How Language Affects Your Apartment Shopping Experience

Three friends, stylishly dressed, having conversation on outdoor apartment balconyLanguage is a funny thing. As you look across the country, you can find a variety of ways to say the same exact thing. For instance, the sparkling, sugary drink we all love so much is called “pop” in the Midwest,  “soda” in the Northeast, and simply “Coke” in the South. What you call a “sub,” I might call a “grinder.” And, while kids on a playground in your town might be catching “doodlebugs,” they’re catching “roly-polys” (or “pill bugs”) in my neck of the woods.

The same thing often happens when you search for an apartment. Some words are more effective than others at communicating what you are looking for. And the language you use may not be the same that apartments use to attract new renters. 

Here is a look at how language affects your apartment shopping experience:

  • Complex vs Community: When you are seeking a new apartment home, you are looking to become part of a larger group. You are among many others seeking a life in the same multifamily environment. This makes you part of a “community,” not a complex.
  • Description vs Reality: Some communities fill their advertising with a whole host of different terms that must be analyzed by apartment shoppers. Phrases such as “state of the art fitness center,” “sparkling, resort-style pools,” and “apartment with a view,” while commonly used, can mean totally different things from one apartment community to the next. It is important to dig a little further to make sure that your expectations are being successfully met. Watch out for these four danger signs when touring an apartment to make sure the apartment’s description matches reality.
  • The Indoors vs the Outdoors: Even something as simple as the outdoor extension of an apartment home has a variety of terms surrounding it. Is it a porch, a balcony, a lanai, or a veranda? Even within the same area of a town, all of these terms could pop up. What is important is that you understand what you are getting for your monthly rent payment.

No matter what you might call it, the one thing that your next apartment will be is… home. When you begin the search for that home, we hope you will start by visiting There, you will find the only national apartment locating service that’s not only free to use, but actually pays you for using it. Turn hours of apartment searching into minutes and don’t forget to tell your leasing agent that you found your new apartment on ApartmentSearch to earn up to $200 in rewards. Now that is a language we can all understand!


Tips for Helping You Declutter Your Room of Shame

There’s a fun game of cognitive dissonance many of us play when it comes to messes in our apartment. For me, it’s something of an object permanence issue: As a child, I briefly believed that I turned invisible when I closed my eyes, and as an adult, I tend to treat rooms I’m not looking at as a problem for Future Michelle.

Young woman laying in a pile of clothing and shoesYoung woman laying in a pile of clothing and shoes

Take, for example, the spare bedroom in my first apartment. It was going to become an office “once I got around to it,” but in the meantime, I used it as storage – where “storage” translates roughly to “place I put random junk.” This seemed like a sustainable model for maybe a month. I admitted it was a problem at three months, at which point I closed the door and resolved to “dedicate a weekend to it.”

I pretty much ignored the room for the remainder of my lease, thinking of it only when I pushed the door open to toss in some other item for which I had no real use. Each visit back into my spare bedroom filled me with an increasing sense of dread, slightly hampered by a noncommittal promise to myself to declutter it as soon as I could.

Now I live in a much smaller apartment, and every time I agonize over my lack of space, I mentally kick myself for not taking advantage of what I once had. For those who are currently living with a room of shame, there is hope – here’s some advice for getting to the other side of your mess:

Step 1: Admit It

You can’t deal with a problem until you acknowledge it’s there. Maybe you’ve already done this, deep down in your heart, but you’ve been pretending things are fine: They’re not. Things have snuck up on you, and now the room is totally out of control. Admit that it’s time to take back your life.

Step 2: Call in Reinforcements

Even the strongest people can’t take on everything alone. Ask your closest (and least judgmental) friends to help you handle your disaster room. Depending on whether your mess has been in or out of sight, you may need to admit your problem to them as you have to yourself. There’s a good chance they’ll tell you it’s not that bad. They’re probably being polite, but you’ll feel better about it anyway.

If things have gotten completely out of hand, consider hiring a professional organizer. Not only will this person be able to help you declutter the room, but he or she will empower you to avoid clutter in the future.

Step 3: Plan Your Approach

Unless you have a ton of storage space somewhere that you’ve been ignoring in favor of your room of shame, the odds are good you’re going to be throwing a lot of stuff away. Come up with three piles – keep, donate, and toss – and get heartless with your junk. Unless something has serious sentimental value, get rid of it if you haven’t used or looked at it in the last year.

Figure out what you’re going to do with the things you keep. Maybe you already have some designated places for these items that you just haven’t been using. If not, you’ll need to figure out where everything goes – don’t fall into the “I’ll just stick it here” trap that got you into this mess in the first place.

Step 4: Do the Work

It’s easier said than done, I know. Clear a day or two out of your schedule and formally announce that these are the days you’re working. Take pictures of the disaster before you start to clean, and if you’re feeling particularly brave post them online. Adding a caption, “After pic to come,” will give you plenty of motivation to follow through.

You may need to block out additional slots of time after the Big Day to do a finer sorting of your items. For example, you might find a place to put all your random documents and letters when you’re cleaning, but you should also spend some time actually organizing the papers themselves. That said, feel free to post your “after” picture once the room looks great.

Step 5: Bask

Once you’re all done, bask in the glory of your own achievements. Smile at all the comments your friends and family left on your after pic. Invite people over and experience the pure joy of hearing, “Wow, your apartment is so well-organized! I wish mine looked like this.” Sit alone in your apartment and marvel at how much space you suddenly have. This is your time. Enjoy it.




12 Cheapest Small Towns in America

Small-town living has plenty of perks: light traffic, a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. Perhaps best of all, there’s the cost of living, which typically is cheaper in small towns than in expensive big cities.

To get a better sense of what inexpensive small-town living really has to offer, we compiled a list of the 12 cheapest small towns in America, with small towns defined as places with populations of 10,000 to 50,000 people. We based our rankings on the Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) calculations of living expenses in 269 urban areas. C2ER’s expansive study tracks prices for housing, utilities, healthcare, groceries, transportation and miscellaneous goods and services (such as going to a movie theater or hair salon).

It goes without saying that you should weigh the pros and cons before you pack up and relocate to one of the 12 cheapest small towns in America. While a low cost of living is attractive, it can be offset by issues such as scarce jobs, small paychecks or a lack of things to do in the area. Plan an extended visit to ensure the small town fits your lifestyle.

The most recent Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) Cost of Living Index, published February 2021, is based on price data collected during the first three quarters of 2020. City-level data on city populations, household incomes and home values come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment rates come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 7 for the period ended February 2021.

1 of 12

Benton Harbor, Mich.

photo of lighthouse and pierphoto of lighthouse and pier
  • Cost of living: 12.6% below U.S. average
  • City population: 9,843
  • Median household income: $21,916 (U.S.: $65,712)
  • Median home value: $63,300 (U.S.: $240,500)
  • Unemployment rate: 6.0% (U.S.: 6.0%)

Benton Harbor sits by the shores of Lake Michigan about 50 miles west of Kalamazoo, which is one of the cheapest larger cities in the U.S. The small town’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s home to Whirlpool (WHR), the global manufacturer of washers, dryers, refrigerators and a range of other home appliances.

But despite being host to a Fortune 500 company, Benton Harbor is among America’s cheapest small towns, boasting a cost of living that’s more than 12% below the national average.

True, median income is roughly a third of the national level, but the unemployment rate is in line with the country as a whole. Poverty and crime are also high in Benton Harbor – factors that contribute to a median home value that’s an eye-popping 74% lower than the national median. Indeed, housing-related costs, including rents and mortgages, are 32% cheaper in Benton Harbor, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Neighboring St. Joseph, about the same size as Benton Harbor, is a popular beach resort town with significantly higher household incomes and home values.

2 of 12

Hutchinson, Kan.

Strataca salt mine Strataca salt mine
  • Cost of living: 13.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 40,914
  • Median household income: $46,927
  • Median home value: $96,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%

Hutchinson, known as “Hutch” by the locals, is about an hour’s drive northwest from Wichita. Founded in the early 1870s as a railroad town, Hutch soon became known for its salt deposits, which were first discovered in 1887.

Today, Hutch is synonymous with the Kansas State Fair, which it hosts annually. The town is also home to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Basketball Tournament. Local cultural attractions include the Fox Theatre, which opened in 1931. The grand movie palace is considered to be among the finest examples of theater art deco architecture in the Midwest.

Where Hutch stands out among America’s cheapest small towns is that it boasts the lowest housing costs on this list. Indeed, they run 41.3% below the national average. Apartment rents are 43% lower than national average, while home prices come in at a 40% discount.

However, other major costs of living aren’t too far off from what the average American pays. Although prices for groceries are almost 7% lower than the national average, healthcare and miscellaneous goods & services are essentially the same as the U.S. average.

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Meridian, Miss.

photo of a courthousephoto of a courthouse
  • Cost of living: 14.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,848
  • Median household income: $32,422
  • Median home value: $83,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.7%

Meridian was rebuilt from 1890 to 1930 after being almost totally destroyed in the Civil War. As a result, it has not one but nine registered historic districts. The Highland Park Dentzel Carousel, dating back to 1909, is one of the more whimsical ones.

Meridian’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, known as the “Father of Country Music.” Music remains a centerpiece of Meridian’s cultural scene to this day.

Today, the federal government plays an important role in its economic life, as Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field are two of the largest employers.

Happily, the men and women in uniform, and Meridian’s civilian citizens, catch a break on expenses. The cost of living stands 14.1% below the U.S. average; what really pushes Meridian into America’s absolute cheapest small towns are its comparatively modest housing costs. Indeed, housing expenses are a third lower than what the average American pays.

4 of 12

Burlington, Iowa

photo of a bridge in Iowaphoto of a bridge in Iowa
  • Cost of living: 14.3% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,974
  • Median household income: $47,540
  • Median home value: $93,200 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.9%

Burlington sits on the Mississippi River, about 165 miles east of Des Moines. Manufacturing has long been a staple of the area economy, but a number of major employers have left over the years. Today, top employers include Great River Health System and American Ordnance, which makes ammunition for the U.S. military.

Utilities in Burlington are close to 12% more expensive than the national average and healthcare costs are essentially the same. Inexpensive housing is what makes Burlington a truly affordable small town. Housing-related costs are 35% cheaper compared to what the average American pays. Rents, on average, are almost 40% lower than the national average.

True, median incomes are 28% lower than the national figure, but then, median home values are cheaper by more than 60%.

5 of 12

Ponca City, Okla.

photo of a courthouse in Ponca City, OKphoto of a courthouse in Ponca City, OK
  • Cost of living: 14.5% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,134
  • Median household income: $44,043
  • Median home value: $96,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

Ponca City traces its lineage back to the days of the Land Run of 1893, when pioneers decided to build a town in north-central Oklahoma near the Arkansas River and a freshwater spring. Not long after its founding, enterprising oil men successfully drilled wells in the area, and Ponca City remains an oil town to this day. The area’s largest employers include energy companies such as Schlumberger (SLB), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Phillips 66 (PSX).

Household incomes are well below the national median, but housing is a heck of a deal. The median value of a Ponca City home is just $96,600. Nationally, it’s $240,500. Indeed, total housing costs are just two-thirds of what the average American pays, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Residents also catch a break on healthcare, which is 12.4% less expensive.

Although it’s among the cheapest small towns in America, Ponca City’s low costs of living do come at a cost of their own: The town sits pretty much in the middle of Tornado Alley.

6 of 12

Martinsville, Va.

photo of Martinsville Speedwayphoto of Martinsville Speedway
  • Cost of living: 15.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 12,852
  • Median household income: $34,371
  • Median home value: $87,700 
  • Unemployment rate: 9.8%

Martinsville needs no introduction to race fans. The tiny Virginia town, an hour’s drive south of Roanoke, lays claim to the Martinsville Speedway of NASCAR fame. Racing enthusiasts laud the short track for its tight turns and intimate seating.

Beyond the track, manufacturing has always been central to the area’s economy, and although a number of firms have moved on over the past decades, factory work remains important. Major employers include Eastman Chemical (EMN), a manufacturer of plastics, and Monogram Foods.

Martinsville has a rich history dating back to colonial times, and the town boasts multiple historic districts and historic sites including the John Waddey Carter House and the Dry Bridge School.

But Martinsville also is notable as one of America’s cheapest small towns. Housing expenses are 32% below the national average. Fittingly for a racing town, gasoline is about 6% cheaper per gallon.

7 of 12

Salina, Kan.

photo of downtown Salina, KSphoto of downtown Salina, KS
  • Cost of living: 16.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 46,998
  • Median household income: $50,490
  • Median home value: $129,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3%

The small town of Salina sits at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 135, about 90 miles north of Wichita and 180 miles west of Kansas City.

Manufacturing and healthcare are among the town’s most important industries. Major employers include Schwan’s Company, the maker of Tony’s frozen pizza; Great Plains Manufacturing, which serves the agricultural industry; and the Salina Regional Health Center. Salina is also home to several institutions of higher education, including the University of Kansas School of Medicine Salina Campus and Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

This economic mix is producing both low unemployment and low living costs. Housing expenses run two-thirds of the national average, according to C2ER. Groceries are cheaper too, running about 8% lower than the national average.

Utility bills, however, take a bit of a bite. In Salina, they’re almost 2% higher than the U.S. average.

8 of 12

Statesboro, Ga.

courthouse Statesboro, GAcourthouse Statesboro, GA
  • Cost of living: 16.8% below U.S. average
  • City population: 31,495
  • Median household income: $29,203
  • Median home value: $113,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

As home to the flagship campus of Georgia Southern University, Statesboro offers many of the benefits of college-town living but at exceedingly affordable prices. Thanks to its status as an academic hub, cultural attractions tied to the local university include a performing arts center, symphony, museum, planetarium and botanic gardens.

Another perk? The charming city of Savannah is just an hour’s drive to the southeast.

Although the university is the area’s largest employer, manufacturing jobs also play an important part in the local economy. At the same time, it should be noted that Statesboro has a high poverty rate, or 41.8% vs. 13.3% for the state of Georgia as a whole.

Statesboro’s place among America’s cheapest small towns is largely due to housing costs, which are about 32% lower compared with the national average, while healthcare runs roughly 14% below average. For example, a visit to a doctor costs about 24% less in Statesboro. Dental care is about a fifth less expensive, according to the C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

9 of 12

Tupelo, Miss.

photo of house where Elvis Presley was bornphoto of house where Elvis Presley was born
  • Cost of living: 19% below U.S. average
  • City population: 38,271
  • Median household income: $50,694
  • Median home value: $145,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%

Tupelo’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Indeed, the town, 100 miles southeast of Memphis’s Graceland, is looking forward to hosting its 23rd annual Elvis Festival in June. (Last year’s gathering was a virtual-only affair.)

Not a fan of The King? The cultural scene also includes the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Tupelo Automobile Museum. But Tupelo’s second-biggest claim to fame is arguably its super-low living costs. Electric and gas bills are about 12% lower than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index. Housing is 34% cheaper and groceries go for 16% less.

For residents not making a living as Elvis impersonators, major employers include North Mississippi Health Services, Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB) and BancorpSouth (BXS), which is headquartered in Tupelo.

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Richmond, Ind.

Amish man in horse and buggyAmish man in horse and buggy
  • Cost of living: 19.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 35,539
  • Median household income: $39,724
  • Median home value: $88,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.1%

Few cities of any size can claim Richmond’s place in the early history of recorded jazz. Some of the first jazz records were made in this small town, featuring greats such as Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. There’s a Walk of Fame celebrating jazz and other artists who recorded with Richmond’s Gennett Records.

While jazz will always be part of its history, today’s Richmond, which is an hour’s drive west from Dayton, Ohio, is known more for its colleges and seminaries. They include Indiana University East, the Earlham School of Religion (part of Quaker-influenced Earlham College) and the Bethany Theological Seminary.

Inexpensive housing is a key to Richmond’s place among our nation’s cheapest small towns. Residents spend 34% less on housing than the average American does. Apartment rents are about half the national average. Average home prices are 26% less. Healthcare is also a bargain. For example, a visit to the eye doctor costs about 50% less than the national average. An appointment with a physician is cheaper by a third.

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Muskogee, Okla.

museum in Muskogee, OKmuseum in Muskogee, OK
  • Cost of living: 19.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,624
  • Median household income: $38,194
  • Median home value: $92,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Muskogee packs a lot of history, culture and colleges into a small package.

Located about 50 miles south of Tulsa, the town traces its roots back to 1817. It’s home to four institutions of higher learning, as well as the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Jim Thorpe – All-American, the 1951 film starring Burt Lancaster, was shot on the campus of what was then known as the Bacone Indian University in Muskogee. The town also boasts six museums and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

And let’s not forget what is arguably the town’s most famous appearance in popular culture – Merle Haggard’s hit song “Okie from Muskogee,” which became an emblem of Vietnam-era America. 

Today, the area’s employers include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a VA medical center and paper company Georgia-Pacific.

But what really puts Muskogee on the map is its ultra-low cost of living. The biggest break comes from housing-related expenses, which are more than 35% lower than the national average, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Transportation, groceries and healthcare are notably cheaper, too.

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Pittsburg, Kan.

Russ Hall at Pittsburg State UniversityRuss Hall at Pittsburg State University
  • Cost of living: 19.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 20,171
  • Median household income: $34,956
  • Median home value: $88,500 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%

The cheapest small town in America is Pittsburg, Kan., based on the 269 urban areas analyzed by C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Pittsburg is about a two-hour drive due south from Kansas City on Route 69. When you get there, you’ll find a small town with a cost of living more than 19% below the national average.

Once upon a time, the town was known for its abundance of coal and the Southern and Eastern European immigrants who worked the mines. Today, the area relies more heavily on higher education, thanks to the presence of Pittsburg State University. Famous alumni of Pittsburg’s local university include actor Gary Busey and Brian Moorman, retired two-time Pro Bowl punter for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Although median incomes are almost $31,000 below the national average, median home prices are a whopping $152,000 cheaper. That helps make housing costs 37.2% less expensive than what the average American pays. A myriad of other items are cheap, as well. For example, a haircut will set you back an average of $14.82 vs. $18.88 nationally. Shampoo costs 89 cents, whereas the average American pays $1.05.


Apartment Cleaning: Free Downloadable Chore Wheel

One of the most difficult situations roommates face is deciding who will take care of what chores. Obviously each roommate is in charge of keeping his or her bedroom and bathroom clean, but what about common areas? Who does the dishes and who vacuums?

Before you and your roommate resort to fisticuffs over who will take out the trash, consider an easier, more peaceful solution: A chore wheel. This simple DIY project will take you less than 10 minutes to create, and when it’s done, you’ll have an easy way to divide up household chores. You and your roommate(s) will trade off tasks so everyone does their part and no one is stuck with the chore they hate for very long.

Ready to ditch the pigsty? Download and assemble our free chore wheel to restore order to your apartment.

What you’ll need:

  • Chore wheel templates (download links are below)
  • Cardboard
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • Hole punch
  • Paper fastener

free downloadable chore wheelfree downloadable chore wheel

Step 1: Download one of the following chore wheel templates, depending on how many people live in your apartment.

  • Two people: If your household consists of you and just one roommate, download this template. Your wheel will contain either six or eight chores – your choice.
  • Three people: If your household is you and two roommates, download this template. Your wheel will contain six chores.
  • Four people: If your household is you and three roommates, download this template. Your wheel will contain eight chores.

Step 2: Print out the chore wheel template you downloaded. You don’t have to print in color, but doing so will make your chore wheel a lot prettier.

Step 3: Cut out each circle.

free downloadable chore wheelfree downloadable chore wheel

Step 4: Glue each circle to a piece of cardboard.

free downloadable chore wheelfree downloadable chore wheel

Step 5: Cut the cardboard to match the circle. Now you should have two circles with cardboard backing.

free downloadable chore wheelfree downloadable chore wheel

Step 6: On the bigger circle, write your name and the names of your roommate(s) in each section. On the smaller circle, assign each section to a different household chore. You might label it like this:

free downloadable chore wheelfree downloadable chore wheel

The exact labels are up to you, and they depend on what sorts of cleaning your apartment needs. For example, if your apartment has stairs, you might put “vacuum stairs” in one section, but if not, you might use that section for “dust bookshelves” or something else.

Try to keep big chores on opposite sides of the chore wheel. For example, doing the dishes can be a big task, but taking out the trash only takes a few minutes. Try to make sure each roommate will take on a similar workload each week.

Step 7: When both circles are labeled, punch a hole in the center of each one. You can use a hole punch, or bore a hole in each circle with the pointy end of a sharp knife. (Just remember to place a cutting board underneath, and be careful!)

Step 8: Push the paper fastener through the hole to join the two circles together.

Your chore wheel is complete! To use it, just twist the top wheel so certain sections line up with each roommate’s name. That person will be in charge of those chores for the amount of time you choose together. For example, this week Courtney will be in charge of taking out the trash, vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom, while Betty will clean the kitchen, dust and pick up the living room.

free downloadable chore wheelfree downloadable chore wheel

You can switch it up every week, every other week, or as often as you like. Now responsibilities are reversed.

free downloadable chore wheelfree downloadable chore wheel

You could also move the top wheel one wedge at a time instead of flipping it 180 degrees. You and your roommate(s) can decide what works best for your household.




Pros and Cons of Tiny House Living

Smiling man leaning on orange camper van.Are you in the process of looking for a new home? Whether you live alone or you’re relocating with your roommates, you’re probably weighing all of your housing options. Houses and apartments are the two obvious choices, but have you considered tiny houses?

Tiny houses are a relatively modern type of housing that’s gained significant popularity over the past few years. These small-but-mighty homes vary in terms of style, amenities, mobility options, and more! Are you curious about what it’s like to live in one of these charming abodes long-term? Here are the pros and cons of tiny house living.

The Pros of Tiny House Living

In addition to being aesthetically adorable, there are many pros to tiny house living, which can explain their boom in popularity.

Most notably, tiny houses are incredibly affordable in comparison to their “normal-sized” counterparts. They cost much less money and time to build and are typically designed to be highly energy-efficient. Depending on the total cost, tiny home dwellers are often able to skip paying a mortgage altogether. All of these subpoints make tiny houses an especially great option for first-time homeowners.

Additionally, tiny house living can span beyond miniature houses. Converted vans, refurbished buses, and trailers also count! With all of these different options, portability is a big advantage. Choosing the tiny house life allows you to enjoy unconventional freedoms, such as a nomadic lifestyle, going off-the-grid for extended periods, and traveling without pricey hotel bills.

The Cons of Tiny House Living

Although tiny houses have their fair share of perks, it takes a specific personality and lifestyle to thrive under this type of living arrangement. Consider if you’re willing and able to deal with these cons.
Living in a tiny home can cause you to encounter issues that apartments and larger homes manage to avoid. For instance, sub-par plumbing is a known problem with this type of living arrangement. If a tiny house is calling to you, make sure you can handle a composting toilet first. This kind of living experience is not for everyone.

What’s more, tiny homeowners aren’t awarded the luxury of having a landlord, HOA, or dedicated property management company to help with routine maintenance and repairs. Although it’s nice to have ownership of your place, this means more work on your part when something needs to be fixed.

Most obviously, tiny homes are significantly lacking in space. This typically isn’t an issue for those living alone or practicing a minimalist lifestyle; however, that’s where the buck stops. Tiny houses aren’t well equipped to handle large families or excessive storage and can feel quite confining to some.

The Happy Medium

As you can see, tiny houses are an enjoyable and affordable option — but they often come at a cost. If low-maintenance living is what you’re looking for, you’re better off finding an apartment that perfectly suits your needs.

By using our apartment lookup tool, you can find all the things you love about tiny homes in an apartment of your dreams. You don’t have to live in a small house to reside in an on-trend space! By searching short-term apartment rentals on, you can enjoy the same freedoms that tiny home living brings. Plus, with our referral reward, you can easily claim a $100 cash + $100 CORT bucks to spend on your furniture rental package! does all of the tedious work for you by gathering all of your worthy options in one place. Whether you’re looking for a studio apartment, a one-bedroom, or a space with multiple bedrooms, will help you pick out your ideal living situation.


Green Tips for A Naturally Clean Kitchen

Employ these natural cleaning methods on your kitchen cleaning checklist, and you’ll not only cut down on dreaded clean-up time, you’ll keep harsh chemicals out of the kitchen and away from your food.

The sauce-spattered microwave

We all know how easy it is to forget cleaning out the microwave. This addictive kitchen appliance typically gets quite a bit of daily use, so what happens when you forget those stains and splatters in the microwave? The splatters congeal and stick, becoming tough to clean.

Try this: Fill a microwave-safe bowl about 75% full with water and add half a lemon, cut into slices. Place this bowl in the microwave for 4-5 minutes on high. Put on your oven mitts and remove the bowl after a few minutes of “steaming.” The stains will be much easier to wipe away, not to mention the fresh smell that lingers in your microwave.

The food-encrusted cast iron skillet

Cast-iron skillets are kitchen treasures. You can use them for cooking on the stovetop or baking cornbread or a frittata in the oven, so it’s common to find some gunk left behind. You should never use soap or chemicals on your cast iron, and water that’s not completely dried will cause rust.  

Try this: Pour one tablespoon of olive oil into your cast iron skillet, then add about one tablespoon of sea salt. With this mixture and a clean cloth, scrub the skillet clean and wipe out all of the remaining salt for a clean, “seasoned” skillet.

Sticky floors and messy countertops

It doesn’t take much time to end up with a sticky floor or messy countertop from your kitchen adventures.  How to clean kitchen countertops?  Finding a multi-purpose kitchen spray that’s strong enough for counters, stovetops, ovens, and floors can be a lifesaver for various kitchen messes.

Try this: Make your own multi-purpose kitchen spray without chemicals. (This could potentially be used on your floors, but do some experimenting if you have wood or special laminates). This all-natural spray could also double as a bathroom cleaning aid.

  • Start saving all of your citrus peels (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit) in a large glass jar. Depending on how much fruit you consume, this could take a little while.
  • Once you’ve filled your jar at least halfway, pour in enough white vinegar to cover your peels and fill the jar. Place the lid on the jar and store it in a dark area for at least two weeks.  (Even longer is better). 
  • After the infusion period, strain the peels from your citrus mixture using a strainer, colander or strong cheesecloth. Throw away the peels: you no longer need them.
  • Use a funnel to pour your remaining citrus mixture into a spray bottle and there’s the answer to “how to clean kitchen countertops.”  

These are just a few ways to clean your kitchen without chemicals. Let us know what your favorites are, in the comments!




Top 5 Apartment DIY Skills Every Renter Should Know

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Bathroom Cleaning Hacks: The 25 Best Tricks of All Time

We use our bathrooms every single day, so it’s extremely important to keep them clean.

Not only is it nicer to look at, but a clean bathroom is also better for your health as you won’t be inhaling as many dust particles that trigger allergies or dealing with harmful mold. But where to begin? Here are 25 bathroom cleaning hacks to keep your bathroom neat and squeaky-clean.

1. Use vinegar as a natural glass cleaner

This is the easiest of all of our bathroom cleaning hacks. Instead of grabbing a bottle of commercial glass cleaner, use white vinegar. Apply it the same way you would any other glass cleaner — just spray it on, then wipe it down. There are no harmful chemicals or unknown ingredients — just vinegar.

2. Wipe down mirrors with newspapers

Recycle your old newspapers by using them to wipe down your glass and mirrors. Use them in place of paper towels or cleaning rags to get a streak-free shine that won’t leave behind as many dust particles.

A mirror fogged up with condensation from the shower bathroom cleaning hacksA mirror fogged up with condensation from the shower bathroom cleaning hacks

3. Keep mirrors from fogging with shaving foam

If you’re tired of your mirror fogging up from a hot shower, use shaving foam to keep it from happening altogether. Spray some of the foam onto the mirror and use your hand to rub it all over. Use a towel and wipe it away using circular motions until the mirror looks clean. This will stop mirror fog for a couple of weeks. When it stops working again, reapply!

4. DIY a drain cleaning solution

Bathroom drains can slowly become clogged with dirt, hair, and even soap residue. You can do a quick, easy, affordable drain cleaning with baking soda, vinegar and hot water.

Pour a small pot of boiling water down the drain, then one cup of baking soda. Mix together a cup of vinegar and a cup of water and add it, too. Wait about 10 minutes, then dump another pot of boiling water down the drain to rinse everything away.

Even if a drain seems fine, don’t wait until its completely clogged before you clean it. Performing this every few weeks will keep it from ever getting clogged and causing more serious plumbing issues later on.

5. Get rid of toilet stains with soda

Toilets can get some serious stains over time and some of them are difficult to clean. Rid your toilet of stains with coke. You can actually use coke to clean your toilet just by pouring it in, letting it sit for a few minutes and scrubbing it with a toilet brush. No more stains!

Black and white title floor in a white bathroom with plants. Black and white title floor in a white bathroom with plants.

6. Vacuum before and after

Start off your cleaning by vacuuming as many surfaces as possible to remove dust and hair. This will make it much easier when you scrub things down or wipe them off. Once you’ve done all of your cleanings, finish off with the vacuum again to pick up anything that’s been left behind.

7. Unclog faucets and showerheads with a bag of vinegar

If you have hard water, it can build up on your faucets and showerhead and keep water from flowing out of them normally. Tie a plastic bag of vinegar around your faucets and showerhead and let it sit for a few hours to remove hard water buildup, then just rinse them off with water!

8. Use lemon to eliminate watermarks on faucets

Faucets can easily accumulate stubborn watermarks on them, which can look pretty bad. Slice up a lemon and rub it all over your faucets to shine them and eliminate any hard watermarks that have built up.

9. Skewer away gunk in tough to reach places

There are some places that are hard to completely clean and gunk will build gradually over time — think about the base of your toilet where it meets the floor or around the base of the faucet where it meets the counter.

To get into those crevices, use a wooden skewer with a rag over it. Use whatever cleaning product you prefer and wipe or scrub it away with your skewer and rag.

Four different types of soaps in a bath tub or shower. Four different types of soaps in a bath tub or shower.

10. Remove soap scum with cooking spray

Have you ever tried to wipe down your shower or bathtub only to find that after your first motion, you’ve got a rag covered in a thick goop? Soap scum is difficult to clean and fully remove if you’re not using the right cleaning methods. One easy way of dealing with soap scum is cooking spray.

Cover your bathtub or shower with cooking spray and let it permeate the soap scum for about 10 minutes. Then, just rinse it off with hot water. No more soap scum and no goopy rags!

11. Brighten grout lines with bleach

No matter how many times you wipe down tile, the grout lines never seem to get any cleaner. Make a concentrated effort by using bleach to brighten the grout. You can either dilute bleach with water in a spray bottle and cover grout lines or grab a bleach pen. Let the bleach product sit for a few minutes, then wipe or mop it away to reveal whiter grout lines.

Essential oils with flowers laid out. Essential oils with flowers laid out.

12. Deodorize with rice and essential oils

For obvious reasons, bathrooms can end up having some weird smells. Deodorize the space by filling a jar halfway with rice and mixing in a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Poke holes in the lid of the jar and place it somewhere in the bathroom (preferably near the toilet) to soak up any unfavorable odors.

13. Use grapefruit and salt to remove bathtub grime

Bathtubs can have some questionable grime accumulate with regular use. Since grapefruit is naturally acidic, it can cut through the buildup and leave you with a squeaky-clean tub. Cut a grapefruit in half and cover the open half in salt. Use it like a sponge and scrub away all the dirt and grime.

14. Remove the vent fan to clean

Your exhaust fan typically sees a lot of use, but rarely gets the cleaning it needs. It’s easy to forget about or not think about it in the first place.

Remove the vent cover and clean it in hot, soapy water and use a can of compressed air to get the dust off of the fan. Then wipe down the fan with disinfectant and replace the cover.

15. Reduce humidity with silica gel packets

The humidity in your bathroom can cause mold, especially in places that don’t get a lot of airflows, like in cabinets. Save those little silica gel packets that come in boxes when you buy certain items (like shoes) and keep them in your bathroom cabinets. They’ll help collect moisture from the air and prevent mold from forming in your cabinets. You can also use a dehumidifier if there’s not a lot of ventilation in your bathroom.

16. Wash mildew from shower liner by using bleach

Your shower curtain liner can get pretty gross after a while and it’s common to see mildew forming on it. But instead of buying a new liner curtain every time it gets bad, you can wash it with some bleach along with your normal laundry detergent.

This should kill off the mildew, but if it doesn’t after one wash, you can scrub the leftover places with a brush and some bleach, then wash it again.

ceiling moldceiling mold

17. Create a bleach solution to get rid of ceiling mold

The corners of your bathroom ceiling can grow mold from all the humidity and condensation, which we all know is not just terrible to look at, but can be hazardous to your health.

To get rid of mold, spray a disinfectant on the area and wipe it down. Then mix 1/2 cup of bleach with a half-gallon of water and wipe down the area with it. If you can still see mold after the area is dry, simply wipe it down again with the bleach solution until it’s gone.

18. Warm up the bathroom before cleaning

Did you know that many bathroom cleaning hacks and products actually work better when it’s warm in the room? Run a hot shower for a few minutes before you start cleaning to make your products work better. You don’t need to fog up the whole bathroom and make it feel like a sauna, but run the shower for long enough that the temperature increases by a few degrees.

19. Wax the shower to prevent grime and soap scum

This might be our favorite of all the bathroom cleaning hacks.

Soap scum and other grime can quickly accumulate on your shower walls, but covering them with some wax can prevent that from happening. Clean your shower as you normally would and make sure that it’s completely dry.

Grab some car wax, put a bit on a cloth, then rub it onto the shower walls. Leave the wax to dry for a few minutes, then buff it with a new cloth. Just don’t do it to the floors or else you might find yourself slipping all over the place!

20. Remove the toilet seat when cleaning

Even when you clean your toilet regularly, there are still small spots that are hard to reach — like where your toilet seat is screwed into the toilet.

Use a screwdriver to completely remove the seat and clean around the screw holes before putting the seat back on.

21. Squeegee daily

Keep a squeegee in your shower and use it on the walls each time you shower. This prevents moisture buildup, which causes mold, and will keep your walls cleaner for longer since it washes away soap scum.

22. Make a paste to remove caulk stains

The caulk around your bathtub, shower, toilet and sink can end up looking pretty bad. Even regular cleaning doesn’t always get rid of stains left behind in caulk by dirt and mold. If you do spot some stains, make a paste out of baking soda and water, apply it to the caulk and let it sit for a few hours. Rinse it off and you’ll have cleaner caulk!

bathroom cleaning hacks using a lemonbathroom cleaning hacks using a lemon

23. Use lemon to prevent stinky drains

When there’s every type of waste imaginable going down the drains in your bathroom, it’s understandable that they might begin to stink a little. To get rid of the smell, dump 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, then add 1/2 cup of lemon juice.

Don’t use the drain for an hour or two and let the solution do its job. Then rinse it by running hot water down the drain to leave it smelling fresh!

24. Prevent rust spots with clear nail polish

You might have seen bathrooms with red rings stained on the counters or in the bathtub from rusty metal product cans (shaving foam, hairspray, etc). To prevent these from forming, cover the bottom of metal cans with clear nail polish.

25. Clean the toilet tank with dish soap and vinegar

We often focus on cleaning the toilet bowl, because it’s visible and we have to look at it every day. But the tank is just as important and cleaning it can lead to a cleaner bowl that doesn’t stink. Remove the lid of the tank and add a few drops of liquid dish soap and a cup of vinegar.

Scrub the tank using a brush with a long handle (not the same brush you use to clean your toilet bowl), then let it sit for a couple of hours. Flush the toilet and put the lid back on and you’ll have a cleaner, less stinky toilet.

Consistency is key with bathroom cleaning hacks

Using these bathroom cleaning hacks, you’ll have a sparkling bathroom in no time! Just remember that consistency is key when it comes to cleaning — don’t wait too long between cleanings, or else your bathroom will end up being more difficult to clean. But cleaning every week will make it easy and make your bathroom a place you enjoy.




6 Spring Cleaning Chores You May Have Forgotten

As the days grow longer, the temperature warms up and we set our clocks forward, many people also start spring cleaning. Finally, the chill of winter is falling away, and we eagerly open our windows for fresh air. Because spring brings about new life, clearing out your apartment could help you get into the spirit of the season.

Of course, you may already have a to-do list for your big spring clean, but you should double check it. Many renters overlook these important chores:

1. The Tops of Cabinets and Appliances

When it comes to spring cleaning your kitchen, you probably devote time to mopping the floors, wiping the fridge, and sanitizing your oven. However, you might not be looking high enough. The tops of your fridge and cabinets collect dust and, sometimes, grease– if your fridge is near the stove, splattered oil could collect up there.

Grab a sturdy step stool and bring your cleaning supplies to the tops of your cabinets and fridge. First wipe away the dust, then scrub to remove grease. Even though you won’t see the newly cleaned areas, less dust and grime means better breathing in your kitchen.

While you’re at it, pull the fridge away from the wall and sweep in that space.

2. Reusable Grocery Bags

If you make efforts to go green in your apartment, you likely have reusable grocery bags stashed somewhere in your kitchen. You probably don’t think about cleaning them, but over time, drippings from meat, leaked foods or vegetable peels could stink up the bags– you don’t want to put new groceries in there!

Read the tags on your bags. Unless they say otherwise, wash them in a machine set to use hot water. If your bag says to hand wash, simply clean it in your bathtub using hot, soapy water. Be sure to scrub it well to get rid of stains and food residue.

3. Fans and Lights

Your overhead lights, including ceiling fans, collect dust over time, and like your cabinets and fridge, they’re easy to ignore. However, by dusting fan blades and light fixtures, you’ll improve the air quality in your apartment.

You can use a sturdy ladder to reach those hanging lights. Have your roommate nearby to spot you while you work– no use in spring cleaning if you’re unsafe.

4. Baseboards

You may think of your apartment’s baseboards as just part of the walls (and they are), but these decorative features can collect dust and scuff marks.

Fortunately, cleaning them is a cinch. Just wipe them down with a damp towel or wet dusting solution. If you spot any marks, scrub with a sponge or Magic Eraser.

6. Mattresses

Come spring, you should do two things to your mattress: clean and flip. While the mattress is covered with bedding most of the time, it can still gather some crumbs and dust. Simply remove your sheets and vacuum it using a hose attachment. Should you spot any stains, sprinkle baking soda on them. Then, work in hydrogen peroxide and dish soap using a wash cloth.

Once you’re rid of stains and dust, place your mattress outside in direct sunlight. The ultraviolet rays and fresh air naturally fight bacteria. However, you may not be able to do this unless you have a yard or balcony attached to your apartment.

When you put your mattress back in your bedroom, be sure you’ve flipped it. Basically, it should rotate 180 degrees from its original position– that way, you won’t get any sagging.

Don’t forget all these items when you do your spring cleaning– tackling everything on this list will give you a fresher apartment.




Cleaning Tools You’ll Need for Your Apartment

Whether you’re in your first apartment or someone else used to buy the stuff to keep your place clean, there’s a number of cleaning tools you’ll need for cleaning your apartment.

Here’s a shopping list of must-haves and tips on how to clean an apartment.

Basic cleaning tools everyone should have

First, let’s tackle the items you’ll need in your closet or under the sink, the “tools” required to clean an apartment. Most of these items are reusable so it may be worthwhile to spend a little more for higher quality products.

  • Scrubby sponges (choose one color for surfaces and another for dishes, don’t mix them up)
  • Dish Scrubber with built-in soap holder (an alternative to the scrubby sponge for dishes)
  • Mop (the self-wringing kind or a Swiffer-type is easy to use, the choice will depend on your flooring)
  • Bucket or small plastic tub (for mopping)
  • Rubber gloves (trust us, you’ll want to wear them for certain tasks)
  • Broom (choose the angled kind)
  • Dustpan (some dustpans come with a small attached hand broom, which is a nice bonus)
  • Dust rag (you could cut up an old T-shirt for this)
  • Large scrub brush (you’ll need this for tubs and floors)
  • Small scrub brush (you’ll need this for corners and around faucets)
  • Toilet brush (some come with a decorative holder which hides the brush, a nice buy)
  • Plunger (one of these might come with your apartment, so store it near the toilet for emergency situations)
  • Trash cans (it’s extra nice to have a foot pedal one in the kitchen)
  • Vacuum cleaner (warning: used vacuums can contain fleas)
  • Optional item: blind/fan cleaner

Cleaning products you’ll need to buy and replace

You’ll find a wide variety of cleaning products at any grocery store, dollar store or drug store. And most of them last a really long time.

Also, note that you can substitute the brands below with other products, including those that might be more environmentally-friendly. (Use the brand name to find the right section of the cleaning aisle!)

  • Paper towels
  • Garbage bags
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dryer sheets
  • Spot removal (for laundry)
  • Dishwashing soap (for hand-washing dishes, choose a kind that’s easy on the skin)
  • Dishwasher soap (for the machine)
  • Soft-Scrub (this product has a little grit in it, and cleans stubborn stains from sinks and other surfaces)
  • Endust (for dusting wooden furniture and décor)
  • Tilex mildew root penetrator (for dirty grout in the kitchen and bathroom, or any tiled room)
  • Pine-Sol (which you add to water) or Swiffer products (mop product depends on your flooring)
  • Bleach (you’ll need to use this with caution, but when added to warm water, can erase stains)
  • Glass cleaner (like Windex) for mirrors and windows
  • Febreze or air freshener (it’s nice to keep this in your bathrooms)
  • Stainless polish (for stainless appliances and trash cans)
  • Stove-top cleaner (if you have a glass-top stove)
  • Oven cleaner
  • Hand cleanser (dish-washing soap can be harsh on the skin; some are designed for double-duty)
  • Lint removal roller (if you have pets, use this to pick up fur from fabric-covered furniture, linens)
  • Optional item: Shelf liner
  • Optional item: Poison Ivy Soap by Burt’s Bees is good to have on hand if you love nature

Natural cleaning products

Many cleaning supplies contain dangerous chemicals that can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems. According to the American Lung Association, some products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can produce dangerous pollutants indoors and be especially harmful to your health.

You can purchase all-natural soaps and cleaning products or make your own citrus vinegar cleaning spray or other non-toxic products. For some other ideas, here are green tips for a naturally clean kitchen.


How often to clean your apartment

How often should you tackle the various tasks to keep your home clean and healthy? The following are some general recommendations. But, for roommate harmony, it would be a good idea to look at these suggestions together, tweak them for your own reality, and make sure your hopes or expectations are in line with each other. Dividing up chores with your roommates is a critical part of learning to live well with others.


Clean your toilet (don’t forget to lift the seat) twice a week or more often, if needed. Clean your tub and shower walls, sink areas and the floor weekly.


Clean surfaces after each meal prep. Sweep the floor daily. Clean sink at least once a week. Mop floors weekly. Deep-clean refrigerator surfaces twice a year, or immediately after a spill. Clean stainless surfaces, as needed.


How often you should clean your oven depends on how often you use it. For avid cooks and bakers, you should scrub it once every three months. If you rarely use it, cleaning it about once or twice a year should suffice. If you use a microwave oven regularly, you should clean it at least once a week.


Dust twice a month, or more often, if you have dust allergies.


Vacuum any carpeting weekly or more often if you have pets. Mop floors at least twice a month. Having an entrance rug to scrape shoes on will cut down on the dirt.


Use a lint roller often if you have pets on the furniture, otherwise, as needed.


Wash windows as needed or every month or two. Use a glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to wipe away dust or grime on the window panes. Vinyl or metal blinds collect dust and should be dusted with a damp cloth. Curtains should be vacuumed at least once a month.

Make cleaning a priority

To stay organized, keep a list of needed cleaning supplies on your refrigerator or an app on your cell phone. Clean a little each day to keep from being overwhelmed. Relax, make a game of it, turn on some music and have fun!