Nothing can make you despise your rental quicker than excessive noise. Like when you discover you have the kind of neighbors who do intense cardio at 6:30 am or that your apartment is on a direct ambulance route. Instead of laying awake at 2 a.m. dreaming of a house in the country where the silence is almost deafening, combat loud neighbors and city traffic with real-life solutions.

First, communicate

If the noise problem is your neighbors, sometimes communicating is the first and only step you’ll need. Personal anecdote alert on this one: I once lived on the top floor of an old apartment building. Eventually I found out that the person living below me was actually an acquaintance. We saw each other frequently and once I asked her if she ever heard me.

‘Yes,” she answered bluntly, “a lot.”

It’s the worst being on the other side of the problem; you feel horrible and now you can’t hold onto your smug annoyance when other people are loud. As we talked, she said that she didn’t care about music or people walking around BUT she did admit that the sound of my drawers slamming shut woke her up every morning.

Once I knew that, it was obviously not a huge deal to fix the problem by leaving them open or taking things out the night before.

Block it out

Ear plugs are the most basic solution here, and there are plenty of cheap ones that will do the trick. Slate tested the best ones out for you already and came up with a winner for comfort and effectiveness. Pop these in when you need to get some work done or want to concentrate on a good book.

The downside to earplugs is that sometimes sleeping in them can be equally annoying as the noise. That’s when it’s time to get a white noise machine
or a fan.

The machine that works best for you might depend on your environment. For example,  I live in the desert so I like to be lulled to sleep by the gentle gurgle of a humidifier in winter and a really strong window A/C unit in the summer.

Another small thing that can help is hanging heavy insulated curtains up to block sound or moving plants in front of your window to absorb some of the noise pollution.

Rearrange your furniture

If the noise is coming from next door or a street-facing window, change your habitat around to accompany that. Move the bed to a wall with nothing next to it (if possible) or put heavy bookcases against walls that you share with noisy neighbors.

One caveat: do not do this late at night or you will become the hated neighbor.