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For years, my personal philosophy about buying home goods has been to spend as little money as possible. Oftentimes, this meant seeing something, like a chair or a bookshelf, on the street and dragging that item into my home, giving it a second lease on life. Furniture is expensive. Plates are expensive! Vacuum cleaners are expensive. Spending big money never made sense because the home I lived in was temporary; if I didn’t really care that much about the house in the first place, then why would I spend West Elm money on a sofa when the one I got for free from friends who moved away five years ago works just as well?
This philosophy, which has guided me for the majority of my adult life, was cast aside for a recent life shift. At the end of August, I moved out of the youth hostel-adjacent apartment that I’d lived in for ten years and into my own place. One month and change into this grand experiment has proven to me that everyone should live alone, for at least three months and possibly forever, depending on appetite for solitude. Currently, I’m swinging towards the latter, but come winter’s dark and the second wave of the pandemic, I may be changing my tune! Regardless: I had to spend a shitload of money on a bunch of crap to make this house feel like a home, but it has been worth every penny.
By dint of a miracle, I had just enough money saved to pay for all the things my heart desired, in one fell swoop. Also, now I care about my house and feel like I will live here for a long time; secondly, we’re gonna be stuck inside for a minute yet, and I’d like to live somewhere that looks NICE and feels good to me, and not to anyone else.
First, the boring stuff: a water fountain and food bowl for the cat, and a litter box. I also bought an inefficient trash can, a recycling bin, a bathmat that is too big for my very small bathroom, some silverware, and more bullshit for the kitchen that I can’t be fucked to remember. Of all the items in the boring category, many of which are too boring to enumerate, the two that bring me the most amount of joy are as follows: these Swedish dishcloths made of cellulose have made it so that I do not go through an entire roll of paper towels in one week and the Litter Genie, a disgusting bucket that holds all my cat’s excreta, which has made the both of us very happy, in different ways.
Ugh, I also had to buy stuff for eating and drinking. The glasses are from Target and are serviceable and fine. Plates are another story: In a fit of pique, I walked to the “vintage” store that is actually just a thrift store near my old apartment one weekend and bought all the plates I wanted, after looking at page after page of boring, white plates and feeling uninspired. These plates scream FUN because that’s what I am.
I hate doing anything for which I am drastically unprepared, so I tackled my move by making two lists of things that I “needed” immediately upon moving. The first list was for necessities—things that I convinced myself I would need the moment I moved in. This included a television, which arrived broken from Amazon, and had to be sent back from whence it came, two kitchen chairs, a rug, a bathmat, and a dish drainer. Surely, there were other, smaller purchases, all made in the first few days of living in my new place, for little things that I thought I needed and forgot about. Once I got all this crap into my new apartment and spread it out over the four rooms, I realized I needed more.
It was my intention to furnish the apartment completely pretty much immediately upon moving in, because there is something very depressing to me about sitting in an apartment surrounded by boxes and garbage. I wanted the apartment to be turnkey immediately as if staged by someone with my precise interior design aesthetic. Unfortunately, life does not work this way, and so I armed myself with my credit card and trotted off to Dobbin Street Co-Op, a vintage furniture store I follow on Instagram that is conveniently located very close to my new home. Though the phrase “vintage furniture store in Brooklyn that sells primarily on Instagram” screams “EXPENSIVE AND OVERPRICED, BITCH,” I have found that the items I bought were well within my comfort zone, which hovers in and around $100. In an embarrassingly short amount of time, I purchased two floor lamps, a coffee table, a side table, and a bedside table. Each of these items cost under $100. Yes, I dropped the glass top to the side table near a sidewalk sale on the way back to my apartment, and yes, I was a little bit afternoon-stoned, and yes, I cut my foot and bled all the way back to my apartment.
Other purchases included three additional rugs—this furry thing to go in the “reading nook,” which mostly belongs to the cat, now, and then this rug, twice, in pale purple and “orange,” for next to my bed and the office, respectively. Oh, I also bought a desk, which is perfect for my needs and also was a huge pain in the ass to drag up two flights of stairs. I also had to furnish an entire kitchen’s worth of pots and pans, though my mother very generously sent me a Ninja blender/food processor/smoothie making machine, plus some other assorted kitchen items. Until I find the energy or the strength to pay more than $20 for a pot, I will live with the various pots and pans I’ve purchased from the dollar store DII, as well as the wok and the cutting boards I got at Marshall’s. The high of being able to buy big-ticket items, like furniture, wore off by the time I needed to buy a lasagna pan for the eggplant parm I made the other night, so DII is my new go-to for, hm, everything? Seems okay for now!
I would be remiss if I did not mention this lamp, which I saw while seeking refuge in the air-conditioned interior of an electronics store in my neighborhood. It defies explanation, but it is important to note that when I first saw it, someone else had claimed it, per the index card with the name and phone number attached. After a brief conversation with the owner, I came back two days later, he called the number, and the woman on the other end pretended not to know who he was? It doesn’t matter, I bought this lamp. It was kismet, and also, I can sell it for like, $300 when I am short on rent.
Thankfully, my friend who vacated the apartment and generously gave it to me sold me her couch, a clothing rack, and the massive wardrobe that serves as my closet, as the only closet in the apartment is a triangular space filled with all of my coats, a pile of indoor shoes, and all of my reusable shopping bags. This means I did not have to buy a couch, which is a furniture item that costs way too much money for my comfort. A couch doesn’t have to cost $1,000, but all the couches I could possibly want seem to cost this much or more. Therefore, I will sit on the sofa that came with my apartment until it is so worn that I am sitting on the floor. Or, I will find a bucket of money that is not destined for my savings account and get a new couch. For the moment, the couch stays in the picture.
Feeling panicked at the site of bare space, I decided to fill the space with plants, because the cat is tired of being the object of my nervous energy and is sick of my shit. I bought a Boston fern, a monstera, an anthurium, a golden oxalis, a fish hook plant, a rat-tail cactus, a pothos, and a pitcher plant, from various plant suppliers. There’s a big nursery in the outer reaches of Brooklyn that supplied most of the big boys, but there’s also a good deli nearby with a robust plant selection and a bougie plant store that I, again, found on Instagram. Thankfully, I am nearly out of space and will not fritter away my coins on beautiful items that I will certainly kill. My Boston fern is a particular concern; I mist it every day and will do so until I get a humidifier.
My house is now a home. Technically, I don’t need anything else, but the siren call of interior decorating and also “nesting” is strong and I am weak to resist. I will optimize until I die in this apartment, surrounded by my things. It’s how I want to go out. It’s how it should be.