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By Chris Vespoli

So, you want to move to the big city? Or maybe you’ve just grown tired of the dank Manhattan coffin of despair in which you’re currently residing, and you’re itching for something new. There are a few, easy steps to finding new digs on this island. Unfortunately, all of them involve digging into your chest and ripping your heart out. Here’s a handy checklist:

1. Part ways with your soul.

And while you’re at it, get rid of your hopes and dreams too. You’ll feel a lot better once you free yourself of that pesky voice inside of you that says nonsensical things like, ‘you deserve luxuries like adequate heat, closets and sunlight.’ Once you’ve done this, you’ll really widen your apartment options in New York City.

2. Reconsider your concept of a “neighborhood.”

Unless you’re a Trump or a trust fund kid, you’re going to have to get creative in terms of where you’re willing to live. Think less “neighbor” and more “hood.” Don’t worry if you can’t afford the perks of the Upper East Side — some of the higher-crime areas offer perks of their own. The crackhead who lives outside your building won’t hail a cab for you like a doorman would, but he’ll show you how to sew up your own wound in prison. You can’t put a price on life lessons.

3. Forget about saving money ever again.

After you buy enough alcohol to dull the aching in your soul (hey, didn’t I tell you to get rid of that?), whatever is left of your bank account will go straight to first month’s rent, security deposit and other fees. It’s important to practice wasting money before actually moving to the city. While you’re still living in your parent’s house or still going to school in whatever shitty town you grew up in, save as many paychecks as you can. Then, when you have a good chunk saved up, go to the bank, cash them, and throw all of the money out the fucking window. There. You’re ready to experience the heartbreak that is paying for a New York City apartment.

4. Troll Craigslist like you’re trying to get a happy ending massage.

A second’s hesitation can mean the difference between landing a terrible apartment and a slightly-less-terrible apartment, so you better be constantly checking the real estate listings on Craigslist. Don’t worry about search criteria like “no broker fee,” because nearly every apartment worth seeing will be held hostage by a pasty man in a J. Crew suit. “But this one SAYS ‘no broker fee!’” It’s a lie. Brokers lie to you. Oh, and “laundry available in-building” almost always means “laundry available at the laundromat located on the sketchiest possible street in the neighborhood.”

5. Speaking of brokers, start getting comfortable around creepy frat bros.

The more you hang out with douchey bridge and tunnel guys in Murray Hill before you begin your search, the more natural you’ll feel around the apartment brokers, building managers, and real estate reps with whom you’ll need to awkwardly interact with in order to view available units. I never knew how women probably felt before they get date raped, but then I arranged a meeting with an apartment broker.

First, you set up a vague meeting time at an intersection and wait. You never know what the broker looks like, but that’s OK. He can always spot the desperation on your face as you aimlessly dart your head around, wondering if each passing WASP-y man is him — like a toddler looking for his mother at the fair. Once he arrives, he’ll regretfully inform you the apartment you contacted him about is no longer on the market, but that — by the grace of the Almighty — he has five other units that in no way fit into your budget for you to see. Such luck! But before he can show them you, you’ll need to sign a long, convoluted contract right there on the street, the Cliff Notes version of which is: “if you want any of these apartments I show you today, you’ll need to give me 15% of the entire year’s rent. Also, bend over and touch your ankles. I’ll make this quick.” From there, you’ll make forced conversation as you follow him from one unsuitable apartment to the next, on foot. “So, how long have you been in real estate?” you’ll nervously ask in an attempt to break the awkward silence, even though you really don’t give a fuck how long he’s been in real estate. At the end of the meeting, he’ll tell you there’s some other places “you should totally see” and that you should “set something up” with him later in the week. You’ll sheepishly agree, though you have no intentions of ever contacting him again — like a 20-something bachelorette after a terrible first date at Fuddruckers.

6. Don’t visit the outer boroughs.

If your heart is set on living in Manhattan, don’t dare venture outside of it. (Not that you would. I mean, who wants to go to Brooklyn anyway?) If you do choose to visit friends who live in far-flung places like Carroll Gardens, Sunnyside, and Astoria, be forewarned that you’ll spin into a jealous rage over their front-facing windows, proximity to trees and supermarkets that carry more than three types of cereal. Just forget it. It’s a fantasy land.

7. Do visit third-world countries.

If you get the urge to travel (and can actually afford it after enduring Numbers 3, 4 and 5), buy yourself a ticket to places where at least half the population lives below the poverty line. Or better yet, join the Peace Corps. After handing out bags of rice and jugs of water to families living in shantytowns and slums, you’ll come to appreciate the rodent-infested, 400-square-foot Lower East Side studio you call home.

8. Lastly…

Don’t move here.

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