Thanks to a permanent duty assignment quickly followed by a (long) temporary one, the Lt and I were in temporary housing from November through May, including several weeks on the road driving across the country (and halfway back again), a delayed honeymoon (not, mind you, that I'm complaining about that week!), a month in a hotel on a Marine base in southern California, a trip back to the East Coast for Christmas, and our last living situation but one, a furnished apartment in a little city next to an Army post in southwest Oklahoma.
(for those of you keeping track of this sort of thing, this means that we were in temporary quarters - "perched," as I like to call it - for seven months out of our first year of marriage!)
Now, to celebrate finally being settled (not just anywhere, either: we were assigned a beautiful house on base, five minutes from (and within view of!) the ocean!), I humbly present a look into some of my temporary homemaking strategies of the last few months.
I've learned that it doesn't take much in the way of things to make pretty much any place (yes, even a dingy hotel room) feel like home. Which is comforting, since while most families won't find themselves "perched" as long as we have, everyone needs a home, and I'm sure we're not the only ones who don't have all the things that we would like.
|Please note: not only do we have seven months' worth of stuff packed in this car, but we have a clear view out the back window. Not that I'm bragging.|
We packed up a car's worth of stuff back in Virginia before the movers came to take everything else to storage; this represented everything we thought we'd need for the next seven months. (Luckily, I'd found a rooftop cargo carrier on craigslist; the packing space it added to our little SUV was clutch.)
|This impulse runs in our family, I guess: we have to see if we can fit inside!|
Now, much of our packing space was taken up by Marine gear (goodness gracious, do you have any idea how much room umpteen pairs of combat boots and cammies take up? Let's just say the cargo carrier was not big enough for it all). We also needed to bring clothing, of course, and as we'd be encountering all four seasons while we were on the road, we had to bring everything from bathing suits to winter coats. (for the record: this was the one area where, despite my best efforts, I wish I'd packed less. It turns out you really just don't wear as many clothes as you think you will. Or at least we don't!)
My strategy for the rest was to think of each living area of the house, and what we would need to make any generic, inadequate, bland, and/or downright ugly version of that area feel (and, as much as possible, function) like home.
Having gone through this also helped when moving into our new house (while morning sick) to know that all we really needed at first was:
1. A made bed.
2. The wherewithall to cook and eat some dinner (knives and pans; paper plates will do until the real ones are unpacked).
3. A tablecloth on the table and a place to relax in the evening.
And then we could happily live like that until I had the energy to do anything more!
So, here's a sampling of what made it into the car:
1. Our own bedding. Really, everything. Pillows, comforter, mattress pad, sheets... This all smooshes down remarkably well (so it doesn't take up as much space as you think), and helps keep things in the back of the car from rattling over those 3000 miles. Most importantly, though, it replaces the woefully inadequate bedding that one encounters while perching. For instance, here is the bedroom of our Oklahoma apartment (which, you may recall, was furnished) when we moved in:
Does this look like a bed that you want to curl up in for a good night's sleep? Like the "inner sanctum" of a happy home? I don't think so.
Here is the same room with the addition of our own lovely bedclothes:
SO much better, right? I mean, the pillowcases are wrinkled, the dressers are still awful, and I'm clearly not going to win any decorating contests, but it's clean, comfortable, and pretty (the bedskirt just happened to match, which was a nice bonus). Besides, I simply love my duvet cover, and I was already going 7 months without my KitchenAid - there are only so many wonderful wedding gifts a newlywed girl can give up!
(When we spent the month in the hotel, I switched their bedding out for ours as well. The cleaning ladies were a little surprised at first, but soon got used to us.)
Speaking of KitchenAids...
|Our Oklahoma kitchen when we first moved in.|
|These are very (ahem) honest pictures. My kitchen in Oklahoma had approximately six square inches of counter space, all of which I put to use. And that's our dinner (leftovers from the freezer) defrosting next to the stove so picturesquely.|
It was well worth the space to have good tools to work with - and unlike our clothing, I used absolutely everything I brought (including my springform cake pan, which made it into the car only because the movers randomly decided not to put it in a box, and I couldn't bear to leave it behind). Plus, my bright red teakettle (not, it turns out, the easiest thing to pack, but for a very dedicated tea drinker like myself, a necessity!) makes any stovetop look cheerful.
It brightened up the hotel room's kitchenette as well! The worst part of perching is the feeling of unsettledness, and since we knew we needed to be there for a month, we really moved into that place, which was really little more than a bedroom. We cooked Thanksgiving dinner on that dinky little stovetop, and I even made caramels while we were there, to give as Christmas gifts! I imagine that was a first for that kitchenette. Again, I think the cleaning ladies thought we were cute, but a little crazy!
3. Finally, I tried to bring a few things - mostly textiles, which can be used to pack up other stuff, but also items like the little icon sitting on the stove above - to make our living spaces pretty. For instance, a pretty quilt from my sister-in-law spread over the back of the (frankly, hideous) sofa goes a long way towards making it look acceptable, and is so nice to have on hand when you want to curl up with a good book or movie!
Here's what our dining room looked like when we moved in:
Very bare, beige, brown (beige and brown were the themes of this apartment, for sure), and not particularly attractive. But add a colorful tablecloth and napkins, and poof!
It's a place for a lovely dinner at home! The flowers help, too: the roses are the tail end of a grocery-store bunch of roses, displayed in an empty curry jar - the same curry jar holding those white flowers (picked from the trees outside our apartment) in the picture at the top of the post. The paperwhites (which I love) are growing out of baking dishes.
I made very few purchases while we were in Oklahoma - I was on a strict "no acquisition of stuff" mission (everything had to fit back into our car, after all!). I did, however, buy a few inexpensive lamps at Wal Mart to supplement the harsh overhead lights, and got a small folding table to hold the microwave, thereby freeing up precious counter space in the kitchen. The table stayed with us, but the lamps were left with another perching family when we left.
So there you have it - it's not much, but it certainly helped! And, of course, now we are feeling very blessed (and spoiled) not only to have so much room but to know we are going to be in one place for a good long while. I'm sure that there are wiser and more experienced wives out there who have more and better ideas for making a place quickly feel like home. Do you have any tips to add, for me to store away for our next set of travels?