Filling an Empty Apartment

I recently moved into a 900 sq ft two bed, two bath apartment in another city after living in an apartment furnished almost exclusively by my former roommate. When I moved, all I took with me was the bed I bought off her, two bookcases, my computer and everything that goes with it, a toaster oven, and a litterbox for the two kittens I had gotten just the week prior. I didn’t even have a fork or plate to eat with at the time and in the two weeks since, not much has changed.

I have plenty of money to spend once I actually get around to stocking my new home (~$15,000 but I’d like to keep as much as I can to invest) but a) it’s a little overwhelming and I am not sure where to start and b) I’m putting off as much as I can until my roommate arrives from out of state in early March.

What I’m really looking for are ideas on how and where (is online an economically feasible alternative?) to buy good quality merchandise as cheap as I can; what items I, as a 24 year old bachelor with his first long-term living arrangement and no domestic skills, might find useful that I would never think of on my own; and just general advice on anything and everything you might want to share. How to take care of Julian and Sophie, my kittens, for example. I’ve had dozens and dozens and dozens of cats throughout my lifetime but these guys are the first that I, not my mom, am taking care of.

The obvious choice is local yard sales. They really get going in the Spring and summer though. “Estate sales” (someone died) and “moving sales” are the best for motivated sellers/great deals/good stuff.

I got a practically new couch, quite stylish for $45 an an estate sale. I got a microwave for $5 at a moving sale (I also got my two lovely cats from the same people, for free). Just a few examples.

Craig’s List can also be a good source. I sold a few things through that when I moved (a TV, a bookcase, a futon frame) for $75, $35, and $45, respectively.

Check thrift stores as well. Their furniture selection may or may not be great, but you can definitely get housewares there.

When you buy a couch, get a throw or a slipcover to put over it, as the kitty hair can be a real drag to keep up with. If you don’t feel like vaccuuming a lot, you’ll be better off washing the throw.

$15K will buy you a lot. Go to your local furniture stores and talk to the sales people. They are knowledgeable on what’s good, better, or best. They will tell you what grade you should be buying based on your budget and your needs.

You can get tons of great stuff off and SmartBargains. Sheets, pillows, dishes, coffee makers, etc. WAAAAAY cheaper than in regular stores. Check it out. It’s well worth it.

Figure out what you need first. Carpet? Curtains? Washing machine? Washing up machine? Iron and ironing board? TV? Table and chairs? What do you need for the kitchen? What is your flatmate going to bring?

Thrift stores are always good for furniture. Also check moving companies; some of them sell it on the side.

One good rule is don’t buy things you think you might need. Buy things when you realize you really need them, and you’ll buy about 50% less.

The only thing I really “need” at this point in time is a washer and dryer but only because I really don’t want to use the laundry room in my complex. I dislike laundromats of any variety.

Everything I own except for a couple trash cans is listed in the OP and my roommate’s not bringing much, probably just stuff for his room. This’ll also be his first time not living at home so he has even less experience than I do, which is minimal.

For design ideas, check out Home/Garden magazines at the checkout counter of the supermarket. Buy one or two, tear out the pics you like, and try to copy some of the color themes and pieces. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, ask a friend whose apartment you like to help you with a design/theme.

You really only need one focal point in each room, and they are typically the priciest, but as everyone has said, yard sales, Craigslist, and thrift stores are great places to find deals.

A word of advice: Don’t hang your pictures until you get your furniture arranged the way you want it. Otherwise, you’ll be moving them over and over again, punching unnecessary holes in the walls.

You could drop $15,000 at Ethan Allen in one afternoon and furnish your place with some good solid pieces, but why spend that kind of money when you don’t have to?

I forgot: You can rent furniture, too, to fill space temporarily with some functional pieces, but I don’t recommend it. They are expensive, and usually of poor quality.

If you would like to put a slipcover on your couch, it means you can buy an ugly one! My mom is giving me the old couch from the house for when I get an apartment in the fall and it’s really country-looking (not my style) so my roommate and I are getting a slipcover so we can match it to our tastes.

Basically you’re probably gonna want a couch, maybe a loveseat or a chair or two, coffee table, table to eat at (unless you prefer to eat on the couch/at the computer), bathroom/bedroom stuff (if you have a Kmart near you - the store sucks but the Marth Stewart line is pretty good for cheap shower curtains, towels, bedding etc).

After you get all the basics, don’t forget to decorate a bit. Some people don’t mind bare walls and tables, but I personally cannot stand going into someone’s place and it hardly looks like someone lives there - posters, paintings, pictures, etc.

IKEA is a wonderful place if you don’t mind assembling your furniture. At most you’ll need a screwdriver to put it together.

One other tip: Don’t buy furniture with a print or plaid fabric. It limits what you can do with the room when you get sick of it. Go with a good solid piece. You can change the look with pillows and throws when you get tired of it.

15 k will buy you a lot. I say, skip the thrift stores and yard sales, and hit the magazine rack first.

If you want stuff you’ll keep, look in architecture and home furnishing type magazines and find styles of stuff you like. If you’ve got a bed, a microwave, and some plastic dishes, that’s the basics, and you can gradually add things as you find what you like and see a need for them. Don’t make a big purchase until you know it’s something you’ll be happy with for a long time.

For instance, I went for the first 5 months in my new place without a sofa, because I had something in mind and just couldn’t find it, then had to order it and get it made. When I did, I paid what my family would say was an indecent amount of money for one sofa (~$900), but I got what I wanted and I love it. It’s the only sofa I’ve ever loved, and I smile every time I look at it. With the kind of money you’re talking about, you can also afford to get good furniture if that’s what you want. Look around, go to furniture stores and get ideas, check books and magazines, and then, buy what you need.

Same thing with kitchen stuff - different people have different ideas of what is a necessity. I have a whopping 4 things to cook in, because I just don’t cook that often, or that many things at one time, but people had suggested ‘you need this special pan and that special pan, and one of these and blah blah blah.’ Get what you need as you see a need for it. If you don’t drink coffee, don’t feel pressured to buy a coffee maker, just because every home needs one or someone you know can’t live without theirs.

The very basic kitchen, besides a plate, bowl, fork, knife spoon and drinking glass for everyone who might need one, would include:
Mixing bowls
measuring spoons
measuring cups
1 10 inch skillet
1 2 quart saucepan
1 5 quart pasta pot (also good for soups, chilis, etc.)
2 wooden spoons
1 rubber spatula
1 pancake turner (spatula)
1 4-sided cheese grater
2 cutting boards (one for meat, one for everything else)
the nicest, most expensive set of knives you can afford. Don’t go cheap here! Should include a paring knife, a chef’s knife, a utility knife and a bread knife.
1 vegetable peeler
1 kitchen timer

(You don’t need all this, of course. But if I was your girlfriend and couldn’t find at least this stuff in your kitchen, I’d be a lot less enthused about hanging out at your place so I could cook for you and have sex with you afterwards. Just something to think about.)
After that, it’s all optional. I wouldn’t like to live without
A food processor
a toaster oven
a microwave
a digital prope thermometer
a Vita-Mix
a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer
a George Foreman-type indoor grill
a colander
a funnel
food storage containers

Then, of course, is the category called: “I never realized my mom actually had to buy this stuff”, which includes:
alluminum foil
plastic wrap
waxed paper
Ziploc bags of varying sizes
paper towels

i am in the process of furnishing an apartment as well. i’ve found a lot of We’re Moving sales on eBay with complete living/dining/bedroom/etc. sets including lamps and plants and matching accessories and such. i’ve seen them priced between 1K-2.5K. Worth the price, IMO.

We finally bought furniture and went with semi-custom. Our sofa and chair cost around $1300 and we spent another $1300 on a leather recliner. But we love them and they’re guaranteed forever. The frames, cushions, seams, springs. If there’s ever a problem with the cushions getting smooshed out of shape, they replace them. It’s a great investment. I’ll never buy cheap furniture again.

Do you have cable service and a tv? If so, start watching HGTV and the DIY network for tons of “trash to treasure” and basic design ideas.

If not, there’s alot of magazines out there to help tell you what you need. If you’re a dude don’t be afraid of checking out GoodHousekeeping and Woman’s Day. They don’t just discuss breast cancer and sunday dinner :wink: Go to the library and see what they have. Full of ideas - and shiny pictures!

If you have new kittens, I wouldn’t buy fancy new furnature yet. Or fancy window drapes either!

If your new place has carpet you’ll need a vacuum cleaner. Don’t buy the cheapest one you can find, it’ll crap out in two years.

You’re going to have to mop sometime. If you don’t want to do it “hands and knees” style, you need a mop. Every mop I have ever bought sucked for various reasons. My step-daughter bought me a Swiffer Wet-jet, it sucks WAY less than anything else I’ve used. Make sure to buy extra pads and cleaning solution.

You need a microwave oven
You need some oven mitt things (hot pads)
You need another kitty litter pan (one per cat)
Do you have a Vet for the kitties?
A toilet cleaning brush
Some light bulbs
A plunger! When you need that, you need it bad!

Well, that’s a weird list!

How well do you know your new roommate? You might want your own TV and DVD player for your room in case you end up with totally different movie watching tastes.

Your kitties need some hiding and playing things. Cardboard boxes with towels in them will do just fine. Do you have towels?

I could go on and on…

Hope you are all healed-up and feeling well. Enjoy your new place!


Talk to the apartment manager.

My FIL manages a large apartment complex here in town, and when my wife and I we starting out we used to have a monthly ritual. Towards the end of each month, as people would begin moving out, it was furniture trade-in time for us. You’d be amazed at how many people move away and leave behind very nice furnishings. It got to the point that we were upgrading our living room set nearly every month.

Point is, people leave things behind. The managers and apartments complex workers are going to get first-pick on the stuff, but there may well be some nice bones left for you. It can’t hurt to talk to the manager and request to be kept in the loop if anything pops up. He may be willing to give/sell you some of the spoils.

And of course, there’s always Freecycle as well.

Thank you for the tip! I find that nothing works but hands and knees so I will give the Wet-jet a try.