apartment spring cleaning basics

Whenever one of our tenants moves out or we go into a resident’s apartment for a maintenance request, we often see a few common threads in places needing a good clean.

With spring in full bloom and the beautiful weather outside, now is a great time to freshen up the inside of your apartment.  Taking the time to do a deep-clean of your home space will help to keep things looking and functioning their best.  Simple things like steam cleaning the carpet once a year helps to extend the life of it and of course, it helps it look it’s best for guests too.  We’ve rounded up some simple and seasonal chores to tackle over a weekend to ensure your apartment is sparkling.

clean out the fridge & freezer

organized-fridgeWe’re gonna start our list with a big one: tackling the fridge.  It’s easy to handle if you just break it down into some easy steps and the reward is definitely worth the extra elbow grease.  We like to start by taking everything out, cleaning top-to-bottom, then putting things back in an organized way.

  • Take everything out and toss anything that’s old or expired.  Make it a habit to toss out old food each time you go to the store to help keep your fridge clean throughout the year.
  • Wipe down any jars that have spills on the outside or on the bottom and set aside.
  • Wipe down the inside of the fridge walls and shelves with a solution of mild dish soap and warm water.
  • If any shelves or parts are removable, we like to give these a nice soapy wash in the sink.  (You’d be surprised what spills you find hidden under shelves and behind removable drawers.)  Be careful not to use hot water on cold glass shelves as this can cause them to crack.  Instead, let the glass shelves come to room temperature before washing.
  • Pull out the fridge and wipe down the sides, top and floor underneath.
  • Clean the sides and tops of the doors and in the rubber door seal nooks.  Clean and sanitize the door handles.
  • Look underneath each shelf and scrub any spills that ran over.
  • Group jars together as you put them back in the fridge.

Also be sure to check out these 10 Easy Steps to Organize Your Fridge from Lauren Conrad.

deep clean stove

stove topOne of the dirtiest places we find in tenant’s apartments are the sides and underneath the stove.  When you’re busy whipping up one of your culinary masterpieces, you might not notice a few splashes, but they can accumulate in these places over time.  Give your stove a good deep-clean inside and out by:

  • Scour inside oven.  Remove racks and clean.
  • Remove broiler pans from drawer underneath oven and clean thoroughly.
  • Pull out oven and wipe down the front and sides.  Scrub floor underneath stove.
  • Lift lid under burners and clean.
  • Wipe down top of oven and wash burners.

replace smoke detector batteries & wipe down remotes

ladder and smoke detectorYou should replace the batteries and test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every six months to make sure they’re in good working order.  We like to do this when we “spring forward” and “fall back” as an easy way to remember.

Take a damp rag or one of those make-up remover cloths and wipe down all of your remotes.  You can also wipe down your computer keyboard while you’re at it too.

clean windows

apartment living room windowWhen was the last time you cleaned your windows?  Ever?  Probably not, right?  We know it’s a big task and that’s why spring is the perfect time to tackle it.  Remember that first day when you moved in and they were shiny and sparkling?  Let all of that beautiful light in by cleaning the inside and outside of your windows.

Your windows can become a bit cloudy and dirty over time, so we recommend you give ’em a good wipe-down at least once a year.  To start, dip a sponge into a bucket of warm water with a few drops of mild dish soap.  We love to use a sweet smelling one like Mrs. Meyer’s basil-scented dish soap that will subtly scent each room and make it smell as fresh as a Spring daisy.  Simply wet the window and rub dirt away. To get the perfect streak-free window, you can use a squeegee to help dry or try our secret weapon: Sprayway Glass Cleaner and a rag.  This stuff is seriously amazing and will clean your windows without any streaks and is available at places like Target and Home Depot.

It’s important to clean your windows first with soap and water to take off the larger pieces of dirt and grime and then use the glass cleaner for perfect windows every time.  If you try to cut corners by just using the spray, you’ll end up cleaning each pane twice and probably end up with streaks.

TIP: Before using the soap and water solution, have a razor blade handy to help remove any dried-on gunk like paint drips, tree sap, or bird droppings.

wash screens & blinds

clean blindsWhile you’re washing the windows, take down the screens and give them a good scrub in the bathtub or shower using the same type of soap you’ll use on the windows.  Allow them to air dry fully before putting back up.

Wipe down blinds with a few drops of gentle cleaner on a nearly dry sponge.  Aluminum blinds can be washed outdoors: Place them on an old sheet or on the grass and scrub with water and a noncorrosive cleaner.  Use a hose to rinse well and then let the blinds air dry thoroughly or wipe with a towel to prevent rust.

protect wooden floors

bedroom wooden floorsGuard against scratches on wooden floors by making sure there are surface protectors on the undersides of all furniture legs and heavy items placed on the floor like chests, footstools, and side tables.  Replace any that are dirty or worn.

Clean your wooden floor by dry dust-mopping it first to pick up any loose dirt, dust or pet hair that could scratch the floor’s finish.  Then use a damp solution specifically made for wood floors to give it a deeper clean. Make sure not to get the floors too wet or let water pool as this can damage the wood.

deep-clean carpets, rugs & sofas

living room rugsTo extend the life of your carpet, most professionals recommend having it steam-cleaned once a year.  We love to use Beverly Hills Carpet Cleaners since they use organic and non-toxic solutions – which are great for babies and pets.  They do a great job and have even gotten out red wine stains from carpet we thought was going to need to be replaced. Another good thing about them? You know how stains will often come back after having your carpet shampooed?  Not with these guys.  They do such a good job that the stains are completely removed from the carpet.

Before they come over, vacuum your carpet really well and stack any smaller furniture on top of larger furniture to make the most of your cleaning area.  If you’re having them clean your rugs too, make sure to place these in the kitchen so that they can clean the carpet underneath the rug and be sure to note this on the phone when making your appointment.  If you’re having them clean your sofa, obviously don’t stack furniture on top and see if you can place on your patio, bed, or inside closets.

You can also rent or buy a home shampooer, although we recommend letting the professionals handle this one.  After your carpets, rugs, and sofas have been cleaned, open your windows for air flow to help them dry more quickly.

clean your curtains

curtainsCheck the tag on your curtains to see if they can be machine or hand-washed, follow the instructions, and iron them once dry before hanging back up.  You can also have them dry-cleaned.  Just be careful with linen curtains as these can tend to shrink and instead look to see if you can vacuum and steam clean these in place.

wipe down baseboards, doors, & door handles

bathroom door chairThese areas are big dust collectors and deserve a little TLC every now and then.  I prefer to dry dust the baseboards and nooks on the doors or you can use the brush attachment on your vacuum.  Then wipe down the front and back of doors with an all-purpose cleaner to clean off any hand prints or dirt.  Disinfect door handles throughout the apartment.  You can take this one step further and disinfect all of the cabinet hardware as well as these are all high-traffic areas that can get sticky and dirty.

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve got any great spring cleaning tips. Then be sure to check out our tips for Easy Ways for Renters to Go Green too.  

perks of living in a large building: resident events

Adrienne LaRocque

If you live at The Palazzo Communities in LA, “Party at my place!” just took on a whole new meaning.  That’s because one of the perks of living at this large apartment building includes free resident events put together by the talented Adrienne LaRocque.  As a resident, on any given day you could be invited to a weekend donut and bagel breakfast or a BBQ-themed cocktail hour or poolside movie night featuring Jaws.  You only have to walk a few steps from your front door to enjoy an amazing party and mingle with your neighbors.  Sounds fun! Can we come?

Last week, we were invited to join the residents of The Palazzo for a Valentine’s Day “Enchanted Garden” fondue party.  Adrienne specializes in “parties with personality” and this one couldn’t be described as anything less.  There was a huge chocolate fountain with an abundant spread of delicious goodies for dipping that included fresh strawberries and pineapple, creme-filled eclairs, marshmallows, pretzel sticks, Oreos, rice krispy squares, brownies, and more.  In addition to the sweet treats, residents and their guests enjoyed a selection of cheese and wine while being serenaded by a harp player strumming tunes like Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight”.  There was even a special place just for kids where they could read Valentine’s Day-themed books and grab a cute little goody bag. Needless to say, we totally wanted to move-in to The Palazzo after this soiree.

FUN FACT: This is the building where Lauren & Heidi from The Hills lived when they were roomies.

Are perks like these resident events something you look for when apartment hunting?  Let us know in the comments below.

P.S. Adrienne is also available as an independent event planner available to plan your next event.  Check out her work at Eventful Adrienne.

All Valentine’s event photos: The Suite Life
Others: The Penthouses at Palazzo, Nick Mongoni, William Larsen

5 things to do before you move in

You finally found that perfect new place and can’t wait to move in, but there’s a few things you should do before you even think about moving a box.  We’ve found that in the chaos of moving, the things that you have every best intention to do get overlooked in favor of unpacking instead and sometimes never actually get completed.  (Raise your hand if you still have white walls.)

Before you move-in, ask your property manager about the possibility of gaining access to your new place a day or two in advance of when your lease starts to take care of a few things.  If you’re not moving personal belongings in, they may be ok with allowing this and not charging you rent for these days.  You can also ask to see if they have vendors that can handle the list below for you prior to your move-in as well.  If they want to charge you rent for these days, it may be worth it to gain access to your new place the day before and knock this list out before you’re wrapped up in moving companies and unpacking. Here’s our top picks for things you should do before you move into a new place:

1.  paint Seafoam bedroom

The best way to make your new apartment feel like home is to add some of your personality and color to the walls.  And it is so much easier to to do this when you’re not maneuvering around furniture and boxes or can’t find all of the supplies you need.  We recommend painting just one accent wall per room to inject some color and flair into the space, while also making it easier on you when it comes time to move out in case you’ll need to paint it back.

Check out Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2014: Radiant Orchid, for some color inspiration.

TIP:  Before painting, check with your property manager first to make sure that they allow this type of alteration.  If they do, get their permission in writing and ask about your obligations when it comes time to move out.

2.  change out the toilet seat 1920's bathroom

Hopefully, your new landlord does this as a standard part of their turnover.  If not, go ahead and splurge on $20 worth of a new toilet seat for peace of mind. Changing it out is inexpensive and easy to do and you’ll feel a whole lot better too.  Just make sure you purchase the right size and shape so you’re sittin’ pretty on your first night in your new place.

3.  exterminate ants on spoons and saucer

Your new landlord probably has a service that sprays around the exterior of the property for the most common types of pests, so see if they can also do the interior of your apartment before you move in simply as a preventative measure.   Pests are common and exist everywhere, so why not have the place fumigated before you move in?  It will take care of common pests like ants, roaches, fleas, and silverfish.  Ask your property manager if they have a vendor that they already use and see if they’ll cover this cost – it may already be included as part of their monthly fee.

4.  clean eco friendly cleaning products

Even though your landlord will have your new place cleaned before you move in, you may want to do a deep cleaning of your own.  A second set of eyes is great because often times you’ll see things that their cleaning company didn’t or the apartment may have become dusty if they cleaned it too far in advance.  Bring a bucket of supplies to power clean your apartment a day or two before you move in to make sure that everything is sparkling when you start to unpack.

5.  add shelf liners 

After cleaning and before you start to unpack and put away all of your dishes, line the cabinets and drawers with a non-adhesive shelf liner to keep things super clean.  Check out our pick from The Container Store that’s 100% recyclable.  We recommend not using the adhesive kind of shelf liners so that they’re easy to remove when you move out.

You can also line your linen closet and bathroom cabinets with these cool scented shelf and drawer liners to keep things smelling fresh.  Steer clear of using them in the kitchen though to make sure that your wine glasses don’t taste like lavender.

What are the top things you do before you move into a new place?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: decor pad, the modern cottage company, like cool, organic soul, martha stewart

10 things you should never put down your garbage disposal



Shot glasses, plastic bottle caps, silverware, jewelry.  My maintenance manager and I have seen some weird things pulled out of a clogged up garbage disposal, that’s for sure.  But there are common things that tenants often put down the drain without a second thought. Things like egg shells, coffee grounds, lemon peels, carrots, chicken bones, etc.  So we decided to look into what the professionals had to say about what is ok to put down the sink.

For starters, your garbage disposal shouldn’t be treated like a food processor to grind up your leftovers – that’s what the trashcan is for.  And if you live in an older building, keep in mind that your pipes may be original.  Ever wondered what your leftovers look like trying to get through a 70 year old drain?  Yikes!

Also keep in mind that if you live in a multilevel apartment building, more than likely your pipes are connected to the other apartments above or below you at some point along the drainage highway to the main sewer system.  This means that whatever you and your upstairs (or downstairs) neighbor put down the garbage disposal, it all meets up and mingles and can create a back-up for you and/or them.

disposal don’ts

  1. Potato Peels

    If it’s Sunday night and you’re making your famous mashed potatoes, don’t even think about putting the peels down the garbage disposal.  The starches in the cut potatoes turn into a thick gluey paste and can cause the disposal’s blades to stick or create a major traffic jam in the pipes.

  2. Banana Peels

    Fibrous materials like banana peels, onion skins, corn husks, and artichokes are extremely rough on your garbage disposal.  These vegetable jackets are designed by nature to protect the food inside so they can handle a bit of beating from your garbage disposal.  Your disposal motor and drain on the other hand, can’t handle these tough skins and can get jammed or blocked.

  3. Bacon Fat, Grease or Oil

    You might think that running hot water to liquefy the fats and oils will help to lubricate the blades and pipes, but that’s not the case.  It’s actually bad news and causes the grease to slowly build up and coat the blades which impedes their grinding ability and can clog drains.

  4. Pasta & Rice

    Just as these foods expand when you put them in boiling water, they do the same thing in your disposal and pipes.  “Al dente” pasta and rice is cooked until they are still firm which means that there’s still room to absorb water and expand when flushed down the drain.  Quinoa, cous cous and bread are also no-nos.

  5. Bones

    Contrary to what you may have been taught by mom, bones don’t sharpen the disposal’s blades – it dulls them just as they would do to your cutlery if you tried to cut them up with your kitchen knives.  Always toss all animal bones (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and fish) in the trash.

  6. Coffee Grounds

    The thought here is that flushing coffee grounds down the disposal will help to eliminate odors.  While this can be true, those little crusty coffee particles actually accumulate in the pipes and cause blockages.  It’s best to toss the coffee filter and grounds in the garbage.

  7. Egg Shells

    Ditto for egg shells.  Best to toss.

  8. Asparagus & Celery

    These long vegetables fall into the fibrous category like banana peels because they’re so stringy.  These ‘strings’ can actually wrap around the disposal blades and cause the motor to seize.

  9. Peach, Cherry, Avocado, & Olive Pits

    These hard cores are way too much work for your garbage disposal to break down.

  10. Bleach & Drano

    Harsh chemicals and cleaners can ruin your disposal’s seals and actually eat through pipes (70 years old or new).

disposal dos

  1. Use Cold Water

    Running water obviously helps to flush out the debris in the disposal and get it through the pipes, but cold water is better than hot.  Why?  Cold water actually helps to solidify any grease or oil that makes its way in there which allows the blades to chop it up.  Who knew?

  2. Use It Regularly

    Your garbage disposal can actually rust or seize altogether without periodic use. So give it a whirl every time you’re cleaning the sink or doing dishes.

  3. Disinfect & Clean

    You can use a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to keep your garbage disposal clean and smelling fresh without the need for harsh chemicals.  And if you’re not putting a ton of food in there like we mentioned above, the occasional lemon, lime or orange should be just fine.  Just make sure you cut it up into quarters first for easier grinding.

With these tips your garbage disposal should always be in good working order and ready to tackle any small food scraps that find their way in there.

Have another fix-it question for our Maintenance Manager, Brian?  Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, & Pinterest.

photos: in stylelaurenconrad.com

how to negotiate when you receive a rent increase

Your rent doesn’t have to go up every year.  Even though your Landlord or management company may have given you a notice that your rent will be increasing, we can help you negotiate getting a better deal.  Here’s five tips to navigating the rent increase waters.

know it’s not personal Apples

One of my friends just got a notice that their rent will be increasing now that their lease is up.  His girlfriend got angry and instantly went to the place of, “That’s it! We’re moving out!”.  Take a deep breath and know that the rent increase is not personal.  Sure it can be upsetting whenever your Landlord tells you that you have to pay a bit more, but even though the letter is addressed to you as a tenant, it has nothing to do with you personally. Business is business and you can bet everyone else in your building whose lease is expiring is getting the same letter you are.  Read the letter in full and then sleep on it a night or two (or three) to cool off.

do your research woman on computer

Find out if there are any comparable vacancies in the building and what they’re being advertised for.  If they’re being advertised for more than your increase amount, then you’ve got a great deal and should consider renewing your lease at the rate offered.  If the available unit is being advertised for less and is comparable to your own unit, schedule an appointment to talk to your manager about the discrepancy.  Keep in mind that often times vacant units are advertised with concessions to entice tenants to rent (first month free, $50 off for a longer lease term, etc).   Did you receive any concessions or discounts when you first moved in?

Also, take a look around to see what neighboring buildings and other vacant units in the same area are renting for to get a feel for the market.  If there are a ton of “For Rent” signs up around the neighborhood, this could give you some leeway when negotiating with your Landlord since they probably don’t want to take on another vacancy.  If there aren’t a lot of apartments available, that indicates a strong rental market and higher rental rates which could give your Landlord the upper hand.

If you live in a rent-control unit in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, or Santa Monica, know what amount your Landlord is allowed to increase your rent.  This can usually be found on the City’s website or in a letter that the City sends to you.  The increase amount for a unit under rent control in West Hollywood is only 0.75% for Sept 1, 2013 – August 31, 2014.  For a unit renting at $1,800, this is only a $13.50 monthly increase.

UPDATE: The increase amount for West Hollywood is 1.25% for Sept 1, 2014 – August 31, 2015. For a unit renting at $1,800, this is only a $22.50 monthly increase.

make an appointment to talk couple meeting manager in person

If you want to negotiate, I recommend a face-to-face meeting versus a phone conversation or email because it is so much more personal (and it’s harder for your Landlord to say no to someone who made an effort to meet with them).  It’s ok to call or email to make the appointment, but try to make sure the conversation about the rent increase takes place in person if you can.  If your manager is receptive to talking about it over the phone when you call to make an appointment, by all means go with the flow.

Tell them when you’re requesting an appointment to meet that you’d like to discuss the rent increase letter you received so that they have time to review your file before the meeting.  I’ve had tenants do this and when they come in to talk, I already know that I can lower their rate or remove the increase completely.

be nice be-nice-linda-woods

This is always my number one piece of advice when dealing with the people who are in charge of where you live and how much rent you pay.  Start the conversation nicely and be honest – don’t go in thinking they’re the enemy.  Tell them how much you like living at the community and how you’d really like to stay.  If you’ve referred a friend to live at the same complex or others that they manage, let them know that too.  This shows them that you’re invested in your apartment and really view it as “home” versus a temporary location.

Tell them that you’d be willing to write a recommendation for use on their website (if you are) or sign a longer renewal term.  And definitely steer clear of the typical things Landlords and managers always hear from tenants.  Things like, “I’m a great tenant,” “I always pay my rent on time,” “I never put in maintenance requests”.  We expect you to be good tenants and pay your rent on time and we want you to tell us if something needs to be fixed.  These are not bargaining tools.  This is why we leased to you in the first place.

If the negotiation chat went well and you’re happy with the outcome, send your manager or Landlord a handwritten note to say thank you for taking the time to meet with you.  Or drop by on your day off to say thank you in person with a muffin or latte.  Being nice goes a long way and they’ll remember your kind gesture the next time your lease is up for a rent increase.

it never hurts to ask Woman-Asking-Questions

This is always my number two piece of advice when dealing with the people who are in charge of where you live.  If you don’t ask, we never have the opportunity to say yes!  Even if in your research you find that you’re paying a lower rate than what other apartments are going for, it still never hurts to ask if they can lower the increase amount. They might say yes (I have!). If you find that you’re paying more rent than new vacancies, ask to have the increase amount reduced, eliminated, or ask to have your rent lowered to the going rate of other apartments.  The worst your manager could do is say no.  If they’re not willing to negotiate, ask their reasoning behind it to better understand their position.

This is also a good time to negotiate an upgrade to your apartment if you choose to stay at the increased amount.  Would your Landlord be willing to install an A/C unit if you signed a new lease or a longer one like 18 months?  A screen door or ceiling fan?  Would they pay to have an accent wall painted or to have the carpets cleaned?  You may be able to find a compromise that would make you happy to stay at the increased rate even if they aren’t able to come down on the amount.

Have you ever negotiated when you received a rent increase letter?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: dome creative, how to negotiate, fine art america, daily plate of crazy

5 ways to warm up your suite for fall

Fall is one of our favorite times of the year.  The leaves turn colors, the weather gets crisp, and all the yummy pumpkin and butternut squash recipes come out at our favorite restaurants.  We love to bring this feeling indoors and make our apartment feel just as cozy. Here are five easy and inexpensive ways to make your home feel warm and comfortable for Fall.

start at the front door Fall entry

Create an instant feeling of warmth before your guests even step inside.  Hang a seasonal wreath on your door (we love this over-the-door wreath hook so you don’t damage the apartment door with nails). Then change out your door mat to a warm color or fun pattern that immediately says “Autumn”.  If space permits, you can also add a large uncarved pumpkin or a cluster of smaller ones by the side of your door or a pot with Fall colored blooms.

suite scents DIY-Votive-Candles-with-Leaves

There’s nothing better than walking into a room that smells of the holidays or mom and dad’s house at Thanksgiving.  We love to choose one seasonal scent and then use that throughout our entire apartment so your nose gets the same fragrance from room to room. Add a few candles, scented bead jars or potpourri to each room, a spray and reed diffuser in the bathroom, and a few scented sachets in closets.  In the bathroom, you can also try this fun product, Poopourri, that even offers holiday scents.  Try not to go too candle crazy – the goal is to have a subtle seasonal scent that makes your apartment feel warm and inviting.

For Fall, try scents like pumpkinspiced cake, or cranberry sauce.  Then switch to pinepeppermintcinnamon, or gingerbread in December.

add a warm throw blanket zambia-throw-chocolate-043284624a

Cuddle under a furry blanket in the living room or bedroom when the temp dips lower.  It will instantly warm up any space.  A favorite of ours is from Z Gallerie because it is just so soft and has a warm lining.  Drape the throw over your couch or chair or fold and place at the end of your bed. And remember that faux is always the way to go when purchasing “fur” items.

change up your pillows fall-leaf-pillow-21

Give your daily throw pillows a break and bring out some harvest inspired or Autumn colored ones to spice up your apartment’s decor.   Add one or two to the couch, a side chair, and a few on the bed to make any space more festive. We found these cute DIY pillows on fab blog Positively Splendid.

treat yourself to fresh flowers pumpkin-vase-fall-flowers-sunflower-bouquet-decoration

Fragrant blossoms instantly make any room feel brighter and Autumn offers some beautiful blooms.  In season for Fall are the rich hues of chrysanthemums, calla lilies, roses, dahlias, and gerbera daisies.  Add a small bouquet to your kitchen table, your nightstand, bathroom counter, or coffee table for a fresh and fragrant statement.

How do you cozy up your apartment for Fall?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: ciao domenica, b lovely events, z gallerie, positively splendidlush home