Best housewarming gift for small apt living?
April 9, 2015 10:10 AM   Subscribe

A friend recently downsized from a large house to a small apartment near the beach. That makes two adults and a dog living in a (700 sf? I can't be sure) home. What is a gift that I could give that wouldn't just be clutter, or better yet could improve their household? Obviously it should be small, and it has to be something the TSA won't confiscate because I will be flying across the U.S. to visit.
posted by Monochrome to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Very difficult to say, if you haven't seen the space. I live in a similarly-sized apartment, and pretty much anything that doesn't have a specific space and function gets tossed. I would actually recommend a gift certificate to a storage place that specializes in tight spaces, like Ikea, the Container Store or even Target often has some great stuff.
posted by backwards compatible at 10:20 AM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Do they like to cook? You could buy them a multipurpose kitchen gadget that fits in a drawer. Or a slim shelf for their counter to give them more counter space (I have a bunch of these and they're nice to have in a small kitchen). And you can store that in your suitcase so TSA won't be an issue.
posted by patheral at 10:21 AM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: A gift certificate to a local restaurant, or some other kind of local delicacy that you could perhaps procure on arrival! Or by calling in advance & coordinating via phone / internet?

I live in a very small space so have to be quite particular about what comes in to stay, and don't like receiving "items." But neighbourhood gift certificates would be a great way to help a person start feeling "at home" and connected with their new digs!
posted by crawfo at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

Fancy light switch cover(s)?
posted by sageleaf at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: When we downsized, we found we had to be really creative about storage solutions; the bulk of our purchases after moving had to do with buying storage in some way, from pull-out shelves in the kitchen to hooks for hanging up tools.

Do they live near a Container Store or something similar? (Container Store items can also be ordered online.) It might not be as personal, but a gift card to a place like the Container Store that helps them out with solutions to living in a small space might be really appreciated. If they purposely downsized as an lifestyle decision, they might be having trouble with people not understanding it, and it's a gift that shows support; if it isn't a lifestyle decision but a financial one, then it's a practical idea that might be really needed.
posted by barchan at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: Look for housewares designed for RV camping. My mom works for an RV parts manufacturer, and our house is full of like collapsible dustpans and impossibly thin cutting boards and such.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:34 AM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: Something they won't have to find a home for after you leave... Food! Send a food gift basket in advance with stuff that will be consumed during your visit. Wolferman's does nice breakfast gift baskets.
posted by cecic at 10:35 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Why not buy a bottle of wine or flowers when you get there?
posted by Ideefixe at 10:35 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

We live in a similar-sized place, and honestly the best gifts we have received from visiting guests are consumables -- so think fancy tea or coffee beans, special chocolates, etc. etc. In this case, a dog bone/toy that will get chomped and enjoyed and then tossed would also be a nice touch. (We're cat people, but kitty treats/toys are always welcomed.)
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:37 AM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Honestly, any physical object (even food, if you're not 100% sure they'll love it) is going to clutter their space. They live in a new neighborhood -- is there a coffee shop or cafe nearby that you can get them a giftcard for?
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 10:40 AM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

If you don't want to go with a gift card or consumables, I would suggest drink coasters in some design related to their interests or their decorating style. Very small and very useful.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:43 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: White, over the door, hanging hooks, otherwwise, gift certificate to trendy accessories place, or favorite online spot for artistic item of their choice. Downsizing implies they have exactly what they want, but maybe new needs that are due to the eccentricities of their new space.
posted by Oyéah at 10:50 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Speaking of fancy switch covers... these have nightlights and usb power plugs
posted by patheral at 10:55 AM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If they're near the beach... aquarium membership? Intro sailing lesson? Dinner boat cruise, if it's that kind of beach? Experiences are awesome. :)
posted by joycehealy at 11:02 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Two adults and two dogs in about 500 sq ft here. I'd say: Container Store gift card, hooks of various types (I like this one for dog stuff), a label maker, cable organizers/ties, or a magnetic spice rack or knife strip.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:10 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

nthing just get flowers or wine/preferred beverage.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:22 AM on April 9, 2015

I live in a 600 sq. ft apartment and am a big fan of de-cluttering. I don't like receiving things that will take up space because I already have everything I need for everyday use. Consumables would be the way to my heart.

I love the idea of fancy light switch plates. We have been gifted two awesome ones over the years and they're great because they don't add clutter. ThatCanadianGirl had a great suggestion with the coasters too. We were gifted some that look like little vinyl records and they're pretty awesome.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:25 AM on April 9, 2015

We have a magnetic knife rack and it's changed how we live/cook! Slightly exaggerating, but I am convinced I cook better just because I get my knives now from above the sink on this amazing fancy looking horizontal magnet, instead of a drawer. ;)

Or, a beautiful plant?

We live in a really small space but we love plants, and we have over two dozen all over the place. Depending on your friend, a really nice houseplant (aloe vera is beautiful and useful, and really difficult to kill) might work out nicely! It can go on the kitchen table/window sill/small nook with some access to sunlight (possible if they live near beach, I am assuming?)

This might help if you think plants is a good option. As you are flying, this might be something you buy on-site, or check out some plant shops in the neighbourhood via internet before you go.
posted by stumblingthroughitall at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2015

Go to and order the triple coated almonds shipped to their address, to arrive the same day as you. Go ahead and purchase 3 boxes. Trust me, they will love you forever.
posted by myselfasme at 1:16 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Super efficient LED Light Bulbs. Chances are there are plenty of cheap incandescents in the house that will die soon and you save them energy and heat load for the next decade or so.
posted by nickggully at 1:39 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another small-space person suggesting you do not bring any permanent objects. People get very creative with maximizing their small spaces for how they use them, so "compact" or "multi-purpose" might not really work with whatever system they've come up with.

I know gift cards aren't that exciting, but I agree that a gift card to a place like The Container Store or Bed, Bath & Beyond would be a good gift. (I'd lean towards BBB because sometimes organizing a small space can be stressful and frustrating and at BBB they could replace an old frying pan or even stock up on shampoo!) Edibles are also good, and if they don't eat out much a night away from the small space might be appreciated.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:39 PM on April 9, 2015

if they like tea and you decide to go the consumables route: this is the best gift tea.

this might be a little odd to buy for someone else, but nice new towels (hand towels/tea towels, or house/beach towels) are something even small apartments need.

if you know whether they will have to pay for coin laundry machines, maybe wrapping up some tea towels with a nice laundry soap and a couple rolls of quarters could be weird/cute yet insanely practical. (I like Charlie's Soap but it feels a little extravagant whenever I buy it because it's kind of pricey.) it could also be a humorous "welcome to apartment life!" kind of thing. (this would be assuming they don't have their own machine in such a small space)

can you tell what chore i am avoiding today
posted by ghostbikes at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2015

Something consumable. Coffee, for example.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:01 PM on April 9, 2015

Well, bread and salt are traditional (along with wine). Stick with consumables, whatever you do. Wine and/or champagne are great, but you'd need to stop and pick that up once you left the airport (or ship some in advance, if they live in a state that allows shipment of alcohol). You could also go for things like fancy soaps or bath bombs, if their small apartment has a tub and not just a shower.

I would try really hard to avoid giving them anything that will take up space, because small spaces require aggressive decluttering. When we lived in a small apartment we didn't have much storage space, so every single item had to earn its place.
posted by fedward at 6:00 PM on April 9, 2015

Fancy version of the following :

Scented candle

Voucher for dinner out
Cleaning service
Tickets to a show
Something for the dog
posted by shazzam! at 2:49 AM on April 10, 2015

BEach you say? A set of claw-crakers and a schucking knife.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:45 AM on April 10, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks, folks! I ended up going with a gift card for The Container Store. If I had more research time I would have gone with space saving kitchen tools or a voucher for some beach activity.
posted by Monochrome at 9:02 AM on April 30, 2015

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