them), a garage. This is especially true if you consider the apartment lifestyle temporary and not permanent, but don't hang on to things thinking you may want to use them someday. Chances are if you ever do decide to live in a house again, you probably won't want that old, dusty, out-of-date sofa and end tables you stored for years because they didn't work in your apartment space.
Once you've settled in to your apartment, enjoy the extra time you will have, the shorter commute (in many cases), the money you will save (not only with the shorter commute, but with cheaper utilities and less maintenance), and the amenities that make apartment communities so attractive – fitness centers, clubhouses, pools – and you don't have to maintain, clean, or repair any of them. Score!