How to feel anchored

We have mice. We have had mice for a really long time and I tell myself things like every apartment in every big city has mice, but I’m not really sure if that’s true.

And also I think maybe I’m too old to live with mice. I mean, I’m definitely too old to be writing about having mice and maybe I’m even too old to even be having a blog except that only old people have blogs now which ends up being sort of comforting. I mean, at least I’m not too old to have a blog.

The last straw with the mice was not that my older son said he wouldn’t come home from college for Thanksgiving because the mice were too gross. I didn’t really believe he would have come home even without the mice. He’s too sick of us.

The last straw with the mice was when I had an in-person meeting for my startup and I was so excited because I am way higher functioning when I have a startup because I don’t know how to have friends unless I am working with them. And a mouse ran over one of the women’s feet and she screamed and we just stood there. We are so used to the mice we couldn’t even pretend to be shocked. I said, “Oh, yeah. We have mice.” Both women looked horrified, and then my younger son looked horrified, and I wanted to look like a good mom so I said, “We are really upset about the mice so we’re moving out soon.”

My son looked so relieved that I started actually looking for apartments.

Then I had this idea that everyone works remote now so I’m never going to get people to work in person unless it’s really fun to be in person. I had this idea that the future of work is that the workplace is a destination. Well, first I found a townhouse that was so so beautiful and then I had this idea. Like people could pay to stay with us for workshops or host offsites. I came up with a million ideas to find one that would justify living there and having the company pay.

But mostly I just fell in love with the townhouse. It hadn’t been lived in for fifty years. The owner bought it when the area was the Combat Zone. Uninhabitable. He only refurbished it recently, after the area has gentrified. We would be the first to live there again. Most of it is original from the turn of the century. And it’s furnished. Here are pictures.

I told the agent my company was leasing. He said the landlord has turned down a lot of tenants. I ignored that. I pleaded. I actually raised another $50K so we could put it in escrow to hold the place. The agent told me he checked my credit and he said nothing came up. “Do you have another name?” he asked.

I told him, “Yeah, remember, I gave you my other name.”

“No, I mean another besides your other name?”

“Just Adrienne and Penelope. That’s it. But I don’t have any credit so I guess I don’t have a credit report.”

Everyone writes about how startup founders are different because they’re relentless. I told myself to just be relentless.

So then we tried the company as a cosigner. Then an investor as a cosigner. A cofounder as a cosigner. We did everything. We did so much paperwork that it took three weeks. At the end of three weeks they said it was all set, and the landlord said okay. The agent took their fee, and I started packing.

I packed quickly. It was just down the street so I figured we could move the fragile stuff ourselves. I didn’t want to pay for packing materials so I used all our clothes to wrap the dishes. My younger son asked me where all his shirts went. I bought him two new shirts at Target and had them delivered by Shipt and told him he doesn’t need anymore shirts right now because we’re moving.

That was four weeks ago. Our stuff has been packed for a month. I am so sick of looking at those two shirts.

Then we got the lease and it said there is no heating system. My brother told me about the Governor of Illinois buying a mansion and pulling out the toilets so it’s uninhabitable and then he doesn’t have to pay property taxes. “Maybe that’s what your townhouse guy is doing,” my brother said.

Maybe. But then why is it still for rent? And what about the agent? The agent must know that they are showing people an apartment with no heating system. Is that fraud? I don’t even know. I mean, obviously I know nothing about renting anywhere because here I am, back with the mice. The mice are suddenly looking great.

I breathed such a sigh of relief when I signed the papers to launch the new company. I like being tied to other people. I like that people have to help me if I am in business with them. I can’t seem to do it in my personal life so I need to do it in my work life. It feels so lonely otherwise.

The thing that makes me relentless is that I can live without clothes or plates or books or other things. That’s easy for me. But it’s hard for me to live without a startup.

38 replies
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This post is sort of cart before the horse, isn’t it? When I got funding I was so happy and so relieved and I told myself I will post more on my blog now because I have solved my biggest problem which is that I don’t have stability because I don’t have a startup. But then I didn’t know how to write about having a new company because its the beginning of the company and at the beginning of the company you don’t totally know what the company is. It’s autism. Of course. And I have so so so much to say about autism I just can’t shut up. But I need to funnel that nonstop talk into the areas that will make money. So I’ll announce it here soon. But while I’m going on and on about the company and saying not really anything right now I do want to say that the earliest investors are so so amazing because what they do is give me time to think — to figure out what the company is and where we should focus and I love doing deck after deck after deck until I get it right.

      Okay. That’s all for now. More later. And thank you for asking.


      • Susan Saundercook
        Susan Saundercook says:

        accessible online assessment and diagnosis? alcohol recovery for autists? autistic merch with not only cool stuff on it, but well-worn and free of itchy tags? branded weighted blankets? autistic vacations? autistic dating app? I am here for all of this!! if i have guessed correctly, can I be your official copywriter/content creator? I’ve missed you!

  1. Jo
    Jo says:

    I had mice for 6 months, was awful, thankfully when I filled up the holes I found, the mice didn’t come back, fingers crossed. That apartment looks beautiful, hope you find another place soon. $11k a month, wow!

  2. Maria
    Maria says:

    Of course you have heat. The electrical heating registers were below the window in pictuees 9 & 12 and I didn’tgo further, look under the windows. Also you could have added electrical heat fireplaces which the landlord could have added. Your power bill would have been through the roof as each heating appliance draws 1800 watts.

    Mice are easy. Get a cat and a ratt terrier.

    Or do this: All you need is peanut oil and a bowl, see the video below.

    I am happy you are looking for a start up.

    I am rooting for you.

    • Maria
      Maria says:

      Sorry about the spelling and grammar mistakes. Between my low blood sugar and my gastro issues…

      and cell phone issues…

      I have coyote problems here no mice problems

  3. Tatianna M
    Tatianna M says:

    Congratulations! I’m so happy for you with a new startup. I think this is the classic problem with women with autism, we don’t know how to have relationships without some kind of purpose. Everyone in my life complains I work too much but work is everything when you’re living on the spectrum.

    Also get an exterminator, neuro normal people will never come to your home if you have mice.

  4. Joe
    Joe says:

    1.) Haveaheart trap (see if you can borrow from the local aspca?).

    2.) yes definitely plug up holes. it really works. around radiators and kitchen/bath pipes. those are the main spots.

    3.) my landlady downstairs swears by Bounce dryer sheets in areas where there are mice (under kitchen sink etc). we have no mice anymore.

    4.) make sure there aren’t opened cracker packages, crumbs, unwashed dishes, etc in the apartment. they are attracted to food.

    best of luck. i live in nyc so i totally understand. xx

  5. Tina
    Tina says:

    When I had mice two apartments ago, I posted something on social media and found out that everybody gets mice. It’s just something like abortions or miscarriages that no one talks about because there’s a stigma attached.

    Anyway, the keys for getting rid of or keeping mice under control is to plug up all holes in your wall with steel wool where the mice are getting in and out of your living space. (We knew they were living in the wall for a while, but then they got really brazen and started running across the kitchen counter and shit like that.) What are they eating? Make sure the dog food is secure for example. If you use those classic Victor mouse traps, line them up two or three next to each other so the mice can’t just get around one. Also, glue a fruit loop on the trap and apply the peanut butter to the fruit loop. This makes the mouse put its weight on the trap to get the peanut butter… otherwise it seems they can just lick everything off without triggering the mechanism. To dispose of mouse bodies, just leave them on the driveway or balcony and they will be picked up by birds. (The classic Victor traps are best because instant death and satisfying snap, the glue traps are gross because you have to still kill the mouse and they are less environmentally friendly as you can’t reuse them and feed the dead mice to wildlife.) Re-frame as fun project for your son?

    Re: lack of heat… I think it probably raises a habitability issue in Boston. Maybe that’s why the landlord wanted to rent to you as arguably a commercial lease if you were running a business there as you would probably have way less legal protections than under a residential lease. Who knows, Rich people are shady. Be thankful you dodged a bullet.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      The steel wool works for fat cockroaches too. That and bleach and leaving lights on in my bathroom 24/7 is the only way I manage to keep them out in my old and crowded building.

  6. harris497
    harris497 says:


    Good job getting back on the horse.
    You are someone who has a unique perspective and so you are different. Different is only appreciated when someone influential (socially, financially, or otherwise) acknowledges the value of their difference.
    We acknowledge your worth virtually, but you seem to have few people of influence in your social orbit, who touts you to your seemingly disconnected social group.
    I love your work, your perspective, and the fact that you challenge my paradigm. Do what you need to in order to stay sane.


  7. Joe Fecarotta
    Joe Fecarotta says:

    Fascinating idea to keep the company headquarters and your work together. I think a lot of things like churches and even multiple families will see this become commonplace. My question is the cost – it’s quite a leap from a mousey apartment to 11k a month. People like you amaze me – no matter what happens, making money doesn’t seem like much of a challenge. Congrats!

  8. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    It’s good that you’re relentless. That’s important. The fact that this place is still available and has electric heat (very expensive) is not a good sign though. The lease said the unit has no heating system. It makes me wonder if that terminology is used when there’s no central heating system such as a boiler or forced hot air. Also, the laundry and cooling feature entries on the website have a note that says, contact manager. So, check on that. And the parking says 2 spaces which don’t seem enough for what you have planned. They’re asking $11,500/month and the Rent Zestimate is 8,101/month. This four week delay comes across to me as an agent and a landlord that isn’t motivated to do a deal in a fairly expedient manner. It’s easy to tell you love this place. However, I would recommend stepping back and reassessing this place to be sure it fits the bill for your startup. It sounds like a key decision to me. I would be looking at other options and coming up with more options. I know you want this to happen yesterday but there are times to move slow and times to move fast and knowing which ones to do at what speed is key.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      Oh, and by the way, the photo of this post fits in very well with the text. Every time I look at this photo now, I’m looking for a mouse!

  9. Graham
    Graham says:

    My mother had mice in her kitchen. She used to feed them, which is the best example of a reframe I have ever heard about.

  10. Juliana Mann
    Juliana Mann says:

    Our mice went away when people with cats moved in downstairs, but they also tried to skin a skunk that they left rotting in our yard.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Interesting about the skunk. I did a lot of mouse research. We have an infestation in the building, I think. So I was thinking a cat would be the only deterrent big enough to handle the job of keeping my apartment mice-free. But when I read about cats and mice it seemed so complex. Cats, of course, never just come in a do a job. They do the job how they want to do a job. They are the OG of unmanageable employees.


      • J.E.
        J.E. says:

        I was wondering if others in your building are have mice as well and you answered my question. That presents the problem where even if your apartment is immaculately clean, if your neighbors have mice, they can get into your place. Has your building management done anything like call out pest control? If you were willing to spend the money to move, could you spend it on calling out pest control to your apartment? They could plug holes where the mice are gettingin. It can’t be more expensive than it would have cost for that townhouse.

      • mk
        mk says:

        I once lived in a half-finished basement apartment for 3 years; it had a lot of mice when I moved in. I don’t remember my cat ever catching a mouse, but as long as the cat was there, the mice stayed out of our living space. My cats tend to be former strays / abandoned, so maybe they developed their hunting skills before they came to us.

  11. Chris Yeh
    Chris Yeh says:

    I just think it’s so you, Penelope, to be the first person in recorded history to start companies because of the mental health benefits!

  12. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    First about the mice…'re%20a%20renter,their%20tenant's%20home%20of%20vermin.

    Second, instead of wasting more money than I have ever seen in my life, you need to get someone responsible and trustworthy to help you hire your own manager to help you navigate life. You are on the same track that involved you sending your kids to live with others a couple years back. You can’t blow the kind of money you do on rent (and in a crappy place no less) and expect to survive for long. You need to accept the limits of autism. In your case, limited social skills. I do admire your coping abilities but you need much more than that. And so does your family.

    Get someone to help you buy some land and have a tiny-ish house built for example…And I know cognitive rigidity is an issue with autism but you really need to live in an affordable area, too.

    Pretend your life is a start up business, and apply principles you know that work…to yourself…and see what happens.

  13. some founder here for lolz
    some founder here for lolz says:

    It’s very interesting that you don’t see how this post looks awful to a lot of investors, or you don’t prioritize it

    • Graham
      Graham says:

      It’s awful you assume that no investors value people as human beings who are courageous enough to show honesty and openness rather than showing only what they imagine investors might want to see.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      You’re right. It probably would look bad to a lot of investors. But if this post looked bad to an investor, I don’t think Penelope would be interested in having them as an investor. I doubt there’s much here, if anything, that looks awful to the current investors. I would think you would have to know or at least want to know a few things about autism if you’re planning to invest in a company regarding autism by someone who is autistic. Oh, and BTW, what have you founded?

  14. Tommy
    Tommy says:

    How do you know you have autism? My son’s counselor suspects that he does, but I’m not so sure. He is very high functioning.

  15. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    I lived with mice for 3 months when I lived off the grid in mexico. I was okay with it until they pooped in my sourdough starter. I caught them by balancing a paper towel roll on the edge of a trash car with peanut butter at the end so when the mouse would run through the tube the weight would tip the mouse and the roll into the garbage. Every morning, I would drive the mouse hotel across the campo to drop them off at their new home.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      Julie, that’s a good catch. I didn’t notice until your comment. So, I had to go back to the post where books are referenced – “The thing that makes me relentless is that I can live without clothes or plates or books or other things. That’s easy for me. But it’s hard for me to live without a startup.” It sounds like a relative statement to me. That is to say, startups are higher up in the list than books and other things. That is quite a statement, though, just the same.

  16. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    For mice, my condo building hires a pest company to regularly set black box traps in the basement. For traps, the company ma told me to get the ones with the yellow plastic square, not the usual tiny metal thingy. Not knowing the fruit loop trick, I put them head to head in pairs or triples so that if one doesn’t snap the others will. … Luckily, I only get one, just one, every two years or so. There are grassy fields all around where the mice live.

    Books are what I can’t live without, although I’ve tried, so I buy them faster than I can read. When I retire I hope to start reading the books in my storage locker. If perchance any are mildewed or mouse eaten, then that will be a blessing in disguise, as I have so many.

  17. Anna
    Anna says:

    For mice: peppermint oil (some people put them on a cotton ball). Mice can’t breathe due to the menthol effect so they stay away. We had a mouse in a small apartment for three months and I put peppermint oil near anything I really didn’t want it near. Finally we trapped it by putting a lot of sticky traps along the walls when we were out for a whole day.

  18. Anna
    Anna says:

    How could I have forgotten this?! My mom has these sounding devices that cost about $40 for six of them. They put out a sound at a pitch that mice can hear (not humans) but can’t handle and hate. It drives them away.

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