help this lifetime apartment dweller move into her first house
September 29, 2016 7:30 PM   Subscribe

my family of four is in the process of moving out of our junior 4 in manhattan to our very own house in the suburbs. what are your best house and home life tips?

we won't all share one bathroom! my kids won't share a dining-area-turned-bedroom! but i've lived here for my whole life and i don't know how to live somewhere with stairs and space and such. so how am I meant to keep a whole house clean and tidy? how do i handle laundry for four (it's currently dropped off in the lobby once a week and magically returned cleaned and folded)?

i guess i'm asking multiple questions here: what should we do to the house before we move in? now that we're in a more permanent home, is it time to get a safe for our important documents and valuables? is it worth it to get iPhone-powered locks and thermostats and lights and window treatments, etc.? how do i transition from living in 800sqft to a big house? what are the biggest lifestyle changes for city vs. suburban living in terms of upkeep? i'm a stay-at-home mom and do the majority of the housekeeping, any tips for staying on top of that? go back to work and hire a full-time staff? i feel like my workload will quadruple!

the current owners are also the first owners, who built the house ~15 years ago. we already plan to paint inside and outside, and refinish floors.
posted by sabh to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Don't unpack too quickly. Unpack for the essential spaces, the kitchen and occupied bedrooms and bathrooms and main living room, and then improvise. Move stuff around if you don't feel comfortable after a couple of weeks. Make notes. Houses are inscrutable, especially the stuff hidden behind the walls. It takes a while to work out how best to live in them.

(The radical approach is that if you haven't unpacked a box in six months, you should throw it out without opening it. That's too radical for me, but I understand the rationale behind it.)

Is there a laundry room? Is there a washer / dryer? Is there a place to air-dry things? Could there be? Are you fastidious about ironing? If so, is there a space to do ironing? Or do you just want to find a local laundromat and / or dry cleaner to handle that stuff?

is it worth it to get iPhone-powered locks and thermostats and lights and window treatments, etc.?

Noooooo. I'm not completely "Internet of Shit" about IoT stuff, but dear god the kinks need to be worked out by early adopters. Seriously, live in it for a while. Learn its space, but also give yourself room to play around. Maybe the light's better in one part of the house at one time, and another part another time.

(If there are incandescent bulbs, buy a load of good LED bulbs right now, swap where you want to swap, and mostly forget about changing bulbs. Light matters.)
posted by holgate at 7:49 PM on September 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Paint the walls and do anything that needs to be done to the flooring before you move in.

Get a sorting hamper and teach the kids to sort laundry however you like it sorted--
Personally I do 4 categories:
1. Colourful towels+sheets.
2. Heavy dark fabrics like jeans, Tshirts, sweatshirts, black socks- things that will cause fuzz or dingy dye residue in more delicate items.
3. bright smooth fabrics like silky shirts and nice workout clothing, including lingerie in mesh bags.
4. whites (shirts, white bedding).
I have a laundry hamper with clearly marked compartments- that way sorting laundry is much quicker.

Consider getting a set of cleaning supplies for each floor- maybe including an extra vacuum cleaner. It doesn't cost much more and will save you a lot of lugging.

Teach your kids how to clean or at least how to tidy. My childhood allowance was contingent on a clean room at least one day a week, and by the time I was 6, my household jobs were to tidy the living room every day and sweep the kitchen after dinner a couple days a week.

FLY Lady has a lot of housekeeping tips if you're overwhelmed. And there's no shame in hiring a cleaner.

Congrats on the house!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:50 PM on September 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Figure out where to put your keys when you walk in the door and then always put them there. It's a lot easier to misplace your keys in a house than in an apartment.
posted by TORunner at 8:04 PM on September 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

These year we moved from a small two-bedroom house to a nice 4-bedroom 2-bath in the 'burbs. It has been GREAT. I've been much happier with cleaning since combining the FLY lady method and the Kon-Mari method into what works for me. I suggest reading about both and doing what works for you. I can give you an itemized list of what I do if you are interested. But congrats! This is great! Enjoy!

And above all - don't feel any need to buy a ton a stuff to furnish the house right away. Live in it awhile, get to know the house and your needs and then add pieces carefully, as you would for your smaller space.

And yeah, everyone above age 2 who lives in the household needs to help. Even small kids can help put away their things with you if they are shown how to. Anyone age 11 and up can do laundry.
posted by Pearl928 at 8:04 PM on September 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

First of all, congratulations!

Do not rush out and buy a bunch of furniture. Live with what you have for a bit and see how you actually end up using spaces. For example, I bought a sleeper sofa for what I thought would be an occasional guest room, but that space ended up becoming my media room and my butt has been uncomfortable ever since.
posted by missmerrymack at 8:09 PM on September 29, 2016

Don't go crazy buying 'necessary' bits and bobs you think you'll need. You probably won't and you can get them when you actually need them. Especially garden stuff, think about what you want to do and buy accordingly. Not like me: ooooh, flower seeds! I have a garden! Buy all the things! Can't be arsed planning them!
posted by kitten magic at 8:29 PM on September 29, 2016

I just did the opposite. I went from a 5,000 sq ft house to a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo/apartment. I don't have a ton of advice, but know that you are going in the right direction!

Fwiw, I think it was either easier to clean the larger space or easier for it to look clean because there was much less clutter and you did not see the small messes all the time.

I am in Westchester County if you have specific questions about towns or stores or geographical related questions.
posted by AugustWest at 8:33 PM on September 29, 2016

Get the number of a good reputable heating/air conditioning service. Ask your new neighbors for references.

It's the perfect time to get ALL your systems (esp furnace and water heater) cleaned and inspected before it gets too cold... and too hard to get a repairman on short notice. 15 years is right about the time your major systems start showing wear, and from my experience people selling homes tend to slack off on maintenance as they prepare to sell.

I've been that eager new homeowner that watched his furnace quit on a Saturday night with a newborn in the crib and 10 degrees F outside. It...really sucks.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:35 PM on September 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

As others said, paint and floors before you move in is much easier. There's no way I'd think about connected systems anyway, but surely don't worry about it now. There are going to be lots of little and possibly expensive necessary things to worry about, you don't need to add some useless tech thing that won't work right to your list.
posted by bongo_x at 10:24 PM on September 29, 2016

We recently moved from an 800 sqft 1 bed apartment to a 1500 sqft 3 bed house, and I'm not being overly dramatic here, but it saved our marriage. (No kids). Yeah, there is more area to clean, but actually it doesn't take anywhere like double the time to clean, we seem to get through it in little more than the time it took previously, mainly because the place is so much less cluttered. We haven't bought much new furniture, it's just that our furniture is spaced out more appropriately. And that is so much less stressful for us. We have space! Enjoy.

Laundry - yep, you'll need to figure that out. You have a washing machine? (If not, get one. A dryer is less important, you can hang stuff out to dry on a rack - $15 at Ikea) You have kids? That could be something that they are responsible for! Sort clothing into whites / darks / delicates and that's about it.

Good luck and enjoy your new house!
posted by finding.perdita at 12:28 AM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks everyone!
i should mention that we're inheriting a washer and dryer from the current owners, as well as ALL of their furniture (not sure if that's a good thing).
my kids are 3.5 and 1.
posted by sabh at 4:40 AM on September 30, 2016

We just moved from a pretty darn small house (under 800 sq ft) to a normal-sized city house (~1200 sq ft) and one of the first things I noticed is that it is so much easier to keep clean! Do not fret about this! Yes, square footage wise, there's more to mop/vacuum/dust, but it is eight thousand times easier to do all of that when there aren't piles of junk everywhere because things can actually be put away. In our old house, there was no "away" for things to be put in, they were just everywhere, all the time. Now we have ample storage space and a whole spare bedroom that's been turned into an office for all of our random hobby-related junk. It takes us a fraction of the time to clean up every weekend than it used to--husband and I both noticed this immediately.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:53 AM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

i should mention that we're inheriting a washer and dryer from the current owners

That's typical and no big deal.

HOWEVER, make sure you clean the dryer out thoroughly. Clean the lint traps inside the dryer, get a thin vacuum nozzle and dryer vent brush and get as deep as you can inside the dryer. Pull the vent hose from the back and brush/vacuum THAT out as well, and clean the entire hose from the dryer to the outside exit.

Keeping the dryer lint-free is a safety issue, but also improves efficiency.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:10 AM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do change the locks, but not with that internet connected garbage. It's pretty easy and cheap to DIY. Give it a good cleaning before moving in, though since they are leaving furniture behind this is less easy. Change the HVAC filters and fridge water filter (if applicable). Make sure your water areas are well sealed up (grout around bathtub, caulking around sinks and whatnot), water getting into places it shouldn't is bad news. Having an outdoor hose and a decent nozzle is surprisingly useful.

Make sure there are enough smoke detectors and change their batteries and buy a fire extinguisher!
posted by ghharr at 8:18 AM on September 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

how do i handle laundry for four (it's currently dropped off in the lobby once a week and magically returned cleaned and folded)?

How most people with laundry machines at home handle laundry is to sort the laundry as it's produced, and then run a load at a time you can be doing something other than waiting around for laundry to finish. You don't have to do it all on the same day. It's much more time efficient than waiting around at a laundromat.

I'm not sure if the concept of doing your own laundry is a completely new thing? That's pretty unusual for an adult outside of big cities. You'll probably make some mistakes and ruin things at first. If you can get someone you know to teach you the basics of how to sort laundry, load the machine, fold, etc. that would probably be the best way to go about learning. Also, some things like bras and other delicate items will need to be handwashed in the sink.

I'd avoid the iphone locks for now, but there are locks that you can punch a code into to open, those are nice to have. Replacing the locks is something you should do right away, because you don't know who the previous owner has given keys to. Generally you only need a screwdriver and it's easy to do this yourself.

If you have a yard, in many cases yard maintenance is going to be a thing that needs to be done. Specifics depend on what's in your yard.
posted by yohko at 12:24 PM on September 30, 2016

Keep cleaning supplies for upstairs upstairs, and cleaning supplies for downstairs downstairs. Do not lug buckets, hoovers, etc up and down the stairs. I would clean upstairs once a week, downstairs once a week, and tidy daily.

Do you know how to do laundry? Whites, darks, cottons, synthetics, laundry products?

The typical "laundry in the basement" is the worst system ever devised, if that's where yours are. Someone will be hauling laundry from the bedroom floor down to the basement and back up again and it will suck.

Babygates: you're going to need them, top and bottom.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:33 PM on September 30, 2016

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