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How To Survive In A Walk-Up Apartment

In our previous post, we gave you tips on how to locate the best walkable neighborhood. This time, we thought we'd focus on something else that Bostonians know a little (or, actually, a lot) about: walk-up apartments.

Boston, being one of America's most historical cities, has a lot of brownstones and row housing. They are the quintessential backbone of the true Bostonian neighborhood, dating back to the 1800's when the English built the city on brick and mortar. Most of these buildings are still standing, and are even considered to be the most luxurious of all types of properties in the city.

As most know, a walk down the South End, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill gives you a sense of how colonial Boston was, and what kind of houses were available. Fast forward to today, these are iconic living spaces, and food and shopping destinations.  This scenery excites both visitors and future residents of the city, as there is a certain charm living in these tenements, regardless of their age since majority have been updated.

One bothersome factor with living in these brownstones, as most brownstone-dwelling inhabitants would attest to,  is the fact that not all are equip with elevators. Some are - with old-fashion and vintage lifts, but majority are not. This means that if you're on the fourth floor and above, you have a long way to go before reaching your destination, whether to go up or to come down.

That is why it is not surprising that the two oft complaints of residents living in walk-up apartments are: 1) forgetting items of importance in their unit, and 2) having items with them on their trek up.  But just like any apartment, there are pros and cons that will become part of daily life. The only way you can make sure that a living space is 100% perfect to your needs is if you have it custom-built to address each and every one of your needs.

Given that, the key then, to surviving a high-floor walkup apartment is leaving the house as little as possible and carrying as little as you have to go up and down the stairs. Organization, along with the help of a few friends, is surely the way to live a life in a walk-up apartment. Here are the best tips we've thought of to make your high-brow, high-floor living as painless as possible:

1. Post-Its are your protection

Having to go up and down five or so flight of stairs is no fun. This is especially the case if you forget even only one item that's important and crucial to your day. Say, your mobile phone or umbrella. It's no fun at all having to go back for something that's not as replaceable or could be substituted (i.e. water bottle, etc.) The most common solution to this? Post Its. Though they're not aesthetically awesome displayed by your front door, they are your last line of defense for forgetting stuff or reminding you of things you need to do before you head down that sprawling staircase. They'll not only save you the physical stress, but also keep your mind alert by way of memorization.

2. Free delivery is your BFF

  • Use UPS or FedEx to receive big packages because they will deliver and pick up packages from your doorstep (as opposed to USPS which does not).
  • Sign up for free or flat-rate delivery services such as Amazon.com's Amazon Prime, which provides free two-day delivery and access to streaming movies and shows and Kindle books. After a free 30-day trial, a yearly subscription is $79. They ship via UPS so it'll be to your doorstep.
  • Peapod by Stop and Shop also features free grocery delivery right to your doorstep for qualifying orders. This is most ideal not only because you are in a walk-up, but also during winter season when it is even more of a pain to get supplies. 
  • Food delivery sites such as Foodler and GrubHub enables you to order take-out delivered straight to your door from hundreds of local restaurants.
  • Furniture delivery can be daunting and costly. Many national companies don't understand Boston living and only deliver to curbside--a big no-no for the many Bostonians who reside in walkups. Be sure to scan for "white glove delivery" (discount sites like Overstock.com offers this for most of its heavier items) to have bulky items delivered to your door.

3.  Become a great tipper

Make sure you take into account that delivery folks are going above (literally!) and beyond in carrying wares up to your cut-rate palace in the sky and should be compensated for it, particularly if the deliverables are extremely heavy and cumbersome. Also be sure to tip your frequent deliverers like UPS during the holidays.

4. Go high-tech

Thankfully technology has advanced a lot over the last decade, so gone are the days of having to procure movies at the video store and carrying 24-packs of water home from the store.

  • Forgo heavy tomes and instead read via your mobile reading device; get online magazine subscriptions; and order reading material from the Boston Public Library.
  • Subscribe to Netflix to have movies sent to your door and stream them via your laptop and take advantage of On-Demand movie ordering via your cable company

5. When in doubt, DIY

  • Avoid needless trips to the bodega downstairs by buying your own coffee/cappuccino/smoothie makers.
  • Instead of lugging cases of seltzer--who doesn't love seltzer?--buy a SodaStream and turn ordinary tap into carbonated goodness in an instant without leaving your apartment.
  • Forget bottled water and go the Brita water filter route.
  • If you don't have your own washer and dryer and can afford it, outsource your laundry. For about 85 cents-$1 per pound you can have it picked up and delivered, rather than walking up and downstairs with heavy loads of dirty clothes to the basement laundry room (if you have it) or even further to the local laundromat.

6. Remember that it takes a village

Ask friends and or visitors to your unit to collect your mail from downstairs. This isn't a typical request, so make sure you do it to the right person who you feel will comply comfortably with your request. And remember to give them a "parting gift" - whatever that may be - to anyone who consistently visits you on the top floor; they are a real friend, so giving them a "parting gift" upon their departure probably would probably be a good incentive if you want them to return.

7. Get in a Boston (walkup) State of Mind

Telling people you live in a sixth floor walkup apartment makes you seem more hardcore than any neck tattoo ever could, so embrace it.

Man up psychologically on those days when you are sick, exhausted or drunk (If you are are real Bostonian there will be days you are all three simultaneously). Pump encouraging music on your iPod as you crawl, lurch, or curse your way up the stairs. Stop at each landing if you need to, send a text to a friend or simply eavesdrop on the sounds emanating from the nearest apartment and construct an entertaining story for yourself about what lurks behind each door.

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