Thursday, July 12, 2012

Temporary Housing: How to Live a Year Without Your Stuff

For many of us, brief sojourns in temporary housing are inevitable, for training, fundraising, or health reasons.  We live for months without our stuff, living in generic extended-stay housing, with relatives, or in barebones rentals.  Most of us like our stuff.  It makes a house your home, even temporary housing.  Living without it can feel like living in a hotel room or a place where you don’t really belong.  In the last 12 years, I have lived too many times to count with relatives for up to 6 weeks during home leave.  I have also lived 3 times for 11-month periods on 700 lbs of stuff.  Pots and pans, dishes, clothes, toys, and bedding unbelievably fill that quota.  There is no room for, say, my 3 x 2 ft Guatemalan painting of a rainbow-clad senora, nor for, um, beds, dressers, tables and chairs.  Whether you choose the Oakwood, relatives, or a rental, here are a few ideas to making your temporary housing feel more like home.

1.  Live like a college student again.  Goodwill, Craig’s List, Ikea, and garage sales are great inexpensive ways to furnish your temporary housing and get the kids some “new” toys.  The last time we lived in the States for an 11-month training I bought our sturdy kitchen table and chairs at Goodwill for $65.  Granted, it was black vinyl and veneer.  Tablecloths do wonders.  Oh, and don’t be shy about stopping to pick up “free” stuff people set out by the curb.  That’s how I got a bookshelf and a TV console.  It’s 11 months, folks.  We’re not aiming for a feature in Martha Stewart’s, Living Magazine

2.  Don’t, don’t ship books.  They are heavy.  Plus, finding space is an issue.  If you’re in the U.S., discover your public library.  There is one in your neighborhood.  Second-hand stores are a wonderful place to find books.  Then you can donate them when you leave.

3.  Decal stick-on wall decorations.  They turn a kid’s room into, well, a kid’s room.  They also come off walls clean as a whistle and can sometimes be saved for the next new room.   Upromise (see my post, Why not get paid to shop online?) lists several shops where you can purchase them.  Search for "kids decals for bedroom walls."    

4.  Cloth tapestries decorate bare walls.  Scarves, cool fabric, or tapestries make good, light wall decorations.  Use no-stick adhesive wall thingies to hang them.  You can pack them in your suitcase and make home feel more like home while you wait for your shipment to arrive.

5.  Refrigerator magnets, photos, and kid art.  I don't know about you, but when my refrigerator is covered with photos of family and friends and kids' art, the temporary housing feels like home.  Pack them in your suitcase and throw them up right away.

6.  Embrace the uncluttered life.  Check out, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It's All Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson, for some great ideas on how to live with less stuff.  It's amazing how little you need.  Your temporary housing stay can inspire you to get rid of some of that stuff when you finally do get it back.  I'm keeping my painting, though.  It's not clutter if you love it.  

Our motto is "home is where you unpack your suitcase."  Spouses, what are some ways you make temporary housing more homey?  Love for you to leave your ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Whoa! That’s really a challenge. This post is really interesting. Thanks for sharing this one.


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