For the first time in ten years, I finally moved out from dormitories and into my very own apartment. For someone who has lived in different dorms for the last ten years, this is a huge deal! I love the privacy and space an apartment allows, but getting to this point was not easy. Leaving my dorm and moving into a new apartment in a foreign country required more “adulting” than I had expected. But I knew I wasn’t alone in adjusting to this new life. A friend of mine from high school, who now lives in Canada, moved into her first apartment a few weeks before I did. Getting tips from her made my own apartment hunting process less daunting. Although she was miles and miles away, our conversations about finding furniture that matched our apartment were comforting.
The amount of anxiety and stress I felt throughout apartment hunting had honestly surprised me because I had always thought of myself as someone who is super independent (In hindsight I realize that independence does not spare you from stress or anxiety). After all, I have been living on my own, away from my family for a decade. I couldn’t really understand why I was feeling so much discomfort and that was frustrating. However, now that this ordeal is behind me, I have had some time to contemplate and really sit with my thoughts and feelings (worst companion ever!), and I have realized two important things:
- I was looking for the perfect place without having a vision for what the perfect place was. I was waiting for the perfect place to find me (newsflash- things don’t really work like this in real life).
- I realized that although I have lived on my own for the past ten years, this was the first time I had to make decisions for myself.
When I first started looking for an apartment, I worked with a real estate agent. I ended up working with three real estate agents to be specific, and my conversations with them went something like this:
Real estate agent: What is your budget?
Me: Ideally, around sixty thousand yen. I can go up to seventy if I find a place I really like.
Real estate agent: Where do you want to live?
Me: Somewhere near Waseda on the Tozai Sen. Maybe Nakano. I don’t know. Can you tell me what my options are?
Real estate agent: Do you have any requirements?
Me: Err– Umm… I am not sure. Could you maybe just find a few places and I can look through them?
They would then show me a couple of places that I didn’t like. Clouded with disappointment, I felt too guilty to point out what I didn’t like about each option. Instead, I would just ask them to show me new places. This all feels silly now, but when I think about why I behaved that way, I realize that I was not telling the real estate agent what I actually wanted because I was afraid that I would be told I couldn’t have what I wanted and I would have to either change my budget or my requirements. Having to face this truth seemed scary. But the reality is, when you are in a situation like this, not facing the truth is counterproductive. You are wasting everyone’s time and only making the process more complicated than it actually is. It only prolongs your own misery.
The second realization I’ve had, is that although I had lived on my own for the past ten years, this was the first time I had to make a decision for myself. Until I moved into this place, I had always lived in dorms and didn’t have much of a say about its location or design or safety or neighbourhood. I just went with the flow and figured things out as I moved along. But this time, I suddenly had to consider things that I had never stopped to think about. For instance, questions like “Is it safe to walk here at night?”, “ Is this place too far from college?”, “Do I really want to live fifteen minutes away from the station?” And these were questions I honestly had no answers to. They were just things I had to try and figure out for myself and trust my instinct and judgement.
But now that I am done and I have a place I can call home, here are a few tricks you can use so you can avoid the mistakes I made:
- Use your university’s housing agent (especially, if you are a Waseda kid!). From my experience, my university had the best options for me and because they had worked with students before, they could tell me what I should be looking for in an apartment. Not only that, but they also had partnerships with several landlords and these deals often came with perks like free internet and free utilities. Additionally, I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I was being scammed.
- List down three things you really want in your new place and look for these features when you visit the new places.
- Furnish your apartment using second-hand items (especially relevant for big purchases like washing machines & microwaves). I used Nitori to furnish my bedroom but I was able to get my washing machine and microwave through MouMou Recycling. And if you want to go super cheap, you can join Facebook groups like Mottnai Japan.
But above all, remember that finding your new apartment is supposed to be a fun and exciting process. Don’t stress – know that you’ll eventually find the right place for you.