New apartment

It’s interesting what we’re willing to forgive about our “new” apartment, simply because it isn’t new. And actually I think it’s called a “condo” since it’s just a two family house, and it feels weird to call it our “house” when we’re only in half of it. For a house built over 40 years ago, some creaking and drafty windows are to be expected (though we did mention the window to the landlord, to make sure our heating bill stays reasonable).

Our first apartment here in Boston was a brand new building, and no one had ever lived in our unit. So every single tiny (and not so tiny) thing we made sure to mention. Even the fact that we could hear our neighbors through the wall was upsetting, since you would think that a new building would have proper soundproofing. But even though we can hear our upstairs neighbors even more here in the condo, it doesn’t seem to bother us as much.

I think there are simply enough things we like about this place to be able to put up with the things we don’t. There’s a yard, with a plot for a vegetable garden. There’s a ridiculous amount of storage in the basement, and a new washer and dryer just for us. There’s a fireplace. There’s only one bathroom, but the shower head is new and movable (a big deal for a Frenchman, let me tell you). The bedrooms are not right off the living room, so we can watch TV at a normal level without worrying about waking anyone up.

Since this is the kind of property that is very common in the area, I wanted to at least try a two-family home before we rule it out of our house hunt. We have a goal to buy in 2 years, so we know the noise has an end date, and maybe that also makes us more willing to put up with it. Paying less than we were before also helps make it feel like the annoyances are “worth” it. Whenever you feel like you’re paying too much for something, you’ll be critical of every little thing. But if you think you’re getting a good deal, then it doesn’t have to be perfect.

The biggest thing though is that the neighbors have kids, so everyone is usually asleep when we are. Before we lived next to two young ladies who seemed to “wake up” literally the second we put our heads on our pillows at 9:30 every night. So as noisy as it is, the noise stops when we need it to. And it almost reminds me of my mother-in-law’s house where you could hear everything on the second floor. It’s only been a few weeks, but it already feels more like a home than our previous apartment.

Green cleaning

Recently I’ve been trying to stick to green cleaning methods around the apartment. In part due to my pregnant sensitivity to strong chemical smells, but also because all of a sudden I realized that baby hands touch everything then go straight into their mouths. And while of course I and everyone else I know grew up just fine crawling around on Mr. Clean floors, there’s also the lower cost and a healthier planet to consider. (Notice the selfish reasons came first! Ah well, as long as the end result is the same, who cares why I’m doing it?)

And honestly, vinegar and baking soda clean just as well as the stuff you can buy, even better sometimes, like for the hard water problems we have. Whenever the faucet starts to get a bit blocked, a vinegar soak is just the trick to clear it up! I do admit that the smell can get a little strong, since I don’t use essential oils because of our cat, but it’s already replaced the smell of chemicals in my mind as representing “clean.”

My husband is the big cleaner in the couple and he needs that chemical smell to feel like he’s done cleaning a room. Since I knew I’d have a bit more time on maternity leave, I told him I’d take over the cleaning, so I get to choose the products. And over the past few weeks, he seems to have opened up to my green cleaning ways. (The baby hands touching everything argument has also been quite effective . . .) While he still needs to wipe down the toilet with antibacterial wipes every other day, he doesn’t use them to dust anymore; he can see that a microfiber cloth works perfectly well.

Pinterest is of course great for things like this, and I wanted to share here a few sites I’ve pinned and go back to a lot. I haven’t quite gotten to the stage of creating my own mixes of green cleaners, but I have a feeling I will as time goes on. Getting a hold of castile soap, borax, rubbing alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide in large quantities in my area of France is a bit difficult, so I’ve been sticking to recipes without all that for now and have been just fine. (Though if anyone knows a good source for those things, please let me know!)

25 DIY green cleaning recipes for the whole house (number 5 totally saved us from throwing out a perfectly good pot that had gotten burnt!)

27 non-toxic recipes for DIY cleaning (this reminded me I should probably be cleaning the fridge and microwave more often . . .)

Homemade hardwoord floor cleaner recipes (ah the joys of 100+ year old buildings)

Clean Mama (so many printables! I need a printable on how to organize my printables . . .)


There aren’t eight million ways to clean a house, but I always love new ideas and links, so feel free to share if you have them!

Calling in a professional

We seem to have very bad luck with water. In our first apartment, a pipe in the hall closet burst. In our second apartment, there was a leak in the shower that shared a wall with the kitchen so the fridge was in a pool of semi-elecric water which was pretty scary.

We’ve been in our new apartment for just over 6 months. The hot water heater and dishwasher had to be fixed within a week of moving in. Then, our ground-floor neighbor knocked on our door a few weeks ago asking if we had a leak because there was water gushing from his ceiling. We’re two floors above, and it turned out it came from the person in between us whose hot water heater had fallen off the wall. Since we had a few little things that had been bugging us lately, we had the plumber come today to fix them before they got too bad. The toilet hasn’t flushed correctly since we moved in, but it was still useable until last Friday. And the kitchen faucet leaks. And the washing machine doesn’t seem to be taking in water right.

I am a pretty handy gal. Past problems with the washing machine and dishwasher I have managed to fix myself, I’ve repaired broken shutters, filled holes in walls, etc. So I feel like most of the stuff we needed fixing I probably could have done myself. Especially changing the flushing mechanism on the toilet; there are tons of videos and it’s literally just unscrew everything and screw in a new one. My handiness comes from experience (my parents had houses they fixed up and rented when I was young) but mostly because there is nothing I love more than taking stuff apart and putting stuff together. And taking apart a toilet seemed like all sorts of fun, and I could use lots of different tools. But the main problem in this apartment, in this whole town, is very very hard water. So calling in a professional on this occasion was a good idea, since all the calcification on the pipes and toilet made things a little trickier to fix (=more likely I would break something if I tried to do it myself).

As for the washing machine, we’ve ordered a new one as well as . . . a dryer!! It’s definitely something I’ve learned to live without the past 6 years, but apparently babies make lots of laundry. And while I’m sure we could go on just fine air-drying everything, and probably still will when the weather is warm, we’re hoping it’ll make the transition from 2 to 3 person household just a tiny bit easier to manage. (Also, fluffy towels!! So excited!!) Professionals will be coming to install both next week, since no matter how modern a woman I am, getting a washer and dryer up two flights of stairs is simply not one of my skills. Though maybe if I ask nicely they’ll let me attach some stuff, or at least plug it in.