My New Apartment! Now with Things!

October 27, 2013


You guys, I have things!


After over a month of living in my very unfurnished apartment, my mom showed up the other week with her magical minivan full of furniture and power tools and other fun stuff. And now I don’t have to eat my breakfast while sitting on an air mattress.


My air mattress office/dining room set/living room/ALL THE ROOMS.

That’s how you know you’re living the adult life, you guys. When your living room stops resembling a campsite.

I know I already gave you a photo tour of my new apartment a few weeks ago, but I thought I’d show you around again all proper-like. You know, now that I have furniture that doesn’t require an air pump to blow up.

So let’s do this thing.


Why don’t we?

The I-Actually-Have-Stuff-Now Apartment Tour

First of all, because I know you have probably all been dying of anticipation, I present to you: my couch!


Sure, it may not be as fabulously orange and as ridiculously massive as my couch in China. But it’s comfy and just the right size for my teeny-tiny apartment.

And the upholstery reminds me of argyle socks. So there’s that.

Plus, it was free! And if there’s one thing I really like in a couch, it’s free.

Also free: this super comfy chair and ottoman!


And even more free: this dining room table! Which I have yet to use for actual dining purposes because I’m an animal and I eat all my meals over my laptop.

The reason why all this stuff was free is because my mom has this little habit of picking through trash piles for furniture which she then refinishes.

This was not a habit of hers that I was particularly fond of back when I was a kid. Especially when she would force me out of the car to help her haul an armchair out of someone’s trash when all I wanted was a ride to the mall.

My attitude towards my mother’s dumpster-diving ways has definitely changed since then. Probably because as her broke-ass adult daughter, I’ve found myself reaping the benefits. And by benefits, I mean “free couches,” of course.

I’ve even found myself driving really slowly on large throw-out days, peering at everyone’s trash heaps, because I am my mother’s daughter and THERE MIGHT BE SOME GOOD STUFF IN THERE. NOW STOP GIVING ME LIP AND GET OUT OF THE CAR AND HELP ME HAUL THIS ARMCHAIR OUT OF THE TRASH, YOUNG LADY.

Ahem, where were we?

Oh yes, stuff!

Along with showing up with all the fabulously free and new-to-me stuff, my mom also showed up with a whole bunch of boxes of old-to-me stuff – things of mine which have been hanging out in her basement since I moved to Asia.

This is also how you know you’re living the adult life. When your parents show up at your new place bearing boxes full of your old crap that’s been sitting in their storage for the past half a decade or so.

After years of relative minimalism as the result of traveling and temporary living situations, I have to say I’m really enjoying being surrounded by all my old stuff again —  including a whole bunch of old stuff I kind of forgot I owned.

Like, this brass tea table from Morocco.


The very same tea table which I had to haul around with me during a two-month-long backpacking trip through Morocco and Spain and then Portugal. Let’s just say that if a Moroccan tea table salesman ever tries to sell you a tea table and then assures you that you will have “no problem” shipping it home, you will have problems.

Speaking of fun travel souvenirs, did I ever tell you about the time I lived in the Brazilian Amazon for a year and came home with a duffle bag full of dried piranhas and jewelry made out of feathers from what’s probably some kind of endangered Amazonian bird?


Or that time I went to Thailand and came home with a metal purse? Because haven’t you ever stood in a crowded market stall and thought to yourself, “Geez, Louise, that’s what my life is missing! A metal purse!”


Or that time I went to Nepal and bought a billion bangles which I never ever wear because I have very undainty, non-Nepalese wrists and I basically have to grease down my entire arm to get them on.


Or that time I lived in Japan and bought ALL THE THINGS. Because, you guys, who doesn’t need a miniature temple gate of her very own?


And a sake set. Okay, sure, I don’t drink sake, but still I NEEDED IT.


Also totally necessary: a bottle opener in the shape of Buddha.


And door-curtains! Because CURTAINS FOR YOUR DOORS, YOU GUYS.


In addition to all the fun travel souvenirs, the boxes also contained a lot of family mementos as well.

Antique colored glass from my great grandmother.


A stained glass window decoration that my grandfather made.


A pin in the shape of a feather with itsy bitsy seed pearls that reminds me of my grandmother. I’m not even entirely sure if it was my grandmother’s. It just reminds me of something she would wear, so I like having it around.


After years of living without things, I know I don’t need all these things to make me happy.

But I also know that these things have been making me supremely happy.

Probably because all these things – these new and old things – remind me of all the new and old people in my life.

They remind me of my parents and grandparents.

They remind me of my nieces and nephews, who know that the key to my heart is basically anything bedazzled.

My birthday present from my niece and nephew. Because who doesn't need a purple rhinestone mini-stapler?

My birthday present from my niece and nephew. Because who doesn’t need a purple rhinestone office set?

They remind me of my friends near and far.

They remind me of my students past and present.

They remind me of the wonderful supervisor I worked with during my first year of teaching in Japan, who let me pick out anything I wanted for my going away present, and I, of course, picked door curtains. BECAUSE DOOR CURTAINS.

Door curtains for the win!

Door curtains for the win!

They remind me of the woman who ran the orphanage where I volunteered in Nepal. Who called me “little sister” even though I was a year older than her. And who showed me how to shove an armful of glass bangles on to my very undainty and very non-Nepalese wrists.

And, of course, they remind me of a certain Moroccan tea table salesman. Who told me I would have no problem shipping a certain Moroccan tea table home.

Let’s just say, there were problems.

What favorite travel souvenir or family memento makes you supremely happy every time you look at it?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On October 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm Maria said:

    I loved this post especially as I am living “minimally” (minimally for me!) in Thailand but still collecting a few keepsakes on my travels. I’m looking forward to a future time when I am settled again and have the little mementos around.
    Also really feel I need a brass tea table, no problem to ship, you say?
    Maria recently posted..Lush home of the man who disappeared, Jim Thompson

  2. On October 27, 2013 at 1:17 pm Priya said:

    Your apt is full of awesomeness. I especially like the Buddha bottle opener. Classy. Can’t believe your mom fit all that in her minivan.
    Priya recently posted..Traveler-Wannabe: My ‘Eh’ Thoughts on Portland, Oregon

  3. On October 27, 2013 at 1:53 pm Maria said:

    Well done. Make it cozy and as you like it.
    Maria recently posted..Going Up?

  4. On October 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm Heather said:

    Hooray for stuff! You’ve picked up some really fab souvenirs. I love the Buddha bottle opener! We try to pick up one or two nice pieces from every country we visit. Highlights include a ceramic sailboat from Greece, a carved wooden head from Cambodia and an antique bowl from Vietnam. We really wanted this opium pipe carved in the shape of a dragon but thought it might be problematic for US Customs. I also have a Japanese sake set that I’ll never use and not one, but two pairs of bound-feet shoes from China because I’m horrified/fascinated by the thought of those tiny feet!
    Heather recently posted..Visiting the NYC 9/11 Memorial

  5. On October 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    Now I hate my stupid non-metal bag after seeing a photo of your amazing metal bag. Also I can’t believe you carried that table on your back for so long.

    I love getting setting up in a new place, and will hopefully be doing this kind of post myself in January! Maybe with a metal bag, too.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Patbingsu: Korea’s Super Crazy Cool Dessert Treat

  6. On October 27, 2013 at 6:27 pm Jaime said:

    Oh lord I laughed through out this whole post. I so needed this on this beautiful Hungover Lazy Sunday! Congratulations on having things again and furniture. That couch is not the orange one but it’s still pretty and nice & hell yes FREE is always good. I love that your mom does refurnishes peoples trash. That is something most people don’t understand. I’ll never forget the night I acicdently stole a night stand in Cairo. I seriously thought it was trash and my friends thought I was crazy for wanting to take someones trash… come to find out it wasn’t trash the lady was cleaning her house, but anyway yeah people dont understand that if it’s trash it’s fair game.

    Anyway I love that you have souvenirs from all over the world. I met so many people on the road and even some bloggers who mention you shouldn’t buy anything, but I think opposite. I’m a semi-minimilist & hate buying stuff I don’t need, but you know what I do want… I do want small souveniers from the places I’ve been because each of those will have a small story that you will think about every time you see it. Plus I mean they just look so cute on a shelf. I would collect small things here & there and well a magnet from each place I went. I love my huge magnet collection.

    Oh can you please share with us how you dragged a TABLE with you for 2 months all over Morocco, Spain & Portugal??? That is hilarious!!!
    Jaime recently posted..Athens Street Art in photos.

    • On October 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm Sally said:

      I actually really regret not buying souvenirs during the last two years that I was in Asia. After I left Japan, I kind of made a pact with myself not to buy anything. Partly because I was backpacking around for a year and I wanted to save money and luggage space. And partly because it was such a hassle sending all the souvenirs I bought in Japan (and all the other places I visited while I was in Japan) home. But now I don’t have a single souvenir from the time I traveled around SE Asia. And I have very few things from my entire time in China. I guess I’ll just have to go back!

  7. On October 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm Isabelle said:

    I’ve got tons of travel souvenirs and they always make me happy when I look at them. It’s like being back there. When I left Japan, I got to choose my gift too, a very nice teapot and every time I use it, I think of my co-workers (one in particular who was quite cute!) and it makes me smile. Or the little plate I got in a madrasa in Istanbul, or the opium pipe I got in Vietnam, or the petrified rock I got in the bush in Australia, or that small cloth handbag from Thailand, or the endless necklaces and earrings from all over! The list is endless. I just love my things. Like you, I can live without them, but they make me happy.

    • On October 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm Sally said:

      I have a Japanese teapot too. I hardly ever use it because I’m too lazy to deal with loose leaf tea. But it still makes me happy to look at. And how did you manage to bring an opium pipe into the country? Did customs give you any trouble?

      • On October 28, 2013 at 7:26 pm Isabelle said:

        It’s just a replica. And I didn’t show it to custom officials. And to be honest, I had no idea it was an opium pipe! I just thought it looked good! ha!

  8. On October 27, 2013 at 10:38 pm Robert A Rotella said:

    We have a similar Moroccan tea table with brass legs. It is rather bulky and difficult to move let alone ship. Congratulations, you have seen more of this world than I have in my 57 years. But what on Earth possessed you to become a Michigander? 😉

    • On October 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm Sally said:

      My tea table has wooden legs that fold up. So it’s rather lightweight and compact… but not really lightweight and compact enough to cart around two continents, as I soon learned!
      As for moving to Michigan, I have my reasons!

  9. On October 27, 2013 at 10:50 pm Carmen said:

    I love all your things! My favourite is a colourful glass lamp purchased from the markets in Istanbul, Turkey. My parents purchased a rug from the same markets 30 years earlier 🙂
    Carmen recently posted..Our travel plans for the next few months

    • On October 28, 2013 at 5:10 pm Sally said:

      That’s so cool that both you & your parents bought something memorable from the same market. I almost bought a rug when I was in Morocco (along with the tea table… and a goat skin lamp). I’m so glad I didn’t — that would definitely have been way too much to backpack with!

  10. On October 28, 2013 at 12:13 am Erika said:

    This part really resonated with me:

    “After years of living without things, I know I don’t need all these things to make me happy. But I also know that these things have been making me supremely happy.”

    Yes! I think that sums up what I’ve been feeling lately as I finally allow myself to settle in and call some place home… 🙂 I love all of the souvenirs that you’ve accumulated! Most of my stuff from travels are tiny little cheap things, like shotglasses and keychains, haha. Not so classy!
    Erika recently posted..Weekly Wishes #12: Meaningful =/= Easy

  11. On October 28, 2013 at 9:42 am Deb said:

    My husband and I started bringing back art from our travels (and a scary amount of Harley Davidson t-shirts…). We check into things like “First Friday” art events whenever we travel. I have beautiful pieces from all over decorating my house and each one has a story. It makes it all so special!

    • On October 28, 2013 at 5:09 pm Sally said:

      I started collecting artwork too. Unfortunately, my artwork was not one of the boxes that made it in the minivan (there are a few more in the basement for the next time my parents come to visit). I also have some artwork from my grandmother, who was a professional painter. I can’t wait to get that up on the walls. It makes me so happy to look at it!
      And Harley Davidson t-shirts sound WAY COOL. I totally want to start collecting them too!

  12. On October 28, 2013 at 12:28 pm Colleen Brynn said:

    I like that the door curtains get two shout outs.
    I have loads of souvenirs that make me supremely happy… I’d say my favourites are handmade carvings from the jail on Easter Island. I have quite the stories and memories with those people. It was unforgettable.
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..Oh, Mr. Sandman…

  13. On October 28, 2013 at 5:28 pm Coldwell Banker Puerto Vallarta said:

    Congratulations! It looks very home-y!
    Coldwell Banker Puerto Vallarta recently posted..ALAMAR 201

  14. On October 28, 2013 at 7:56 pm Nicole | The Wondernuts said:

    You have things? Aw what. I was totally getting used to the minimalist design you had in your other posts.
    Nicole | The Wondernuts recently posted..This is the Face of a Griper

    • On November 3, 2013 at 11:16 am Sally said:

      Yes, it was kind of nice to feel footless and thing-free for a while. Although my butt is happy to have a sofa again and not to sit on a yoga mat all the time.

  15. On October 29, 2013 at 9:08 am Beth said:

    I loved getting to see all your things!!

    When I went to Japan I had to buy all the things too 🙂
    Beth recently posted..Concert Craze in Hong Kong

  16. On October 29, 2013 at 10:12 am Aimee said:

    What beautiful pictures of happy! I have lost and given up so many things in my years of travel and moving. You have such beautiful little neat stuff; I’m tempted to come and ruffle it up a little by bringing my black cat and lots of clothes, shoes, books, candy wrappers…make up and accessories, lots of tvs, and even fish. When can I come?

  17. On October 29, 2013 at 11:24 am Deedee said:

    That couch is FABULOUS!!!!!!
    Deedee recently posted..Resurrection!

  18. On October 29, 2013 at 3:58 pm Alana said:


    My own mother recently handed me boxes of my stuff she’s had shoved into the closet of her guestroom/my old bedroom. Totally relate!

    I definitely realize I don’t need all this junk but I sure like having it around 🙂

  19. On October 30, 2013 at 4:22 am Trekking in Nepal said:

    Loved the post, it’s good to see you have loads of memorabilia from the places you’ve lived in. But the Moroccan tea table and the metal purse beats it all! Cheers!

  20. On November 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm Naomi said:

    thankyou! I was having couch withdrawal there, but now all good.
    Naomi recently posted..Vegan dumplings

  21. On November 2, 2013 at 12:01 am choi kum fook said:

    Have a good time and life with new things in your apartment, enjoy them! So far I have only bought a head of wooden elephant when I had a trip to western part of Africa because might be just lazy to carry it.Have very a good view and cheerful on your souvenirs which you shown up, think you very much Sally!

  22. On November 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm Heather said:

    I love your new-ish things and your old-and-rediscovered things 🙂 I can’t recall a specific item that stood out, but going through things in my parents’ basement before moving into my current apartment was fun.

    Also, how in the world did you move that brass table from A to B and onto C?!

  23. On November 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm Montecristo Travels (Sonja) said:

    I feel like — I need to get some door curtains. Seriously cool.

    Nice place! it’s YOU.

  24. On November 26, 2013 at 7:43 am Ceri said:

    I LOVE that your apartment is full of things from all the way around the world. 😀 I don’t really have that much stuff. :/ I really don’t. I guess my collection of postcards from the different places I’ve been to mean a lot to me but, other than that, I don’t acquire much stuff.

    Then again, I haven’t routed through my parents’ shed/attic for a few years. Hmmmm.
    Ceri recently posted..Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico City

  25. On March 1, 2014 at 6:24 am Clothes and Creativity said:

    Are you funny or what!!! What a fun post! 🙂
    Clothes and Creativity recently posted..My Travel Style: KL Airport OOTD Video


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