When my husband and I first set up housekeeping we had only a handful of furnishings that we'd managed to scrounge up on the cheap. It consisted of our new bed (essential!), some hand me down furniture from our families along with the few things we had from college apartments. We used lawn chairs for living room seating for quite a few months until we finally found a sofa to buy with our wedding gift money, our first big purchase. My mom refinished an old coffee table that she and my dad had as newlyweds. Our TV was an old console black and white that only got one channel, but even that required some creative arranging of wires strung across the curtain rod to get reception. I remember how excited we were to buy four new folding chairs from Target so that we'd have seating at our kitchen table. I suppose we could have, like many newlyweds, gone out and purchased a suite of new matching furniture on credit. Luckily we were of like mind when it came to money. Having both grown up in thrifty households we knew that credit was not the answer and that we'd make do until we could afford to buy new. We didn't really care about the stuff so much. We were newlyweds and just happy to be together.
Needs always came before wants. Becoming pregnant before our first anniversary bumped a washing machine to the top of the list. An April baby meant I could use the clothesline all summer to dry all those cloth diapers, saving our dollars until we could afford to buy a dryer when cold weather arrived. A new Boston rocker, which we still have, was a baby gift from my husband's grandmother. The nursery was outfitted with a second hand crib, the chifforobe that I grew up with, and a library table from my grandparents used as a diapering station. When it came to other baby needs we kept it to a minimum, getting only the essentials...a car seat, high chair, playpen and stroller.
After buying our first (and only) house, when our son was three months old, we suddenly went from a cramped two-bedroom rental to a three bedroom two-story house that we needed to furnish. Although only about 1100 square feet it felt huge! Again, more family hand-me-downs to the rescue. What would we have done without family? We had a dedicated dining room for the first time. The table was one a tenant had left behind in a rental my Dad owned. The four high-backed wood chairs had belonged to my great grandmother. I refinished them one by one over several month's worth of baby naps. My dad found us a nice hutch at a fire sale. Although the finish on the hutch was fine it had a strong smoke odor. We cleaned and cleaned it but even years later it still retained a faint smoke smell, especially on humid days.
The living room was outfitted with our sofa, coffee table, the Boston rocker, and a couple other family pieces. A nightstand became an end table. My parents lent us a set of old folding wood theater seats that acted as a love seat. When my grandparents moved to an apartment I acquired the piano my grandmother had always promised would be mine someday.
The bedrooms upstairs were the last to be furnished. The master bedroom had our bed. That's all. Our previous place had built-ins so we didn't even have a dresser. What clothes couldn't be hung up resided in cardboard boxes in the closet for another year and a half before we could afford to finally buy furniture. We saved until we could afford to buy quality pieces that we're still using today. The nursery was the only room completely furnished. The third bedroom was being used as a storage room while we worked on getting settled with hopes of it becoming an office and sewing room. But just two months after moving I found out I was pregnant again! So with two babies just fourteen months apart our planned office/sewing room became a second nursery, furnished with thrifted finds.
I have parted with a few things that have really tugged at my heartstrings, things we no longer had a room or a use for or anyone to pass them on to, like my grandmother's piano and the chifforobe. But their memories live on. Grown children return home and want to feel like it's still their home. Whenever we change something they call us out on it. But homes are not static, just like the occupants. We change, we age, we adapt. And sometimes we move on. So I am slowly learning to let go of things. Now that my children are grown some of those things are finding new lives in their own homes, new stories. Some will become cherished memories. New things will find their way in and out. It's what makes our home ours and different from yours or anyone else's. I wouldn't have it any other way.