While on my road trip, I decided to move back to Portland, Oregon to live. My time living away and traveling reminded me of the people and quality of life I missed here. I contacted everyone I knew in town and sent out a couple of Facebook requests for temporary or longer term affordable living arrangements. Ideally, I was looking for a place where I could trade house work for rent so I wouldn't have to tap into my savings too much until I found work. I was also hoping to be close in so I could bike to where I needed and save on gas for commuting. I responded to some Craigslist roommate searches, but did not have much luck since it was November and few people want to have an unemployed individual move in unless they are a friend. I have a few friends who knew a family member or friend remodeling their homes with a potential capacity for a work/trade arrangement. Two of those fell through, but the third, which I connected with less than a week before arriving in town, worked out. A couple I had volunteered with previously had a house in inner SE Portland that they were remodeling while they lived in another house nearby where her parents would be retiring to at some point. They had purchased their house about 5 years ago and spent time painting, deconstructing the chimney, removing the old furnace and duct system, installing a radiant floor heat system heated by the water from a new energy efficient condensing water heater, installing solar on their roof, and building up garden beds among other projects. The current big project is the kitchen and powder room which the owners and friends had gutted down to the studs. One of the owners is an architect who is currently finalizing the design to submit to the city for permitting. The hope is to finish the kitchen by the spring but more likely, it will be summer. So I should have a place to stay until then. My situation is ideal in that I am able to live alone in a great location and trade my skills for rent while also learning more about remodeling a 100 year old house. The downside is that I don't have the conveniences of a full kitchen or washer and dryer. For laundry, I have brought snacks over to a friend's house to trade for use of the machines which I continue to plan to do if available since I can catch up with friends instead of having to deal with going to a laundromat. I did hear of a really great efficient laundry not too far away so that will be my backup.
For a kitchen, I purchased a Kenmore two door Energy Star 3.1 cu.ft. stainless steel mini fridge from Sears on sale for $160 (originally $230). I love having the two doors so my freezer is physically separate from my fridge. The freezer door even has space to hold items. The fridge has a crisper drawer on the bottom with two removable shelves above. The door has space for a half gallon container of juice or milk. The only thing I don't like about it is that the door also has space dedicated for cans. I don't drink much soda so this feature has not been helpful for me. So far, I have been just sticking other things in there like condiments but may modify it in the future to suit my needs. The owners lent me a toaster oven and hot pot. I bought a Presto popcorn popper since I love it as a snack. The model I have is an ingenious design because it has a measuring cup that sits into the hole in the cover above the heat element. The cup also melts your butter while the popcorn pops! I have a folding table set up as my counter, prep surface and dry food storage. Underneath is the rest of my kitchen dishes for eating and baking, Magic Bullet, water bottles, cooler and camp kitchen supplies. There's a grill in the backyard found for free on the side of the road so I'm still figuring out the temperature regulation on it. The trickiest part is clean up. The bathroom sink is too tiny to wash dishes in so I have to do them in the tub. The tub drain is not the greatest at draining, a homeowner special, so I have to pre-wipe my dishes with a paper towel to remove the excess to avoid a plumbing backup. The plumbing is going to be replaced at some point during the remodel so hopefully that will be sooner rather than later. It's worked out fine so far as I have also been going out to eat with friends occasionally and had use of a full kitchen for a week while I was dog sitting. I miss the ability to make coffee since grounds are a mess to clean up but have been savoring the times I meet up with people for coffee. I'm also drinking more tea and may try instant coffee at home occasionally.
My kitchen is set up along a wall of my bedroom next to another table holding jewelry, jars of pens/pencils/markers, white board with my notes, a stack of movies and a few other misc. items by the door. Underneath the table lives my suitcases, tools and bike gear. I recently purchased a full size futon and frame which I love because I can multipurpose it to be both a bed and a couch. It was made by a local Portland shop and is comfortable. The sliding mechanism isn't the smoothest, but I'm guessing over time that I will get the hang of adjusting the positions or will come up with a better solution. I've been using an old sleeping bag and blankets for bedding but am thinking about getting sheets for the summer since I like to be covered when I sleep. The mattress did come with a removable cover that can be zipped off but that seems like it would be difficult for one person. There's a good size closet in my room which stores my clothes, jackets, shoes and gear.
In total, my room and closet are about 150 sq.ft. and the bathroom is 50 sq.ft. so I'm essentially living in 200 sq.ft. total.