My first home outside my parent’s house (and my girlfriend’s parents who took me in at 18 when my mom kicked me out) was a four-person, dorm-style apartment with a childhood friend and two guys we just met. Not long after, I moved into a fraternity house – in fact much of my 20s was spent living with other people.
As the media loves pointing out, the majority of younger adults can’t afford to buy a house, not in this market nor any other. Your 20s are the best time of your life to move around a lot, but it can quickly get inconvenient, especially in markets where appliances aren’t a given in a rental.
Now on the back half of my 30s, I’m again in a position of moving around a lot, and it’s accentuated by Flagstaff’s competitive housing market with older, dilapidated homes fetching mansion prices. It’s even worse than it was in Phoenix because many houses have century-old air ventilation, plumbing, and electrical wiring.
Forced to live with other people in small, shared spaces, miniature appliances have come up in my life once again.
Why Go Mini?
Now on the whole, it’s important to understand miniature appliances rarely work as well as their full-sized counterparts. This doesn’t mean they don’t have utility – washing clothes, sanitizing dishes, keeping food fresh, and more can be accomplished with these appliances.
What you lose in power, however, you gain in portability. Moving is a long process, and a heavy washer/dryer combo, dishwasher, fridge, etc., can make it expensive fast. Miniature appliances can be thrown in the back of your car and transported easily.
A person moves just over 11 times on average, according to Mona Chalabi at Five Thirty Eight. The majority of these moves happen when you’re younger. As you age, you’ll find people consider relocating to be a sign of either courage or stupidity. You should see the looks I get when discussing my rolling stone lifestyle.
By the time you settle into your permanent home, the appliances can be relegated to the man cave or garage storage to be used while camping. Many of them can hold up for years, if properly cared for – these are the essential miniature (and all-in-one) appliances to look out for.
Danby 4.4 Cu Ft Compact Refrigerator ($300 at Danby.com)
One of the most annoying parts of living with other people is when they constantly eat all your food. There’s nothing worse than spending $100 on food to save money only to have your roommate eat it all out from under you and then expect you to go out to eat with her later.
Leftovers are a staple of the frugal gourmet, and you need a safe place to store them. That’s where Danby’s compact fridge comes in handy. It’s small enough to keep next to your bed as a night stand or store underneath the desk. Still it works great and can keep your food cold out and out of the way of your gluttonous roomies.
In dorms, the frat house, and even my first few apartments, the mini fridge was indispensable. It’s portable, easy to move, and when you go camping, it can be used to bring decent food with you. Once you start a family, it can be relegated to storing man cave snacks, in the garage, backyard, or given to the kids to pass the tradition on.
Mr. Heater Basecamp Washer ($117.99 at MrHeater.com)
Getting laundry done can be a pain, and it really doesn’t get much easier with those oversized washer/dryer combos. Some places you rent won’t have a washer/dryer hookup, and those that do may require you to buy your own.
This portable washing machine is a great way to get things clean without taking up much space. However, you’re definitely going to give up convenience, as it has a small reservoir that won’t hold more than a dozen shirts. This small-batch approach to laundry isn’t exactly a bad thing though, as it makes me a lot more conscious of my clothing care.
It’s capable of three cycles – wash, rinse, and spin, although the spin cycle holds significantly less clothes. At 3 minutes per spin cycle, you’ll need to store soaked clothes somewhere and damp clothes somewhere else. Drying is done on a clothesline, but there are portable drying solutions as well. I’m still working on getting those in.
The draining hose on this machine is very low quality, so you’ll need to reinforce it for long-term usage, and because the unit is so small, you’ll need to brace it for the spin cycle (I find it useful to leave wet clothes on top to weigh it down, although these can be shaken off). I also found it useful to run an extra rinse cycle to ensure my clothes are clean.
Empty, the unit only weighs 5 pounds, and it’s easy to carry
Instant Pot IP-Smart Bluetooth Multifunctional Pressure Cooker ($179.95 at InstantPot.com)
Hot plates are so 20th century – if you really want an all-in-one cooking device, the Instant Pot is the way to go. This thing functions as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and more. Regardless of what you’re looking to cook, this thing can handle it.
It’s not necessarily a mini device in that you won’t be making single-serve soups and stews. However, it’s a space-saving kitchen appliance that can handle just about any way you want to cook. It can be used in dorms and even while camping, if you have the proper generator.
The two most important parts of a house are the kitchen and bathroom, and no matter how small your kitchen is, this thing will fit on the counter. Being able to prepare and cook meals saves you money in the long run and makes you both happier and healthier. Cooking is a skill that’ll never go out of style (so long as people need to eat, anyway), so the up-front investment in this miracle machine is worth it for the back-end savings.
What’s special about this model is the bluetooth connectivity, which allows you to set timers and receive notifications through your smart phone. The included app also includes tons of recipes, and there are a total of 14 smart programs. The stainless steel design provides durability to round out the many reasons this should be on your list.
Briggs and Stratton 8000W Elite Series Portable Generator with Bluetooth ($1,199 at BriggsandStratton.com)
You’ll need something solid to power all of this gear while on the road. Briggs and Stratton has distributed some of the best generators on the market for years, and the company’s latest Elite Series includes bluetooth connectivity that gives you full smart-home control on the go.
The solid plastic wheels are easy to attach to the solid frame, and it’s very simple to use. You’ll need to download an app on your smartphone for full monitoring and control over the unit, and I’ll discuss this more in an upcoming review once I’ve spent some more time with it.
At 8000 running watts of power, this baby can power everything shown above, along with your computer, a fan, and even charge your phone. Able to run a half load for nine hours on its 7.5-gallon tank, this generator is a beast and can even be used for backup house power with the optional adapter.
Electricity is an important part of your pyramid of comfort, and investing in this beast will help you stay connected, productive, and comfortable anywhere you are.