I used to have this strange fear of decorating the outside of my apartment because I thought it “visually annoyed” the other tenants. I’m convinced now, though, that it does the opposite.
B.J. surprised me a few weeks ago by building me a container garden out of objects he found at an old, demolished house and the Salvation Army. Yes, I know; he’s the greatest.
I never would have initiated a project like this. That strange fear made me believe that the other tenants wanted to see me and my personality as little as possible. I think this is a hard-and-fast myth of apartment-living. The truth is, other tenants just don’t care whether or not you decorate the outside of your unit. In fact, I’m not sure the other tenants have even noticed that we did something different.
This realization left me wondering: Why did I feel inclined to treat our unit like a prison cell rather than a home? What sorts of presuppositions did I have about temporary space that made me believe that it was impolite to be decorative?
I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I suspect it had something to do with my sense of what I was/was not entitled to in our complex. We pay our rent, yes, but the rent doesn’t just enable us to arrange our unit how we like. We also get a parking space, a walkway, and a courtyard with an unusually placed tree in the middle of it. (Really, there’s a tree growing in the middle of our fortress-like building.)
Trying to claim your apartment as “home” can bring on some interesting stories, though. One girl — who doesn’t even speak English — felt comfortable enough to knock on our door and ask to use our microwave. Another neighbor regularly comes over and asks for 75 cents. An elderly woman once walked straight into our unit, without knocking, to see if we had a cigarette. A little strange, but it must signify something. It might just mean No. 123 is home to a couple of pushovers who always have quarters sitting around.
I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.