Non-Consumer Photo Essay – Outfitting Apartments For Next to Nothing

by Katy on March 3, 2024 · 12 comments

Please enjoy this previously published post!

After a summer dominated by preparing all the necessities for my kids’ off campus apartments, (including the arduous task of finding said apartments) I can finally move forward with my life and enjoy my empty nest.

This page? It ruled my every move.

I made a decision in January of 2007 to buy nothing new. This was financially motivated, but also from a strong craving to move away from the over manufacture of poor quality consumer goods. It’s mostly a non-issue ten years down the road, but having to source so many specific things on a deadline was a real challenge. I’m not going to lie, it would have been so easy to walk into Target and cross everything from my list in a single trip.

We were able to assemble pretty much everything we needed from thrift shops, my buy nothing group and stuff around the house, but we made a decision to buy a coffee table and desk in Ashland, Oregon in order to fit everything into our minivan. (Our youngest moved into his apartment last week.)

Of course, the best laid plans will invariably go awry. My husband, son and I unloaded the car and then set out to grab the last few items from my list. None of the five (five!) thrift shops that we visited had anything acceptable, which took me to Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. $50 later, and my daughter was finally outfitted with a solid wood coffee table and desk.

She also needed more hangers, but the Medford St. Vincent DePaul proved to be a terrific source.

I do confess that I made one brand new purchase, which was a whistling tea kettle from Bi-Mart. However, I consider it to be a safety requirement, as my daughter has a history of setting water to boil and then completely forgetting about it. (Nothing non-consumer about burning down an entire apartment complex!) I looked and looked (and looked) for a second hand kettle, but the thrift shops were oddly devoid of this item.

My daughter’s roommate was providing a couch, so you’ll just have to imagine one in this space. That bright blue table? I picked it up at an Ashland garage sale for $8, which brought the grand total of this furniture to be a whopping $28 as the chair and lamp were both garbage picked.

I would estimate that we spent approximately $200 for all the furniture, bedding, bathroom stuff, kitchenware and miscellaneous stuff for both apartments. It’s impossible to pin down the exact amount as a lot of my purchases were from the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet bins.

Of course no Non-Consumer Advocate visit to a college town would be complete without some of my signature garbage picking. You threw out your old textbooks? I will scoop them up for eBay!

Including these . . . umm . . . unique sunglasses. Totally my style!

My husband (sporting what he calls his “vacation beard”) and I finally decided that we’d accomplished all we could, and pointed the now empty minivan back towards Portland. The two of us discussed how we keep coming to the Rogue River Valley without ever taking the time to enjoy the breathtaking landscape. This prompted us to sneak in an impromptu hike up Table Rock, although we could only hike around a third of the way since it was getting dark and neither of us had water or proper attire.

Look at those empty nesters. Don’t they look miserable?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey March 3, 2024 at 2:32 pm

I salute your patience and ingenuity!


Midwest Beth March 3, 2024 at 3:45 pm

Awesome, way to go mom! I just came home to an empty house after my daughter was home for a week for her winter break. Dropped my daughter off at the airport to catch the free shuttle back to her college saving myself wear and tear on my old vehicle as well as gas and approximately 4/5 hours driving time.

I will miss her but I am admittedly happy to get back to my own routines as I know she is happy getting back to hers at school.


Cindy in the South March 3, 2024 at 4:47 pm

You actually look fabulous in those unique sunglasses! So retro!


texasilver March 3, 2024 at 9:47 pm

I thought the very same thing! New haircut & classy shades.


Kara March 3, 2024 at 5:03 pm

I just got back from visiting our 2 oldest kids and their spouses. I was so happy to return with a car full of things that they asked me to sell for them ( I offer this service, they all work full time and I have a little re-sale hobby). I also overheard my son and daughter talking about a free used dining table that I had acquired for my son when he moved into a rental and now they didn’t need. Our son was saying that he had the table in his garage and was saving it for our daughter who is currently renting a tiny place but is actively looking to buy a house and will then need a bigger dining table. Love the free stuff going around again.


Fru-gal Lisa March 4, 2024 at 6:40 am

I also get coat hangers from thrift stores.

But I have another coat hanger trick as well: I find free ones when I go to Walmart. First, I look in the shopping carts left in the parking lot. Quite often, I’ll see a plastic coat hanger in one, and I grab it up and take it to my car. Sometimes I’ll see one in an abandoned shopping cart or on the floor or on a box inside the store (they’ve already removed the clothing from it) and I snatch it up, too. I just keep it in my shopping cart and wheel it out with my sacked-up items; no one has ever said anything to me about it. These are the admittedly flimsy plastic ones they give you with the clothing (not the coat hangers they sell as merchandise or reuse for other items), but I like them anyway. I take them home and put camisoles, tank tops, T-shirts, and other lightweight items on these hangers, thus freeing up my heavier coat hangers for other garments. Mind you, these flimsy ones may eventually break, but then I have gotten some use out of them and I have a seemingly unending source of more free ones.


Fru-gal Lisa March 4, 2024 at 6:42 am

PS– I said Walmart, but other stores may have free coat hangers as well. I just have the best luck finding discarded hangers at Walmart.


A. Marie March 4, 2024 at 9:33 am

First, as usual, I’m gobsmacked by your list making. I’d nominate you for St. Katy of Portland, Patron Saint of Check-Off Lists, if either of us were Catholic.

Second, as usual, you did a terrific job of furnishing the apartment with minimum expenditure and minimum purchase of new things. I agree that the whistling teakettle was best purchased new.

And, finally, anyone who’s passing through Central NY and needs hangers should come to me. Between hangers we scored from DH’s rental properties and hangers that are still left over from DH’s mother’s house, I should probably start bundling these and donating them.


Katy March 5, 2024 at 7:41 pm

Saint Katy, I’ll take it.


Ashley Bananas March 4, 2024 at 10:37 am

You did a great job!!! Good luck to the kids on their new adventures!


Madeline March 4, 2024 at 3:42 pm

We also decided to become a 1 car family when we retired.It works great.Been about 8 years now! Only once in a while do we have a conflict and we just make it work. SOO much savings without a second car!

Retirement is awesome. When you have lived frugally and saved so you CAN retire early as we did, you don’t change your frugal ways overnight.And we haven’t.We do spend on frulag travel and a few goodies here and there but mostly a low key life suits us and we’re pretty content.Living near many state and national parks and having nice weather most of the year ,so we can ewalk, bike,hike, have picnics.. helps too!


Katy March 5, 2024 at 7:23 pm

My husband bought an electric bike, which he uses to commute to work and back. He loves it!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: