20 Lessons from Living in a High Rise City Apartment

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I grew up on 160 acres in Minnesota on a gravel road surrounded by tractors, hay fields, and horses.  I never thought I'd live in a studio apartment in a high rise in downtown Seattle.  It's been one year since I moved into my 20th floor studio apartment, and I'm so glad to have had this experience. Here are 20 takeaways from high rise living:

1. When choosing an apartment, calculate the monthly cost yourself.  I visited about nine apartments all priced within $400 or so.  I considered the distance to work, parking, leasing specials (i.e 1 month free or move-in promos), length of the lease, pet rent, utilities, etc.   Calculate the total cost of rent, parking, utilities, and nonrefundable deposits or fees, minus any specials or cost savings for the duration of the lease and divide by the number of months of the lease.  This will allow you to compare your options on an equal playing field. It turns out the most "expensive" apartment might actually be the best deal once all variables are considered. 

2.  A high rise building offers many more options to fit your budget.  The price of a high rise apartment depends on a) square footage, b) the floor you're on, and c) the view you have.  Just because a high rise seems super expensive doesn't mean that they don't have something that would fit your budget.  Always stop in and ask if they have anything available for what you want to spend.  The rent prices quoted online often reflect the high end of their spectrum.

3. Ditch your car.  This was a huge decision, but I'm so glad I sold my car before moving from Las Vegas to Seattle.  First, if you live and work downtown, you likely won't drive during the week.  You'll have a shuttle, a quick bus ride, or a short walk to work.  If you drive then consider you'll be paying for parking at home and at work ($400+/month).  If you only use your vehicle on weekends, that's about ~8 days per month.  When you consider the $70-100/month of car insurance, ~$100/month in gas, ~$200/month for your parking spot, and another ~$100/month for random street parking, you're at $500/month just for having a car in the city, and that's assuming your car is paid off.  That breaks down to ~$62/day on those ~8 days you might drive.   Not to mention there is depreciation on your vehicle, and a high probability of dings/scratches or break-ins in the city.   Instead I bought a ZipCar membership and just spend $7-10/hour for days I want to drive.  Ditching my car has saved me about $5,000 this year on top of eliminating the stress.

4. Pay for the good view.  I'm a very practical person, so this doesn't sound like me. However, I would suggest that investing in your quality of life and mental health is a practical choice.  Some people like yoga.  I like a beautiful view.  When you love your surroundings it's amazing how it affects the rest of your life. 

5. Order bulky things online with Amazon Prime or Target.com.  I'm not an Amazon Prime convert yet, but I'm sticking to my Minnesota roots with my Target card, where I get 5% off all purchases and free shipping.  It's way easier to order things like toilet paper, paper towels, and even pantry items online.  

6.  Realize that no matter what floor you're on there's going to be city noise.  I'm on the 20th floor, and when I have my windows open the noise from the streets and construction definitely gets annoying.  No matter if you're on the 4th floor or the 24th floor you're going to hear it.  Just a heads up.

7.  Clear the clutter!  When you downsize to a 500 sq ft apartment there's no room for things you don't use or don't like.  You can't simply "throw it in the closet" because your closet already looks like a game of tetris.   My biggest piece of advice is getting rid of things before you move in.  It would be a bummer to end up purging half of what you worked hard to move.

8.  Measure your furniture before moving in, plan a tentative layout, and keep all furniture on "sliders" for the first week while you commit to the layout.  It's way easier to test out different layouts when the feet of your furniture are on coasters that slide, especially if you don't have anyone helping you.  If you don't have furniture "sliders" then a sock or washcloth under the feet work well, too. 

9. Go grocery shopping more frequently for fewer items at a time.  Without a car, you may wonder how to get your grocery shopping done.  You could do a big trip once a week or so, but since I walk by the grocery store on my daily commute to work, I stop in a few times a week and buy fewer things at a time.  Basically, you'll begin integrate your errands and shopping into your daily walks.  

10. You'll need less artwork.  When you have a great view and large windows you don't need to hang up tons of artwork.  Your view is your focal point, and too much on the walls can overwhelm the eye.  Don't feel like you have to put up curtains, crowd the walls with art, or line the window sills with nick knacks.  The window is your frame and the city is your art.

11.  Walking does a body good.  I'm obsessed with walking.  My Fitbit is my favorite accessory, and I don't leave home without it.  I've noticed that walking 6-10+ miles/day helps me sleeps better, keeps my calves toned, and prevents the aches and tensions that come with sitting at a desk all day.  

12.  You'll save a ton of money on utilities.  My apartment building is one of the few in Seattle with A/C.   Even with A/C my utilities/water/trash/everything are only like $30/month.  In older, less energy efficient buildings you'll probably spend more. 

13. Create a "small town" feel within your building.  There's something to be said about seeing the same people in passing every day and quickly catching up.  Whether it's being greeted into the building by your front desk or consierge or getting onto the elevator with a neighbor after not seeing them for a while... there's something to be said for having a sense of community and belonging. 

14.  You'll feel safer.  I'm sure bad things still happen in high rises, but for some reason, I feel safer knowing that you need a key to get into the building and a key to make the elevator work.  I also like knowing that there's 24-hour security roaming around the building and parking garage.  When you live alone these things help your peace of mind. 

16. Trash rooms with trash shoots are the best invention.  I do not miss walking out to the dumpster in the parking lot to take out the trash.  You'll never have an overflowing trash can again with this convenience.

17. The guest suite for family/friends visiting is super convenient.  Many high rise buildings have guest suites for visitors of residents.  This is usually a great deal (less expensive than a hotel), and you'll see much more of them while they're visiting since they're just a few floors away.  It's just like you're going on vacation together and staying in the same hotel. 

18. Elevators are your lifeline, so do your research.  Make sure to read the reviews about the high rise before moving in.  Elevator issues will almost always be at the top of complaints if those issues exist.  Waiting for 20 minutes for an elevator to come during peak times could make you late for work or cause your puppy to have an accident (um, yeah). This is a pain point you can avoid if you do your research.

19. You'll save $$ on a gym membership!  High rises typically offer nice gyms on site.  There's no excuse to miss a workout when you just have to step onto the elevator to get there.  This amenity sometimes accompanies others like like yoga studios, saunas, movie theater rooms, game rooms, basketball courts, and more.  

20. Being high up allows you to "escape" from the city.  You're off the ground and you have completely different visual perspective.  It gets you out of the "concrete jungle" feeling, and you see the city as more of picturesque design that you're temporarily removed from.   I like this perspective.  It feels like you're in a birds nest looking down at all of the activity and adventures happening on the ground below.   It's a little oasis from the hustle and bustle. 

If you have any questions about high rise living or moving to Seattle, email me at dylanmaureen@gmail.com.


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