Apartment Hunts, Communities of Excellence, and Living in NYC on $5,000 a Year

mad men peggy apartment hunt

So I have officially begun The Apartment Hunt. (I feel like that should be in ALL CAPS, with sparkly letters and maybe the Legend of Zelda Item Get Fanfare.)

My mind is buzzing with all of the associated financial costs of moving, including the cost of transporting all my stuff, the cost of outfitting a kitchen (right now I have neither a pot nor a pan to my name), and the cost of getting a couch and a TV and probably a coffee table so I can host guests.

Having seen my own finances, I know this won’t all happen at once. It’ll be more like “moving by July 1, kitchen gear by August 1, couch and TV by Labor Day.” I did briefly consider crowdsourcing all of this by, say, throwing myself a Single Gal Wedding Substitute and registering at IKEA, but while the thought of the inevitable article I could pitch off that idea delights me, I don’t want a wedding substitute. Nor do I want to strain my friends’ generosity. So until any non-substitute weddings may occur, I’ll buy my own saucepans.

I’ll share more updates about Project No Longer Living In This Microapartment as they come. Until then, let’s take a look at two other moving stories, each of which represents a different type of extreme living:

First, we have Startup Castle, an intentional “community of excellence” located in Woodside, Calif., near Stanford.

Startup Castle is offering single rooms at $1,750/mo and shared rooms at $1,000/mo. But there’s a catch. The good people of Startup Castle have determined a list of “traits exclusive to disappointing housemates,” and strongly discourage potential applicants who:

– Watch more than 4 hours of TV/movie/game entertainment per week
– Have more than 1 tattoo
– Have ever attended more than 1 protest
– Make more than three posts a week to social media
– Listen to a songs with explicit lyrics more than an once a day
– Wear make-up more than twice a week
– Own any clothing, shoes, watches, or handbags costing over $500
– Have bills that get paid by somebody else
– Drive a vehicle that was given to you by your parents
– Get regular spending money or gifts from your parents
– Have more than one internet app date per week
– Have a complex diet that requires lots of refrigerator space
– Drink alcohol more than 3 drinks per week
– Use marijuana more than twice a year
– Have been prescribed anything by a psychiatrist more than once
– Use any other drug more than twice in your entire life

I would never make it in Startup Castle based on my TV-watching habits alone. I’m also very curious about the “explicit lyrics” rule: what counts as explicit? Can I listen to the Hair soundtrack? If I have my earbuds in, will I still be a disappointing housemate?

And why do a bunch of startup people want to avoid posting to social media? Don’t they know that social media is how startups go viral?

On the other end of the extreme living movement, we have a new story in The Guardian about a woman who lives “a middle-class life in New York City on less than $5,000 a year.” How does she do it? By dumpster-diving for food and working as a housekeeper while living rent-free:

Eight years ago Marie arrived in the US, where she decided to remain. She has been staying for five years with her friend Greg, a real estate agent. They met in upstate New York in 2010 at a permaculture internship in which Marie spent a month learning how to farm sustainably. She needed a place to stay, he had a vacant room, so she became his home keeper, cleaning, gardening and bringing dumpster-dived food in lieu of rent.

On the one hand, that arrangement sounds great. On the other hand, cooking and cleaning is the type of invisible labor that deserves a fair wage. On the third hand, any fair wage is probably going to be less than the available rent prices, so Marie seems to be coming out ahead here.

Marie, by the way, is French; and yes, she has overstayed her visa. But she’s got an unconventional solution for that, too:

Going with the flow, Marie has now decided to go back to France. In June she will book a plane ticket and ask to be deported.

I guess that’s all you have to do.



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