For the past year, I’ve been living completely on my own. No parents, no roommates — just me, a tiny studio apartment, and a cat. Personally, I’ve loved it. My parents are close enough that I can still go hang out with them if I want (or if I want to do free laundry…); I’m a hop, skip, and a jump from my work; and I love coming home to a quiet apartment after a long day. But there were some learning curves, of course. I lived with the same roommate all four years of college, and when we went on to do our own thing, I suddenly found myself with half of the “stuff” I was used to using in my house. She had the coffee maker. She had the plates. How was I supposed to cook without my favorite spatula??
So through a year (ish) of acquiring various household products for *my* space, I’ve compiled a list of those items that were worth shelling out some extra money to buy, and those that were not. Bear in mind, this is οne woman’s opinion — a woman who lives in a small space and has no concern for name brands. But I hope I can be helpful to someone else starting out on their own for the first time!
WORTH IT: More dish soap. Not so much because the fancier, more expensive stuff is good, but because it’s so cheap, I don’t mind replacing it often. My studio apartment does not have a dishwasher (I know. The struggle.), and I love to cook, so I do a LOT of dishes on a daily basis. And initially, I was so worried about wasting dish soap that I tried to stretch it by using less and adding water to it when the soap got low. You know what happened? I got greasy dishes.
My favorite grocery store has dish soap for less than a dollar. To me, it is worth it to use the soap abundantly, if it means I’m keeping a clean living space and taking care of my dishes. Just make sure you recycle the plastic container when it’s done!
NOT WORTH IT: A fancy coffee maker. I’m a self-proclaimed coffee snob, and I still believe you do not need to shell out hundreds of dollars on a fancy machine for your morning brew. I spent probably $30 on my little Mr. Coffee, and it’s been kicking butt for about two years now. To be honest, it’s not the machine you want to spend your treat-yo-self dollars on — it’s quality beans. And do your research on the proper grounds to water ratio. That’s how you’re going to get your coffee to taste like your favorite hipster coffee shop, not the method of brewing.
Want an even cheaper method of getting fancy coffee? Invest in a coffee dripper so you can make yourself a pour-over. You’ll feel like the most learned barista, and those drippers are less than $20.
WORTH IT: Knives. I’ve seen this mentioned on TFD before, but I’m going to echo it. It is better for your kitchen and your safety in the long run if you invest in a set of quality knives for chopping and preparing ingredients when you’re cooking. Plus, they last a long time. I actually got a set for Christmas this year, which was an awesome treat, but I still would have shelled out for them. Not much of a cook? Maybe some knives will inspire you to learn some new recipes! I know that when I see my shiny chef’s knife hanging on the wall, I get the urge to make a big stir-fry or chili that involves chopping lots of veggies. It’s an investment in my health, as well as my safety, because using the proper knife that’s been sharpened well poses less of a risk than if you try to mangle your food with the wrong knife. Trust me, I’ve sliced my thumb with a dull knife. Twice.
NOT WORTH IT: A wide assortment of expensive cleaning products. My mom keeps one of the cleanest houses I’ve ever seen, and the thing I see her use most often is just a damp rag. I’ve adopted this mindset for my own apartment, and after a year (in a small space, I will grant you) I’ve only used one bottle of store-bought cleaning spray. While a damp rag is most definitely not a disinfectant, it’s the perfect cheap tool to wipe up small spills, crumbs, water, or wayward cooking experiments.
Along the same lines, I have yet to find a mess that I couldn’t solve with some vinegar, water, and baking soda. Smelly drain in the sink? Vinegar and baking soda. Not sure the inside of the coffee maker is clean? Brew a pot with vinegar. Weird stain on your countertop? VINEGAR. A gallon is about the same price as a smaller bottle of chemical cleaner, and if you pair it with reusable rags, you’re doing the environment and your wallet a huge favor. Again, vinegar is NOT a disinfectant, but for everyday messes, low-cost cleaning solutions are the way to go.
WORTH IT: Iron and ironing board. Okay, I know I’m cheating and this is technically two items, but they are sort of inextricable. I happen to own a nice iron and a cheap ironing board, and the difference is quite frustrating. The iron was a gift, and when I was moving, knowing I’m on a budget and the space in my apartment is limited, I grabbed a $10 portable ironing board. Sure, it fits well in my space, but I either have to sit when I use it or put it on a table, the thing is wobbly, and it folds in half so it has a giant crevice in the middle, right where my clothes lay. This means that, despite having a nice iron that makes my clothes look great, I avoid ironing in order to avoid using the board. And when you have a work event or a wedding or some other event where you need to look nice, let’s be real, you want to hammer those wrinkles out of your clothes. The nice iron and the big ironing board are worth it.
NOT WORTH IT: Matching silverware. Some may disagree with me, because when you first move into a new place, it feels so exciting and so “adult” to graduate from the mishmash of college silverware and get yourself some shiny new matching forks. I get it. But is it really worth it when you’re also adjusting to paying all of your bills on your own? I say nay. When I moved into my new place, my soon-to-be-retired coworker gave me a hand-me-down set of her old silverware, and they’ve been great! And free! My mentality is, I’m in no way settled yet, I’m single, and my job, life, or living situation could change at any time. Matching silverware is for when I buy a house, get a promotion, or get married, meaning I can put “silverware” on a gift list or use extra money to splurge on them. Until then, I’m perfectly happy with old, mismatched silverware if it’s free.
Living on your own is a strange and beautiful time of growth, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. What are some household items that you think are worth the cost?
Mallory Lectka is a Financial Proofreader, aspiring college professor, Harry Potter enthusiast, and proud cat mom. Her role models are April Ludgate and Dana Scully.
Image via Unsplash