adulting no. 3: little household things

adulting is a series on ilam that talks about doing new “adult” things, and what I’ve learned, which hopefully, may help you navigate adulting as well.

Some sundry things I’ve picked up:

  1. Don’t sign an apartment lease without looking at the apartment in-person first. If you can, try to visit places before signing a lease. If you cannot visit beforehand, sublet for a month or two, and spend those two months exploring neighborhoods and visiting places to live. The neighborhood counts for a lot, and it’s not always easy to discern what type of neighborhood you’ll like just by browsing the internet. Apartment photos may also obfuscate the “not-so-nice things,” so it’s best to visit in-person and confirm for yourself.
  2. There’s no substitute for doing a thorough clean-up at least once a month. It’s important to take the time to do a thorough cleaning regularly, as cleaning gets much harder over time, and sometimes impossible without professional tools. The bathroom is especially susceptible to this, because of the moisture and humidity that encourages mold.
  3. Toilet bowl tablets: I despise cleaning toilets. With a toilet bowl tablet, it disinfects and keeps the toilet bowl cleaner between the more-thorough cleaning. Get the uncolored ones, because sometimes the colored ones (most often it’s blue) can sometimes stain your toilet if not flushed enough.
  4.  A microwave is dead useful for things other than Easy Mac. Many nights, I come home around 8pm, and still have some things to do, so I can’t spend that much time preparing my food. I keep on hand an assortment of fresh and frozen vegetables, and I can steam them in the microwave, put in a bit of seasoning, and have a delicious dinner ready in less than 10 minutes (paired with the rice that I’ve kept warm in my rice cooker). I also have to clean less things- I generally microwave food in the same dish I eat with. Microwave cooking isn’t sad and can be quite healthy and fresh, unless you’re microwaving things like Hungry-Man dinners.
  5. A winning combination for hot-water lovers: S’well and a hot water boiler. The regular-sized S’well is $35 for most designs– while a little steep, I’ve found it to be a reasonable price for how it performs. As it claims, I’ve regularly filled the bottle with hot water and it still piping hot after 12 hours. It never smells, does not get hot (except for the cap, since obviously the insulation is weakest there), and the water never tastes of metal. I was skeptical at first, because all the hot water thermai I’ve ever had lost significant heat after an hour or so. S’well has turned me into a believer.
  6. Sign up for accounts/emails/mailings from stores you visit regularly. Grocery stores and pharmacies are the prime examples. They will alert of you sales and coupons. Every little bit saved is something, after all. Some will even give you personalized offers according to your buying history.
  7. If your credit is good, (prudently) sign up for other credit cards in order to take advantage of their signing bonus and other rewards. This one is from one of my colleagues, who told me that since he knew he would be spending a lot of money on graduate school applications, he opened up another credit card to get their signing bonus. Most bonuses are something like this: spend $x in the first y months, get $z reward. The new credit card that I received also has revolving reward categories with higher reward amounts, so I can allocate my spending more optimally to maximize my rewards. You don’t need to stick to one credit card, it’s fine to use more than one.
  8. When possible, use credit cards instead of debit cards and cash. Three reasons: (1) Rewards are usually non-existent or smaller on debit cards. (2) Debit cards are directly linked to your checking account. If a fraudulent transaction goes through, the money in your checking account will be missing. By law, it eventually will be “back”, but in the short-term, you’ll be out of this money. However, with a credit card, your money hasn’t already been “spent.” Earlier this year, I had a series of fraudulent transactions, which ranged from a dollar to the hundreds (all declined, because Capital One caught the first suspicious transaction right from the start). I was very glad that I hadn’t linked anything to my debit card, because who knows how fast my debit card company would catch these sorts of transactions? By then, I could have been out a few thousand dollars. (3) Lastly, by using a credit card as opposed to cash, expenses can be easily tracked by looking at the statements.
  9. Track your expenses (somehow). I use Mint and the various services my banks provide. If you prefer not to do things online, you’ll have to use a system involving paper and pen. Any way you choose to do it, you need a good record for when you file taxes and when you want to do some budgeting. Like cleaning, it’s best to set aside time each month to look over your finances and straighten it up, or else it gets hard to remember what happened and even muster up the motivation to “straighten it up.”
  10. Life’s too short to frequently be shopping for flimsy clothing at fast-fashion places like H&M and Forever21. It may be a higher upfront cost, but with the cost spread out over a longer period of time, it’s more cost-effective to buy clothing that is well-made and will last longer than a few washes. Lately, I’ve really liked Everlane, and Uniqlo is always a perennial favorite.

being in control

This will be a short and spontaneous post. I met someone new today and she sincerely complimented me profusely on how in control I seemed of my own life. I was disconcerted because it echoed what a lot of people tell me when they first meet me– that I’m incredibly well-rounded, have great sense of organization and can seem to juggle a lot of things simultaneously while also striving for (and accomplishing) great results. I can also sincerely say that I never fish for compliments; hence my disconcertedness every time.

To me, I guess these things are second nature and I’ve always had a great appreciation for being well-balanced. Where this sentiment came from, I have no idea. It is certainly not from my quite staid Asian family, which predictably values the pragmatic over the philosophic. Yet, somehow I turned out that way and I’ve strived to make my education and pursuits come full circle. I have a finger in every pie, and in every major discipline, I at least know the basics.

Everyone is different and we all imbibe knowledge in different ways; I just want to share some of the ways that I’ve used to become an apparently “in control” person. Honestly, I feel inside I’m a mess and a jumble, but to many I seem like a role model.

Read the news. There’s really no way around this. Of course one may focus on the news that one finds interesting but one must stay up to date in the news. It takes years to build up extensive background knowledge from the news, but it is quite worth it.

Something sounds interesting? Follow up on it. Meet others who are interested in it. Read a book on it, etc. For college students: don’t try to load up classes on one field. English major? Take a math class. Computer science major? Take an art history course.

Time management isn’t something you necessarily have or you can acquire really quickly. It’s about developing and learning about how you work best under time constraints and eventually developing a system that you can rely on. Studying, too.

I’ve always been a big proponent of having both quantitative and qualitative activities in my life. For example, no matter how many math or economics course I was taking, I was always playing music, whether in lesson or a chamber music group. I think it’s important to pursue your passions in both sides even if you are particularly bad at one side (I’m a subpar musician but I stick it out anyway). Music has been a huge part of my life and a big coping and relaxing mechanism over the years. Catharsis in music is wildly different than the satisfaction from a problem set or program well done. Silo-ing ourselves off to only feel one kind of satisfaction? Sounds like a very hollow existence.