Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to Move with Nothing: Furnishing Your Apartment

Almost a year ago, I moved across the country with almost nothing. No job. No home. One boyfriend. Very few possessions. Within a month, I found a place to live and a job.

Now, I want to document how you can furnish your new place for cheap. You sold your possessions. You just barely got a job and have little leeway money to go out and buy furniture. You don't want to continue sleeping on the floor. You'd like a toaster and chair in the kitchen. What to do?

*The only downside to these options is that, if you can't carry it yourself and you don't have a pick up, you'll have to find a friend to transport the bigger items home.

Secondhand Stores
This may seem obvious, but many times people forget about their options. You're in Walmart or Target buying food and you pass the kitchen wares section. The toaster oven is on sale and you needed one anyway. Might as well get it while you're here.

You have other cheaper options. People donate many types of electronics and kitchen utensils still in good working condition. Some are still even in the box! Just check them over for rust or too much wear and tear. Usually there's some test outlets to plug it in.

The list of secondhand stores goes beyond the usual Salvation Army and Goodwill too so comparison shop. ReStore, a Habitat for Humanity company, has gently used furniture at super low prices. ARC Thrift Stores usually have clothes and furniture. Then, there's all the local small thrift stores that a quick Google search can bring up in your area.

Craigslist Free 
If thrift stores are still too expensive, you'll probably also check out Craigslist furniture. If you look closely, there's also a FREE stuff section where people are literally giving away their possessions.

Before you buy or pick up any items, check to make sure they are sturdy and free of pests. Make sure wood doesn't have rot or signs of termites, cloth furniture is free of bed bugs, and there are no large holes where small rodents or cats could have stowed away.

Give it a sniff test for pesky odors like pet urine, cigarette smoke, or mold and mildew especially if it has been sitting outside for any length of time.

Dumpster Diving
Ew! But, really? In many large apartment complexes you'll find that neighbors will "throw away" good pieces of furniture when they move because it won't fit in their vehicle or it's slightly damaged.

I say "throw away" here because the furniture won't actually be in the dumpsters, but beside them. They'll lean up mattresses, roll out chairs or tables, or set dressers and bookshelves out on the curb at the end of their lease. Even old boxy TVs lounge forlornly in the heat. (If the electronics don't work, usually a YouTube video can tell you how to fix it.)

A quick drive around the complex at the end of the month can set you up with a full living room or at least a place to sit other than the floor. However, I recommend checking your local law on what's trash and what's not.

Dumpster Diving is a grey area in the law so take precaution.

  • Do a dry run and take note of the things you see that you might want.
  • Only take things that are clearly abandoned. Don't go into a dumpster. Usually there's all kinds of precautions and warning signs posted telling you not to get into a dumpster. 
  • If the furniture fits in the car, grab it and put it in. Assess its damage at home in your own parking spot. 
  • Stick to your stomping grounds. Local colleges can have great finds but you don't want to be caught for trespassing.

Whenever you bring a new item home, give it a through wipe down with antibacterial wipes or sprays depending on the material it's made of. Whenever you move again, most of these things can be donated, sold, or left out on the curb for other people. Remember to pay it forward.

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