The Living Room Evolution

When I moved down from Michigan, I had sold my house and most of my belongings.  Rather than carry them across the country to a new home where the décor may or may not work, I decided it would be far easier to let it all go.  That meant that when I closed on my new house, I had next to nothing to put in it.

During the month between moving down and closing on the new house, I stayed at my grandparents’ old house an hour south of my work.  My grandmother passed away in 2012, and my grandfather followed in 2015.  My mom and uncle inherited the house and have been using it as a vacation home, and they let me stay there through closing since no one else was using it.  I tried to acquire a couple things I knew I’d legitimately need but could easily transport, like a twin bed and frame.

The night before closing, I got my car loaded to the brim with stuff to move.  Directly after closing at noon, I brought the first car load of stuff over and just emptied it into the living room before driving south again.  The first load did include a twin sized bed for the bedroom, so I could actually sleep in the house now!  I made it back by 4pm, and got the car loaded for a second trip.  The second load carried all my kitchen stuff and clothes (not packed nearly as well as the trip down from Michigan) and other miscellaneous items.  I drove up, unloaded, and was heading back south by midnight.  The next morning, I loaded all the last items (including Jameson!) and finally drove home.

This was the pile of stuff
that fit in the car.
To a massive pile of stuff that had to be put away.  Yay!

I had $100 left in my checking account.  That was after taking out the 401k loan.  There wasn’t a lot of money left for new furniture.  Rather than stress about what I didn’t have, or finance new furniture when I honestly couldn’t afford it, I chose to appreciate what I had and make a game of finding what I didn’t at as low a cost as possible.

My first lucky find was a red couch from an apartment complex, a week and a half after the move.  It was posted in the free section of Craigslist, and I picked it up within two hours.  A couple was moving to a new apartment, and had no intention of getting rid of it, but found they couldn’t get it through the hallway of the complex.  They were devastated, but I was ecstatic.  First new piece of furniture acquired! (And it smelled amazing.)

A few days later, I brought home a gorgeous wooden executive desk with a return from my work’s furniture graveyard.  When I asked about it, they said it had probably been there for ages, and that it had likely been written off in the books already.  The departments had to pay a storage fee for it, “so they may want to get rid of it.”  It turned out they did!  It came from the executive floor and had been in storage for years.  They offered to sell it to me for $50, and the warehouse threw in a leather rolling chair and a dresser they were going to throw out.  Yes, yes, absolutely yes!  I put the return in the living room, and put the desk in the back corner.  I ended up selling the dresser.

When my mom and stepdad came to visit at Easter, they brought my small dining table and set of six chairs along.  I had held back on selling them just in case (because I really liked them), but had left them in Michigan just in case (because I didn’t want to drag the set down just to sell it).

After a couple months (and $0 contributed to the 401k...), I was back on good footing.  Next house project was a fresh coat of paint on the walls.  I used Rhino by Behr throughout the entire house.  I bought two 5-gallon buckets, and knocked the entire house out in four days.  I basically never wanted to look at paint again, but my house certainly felt a lot more like home.  Then I replaced the appliances, the faucets and shower heads, and the garage door opener.  It made a big difference, and the house looked really put-together between the paint and the stainless steel.

I managed to score a king-sized mattress and frame, and moved the twin size into the guest room.  I bought new sheets and a duvet cover from Bed Bath & Beyond for my bedroom.  I bought thin new blue curtains, rods, and two IKEA floor lamps ($25 for the pair on Craigslist).  I found a free wooden dresser that I painted blue and bought new hardware for, and I put that in my room as well.  

Next lucky Free Craigslist score: A basically-new light blue couch, an hour north of me.  A couple was redecorating the vacation home they only enjoyed four weeks each year.  The couch wasn’t even in the living room; it was in the entry way, where it was basically never used.  Huge win!  We had to bring it down a flight of stairs, but I roped a friend in who had a truck to assist.  At this point, I could have easily paid cash for all new furniture, but the habits and mindset (and winning my game) were firmly established.

The same friend had a fish tank they didn’t want anymore, so they gave it to me to enjoy.  I scored a free coffee table from a house around the corner from my work.  Another Free Craigslist find!  It looked a bit banged up, but it was sturdy and fit with the space.  I found a great king-sized bed and mattress set for the guest room, and four free sets of 500-thread-count sheets.  I ended up purchasing new comforters for the rooms.  This was about the point where I started renting out the house on Airbnb.

I had a listing that said “No TV” but confused guests nonetheless, because all houses apparently have TVs.  I thought I hit the Craigslist jackpot with a mammoth TV.  Nope, I brought it in and set it up and replaced the bulb, but the picture was out of focus.  To the trash, it all went.  

A friend from around the corner was getting rid of his tan couch, so he gave it to me.  That made the living room feel more comfortable.  Then I could put the dining chairs back around the kitchen table, which was also a win.  I also found a daybed and trundle from the Free Craigslist section, a futon on the NextDoor app, and a futon and wooden IKEA bunk bed from my local Buy Nothing Group.

Since I had started getting larger Airbnb groups at that point, I decided to upgrade the kitchen table.  I bought a clearance table from the local Ashley furniture for about $100 and bought a kitchen bench from IKEA for $80 that I stained dark.  The whole space felt like it flowed together really well.  

I broke down on Black Friday and bought a new TV from Target.  It was a 60-inch flat screen that I mounted to the wall.  I also bought a second TV and mount for outside on the porch.

The final crown jewel of my free Craigslist finds: the most comfortable chair I’ve ever owned.  It’s huge, and awkward, but it’s sartorially correct with the space and I never want to let it go.  Airbnb guests regularly fall asleep in this chair.

There were plenty of things I grabbed, brought home, and promptly put on the front porch (or the curb) to pass on to someone else.  I know there are things I’ve forgotten about, but that I snagged for free and later sold.  My furniture missions created a fun story (at least compared to “we bought it from the furniture store and had it delivered the next day”).  I realized I didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars to make my house feel like a home; time and patience took care of that for me.