The Tale of Our New Apartment

Since we knew we wouldn’t be in Portland forever, and we had little money to spend, Taylor and I worked hard to furnish our apartment for cheap. We constantly searched Craigslist for free or cheap furniture and made multiple scattered pick ups. We drove into Washington for a free futon and all over Portland suburbs for kitchen stools, a closet rack, mini fridge, and more. I think the biggest splurge we made was on sheets, which were $20 from eBay.

Including furniture, appliances, and all kitchen supplies down to salt and pepper shakers, the total amount we spent to furnish the apartment was less than $200. If you only count furniture and appliances (dresser, closet rack, futon, table, stools, mini fridge, microwave) we spent $110. Not bad.

We utilized Goodwills and the North Portland Rebuilding Center, a nonprofit that sells used building and remodeling materials for 50%-90% less than market value. The place is a playground for DIYers, creative builders, and those with low income.

The Catch

The old, yellow apartment building is not much to look at, with thin doors and creaky floors. The paint is chipping and a musty smell gathers in the lobby. As far as the apartment, there’s not much to brag about except the price and location. We live on SE Morrison and 19th Ave, less than twenty blocks from the heart of downtown and smack dab in the middle of southeast neighborhood. A studio apartment in this location would normally cost $1000/month or more if you want things like internet. Our apartment is $695/month including utilities, WiFi, and laundry. So you ask yourself, what’s the catch?

Besides the crumbling building, I was terrified that a monster catch would reveal itself in the first week. That we might find colonies of worms living in our walls that eat human flesh or even worse, poor internet connection. Turns out, we share a bathroom with the other tenants in the building.

Ghosts/The Mystery Maid

The thought of shared bathrooms scared me at first. I pictured the worst, like finding crack pipes in the sink. I wasn’t sure who was responsible for cleaning the bathroom. If it was everyone’s responsibility, well then, we all know no one would do it. I know I could have asked these questions prior to signing a lease, but there wasn’t time. Finding an apartment was so hard that I jumped on any opportunity in our price range. And this was the best/only one.  Prior to move in, there were a lot of unknowns.

There are two bathrooms, both on the second floor. Taylor and I live on the first floor to the right of the entrance. In the middle of the night when nature calls, I climb the dark echoing stairway. An automatic light flickers on like a scene in a Stephen King novel. I half expect to see a ghost.

I don’t know how many people live here. There are eight apartment doors that hardly omit signs of human activity. The most I hear is people leaving for work in the morning. The bathrooms stay shockingly clean. I’ve never heard anyone but Taylor and I shower, which concerns me a little. It could be just us and the footsteps we hear are ghosts who kindly replace the toilet paper. Since I don’t actually believe in ghosts, I’ve concluded that a maid must live in the house and stealthily replace the toilet paper when no one is looking.

Working itself out

Taylor and I found time in between our work schedules to furnish the apartment. It’d be nice to save money while we’re here, but it might take a couple months to stabilize. Taylor has been working nonstop at a full time job, and as for me, I’m looking for another part time job to fill the gaps between my current one. Learning to budget and find ways to save is a skill that I’m trying to learn quickly.

DIY projects

We bought a table for $15 at The Bins. Taylor sanded and painted it to become something beautiful again!


A before shot of a $15 table from The Bins

Our apartment is tiny (250 square feet?) so we needed to find ways to save space. A kitchen peg board was one. No need for cabinets!

The apartment is nothing more than functional. We have two enormous windows that bring in plenty of sunshine when the sun is shining in Portland. Sure, it’s small, but we don’t need a lot. Taylor joked that it’s the most sophisticated camping we’ve ever done. It’s still a work in progress.

The (almost) finished product.

Know that I was too lazy to clean up before taking these photos, so excuse the clutter. And we still need to color those walls with art/tapestries!



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