Short-term microapartment life
April 21, 2019 9:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving into a microapartment for 3 months. It will have a bed, mini fridge, microwave, chair and desk, but no other furnishings. What can I do to make it cozy without acquiring a ton of stuff to throw out at the end of the summer?

I've seen this question, which is super helpful. But I'm pretty worried about accumulating a bunch of stuff that I'll then just toss at the end of the summer... it feels very wasteful. Honestly, moves always seem so wasteful to me, because I have to confront how much I seem to acquire useless possessions, and I feel guilty throwing them out.

I could be super-minimalist and just not buy anything, but it will be very spartan, and I'm going to be alone in a strange city and I really value being comfy in my living spaces. Does anyone have suggestions for making it more livable for a short period of time? Anything that I could bring in checked luggage or easily ship home at the end of the summer, or buy used and then donate? I was thinking of getting one of those inflatable hammock/sofa things that people have at the park sometimes, but I'm not really sure if it would work as a sofa substitute.

posted by catcafe to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm...Good question. I would think In such a small space things you can take apart, told up, or inflate/deflate would be good. I would buy some cheap, basic kitchen stuff at a thrift store but bring with me personal touches, like photos or prints, or whatever gives you honey vibes.
posted by DixieBaby at 9:26 PM on April 21, 2019

I lived in a very small space for five months, and I purchased a tiny succulent plant. The scale of it to the space made the quarters seem a little more roomy and it was a little living oasis to look at. I also bought a really long book that I wanted to read anyway that I could escape into if I needed to (though that was years ago and now I feel like my eReader would be even better as instead of one really long book I could have many of varying lengths in an even smaller package).
posted by vegartanipla at 9:45 PM on April 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

If it's just going to be you and you don't anticipate having guests, I'd suggest getting a "zero gravity chair" - like this, local discount and hardware stores should have plenty in about now - and a cheap but cheerful comforter to drape over it, rather than one of those weird tube things, as they are legitimately comfortable and easily donated when you're done with it. I would also get some kind of big pillow or sit-up cushion that you could use in the chair or in bed. And then I'd get a Hue (or similar) bulb to either swap into one of the room lamps or a cheap-ass lamp (Walmart has many, Big Lots has some) so you can set some warm and/or scheduled and/or programmable light that isn't soulless CFL blue, and can easily be taken home in your luggage.

I always travel with a cheap white noise machine for noise screen and privacy, and I'm a big fan of Big Lots, dollar stores, and similar discount options for little creature comforts while I'm on the road.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:49 PM on April 21, 2019

A poster of your favorite movie, artwork, etc. Cheap, and depending on the poster, might even be recyclable. Just need 4 thumbtacks.
posted by invisible ink at 9:50 PM on April 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

A good large tray with handles and maybe legs can make eating a meal on the bed a lot nicer.

A lightweight but big cotton blanket is good for summertime coziness, and can be donated to a lot of places if you don't want to bring it with you. I'd also suggest some very cozy fluffy slippers, which can sort of take the place of wanting rugs in a small enough space.

Some art on your walls can make an enormous difference. Something like a beautiful printed scarf or other piece of fabric can be rolled or folded up when you move. Posters are often very disposable. A piece of hand printed art paper bought at a craft shop can be reused for a project or as wrapping paper.
posted by Mizu at 9:54 PM on April 21, 2019

You don't have to get rid of everything when you move! Send stuff via mail when it's time to go. Small things can make a big difference. You can bring photos and posters and then buy frames locally from a thrift store, then sell/donate them back to the thrift store when you leave. Curtains pack flat and make anywhere homier and brighter if you choose a good color. Bedding is similar to curtains; they can be easily folded up and sent onward to your next destination, and if the worst happened and your package got lost, well, you're just out money.

You probably want a small bookcase or other shelf to store your dishes, utensils, non-refrigerated foods, etc. in. You can find that locally and bring to a thrift at the end of your time there. If you can find a comfy IKEA-like chair, you probably don't need a sofa. IF you get the chair, get a floor lamp for next to it. An over the door coat rack kind of thing can be useful to hold all kinds of things. You didn't mention a bathroom. If it's shared, you'll probably need a surface in your room to store your towels and toiletries (maybe on the food/utensils shelf), and a basket to bring them back and forth from. Those should combine to fill your space and make it comfortable and only leave a couple of things to redistribute when you leave.
posted by clone boulevard at 9:56 PM on April 21, 2019

It's basically what's in an average US dorm room, it'll be fine. I'd maybe get a bolster for the bed so you can use the bed as a couch; the bolster makes a couch back, so it's more comfortable to sit on. A beanbag would do the same thing.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:22 PM on April 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've recently discovered that there are all these "wall tapestries" on Amazon, and I'm considering putting a couple up as artwork in my teeny-tiny bedroom in my teeny tiny apartment... some tacks and you're good. They're cheap, and no hassle of wall cling removal, nor the expense of actual prints... and quite easy to take down and move.
posted by stormyteal at 10:25 PM on April 21, 2019

Buy stuff at a thrift store, and re-donate it when you leave.

If you can hang art, buy that (at the thrift store). Even ridiculous art will make it feel more homey than blank walls.

If you can't hang art, get some pretty greeting cards, or print out whatever you want on card stock, and use Command Strips adhesive stuff (won't hurt the wall) to stick them to the wall.
posted by amtho at 10:34 PM on April 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Tiny art (for the wall and desk), desk accessories that reprise your usual setup (e.g., a laptop stand, an extra charger, a little power strip, an external monitor), a stack of good books you pick up in your destination city, a fluffy microfiber blanket and pillows, your own towels (and hand towels and washcloths, all of which you can get on Amazon or at a local store), some art supplies if you're into that, snacks you like... Don't underestimate how cozy doing that first load of laundry in a new place will make it feel, too, when you put it all away and you have your own clean clothes. Get the kind of laundry detergent and dryer sheets you like. Same for shopping for food. Also, if there's a drink you usually like, have it shipped to the new place. I get a case of caffeine water every month, and having that and the type of microwave rice I like shipped to a new place has always been very comforting. If you play a musical instrument, bringing your own or buying one at your destination is also a comfort. And if your friends and family can send you postcards or other tiny gifts, that can make great artwork for the new space. This is all basically how I made my current space feel like home, bit by bit.
posted by limeonaire at 10:38 PM on April 21, 2019

Other stuff I've sent myself that helped: tennis racket and balls; redirected recurring shipments of things like makeup, candy, and subscription boxes; and the same shoji screen I'd had behind me on video calls in my previous living spaces, for continuity.
posted by limeonaire at 10:47 PM on April 21, 2019

A rug that’s nice to walk on barefoot makes all the difference.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:47 PM on April 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

You don't detail your food situation, but if you want to cook and it's allowed, an induction burner (with appropriate pot / pan) opens up a million options beyond sad soggy microwaved foods, starting with grilled cheese and going up from there.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:01 AM on April 22, 2019

You can print poster sized photos for $10 at Costco and similar places these days. Maybe a large print of your long term home area would be nice?

A digital picture frame (or similar functionality on a TV) with a mix of art and personal photos can help keep the place from feeling static.
posted by Candleman at 5:44 AM on April 22, 2019

One thing that always makes me feel more at home is scents that remind me of home. If you have anything that will help in that area (usually scented things don't take up too much space, and you can use them up in a few months), get a few candles (if allowed) or soaps or sprays or whatever, so that a sense that's often overlooked gets hit with, "This is home" before your eyes and ears can even register anything.
posted by xingcat at 6:15 AM on April 22, 2019

I used to decorate my dorm walls with a postcard collage. Postcards are so light, you don't even need command strips, just a roll of scotch tape.

Is there a closet or somewhere that you can put your clothes that is not just your suitcase? If not, you might be able to find something cheap on Craigslist and then donate/Craigslist it at the end of the summer.
posted by basalganglia at 8:18 AM on April 22, 2019

Candles are homey and consumable.

I live in this kind of situation and don’t have a hot plate because lack of in-unit sink makes dishes a pain. (But you can memail me if you want to know more about how I manage eating at home)

Hang curtains if you can. Bring/ship a pillow from home, or at least a pillow case. Consider a mirror.

I agree that the zero gravity chairs are great for lounging.

Depending on your time/inclinations, making your own art to put on the walls might be nice. Watercolor sketches of home and your current location, perhaps.
posted by itesser at 8:31 AM on April 22, 2019

In my dorm room (because that’s what this reminds me of), I had cozy bedding that I loved to look at and sleep in; well-loved books; and a few posters that reminded me of my favorite things. If you bring magnets and ask people to send you postcards, you can put them on the mini-fridge. Maybe also consider an inexpensive rug that you could donate at the end of your stay.
posted by epj at 9:47 AM on April 22, 2019

I posted the linked question. +1 to cozy bedding including cushions to make your bed more couch-like. I had a flat-woven rug that was easy to shake out / wash so I didn't need a vacuum, as well. I hung a bunch of postcards / cards from friends over my desk. An electric kettle is a cheap / worthy kitchen addition that you could probably find used and will expand your cooking options. I also got a lot of use out of an instant pot to cook (the saute function is surprisingly decent) more in my apartment, not sure if that would work for you / your timeframe.

I'm a homebody, but I still found it helpful to find comfortable public spaces (I went to a uni library, mostly) to hang out in when the apartment feels too small or blah.
posted by momus_window at 10:06 AM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

I live in similar places (though sometimes I get a big nice apartment, it's seemingly random chance) a couple of times a year. The fastest things I can do to home-ify it are:

1) A place to put my clothes away, if it doesn't already have enough, so I don't have to live out of a suitcase. A small cheap wire shelving unit from Daiei or Target makes a huge difference. You put your folded clothes on the bottom, misc stuff above. As small as you can get away with, you really don't want to be living in a junk shop if it's a small room.

2) Electric water kettle and coffee funnel and filters. Sometimes I don't want to have to go anywhere just to get a comforting cup of tea or coffee, even if it's free downstairs.

3) A list of local or day-trip things I want to do on days off. It helps me last a lot longer if I don't treat my room as the place I wait for work to start again. It's my home base, not my jail cell.
posted by ctmf at 1:30 PM on April 22, 2019

I live in a microapartment, and have for 4 years now. (Thanks, Seattle rental prices!)

I really have too much stuff in my unit, but this is what I have that truly makes it feel like 'home':

A good quality rice cooker. You can cook a lot of meals in a rice cooker.

I drink a lot of tea, so I have a separate tea kettle for heating water. I also invested in a nice teapot and some teas. (The teapot doesn't need to be expensive; there's always plenty in thrift stores). If you drink coffee, some nice coffee and a coffee setup would be good.

A couple of plants.

A small electric dehumidifier. Sometimes, these places don't have the best ventilation, esp. after taking a shower. My dehumidifier keeps my place dry.

For summer? A fan.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:40 PM on April 22, 2019

An addendum - if you do end up in one long term, Instant Pots can be a lifesaver. I use mine all the time. However, be careful using it in a way that produces smoke, as that can set off the smoke detectors.

I also have a HEPA filter which also works as a fan; very useful on a hot day, and keeps the air fresh.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:49 PM on April 22, 2019

Thanks all! Your answers made me excited to move. It turns out the apartment doesn't even feel that small... a benefit of coming from NYC, I guess! I took the suggestions to buy a wall tapestry and nice throw blanket, and it really helped to brighten the apartment. I opted for a toaster and an electric kettle over an instant pot, even though I really wanted one, because the counter space is basically nonexistent. Also was lucky to end up living close to a really big Goodwill and I was able to buy a bunch of things that I can donate back when it's time to go home. Overall, it feels good to live in a small space - it feels satisfyingly efficient, like I have just what I need and no more. I only wish the kitchen were a tiny bit bigger.
posted by catcafe at 8:55 PM on June 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

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