When I arrived in September, Tim was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, was using a cardboard box as a night stand, and had three whole pieces of furniture in the apartment. One of those was a lovely bed he acquired for Sophia (better than the one he was using, God love him), but otherwise, he was living an incredibly Spartan life.
As our whole life worth of stuff was at the time — and continues to be — stored in a Pod back in the Midwest, we had to figure out how to make our accommodations comfortable without replacing our beloved belongings permanently while still enjoying good quality pieces. It was a puzzle, and I love puzzles. I have a crazy affinity for untying knots.
We’d used Craigslist to get rid of a bunch of our stuff in St. Charles, so we just reversed the process out here. While Tim worked, I went on the hunt; I scoured Craigslist for free and inexpensive pieces to populate our new, much smaller home. Did you know you could find free things on Craigslist? I don’t know what the listings were like in Chicagoland, but here in Portland, the free-stuff list and FreeCycle appeal to the pervasive “reuse/recycle” ethic. I was stunned at some of the things I saw listed (granite topped kitchen island on wheels: antique solid wood drafting table: flat-screen 42″ TV), and thrilled with what I’ve found. So happy, in fact, that I may have trouble deciding between these pieces and the things in the Pod.
Tim kept a list somewhere of everything we bought, but I don’t know where to find it. Off the top of my head, looking around the living/dining room, here’s a list:
Microfiber couch with chaise: free
Low-profile media cabinet: free
Tall lamp: free
Modern upholstered armchair: free
Hardwood, modern dining table: $40
Dining chairs: free (fabric to recover seats: $2.50)
Glass-front mid-century recycling storage cabinet: $10
Bookshelf (our departure staging area): free
Solid brass piano pedals, used as hooks for our jackets: free
Soothing chimes decorative box-thing: free
Wood frames used as decoration: free
Double-sided vintage tall library shelf cart on wheels: free
Wheeled file cabinet/drawer unit: free
Leather storage ottoman: free
Leather storage box: free
Table lamp: $5
Large round birch-framed mirror: $5
It would be easy to assume these pieces are ratty looking, but I have been very selective and have stuck to a plain, mid-century, rather masculine aesthetic, a departure from my previous rustic preference.
The room I’m most proud of is our bedroom. We went from a rather uncomfortable full-sized mattress to a plush, supportive memory foam mattress, on which I enjoy the most delicious sleep I’ve ever had.
From the top left, here’s the list.
Lingerie cabinet: free
Blown glass plate where I store my spare change: free
Leather storage hatboxes: free
Etagere lamp: $10
Solid-wood desk w/dovetail joints, leather top: free
Ladies’ wingback slipper chair: $10
Cheval mirror: $12
Basket of lavender: $4 (cost of plant)
Leather storage bin: free
Memory foam dog bed with water-repellant fuzzy cover: free
Bicycle and helmet: $30 (parts to adapt handlebars to Tim’s comfort)
Curly willow branches: free
Memory foam mattress: free
Organic sheets: free
I don’t have the tools or space to do some of the gorgeous renovations I’ve seen some of you do, but I’m happy with the results. The bedroom is comfortable, airy, welcoming, and peaceful. I love the view from my desk, (and I love the desk!) where I write when the weather keeps me inside. The room is uncrowded, which is important to me, but still has enough storage for all of our clothes. Granted, we don’t *have* all of our clothes yet, but there’s an argument to be made that I’ve made it a whole year without most of my old clothes, so I imagine I’ll be tossing quite a few of them when they arrive this fall.
Or maybe I’ll put them on Craigslist. Who knows.
I am rather proud of the work I did making this place a home for us, and even more proud of the fact that I did it for almost nothing. Plus, I had to drive all over Portland to pick up everything, so I quickly became familiar with the roads and neighborhoods of this quirky town. Nothing teaches you how to find your way like getting lost.
And I’ve met some really cool, fun people along the way. Two different people were moving to Hawaii; guess once you’ve lived in heaven, the only other place to live is Hawaii. Most of the people I’ve met just believe in the idea of sharing what they have, of passing along good karma by giving things away. That has taught me the most about Portland. I haven’t met any mercenary types, people out to get a quick buck off of their crap, just independent, free thinkers who believe we’re all in this together, so we might as well help each other.
The coup de grace has been the dresser I found for Matt; it’s a vintage waterfall dresser in really good shape.
It could use a couple of new drawer pulls, and maybe I’ll refinish it someday, but the woman who gave it away had such a wonderful attitude; she just didn’t need it anymore, and wanted to give it to someone who needed it and would enjoy it. It will always live in my guest room as a reminder of the kindness and openness I have found here.
As for the “danger” involved in picking up items on Craigslist…in nearly a hundred encounters, I’ve never sensed any threat or danger. I typically communicate with the person in advance, and if I am hesitant for any reason, I take my husband along, but that’s only happened a handful of times. There have been two pieces that were duds, one of which reeked of pot, and I had to turn around and ditch them poste haste. Otherwise, my Craigslist experience has been very positive.
Our financial situation used to get me down, but when it was pointed out to me that this is how we’ve chosen to live, my perspective shifted, and I started really enjoying the process of making our life fit us.
Craigslist hunting stimulates my creative thinking, helps me see possibilities when things aren’t easy. Making our home comfortable and functional and beautiful for a very small amount of money has been a great joy for me.