In middle school, I started thrifting not only due to finances but as an emotional outlet—cut to now, I’m scouring Zillow in my free time to look at apartments I simply cannot afford. I guess you could call it…growth?
I grew up privileged that my parents were always able to cover my essentials (food, clothing, housing, etc), but a distinct shift in my mentality surrounding housing & finances occurred in my 10-year-old brain after my family’s house foreclosed: it was a jarring confrontation with an increasing reality that many Gen Zers (at least 75% of them) have simply grown up with – in the words of Kim Kardashian, “Nobody wants to work these days.”
Contrary to Kim’s tone-deaf take, it turns out individuals can be working as hard as they are able and family finances will still not be endless; that money will, in fact, make life a helluva lot easier; & the people telling you that money cannot make you happy seem suspiciously unwilling to get rid of their own. But I digress…
Fast forward 14 years, including working through my own reckless-spending phase to overcompensate for how tightly my parents held their finances post-2008, and I’ve now moved into my second Brooklyn apartment since relocating from sunny LA. I’ve lived in a variety of settings, from dorm rooms with sweet & horrendous roommates to moving back in with my parents (mid-pandemic), to living with friends (successfully & unsuccessfully), as well as more co-habitation with nice people who remained just roommates. It’s also worth noting that having a roommate as a Gen Zer is not going away any time soon, due to steep rent increases nationwide. Combine that with a plethora of jobs & living in two of the more expensive areas in the world; suffice it to say that I have cultivated a better idea of what my dream living situation looks like, but also understand the obstacles of achieving that in today’s world as a twenty-four-year-old Gen Zer who studied theatre in college.
Here are a few tidbits I’ve gathered on how I create a home for myself.
The first – and I cannot stress this enough – @stooping. I quickly learned that when it came to investing in a space I love, all hope was not lost for me – mainly because my new apartment is almost exclusively furnished by what’s been left out on NYC streets, free for the taking. The luxury is in mentally repurposing the scratches on my authentic mid-century desk to be part of the grain design. You will never, I repeat, never catch me buying furniture brand-new in this city, because I am already on the M train on my way to snatch your $150 West Elm ottoman that you bought 12 months ago, for free.
The second tidbit is more heartwarming & embarrassingly cliche, but I stand by harmless cliches as pillars of truth in our nation: I have started investing in my space being beautiful not just for visitors, but for myself. Along with 52% of my peers, I find myself staying at home more than ever since the pandemic. Of the many things COVID taught me: if I’m going to be stuck indoors in my own space again, I want it to be a space that I love. And, even though pandemic measures continue to loosen where I live, working from home is the norm now – I really see a difference working from a space that I have taken the time to fill with colors and knick-knacks that mean something to me. I’ve positioned my desk simply so I can watch the clouds go by as I work. It also means taking 15 minutes, every day, to keep it clean, just for me! Little pieces of investment all add up over time to color your space a more pleasant, cozy, and inviting space to enjoy life.
Finally, the past two years have solidified that home is as much a physical space as it is an ever-evolving magnifier to the experience and belonging of those around me. World events, like the Ukrainian Crisis, highlight my ignorance and privilege – that I can ponder from the comfort of my un-bombed room how a community can be ripped from me in a flash, and the places I hold dear so easily taken for granted. The privilege of having a home should emphasize in my personal scope the overwhelming reality of so many unhoused individuals in my very own city.
While my parents’ dream was to buy a home, mine looks a lot more like simply enjoying my life for however long I have it and putting back good into the world, in any avenue or path I take. I think part of being a Gen Zer is the keen knowledge of wanting to soak up your life for what it is while also recognizing the desperate need for inclusion and tangible engagement from every individual; to make our world a space that can feel like home for all, rather than some.