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December 18, 2014
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The first apartment; How to decorate on the cheap

TRR photos by Isabel Braverman


There’s a first for everything, and recently I encountered one of my firsts—the first apartment (as an “adult”). I moved from my family’s home to a two- bedroom apartment on Main Street in Narrowsburg with my boyfriend. We were excited to have our own space and be able to fill it with whatever we wanted. And thus the decorating process began.

Being a young professional (or “yo pro” as it’s called), and not having the bank account of a seasoned worker, money was the main factor in choosing our furniture, dishes and everything else. With limited funds, we first looked for free items. Luckily, we were met with generous donations from friends, family and co-workers. Our other options were thrift stores and looking into our families’ storage. We scoured Tim’s family’s barn and found old tables, chairs and other odd heirlooms, like a World War II era first-aid kit and an original Burroughs adding machine. We went through my dad’s shop that housed all kinds of treasures from my grandpa’s old house—furniture, dish sets, lamps and more—and picked out things my mom didn’t want to sell.

Then, we made a trip to Honesdale to check out the Salvation Army and our friends’ thrift store A Picker’s Find. At Salvation Army we bought a $10 coffee table and $25 couch. Score! At A Picker’s Find we picked up some old cooking utensils and plates.

In the depths of the store I was happy to find two paintings of ballet dancers in cool Victorian looking picture frames. (Perhaps I should say that I have been a life-long ballet student.) This began our “art collection” and I jokingly added a portrait of Patrick Swayze to it that I found at a yard sale in Port Jervis for $1. (The owner was sad to see it go, but said she must part with it after his death). There was a town-wide yard sale going on that day that my brother and I checked out, calling it “yard sailing.” I also found a microwave for $5 that looks like it belongs on a space ship, and some giant mugs.

Then came the free stuff. Eileen from the office gave me a coffee pot (after a few groggy mornings sans coffee), a crock pot and a tub-full of kitchenware from her friend. Another co-worker, Jane, gave me a colorful mat that we put by our front door to put shoes on. My boyfriend’s mom took us shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond to decorate our bathroom, and I picked out a cool silver and white shower curtain with a matching bath mat, as well as a stainless steel garbage can and toothbrush holder.

She also generously gave us window curtains, in a whimsical shimmery blue color for the bedroom. Our neighbor gave us a small round wicker table and two chairs for our kitchen, and an air conditioner.

After keeping our clothes in suitcases for way too long, we took the dresser from my old room, and one from my parents. However, it wasn’t enough to hold my overflowing wardrobe, so I took a trunk that I used for storage to use as a makeshift dresser. The extra bedroom is the music room and there is also a piano in the living room. (It came with the apartment.)

However, all of these things came at different times. When we first moved in, we had a bed and the couch. And it was enough. It was an interesting feeling, to live somewhere that doesn’t feel like home yet, that would take getting used to. It made me question, what makes a home? Is it what you put in it? Or who is in it? As the Edward Sharpe song goes, “Home is whenever I’m with you.” And though we didn’t have many things, we had each other.

We spent the first night filling the fridge with the only thing we had, apple juice, and making grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner, and then sitting in silence to take it all in.

Tips for thrifty decorating


Reduce:

Moving is the perfect opportunity to go through your things and sort out what you really want, and get rid of things you don’t. Moving into a new place gives you a clean slate, so go in with few possessions and an open mind.
Re-use:
Look through your storage or family and friends’ storage to find things they don’t use anymore. Also, make a list of what you need and ask them if they have anything lying around. You’ll find that they’ll be happy to help (and to get rid of things).
Recycle:
Thrift stores, pawn shops, yard sales, Craigslist, EBay and other websites are great resources. There are even Facebook groups like Sullivan Swap and Wayne County PA Totally Free Stuff where users post photos of items they are selling or giving away and you arrange to meet them to pick it up. Also, when clearing out your own things, remember to donate them, give them away or sell.