Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making my new home my own

Although I totally enjoyed myself while I was on my wonderful European adventure with my parents, there was always a lurking anxiety when I thought of returning to the USA. I knew that I had a total of five days to return to my hometown, unpack, do laundry, organize, repack, say goodbye to friends and family, and move to my new apartment in Maryland. There was just so much to do in such a short period of time. 

Lucky for me, actually moving in was probably the easiest part of the apartment-hunting process. Finding an actual apartment in the area was the most difficult part!

Since my university is in a small, historical town, there are not really ads posted online for people looking for rental property. The entire process of looking for a place to live for the next two years was done by word of mouth.

Eventually, I found a quaint, little apartment that would be nearly perfect for my roommate and I. We are both graduate students who are working at the university, so we had the same general "must-haves" when looking for an apartment: short commute, relatively inexpensive, comfortable. Agreeing on everything made signing the lease a lot easier.

Now, most people would think that going from dorm room living to apartment living is a drastic financial change, but that does not have to be the case. Yes, writing the check for rent every month is going to be painful, but I have found a few ways to save on the little things.

I was lucky enough to have an amazing neighbor who donated necessities like gorgeous glass dishware, a vacuum cleaner, and even a little dresser for my bedroom! We also knew a few students who lived in the apartment below ours who were moving out, and they donated a quirky, olive green kitchen table, matching ottoman, and a TV stand. We just had to move all of that stuff upstairs to our apartment on our own, but it was worth it! Not having to spend money on those items means that I can use that money towards something else.

Our apartment came somewhat furnished, so we did not have to worry about buying a washer/dryer, stove, or refrigerator. My roommate's family also had a white couch, area rug, and wooden chairs to go with our kitchen table. We both also brought some little appliances, like a blender and a coffee maker, that we had had from before.

The two big purchases that I did have to make included my bed frame and mattress. I ended up getting a relatively good deal which included delivery, but I guess I had never realized just how expensive something so necessary could be. It is definitely something to take into account when you are budgeting.

I have learned that when it comes to deals, it never hurts to ask for discounts. I am the kind of person who prefers to work at a desk, rather than with just my laptop on my lap. At the start of my search for a desk and chair, I looked at an antique mall near my apartment which had a gorgeous wooden desk at the sharp price of $320.

I was not about to spend that kind of money on a desk, so I kept looking. I ended up finding a simple frame desk at Staples. It was actually the last one in stock and it was discounted because there were a few scratches on it. I kept reminding myself that I would only be really needing it for two years. After asking, I ended up getting the price down to $20. I don't even care that it is scratched! You can hardly notice the imperfections, and I saved a ton of money.

When most of the big things had found their places in our apartment and we finally organized the kitchen cabinets, we worked on decorating our porch area as well as our living/dining room and bedrooms (I am not quite done with that just yet, so photos to come later!).

Right now, our adorable, little second-floor porch has hand-me-down wooden benches, Tibetan prayer flags, a young lavender plant, and a happy Buddha, as seen a few photos above. We have definitely made that area our haven... especially since we didn't have air conditioning for the first week and a half.

Our living room area is still in the process of being decorated, as can be seen above, but for right now, we have a little woven tray (which conveniently covers up a stain on our hand-me-down ottoman), a friendly golden elephant, an area rug which ties in our olive green dining room table, and a white lamp. We hope to find some things to decorate the walls with, but we will just have to keep our eyes open. We may be visiting our local thrift shop to see what we can find there.

I am finally getting into the routine of waking up early to go to work, spending all day in an office, and then having my evenings and weekends mostly free. I have not really been able to get into my summer online courses, but I have been trying to do a little bit every day. We are not yet finished settling into our apartment, and I know that it will never be perfect, but we can certainly try our best to make do with what we have and make it our own.

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