Module 4: Choosing and Moving into Housing — Setting up house


Setting up house

You’re in your new space, but not yet feeling settled. This is normal. It can take some time for a new place to feel like home. Be patient with your new space and with yourself. Several participants of the Positive Living, Positive Homes study described setting up their homes as a lengthy yet rewarding process of slowly collecting things that were beautiful and meaningful to them.

Do a move-in condition inspection with the landlord.

    • When you first move in, you and your landlord should look through the rental unit together.

      • The landlord should fill out a form with information about the condition of the unit.
      • If you disagree with your landlord about anything, you should be able to write your own comments on the form. Both of you should sign and date it, and you should get a copy of it.
      • The inspection is an opportunity to see what kind of shape the unit is in, so that later, when you move out, it will be clear whether any damage to the unit was already there or if you are responsible for it.
      • Some people find it useful to take their own pictures or video during the inspection. Save the pictures in a safe place where you can find them whenever you move out.

Find out about security. Ask your landlord or building manager what kind of security measures are in place where you live.

      • Are there cameras? Is there an outer lock or a main door code? Is there a security company that patrols the grounds? Is there a manager or caretaker who lives on site?
      • Knowing these things when you move in can help if something unexpected happens in the future.

Get unpacked. Some people like to unpack everything at once, while others like to do a few boxes every day until they’re finished. Think about what will work best for you to get it done.

      • Having boxes labelled will help you find the things you need most, such as food, kitchenware, clothes, and bathroom necessities.
      • You may also want to pack a box of items that have meaning for you—such as photos, books, or spiritual objects—so you can put them out right away and make your place feel more comfortable.
      • If you have kids, it’s a good idea to prioritize setting up their bedrooms, which will bring them some familiarity and provide a place for them to play while you focus on the rest of the home.

Think about the lighting.

      • Some people prefer a brightly lit space. Windows can provide some natural light exposure for part of each day. If you’re concerned about privacy, you can add curtains that hide what’s happening inside but still allow light through. Lamps and mirrors can also provide more light.
      • People who prefer a darker space may opt for curtains that block light, choose dimmer light bulbs, and decorate with darker colours.

Get some plants. Bringing some green into your home can lift your spirits. In fact, many PLPH participants talked about the positive impact of caring for plants.

      • Ask around to see if anyone is giving away plants or has plants that produce offshoots or “babies” that you can grow (spider plants are a good example).
      • Small succulents such as cacti are another great option, because they’re cheap and easy to take care of.
      • If you have pets or young children, check to see which plants will be safe for them.

Put on some music. Music can affect your mood and lift your spirits.

      • If you have a mobile phone or computer, you can play music on it and even connect a small set of speakers for a simple sound system.
      • Alternatively, small radios and CD players can be found via thrift stores or classified ads for cheap or free.
      • Remember to keep your music at a reasonable volume and to avoid playing it late at night, as loud music can cause problems with neighbours and landlords. Using headphones is one way to avoid issues.

Find the basics.

      • If you’re lacking in essentials such as towels, bedding, kitchen tools, or furniture, seek out a support worker to see if there are local programs or funding to help.
      • Some organizations have donated items or store vouchers for people getting settled.

Create some privacy.

      • You are allowed to put up curtains and blinds, and have working locks on your doors and windows.
      • You can ask your landlord to change the locks (see: before you move in, at no cost to you, if you have concerns about keys given to previous tenants being used to access the unit.

Feed yourself. Moving and unpacking take energy—try to make sure you have healthy, easily stored food to get you through.

        • The extra expenses of moving may affect your food budget, in which case the food bank may be useful to get you through the first month in your new place.
        • Be aware though that some food banks require people to be residents of the community for several months before they can use it.
        • Other organizations that may offer food-related services include HIV organizations, faith-based groups, and community service centres.