Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Moving Away for College: Furniture and Dumpster Diving

It's almost that time of year again when the young'uns move away for the first time to college. Otherwise, he or she is stuck at home and must commute, or just going back for years two through four. Graduate school? Whatever.

Dumpster Diving
Dumpster diving isn't really my thing. This sentiment doesn't appear to be universal though.

I have heard the story many times from friends and others who moved away to college or just hung out around campus: year after year, around the time when school's about to go out for the summer, areas outside student housing buildings start filling up with grade-A goods. Perfectly good furniture, books, sundries, etc. Having never actually seen this, I can't confirm if this is true -- I was one of those "losers" who stayed home for college.

What I have seen is a lot of furniture go up on the local Craigslist around April or May with the words "great condition", "can't fit", or "can't move" in the ad. It kind of makes sense. People buy stuff they need for the year they're away for school, then it's time to move back home or for a summer job. Maybe they don't like the item, don't like it enough to rent a truck or van, can't fit it in the car, can't fit it at home, etc. Out to the curb it goes.

Disposable or Dismantle-able
All those curbed items represent a lot of good money going down the drain -- and maybe a lot of happy dumpster divers. The lucky ones may be able to sell them on Craigslist at a discount.

There may be ways to avoid this plight of money though. The simplest option may be to find a place that has some furniture included, but this isn't always a possibility. Not to mention, whatever's provided might not be the greatest.

Sometimes it's just necessary or extremely desirable to buy a personal set of furniture. At this point, it might be worth it to look at either "disposable" furniture or easy to disassemble furniture. By "disposable", I mean something cheap that makes it easy to swallow when it goes in the trash. Easy to disassemble means simple to dismantle, which usually means easy to put together. Where can one find such furniture?

Ikea's my go-to place for furniture despite being half a decade out of college -- I have simple tastes. They have affordable and modern looking yet functional furniture and lots of it.

My favorites for desks are the GALANT and VIKA/Table Bar product lines. The GALANT is on the pricier side, but has been a hit with me and I think it has great value in terms of quality and expandability -- not to mention it looks pretty good. It is a series that's been around for a while at Ikea and I'd like to think that it will be around for a while longer. Being modular, the GALANT can be expanded with more legs or bigger desk tops. Certain parts like the legs could be reused in a future, larger or smaller table. A relatively small table should start at around US$ 100. The one in the picture below was around $150-ish. In my experience, the dismantling process only required me to unscrew the table-top to access the access the legs and subsequently, take the entire table apart.
Ikea GALANT Table
There is also the VIKA (old name) or Table Bar series. I like to think of it as a cheaper version of the GALANT in that it's also modular with transferable or upgradeable parts. Many options for table legs exist including the use of cabinets and shelves in place of steel columns. Prices are much lower than the GALANT line to. I have been able to buy a fairly large desk for about CAD$ 50 in the past -- it's probably cheaper in the U.S. This table has been much easier to dismantle than the GALANT in my experience. I bought my VIKAs with simple legs that take four Philips-head screws each. Take those off, bag them, and done.

One thing to think about: L-shaped tables are the more "popular" items that I have found on Craigslist in the past. People selling them usually say that they're moving and don't have space in the new place or can't fit it in the car.

Side or Coffee Tables
If ease of assembly or disassembly and price are the main concern, then there's always the LACK side table. The legs on mine screw on and off by hand. It probably took me less than ten minutes to put it together. Taking the parts out of the box probably took the longest. According to the Ikea website, the current version available has a maximum load of 55 lb. My 40" LCD TV should be well below that (maybe 30 lb with base?), but it's definitely something I'd watch for if I were to use it for anything other than magazines. I found it on the website for only $9.99. There are a bunch of LACK tables that are pretty cheap on there.
Ikea LACK Side Table
The table mounted TERTIAL task lamp is a lamp that I keep coming back to even after trying other things. I have probably had one incarnation or another in my possession for over a decade -- gifts or buying one myself -- and they all still work. It's $10 or less, minus the bulb, very functional, flexible, and simple to take apart.
Ikea LERSTA Floor Lamp
For a floor lamp, I have a LERSTA table lamp as a sort of reading lamp -- it looked nice and it was cheap, okay? Coming in at under $20, the item is functional and relatively easy to take apart. I don't recall even needing tools and the manual available on the Ikea website seems to agree. Everything appears to be screwed in by hand. Numerous other table and floor lamps are available for $20 or less at Ikea if the desire is for unfocused, full-room light. I want a TUVE for $40 right now, but it's not in stock at my store.

Personally, I'd throw a mattress on the floor and call it a day. Or maybe get a small couch and kill two birds with one stone. Otherwise, there's the FJELLSE twin-sized bed frame at Ikea for about US$ 40 -- mattress not included. There's also a mattress foundation with mattress and legs. I really wouldn't call either easy to move, so other options may be more prudent.

Grand Total
Minus the bed, a somewhat complete room with a desk, side table, and two lamps can be had for around $100 if I were to choose the cheapest options outlined above. The room probably wouldn't look that pretty: it'd look like a poor college student's pad.

Everything Else
Even if none of the items outlined above tickled my fancy, I'd still keep two things in mind when buying whatever I wanted: ease of moving and cost. One should make it easier to avoid having to throw a piece of furniture in the dumpster, and the other should make it easier to throw it to "curb it" if the need arises. Ikea would still be my go-to store just because they have assembly manuals posted online for most items and other stats like weight and materials.

College, I do not miss you. Thank goodness I dropped out of that second graduate degree...

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