Saturday, June 3, 2017

Fast and Effective Apartment Workouts

Keeping in shape can be a challenge.  After meeting our work and family commitments, our own personal health and wellbeing, which comes with exercise, tends to take a back seat.  One big hurdle to overcome in the fitness battle is the challenge of getting yourself to the gym on a regular basis.  Whether it is in your building or in your neighbourhood, hitting the gym after a long day at work takes serious commitment—a commitment that sometimes you just don’t have.  However, the demand of “going to the gym” is often the very thing that keeps us from jumping up and getting fit in the here and now.  There are several fast and effective workouts you can do in your own apartment to keep you healthy and fit.

Use Your Own Body

We tend to think of fitness as an equipment heavy enterprise that requires bikes, treadmills, weights, and machines.  Using your own body, weight, and resistance, however, can get you in great shape without all the gear.  Push-ups are a perfect example of this.  This simple—yet extremely challenging—exercise tones and works muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest, and back.  No other single exercise can do as much for you as a push-up, and starting with ten a day, and then building on that amount, they take no time at all.   Spider lunges are another fantastic way to use your own natural resistance to build muscle.  Begin in standard push-up formation, and then simply take turns bringing forward and bending each leg so that each foot rests beside each hand.  This exercise works your lower back and legs, and builds strength and flexibility. 

Get Your Heart Rate Going

Flexibility and muscle training are crucial, but so too is solid cardio-vascular work.  Jumping jacks are the perfect on the spot, gym-free cardio exercise.  Jumping jacks allow you to get your heart pounding, blood flowing, and burn fat, and they let you tone and shape your leg, arm, and back muscles.  Another great way to get some more high impact activity in your own home is by doing jumping lunges.  Place one leg forward and bend to the knee while your other leg is extended strait behind you.  From there jump as high as you can and land with your other foot forward, which you can then bend again down to a 90 degree angle in preparation for your next jump.  These lunges build strength, agility, and flexibility all while providing you with a good cardio-vascular exercise. 

Walk, Bike, Run

One massive benefit of dense, urban living, is that great trails, bike paths, or wonderfully scene-filled sidewalks abound, so you can leave your apartment and get moving.  If you find the process of packing, planning, and commuting to the gym to be daunting enough to keep you firmly planted on the couch, then throw on your runners and take a great city walk or jog; or grab your bike and hit the road.  Walking, biking, and running are great ways to get in shape and to explore your city and check out your community at the same time!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Roommate Etiquette

Having a roommate can be a truly rewarding experience.  Sharing your living space helps keep costs down, and gives you someone you can really share your life with.  However, if you and your roommate are not on the same page when it comes to such key things as cleanliness, noise, and houseguests, having a roommate can just as easily be a living nightmare.  To ensure you and your roommate have a solid and functional relationship here are a few things to keep in mind.

Always begin with a frank and honest conversation about how you like to live, what you need in a roommate, and what you simply cannot live with.  We often assume people are exactly like us, but it takes all kinds to make a world, and one person’s understanding of cleanliness is another’s version of total squalor.  As you approach the prospect of moving in, sit down together and really lay your cards on the table.  Remember to be totally honest—this is no time to hide your less than perfect clutter problem, or your unabashed love for ABBA.  The more honest and open you and your roommate are with each other the quicker you will come to a functioning living arrangement.

One of the biggest problems roommates have is cleaning.   A cleaning schedule is a fair and transparent way to keep roommates accountable and aware of who is doing what, and when.  Work out together what each of you expects, and feels capable of doing, and do your best to keep to it.  Beyond these larger cleaning tasks, make sure that you pick up after yourself, and that you clean as you go.  Think of what you would like to see when you come into the bathroom or living room, and try your best to maintain that same standard for your roommates.

This is especially the case in maintaining the kitchen.  After you prepare food be sure to restore a minimum amount of order to the kitchen.  You don’t always have to clean the kitchen from top to bottom immediately after eating, but it is a great idea to ensure that counters and stovetops are wiped, and that pots and pans are soaking.  It is also a good idea to have a mutual understanding about food sharing and communal cooking.  Some roommates fully shop and cook together, others write their names on food.  Whatever your arrangement is make sure it is mutually understood, and that you abide by it.

Finally, be respectful of each other’s right to the apartment.  Do not monopolize the television or the bathroom, do not play your music loudly when your roommates are sleeping or studying, and do not freely entertain guests when your roommates are not into it.  When it comes to roommate etiquette, the more you give, the more you will get back.  If you do your share of the heavy lifting, and remain respectful, and conscientious, your roommate will do the same, and you will reap the rewards of function and friendship that a great roommate provides.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tips to Working from Your Apartment

These are strange but exciting economic times.  The traditional idea of going to work in a downtown office is fading fast, as more and more people are working remotely, or forgoing office life altogether to try their hand at running their own business.  This economic shift means that more people than ever before are working from home.  Working from your apartment or condo can be a wonderful way to feel more connected to your work and to better manage that biggest of challenges: the work/life balance.  However, there are a few important things to keep in mind as you embark on a work from home routine to ensure you remain balanced and productive.

Stay Focused
Home, as you know, is full of distractions.  Most of us can hold our own when it comes to resisting leisurely distractions, like movies, TV, books, or naps, but the more challenging distractions are the domestic ones.  Since you are already home, you had might as well get the laundry going, and, while you are at, tidy up the kitchen, pop out for cat food, groceries, get dinner started . . . and on it goes.  These kinds of domestic distractions are really had to resist because they are productive; but this is, of course, a misplaced productivity.  You have to remember that this is your time to work on your work, and not to work domestically.  

Results over Schedules
The traditional way to keep one’s self on track is by setting up and following a structured work schedule.  This works for some people, but schedules can come to seem arbitrary and stifling after a while.  Instead, a good technique is to think about the larger aims of your work and devise goals that can be broken down by session, by day, and by week.  This allows you to focus more on results and less on simply time logged.  A results-driven work process keeps you more directly connected to the larger priorities of your job, and keeps you motivated. 

Carve Out Your Work Space
We’ve come a long way from the “home office” of the 90s that tried to reproduce the “macro” office format in the “micro” home setting—complete with clunky printers, and piles of largely useless stationary.  However, the impulse behind the home office to try to draw a line between home and work is still an important thing to keep in mind.  Depending on the amount of space you have to work with, try to find a workplace in your apartment or condo that is physically or even conceptually different from your relaxation space.  Working from your kitchen table or pull-up counter, or setting yourself up in a chair instead of on the couch can help your click out of home-mode and into work-mode a little more readily.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Gardening in Small Spaces

With the weather improving daily, condo and apartment dwellers’ thoughts are turning more and more to the great outdoors.  Spring and summer can bring new life to your rental with the reintroduction of your outdoor space, and there is no better way to take advantage of that outdoor space than by keeping a little garden.  Gardening can be intimidating—it might feel as if you need a large plot of land, a tool shed, and a lot of know-how to make it worthwhile.  However, if you keep a few things in mind balcony and deck gardening is really rewarding. 

Why Garden?
Gardening is a powerful stress reliever.  Creating your own little oasis allows you to become better attuned to a more natural flow of life.  Nothing helps you forget about the hassles of urban life like raising plants from seed to flower, fruit, or vegetable.  Also, keeping plants on your balcony greatly helps your local bee population, who need all the help they can get these days.  But perhaps best of all, keeping your own garden gives you the chance to grow your own food.  There is nothing better than greens, herbs, tomatoes, peas, or beans from your own garden—fresh and free!

Getting Started
The first thing to keep in mind is to keep it simple.  If gardening is not enjoyable than it is not worth doing.  There is no need to run out and purchase hoards of supplies, instead use what you have on hand.  Gardening gives you a great chance to reuse your recyclables.   Old yogurt or cheese containers are perfect plant pots, as are old soup, tomato, or bean cans—be sure to puncture a few holes in the bottom for drainage.  An old eaves trough works perfectly to grow a row of lettuce greens or an herb garden in, and you can repurpose old buckets or tubs for root vegetables like carrots or fingerling potatoes.  After that, all you need is some potting soil, a pitcher or pint glass for watering, and an old soupspoon to help you transfer plants or dig up little weeds.     

Once your gardening space is set up, you need to get planting.  You can buy plants that have already been started for you from nurseries, grocery or corner stores, but a cheaper and more engaging option is to start your own plants from seed.  With a small bag of potting soil and some eggcups—old egg cartons work wonderfully—you can sprout your own plants.  You can start this process as early as late March (provided the seedlings get lots of window sun time), so your little seedlings are ready to be transferred outside when the nice weather arrives.  Growing plants from seed allows you to better curate your own garden, and to choose the varieties of food or flower you really want—including some really cool and flavourful heirloom varieties.

Keeping a garden is a wonderful way to enjoy your outdoor space, and to cut back on your food budget.  Happy Spring!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Navigating Shared Living Space

Living in a condo, high rise, or townhouse development means living in close proximity to many different people.  This can, of course, be a wonderful experience; as this kind of density allows you to continuously meet new people and become part of a strong and neighbourly community.  However, living so close to so many people also means that you need to know how to manage and respect your shared living space, and how to navigate the community in which you live.  Here are a few things to keep in mind if you find yourself struggling to understand the written and unwritten rules of the fitness rooms, pools, and elevators of your building.

Know your Community
The first step towards respectfully engaging with your living community, and its shared areas, is to understand the kind of culture your building has.  Different buildings have different vibes.  There are some buildings where people really want to keep to themselves, and there are others where neighbours routinely knock on each other’s doors.  By following the tone set by the building’s community you’ll find it much easier to establish your own space within that community.

Hallways, Elevators, Lobbies, and Common Rooms
Public spaces, like hallways, elevators, lobbies, and common rooms, are the main arteries of your building, so it is crucial that you remain courteous and respectful in these spaces.  This means, holding elevator doors, keeping voices down in hallways, picking up after yourself in the lobby, and adhering to the rules and regulations of common rooms.  When booking or reserving a common area, like a party room or a garden terrace, be sure to verify the rules governing its use.  You want to make sure that you clean up after yourself, keep the noise down to accepted and agreed upon levels, and ensure that you clear out on time.

Fitness Areas and Pools
If you happen to have these wonderful assets in your building you already understand how important it is to keep them clean and functioning, and how off-putting it can be when a fellow resident does not.  Again, your guide to these spaces are the rules the building has laid out, but generally speaking remember to clean up after yourself—this includes returning fitness gear to its rightful place and wiping equipment when you are finished with it—to respect others in the room if you are playing music or watching TV, and to respect and abide by the hours of operation.  It is even more important to follow rules surrounding pool or sauna use, because of issues surrounding safety and hygiene.  Remember to keep these areas clean, to take any towels or other personal effects with you, and to respect people’s privacy. 

It can be a challenge sometimes to live among so many people, but if you can remain conscientious of public space, and maintain a kind and respectful relationship with your neighbours you will find that these communities really make living in a dense area or city worthwhile.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How to Host a Party in Your Apartment

Hosting family and friends in your apartment or condo can be a bit of a challenge.  Issues of space and worries over planning can often act as barriers to you opening your doors to your favourite people.  However, it is important to have people at your house—no matter the size.  Hosting friends and family solidifies important bonds and allows people to see who you really are.  Here are a few guidelines to help you have great and stress-free social gatherings.

Keep it Simple
A lot of hosts burn themselves out by trying to provide everything for their guests.  This can often mean running around for days to various shops and spending way too much money.  Instead, simplify your vision, and remember that less is more.  Your guests want to see you, and not gorge themselves, so a nice but modest array of food and a few drink options is more than enough.  Your party is a reflection of who you are, so prepare one or two things that represent you, and don’t get caught up in trying to offer everything under the sun.

Party Plan
By re-arranging your furniture and re-envisioning your apartment you can better orchestrate how your guests use your space, and better accommodate them as a result.   For instance, you can repurpose rooms, like a bedroom or office, as alternate gathering spaces, so as not to cram everyone into your living room or kitchen.  By shifting a bed out of the way or converting it into a couch, by converting a desk into a buffet, or by placing appetizer, sweets, or drink trays in out of the way places, like end tables, halls or foyers, you can create a sense of flow and movement to your limited space.  If you have a deck, patio, or garden, fold that space into your party as well, by setting up seating and placing food or drink outside.

Enjoy Yourself
There is nothing worse than missing your party because you have spent the whole time slaving away in the kitchen.  To avoid this, prepare as much as you can beforehand, or go for food options that require little to no preparation time.  Boards of chopped vegetables with humus and dips are quick and easy, as are cheese and charcuterie boards served with crackers or sliced baguette.  If you want to include something warm, samosas, or dumplings, or spring rolls from your favourite takeaway can be picked up the day before, and then quickly reheated in the oven for serving; or, find an easy slow cooker recipe—like a vegetarian chili, or a nice pulled pork—that can slowly cook and then stay warm while you enjoy hosting.
Hosting is wonderful, and need not be overwhelming.  By keeping things simple, and focussing on you and your guests’ enjoyment you can have a great party without all the headaches.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Condo Kids: How to Truly Embrace Parenting in Apartments

For those of us who grew up in suburbs and small towns, the prospect of bringing up our kids in downtown condos and apartments seems a little daunting.  When you think of the garages and driveways, basements, and backyards of your youth it is hard to imagine having kids without this ample play and storage space.  Also, the busy and bustling downtown streets seem out of step with cumbersome strollers and bumbling toddlers.  However, more and more people these days are forgoing space for convenience and quality of life.  Living in a smaller downtown unit might mean less space, but it also means less time commuting, and more time with your kids.  That said there are a few challenges to overcome as an apartment parent, so here are a few things to keep in mind.

Managing Kids in a Small Space
Between diapers and high chairs, clothes and toys, strollers and tricycles, kids can take up a lot of room.  If you’re living in a condo or an apartment you flat out don’t have the space for all of this stuff.  However, this is an opportunity more than a crisis.  Confined space forces you to make wiser purchases, and to avoid any hoarding tendencies you may be harbouring!  By keeping only what your children need at any given moment—and this changes frequently as they develop—and by stowing what they do need with some smart storage solutions, you can embrace a more downsized style of parenting that frees you up to do things with your kids, without being overburdened by stuff.

Respect Your Neighbours
Your kids are wonderful; however, not everyone feels that way.  The smaller, shared spaces that come with apartment and condo living puts an added urgency upon teaching your kids to be quiet and respectful of their neighbours and of their shared space.  It might be a challenge at first to keep your kids from running and shouting in halls and elevators, or running wild in common areas, like lobbies, pools, and fitness rooms, but if you can show your kids the value of being respectful to those they live among, the whole building will smile on them, and they’ll learn some great lessons in community living at an early age.

Embrace Your Downtown Density
One big advantage to living downtown is the multiplicity of people and cultures you experience.  It might seem like the high-density neighbourhood you are living in is better suited to twenty-somethings than to five year olds, but raising kids downtown opens their eyes to so many different ways of living, and truly broadens their horizons.  High-density living ensures that music, arts, culture, and cuisine are all steps from your living space.  This allows you and your family to think of the city as an extension of your apartment.  Walk to the park on Saturdays, to the markets on Sundays, check out free weeknight events, and have your pick of restaurants and cafes.