An Exercise in Applied Rationality: A New Apartment

by Sable1 min read8th Jul 20189 comments


Personal Blog

I just moved into a new apartment, and I'm finding my life to be something of a blank slate. I still work at the same job and have the same car, but all of my habits and routines have been reset.

I'd appreciate some advice from the community about what to do; there are so many possibilities I'm experiencing decision paralysis.

Any topic is up for discussion, any piece of advice useful.

Some questions to get started: Should I decorate my apartment all at once or over time? It's a 14 month lease. How much energy should I invest into getting to know the people who live in near me, versus attempting other avenues of socialization? I'm on the ground floor. Aside from flooding/crime, are there other advantages or disadvantages I should be aware of? Should I meditate daily? For how long? When? Any tricks to forming/keeping a successful reading habit? Any tips for food/diet? I'm thinking I'd like to aim for nutritarian and see where it takes me.

Lastly, I'm sure there are questions I don't even know enough to ask, given that this is my first apartment. What do you wish someone had told you before you moved into your first apartment?


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General advice that I think basically applies to everybody is to try to lock down sleep, diet, and exercise (not sure what order these go in exactly) solidly.

Random sleep tips:

  • Try to sleep in as much darkness as possible. Blackout curtains + a sleep mask is as dark as I know how to easily make things, although you might find the sleep mask takes some getting used to. Just a sleep mask is already pretty good.
  • Blue light from screens at night disrupts your sleep; use f.lux or equivalent to straightforwardly deal with this.
  • Lower body temperature makes it easier to sleep, so take hot showers at night, which cause your body to cool down in response.
  • If you're having trouble falling asleep at a consistent time, consider supplementing small (on the order of 0.1 mg) amounts of melatonin. (Edit: see SSC post on melatonin for more, which recommends 0.3 mg.) A lot of the melatonin you'll find commercially is 3-5 mg and that's too much. I deal with this by biting off small pieces, not sure if that's a good idea. (Melatonin stopped working for me in February anyway, not sure what's up with that.)

I have thoughts about diet and exercise but fewer general recommendations; the main thing you want here is something that feels good and is sustainable to you.

Other than that, something feels off to me about the framing of the question. I feel like I'd have to know a lot more about what kind of person you are and what kind of things you want out of your life to give reasonable answers. Everything is just very contextual.

Lower body temperature makes it easier to sleep, so take hot showers at night, which cause your body to cool down in response.

That's interesting advice I haven't heard before. Do you have further references to know more about the size of that effect?

I do not. Fortunately, you can just test it empirically for yourself!

Some thoughts:

  • buy nice homeware. The temptation is always to scrimp, but you're going to be using this stuff regularly for at least the length of your lease, and maybe years beyond that, so splash out on nice kitchenware (knives, nonstick pans, chopping boards, a rice cooker) and bathroom stuff (especially towels).
  • similarly, if there's stuff that needs fixing, do it right away - then you get the benefit of it for longer. For example, use draft excluder tape to seal the gaps around doors, fix radiators that don't work, rearrange furniture if you don't like the way it currently sits.
  • put your phone to charge somewhere away from your bed. (I've yet to be able to make this one stick, but maybe being somewhere new will help!)

Mostly moving into a new place really reveals the holes in my time (especially if you don't have a TV or haven't set one up yet), so try to be aware of where your time's going before you develop a routine and stop thinking about it critically.

Thank you.

I happen to use my phone as my alarm - should I get a different, separate alarm so my phone can charge in another room?

I think it's enough to put the phone that runs the alarm on the other side of the room. That prevents you from using it at night and also helps with actually getting up when it rings.

  • Decorate your apartment over time. There is no rush, and it will cut down on decisions.
  • Put a medium amount of effort into getting to know people near you; much of this will happen naturally as you discover the stuff around you. Now is a time to pay attention to maintaining your old methods of socialization - if you don't, you may lose track of people without meaning to.
  • The best thing about the first floor is no downstairs neighbors, so you can do things like workout in the apartment without being a nuisance.
  • Meditate daily, for 5 minutes, in the mornings.
  • Keep a list of things you are interested in reading, so if something seems like too much of a slog you can put it down and pick something else up. If you are reading for pleasure and don't care for a book, put the damn thing down.
  • Find a good grocery store; the nearest may not be best. Diets are much easier to maintain when they don't take special trips.

I've recently moved into a new place as well, and am thinking a lot about how I want to arrange the space to support my habits. My plan is to unpack and set things up as quickly as possible just using intuition for where things should go, so that I can start to learn the spots around the apartment that rub up against me in a negative way. Then I can try to tackle each of those problem areas more deliberately.

For example, we have a big island with shelving and stools that did have a natural place in the centre of the kitchen in our last two apartments, but our current place is more narrow and long. If we put it adjacent to the kitchen, it'll block at least half of the doorway to the living room. We're just going to go for it to see how it feels. Will it reduce my desire to go to the kitchen if it's blocked off? Will it create a satisfying divider so that the kitchen and the living room feel like more distinct spaces? Would it be better as a worktable in my partner's workshop? We won't know until we run the cheap experiment of setting it up!