How to start from square one to furnish a home?
June 12, 2011 1:30 PM   Subscribe

It's all come together. I am moving into my own place, what should I buy first when I need it all?

You all were a super support four months ago when I moved to Orlando with nothing. First I got a room for rent, then a job, that I love, as a newspaper reporter.
Now I am moving into my own beautiful house (rented), but I left everything in Tennessee- so I don't have a bowl, spoon or stick of furniture. What should I get first? Have to get it a bit at a time as the finances permit.
posted by srbrunson to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you sleeping? I would get a bed.
posted by litnerd at 1:37 PM on June 12, 2011

Yeah, bed is the first thing. Thats where you spend most of your time in a home.

Then it comes down to what you really want in your house first. I'd probably spring for kitchen stuff first, because cooking is pretty basic to my day-to-day, and cooking food at home can be a really good way to save money, to buy the things you like.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:40 PM on June 12, 2011

If you don't already have one, a comfortable bed. It can pinch-hit as a couch, card table, etc. until you get more furniture. Visiting friends will have something soft to sit on, and you can put up with a lot of other stuff if you're sleeping well at night.

After that I'd say a table and chairs, again so company has a place to sit and you can entertain, and with a very few kitchen basics, you'll be more inclined to cook for yourself instead of eating out all the time, which leaves more money for yet more household needs.

Thrift shops and garage sales are amazing for setting up a new place. Stuff like dishes, cookware, etc is pretty much a no-brainer. When it comes to furniture, really go over it carefully, and uh... smell it. I don't know how many couches and easy chairs I've seen at garage sales and thrift shops that, under a vanishing veil of upholstery cleaner, positively reek of urine. :( Bed bugs may also be a concern.
posted by xedrik at 1:41 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think acquiring a bed would be your first order of business. You can get by with just a mattress on the floor (but be sure to test them out on the floor first; floors are much harder than box springs!), but you'll want to at least be well rested when you go to work.

It looks like there are several freecycle groups in your area, and they can be a wonderful source for household items until you can afford and want to buy your own.
posted by DrGail at 1:43 PM on June 12, 2011

Yeah, watch out for bedbugs in Florida. If you want an easily-got mattress, we've been beyond happy with our Otis Moonshadow. It's relatively affordable, and if you decide to upgrade, you can keep it and use it as a futon sofa (we did that, but upgraded to a larger one, because it's just that comfy). They'll even deliver it to you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:50 PM on June 12, 2011

in this order:

bed + kitchen basics (pan, pot, dishes, cutlery)
kitchen table(s) + chairs
more tables + chairs as needed

it's not a bad idea to get plants early on, because it helps an empty apartment feel a little bit more friendly. but that list above are the urgent basics, after which you can really take your time getting helpful things that fit with how you want the place to look.
posted by molecicco at 1:52 PM on June 12, 2011

You should have a pot, a saucepan, a lid for each, a non-stick pan, at least two glasses, and two (realistically, four) forks/spoons/knives/plates/bowls. Get a basic pack of serving/cooking utensils (spend less than $10 for the first set,) pot holders, and a can opener.

At least one flat surface to eat on, one flat surface to sit on, and one surface to sleep on, plus sufficient blankets. You need at least one lighting source per room, though spare rooms can be dark for now; count the number of rooms that have no overhead lighting and get light right away. Two towels for the bathroom, two small ones for the kitchen. Reserve about $50 for the things you need to have right away that are consumable: shampoo, conditioner, all-purpose cleaner, paper towels, toothpaste, napkins, etc.

A camping chair can serve as a bed in a crisis and is cheaper than enough blankets to make the floor comfortable. You can also put the plate in your lap while you eat.

Once you have food, sleeping, bathing and sitting taken care of, solve the following problems in roughly this order:

- Laundry (basket, hangers, place to store the clothes)
- Working/Organization (a work table, a chair to sit at, place to put mail, place to hang keys)
- Entertainment/Leisure (bookcase, TV table, TV, etc.)

You don't need an ironing board until you have hangers, you don't need a TV until you have a place to set it.
posted by SMPA at 1:52 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Obviously a bed, and things to cook with and eat off of. But also, get yourself something pretty to look at. When I first moved in with my then-boyfriend, now-husband the house was a disaster of boxes and mis-matched furniture. I went out and got a few little African violet plants to put in the kitchen window. It was so nice to have something 'nice' to look at when the rest of the house was still a wreck.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:52 PM on June 12, 2011

I'll agree with most of what's been said here. FWIW, you can get an air mattress and pump for less than $30, if you find that comfortable to sleep on.

Table, chair, eating utensils, cooking utensils. Salt, pepper, oil, mustard, things like that. Cleaning supplies. A broom. A vacuum if you have carpeting or a rug.

When I found myself in similar circumstances, I quickly found that I went crazy without a bookshelf. Not enough for all my books, certainly, but I needed to be able to get at some of my books and impose some order.

Craigslist is your friend for furniture (if your car can transport it).
posted by adamrice at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2011

Get a decent chef's knife, surprisingly cheap.

Go to Target and get wine glasses and some votive candles and wine glasses and a peppermill.

Go to the supermarket and buy olive oil, garlic, parmigiano reggiano, pasta, and fresh vegetables and fruit. Also, do you have water? If your drinking water isn't good, buy a Brita filter or whatever.

Then buy some wine. Then you can get some interesting bowls and stuff from Goodwill and garage sales.

And then spend about six hundred dollars (300 each) on two halfway decent bookshelves, for whatever.

All of this is after the advice above to get a bed and some hangers and a place to put your clothes. And all of this is assuming you have toothpaste, and if not, get that first.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:01 PM on June 12, 2011

Response by poster: Actually, I do have toothpaste :-D, and a couple of clothes baskets and a couple of blankets, and there are two chairs in the house that were left that will do for now. So I do have a stick of furniture. There are curtains and miniblinds on the windows. No bed, but it is supposed to be good for your back to sleep on the floor (or so I've heard). Agree, though, the bed hopefully will be one of the first items. Definitely will need some pots with lids to cook in. Will hit garage sales, etc.
Thanks for all the helpful ideas!
posted by srbrunson at 2:08 PM on June 12, 2011

Best answer: I've got a rectangular (30"x40"ish) wooden kitchen table, white plastic-three-tier shelving, plastic three drawer carts, lots of hangers... a black coffee table...a glass side table... towels, kitchen storage containers... wine glasses...rose pattern shower curtain.... lots of other stuff packed away that I'm never going to use. I'm nearby, we can meet up this week if you want to see any of it.
posted by Jazz Hands at 2:08 PM on June 12, 2011 [15 favorites]

Get a bed, even if it's an air mattress. Sleeping on the floor is not comfortable for long periods of time.
posted by luckynerd at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2011

I would get a sofa and a coffee table before a bed, personally. That way you have somewhere to sit, eat and sleep. I love my bed, but I could probably live on my sofa. (Not necessarily a sofa bed, though. I'd never bother to put it back together and I think the sofa itself is more comfortable than the fold out kind.)
posted by artychoke at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Jazz hands- thanks for the offer- absolutely interested. Memail me and we can share contact info.
posted by srbrunson at 2:16 PM on June 12, 2011

Do you have friendly co-workers? I'd put the word out among them that you moved into a new place and are trying to set up house from almost scratch. You'd be shocked at how many people have extra dishes they don't use, or furniture taking up space, or towels and bedding from before they redecorated just packed away.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:17 PM on June 12, 2011

Response by poster: My co-workers are like my family- they are Wonderful! Just don't like to ask for things...
posted by srbrunson at 2:23 PM on June 12, 2011

What?! You aren't begging... you are doing your friends a favor by helping them get rid of perfectly useful stuff without them having to go to the trouble of sorting and pricing it and sitting out all day in the heat to maybe sell it for a few pennies at a yard sale.

Depending on the amount of free time you might have, you may also want to keep an eye on local auctions. Common household goods and furniture can be had for dirt cheap. Auctionzip is a great way to scout ahead without having to leave your house... just do a search for auctions within your zip code and flip through pictures at your leisure.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:34 PM on June 12, 2011

Do you have Freecycle where you are?

We've had all kinds of lovely stuff from Freecycle, including furniture, and the folks giving it away always seem to be falling over themselves to apologise for its non-brand-new condition, as if you were doing them a tremendous favour by getting rid of it.
posted by emilyw at 2:46 PM on June 12, 2011

Absolutely co-workers, or anyone else you know. It isn't begging, I mean look at jazzhands up there. I bet someone's excited to get all that stuff out of storage. Your co-workers are the same way.

You can even phrase it like, "Hey, I'm moving into my new place and I need to get some essentials/furniture, do you have any recommendations on where I should be looking?" If they have stuff they want to get rid of they'll let you know, of they might tell you about this awesome local store that they found so either way win-win.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:48 PM on June 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

All of the above are good suggestions, especially buying the bed first. However, I'd also suggest putting together a small toolkit with a hammer, pliers, screwdrivers (slot and phillips), a small wrench, etc. You'll find yourself using them more than you'd think.
posted by jessian at 3:05 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, to go along with jessian's tool kit. A tape measure! it's good to know if the stuff will fit where you want it before you bring it home!
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:15 PM on June 12, 2011

When I moved, I went to a Dollar Store to get a bunch of essentials that made the first few months bearable.

Go with $50. Get a bunch of stuff. While it may not last long, it is worth the time spent. And it won't be such a hit to the wallet when you want to upgrade to good stuff.
posted by lampshade at 3:28 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't feel like its begging to mention that you would like to know if people know where you could get stuff cheap (or free). I could easily supply a starter home with just about everything a person needs with all the spare stuff I've got, but I just get tired of so many no shows to pcik stuff up via freecycle, craigslist, etc., so here it sits, in my way.
posted by ducktape at 3:50 PM on June 12, 2011

Response by poster: Jazz Hands just shared a bunch of totally cool stuff: an air mattress, a kitchen table, dishes, coffee table and more. It was an unexpected blessing. Thank you!
posted by srbrunson at 5:21 PM on June 12, 2011 [9 favorites]

I agree with the lovely people that have suggested asking your co-workers. I used my network to furnish an entire apartment.

I disagree that the bed is the first thing you need. You should definitely stock up on essentials.

My moving-in checklist looks like this:

Garbage bags
Shower curtain
Toilet paper
Basic kitchen utensils

The rest is gravy.
posted by brynna at 5:39 PM on June 12, 2011

What do you think would make you most comfortable? I got a bed as quickly as I could when I moved into my current place, because I don't like feeling like I'm in-between things. On the other hand, I have a friend who's pretty minimalist and doesn't care about that sort of thing, so I think she's still sleeping on an air mattress a couple of months in to a new place.

Other than that, kitchen stuff is probably good advice as well.
posted by Rinoia at 5:51 PM on June 12, 2011

I once went to a housewarming party where everyone was asked to bring a plate (from Goodwill or whatever) to leave behind. The host could cook enough to feed everyone, but he didn't have more than 4 plates, all of which he used as serving dishes.

It was great because it left the host with an awesome assortment of unique plates that also served as a great memory of the party and the friends who came. From the guest's perspective it was awesome because it saved us from wondering what to bring/give as a housewarming gift, and the answer was really pretty cheap.

We mostly sat on the floor to eat, but there were pillows/rugs to sit on, and it didn't really matter.
posted by nadise at 7:44 PM on June 12, 2011

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