My room is a garbage heap of the prettiest sort.
But you would never think so.
Let's start with the bed. I didn't have one a little over a month ago. After living in NYU housing for a year and a half, I was spoiled with never having to buy one, nor lug a new one around town on the subway.
I got very lucky. The previous resident of my room in Harlem left behind a year-old mattress and box springs that I knew weren't teeming with life. (She also left a set of drawers and a nightstand.)
I slept on just the mattress and box springs for about a month when I decided that this wasn't going to be some bed-on-the-floor situation, especially with all my options out there. I was going to really have a bedroom in my first apartment.
I kept an eye out, but nothing came my way. However, one day in my building, I spied a maple sleigh bed frame in the hallway where many residents throw their castoffs. All the pieces were there. But I wanted to check that I wasn't stealing, so I checked with some of the residents on the floor and they said they were moving out and wanted rid of the frame ASAP. I was more than happy to oblige.
After some wrangling on the elevator and in my room, the trusty boyfriend and I pieced together the bed in short order. And it's beautiful. This is my bed. Money saved: nearly $700.
But the bed was just the beginning; I set out to furnish my room completely -- but preferably for free.
I got a free five-drawer white desk around the same time. It was also left in the hallway of my building for disposal. I saw it one evening and said that if it were there in the morning, I was going to take it. It was, and I lugged it upstairs. Savings: around $100
The same week, out in the hall I acquired a little white bookcase/nightstand, too. Savings: around $30
And, looking ahead, about a week later, I spied an air-conditioner sitting in a trash heap outside the apartment building down the street from mine. It looked new and was among a bunch of other household items. Translation: Move out trash. I usually don't give these kinds of items a try, but the context of the trash was hopeful...so I decided to give the machine a go. After lugging it up the hill near my place and plugging it in, a cold rush of beautiful air blew forth from the vent. Savings: $100-$200
My final room embellishment is hard to quantify in savings. It was a garbage gift from my current boss. The piece is a heavy antique gold mirror (very much in this tradition). Oval and ornate, it hangs on the wall over my bed. One of the pieces on the mirror was broken, but I got out my handy hammer and fixed it right back into place, and it really brings the space together. Savings: approx. $50-$400 (We'll see what Antiques Roadshow has to say about it one of these days.)
My apartment is fully furnished now. Thank you, New York. I really couldn't have done it without you. And I'm truly amazed at the quality of what I've acquired. I thought that in this terrible recession/doomsday atmosphere people would be holding on to everything, but it just isn't true. People still move and clean and upgrade. Finding these items, aside from the sheer elation of filling space in my apartment, is uplifting. Each item is a sign of someone moving on, that the world is still turning.
And I get a chance to give something cast off new use in my life. However, I have a few standards that every acquirer should observe.
-I will not open bags or other containers for their contents.
-I will not pick up things with obviously badly broken parts
-I will not take any kind of material, textile furniture or other cloth-clad item because of the ever-feared bed bug infestation -- and general uck factor of somebody's fabric in your room.
-I will not dig into a pile of garbage.
-I will not take longer than one minute to procure my find.
-I will ask for help carrying stuff (no broken backs and/or limbs permitted)
-I will not harbor shame. It's free, folks. I recently finished school and have little money to spare, but more than that, I take a slightly perverse pleasure in sharing my free finds stories with friends. They can't believe the results of a little ingenuity and muscle.
And it's so much better than IKEA.
Here's my room!
Feel free to share your recession free finds here!
Posted by Amanda Cochran at March 5, 2009 8:27 PM