A picture says a thousand words, and an empty, sparsely furnished apartment says a lot about the lonely soul who lives there. No art on the walls, hardly any food in the fridge, very little furniture (probably just a mattress on the floor to sleep on).
These guys either don't have much disposable income or have other priorities like a big TV or gaming rig. They would prefer to do as little housework as possible, or simply can't keep house because they never learned how. The fridge contains only the basics or nothing at all, or food supplies are not replenished until they can walk out by themselves. They like having lots of open space around. Or to put it another way, in fiction women want their apartment to be cozy and welcoming to guests. Men want their apartment to be utilitarian and welcoming to themselves.
Note that while this trope does happen more frequently with men, it isn't exclusive to men - the phrase "bachelor pad" has been gender-neutral for years now.
Related to Soulless Bedroom, where a lack of furniture and decorations in the bedroom indicates an emotionless person. Contrast with Feng Schwing, where a bachelor pad is made for seduction. Unrelated to Ascetic Aesthetic, where the décor is stylishly minimalistic. See also Horrible Housing. May involve Trash of the Titans.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Arise, young Motoko Kusanagi's apartment is pretty sparse — consisting of four walls, a bed, a bathroom, and a chair. This is in stark contrast to the apartment she shares with her boyfriend in the original manga, which is more decorated — at least until it's blown up.
- Haruhi Suzumiya: Yuki Nagato. Kyon comments on how empty the places feel and ask himself if Yuki feels the same way as her apartment.
- The Garden of Sinners: Ryougi Shiki's apartment is very sparse, containing only a bed and clothes stand. The refrigerator is also mostly empty save for a few cartons of Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
- Great Teacher Onizuka: Onizuka's apartment is not only tiny but a wall-to-wall landfill. A can of ramen with a hole in it is the least embarrassing thing there. Later on he moves into the school's spare room, and it's slightly less messy (though still full of his stuff).
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Rei Ayanami, her room contains only a bed, a desk with a few clothes, a few medicines and a pair of glasses.
- In one Wolverine comic, a woman breaks into Logan's apartment and sees that the only thing in it is a pile of old newspapers he uses as a mattress. Possibly justified in that he isn't staying very long.
- Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie: Mr. Krupp's home is very utilitarian and empty to the point that he seems to only own a single set of dining ware and has wallpaper 20 years out of date, depressing George and Harold, who were expecting to find something horrific.
- Ratatouille: Linguini's initial place of residence is one of these. In his own words, "I know it's not much, but it's... not much." However, despite being small and very utilitarian, it does have a gorgeous view of Paris from the panoramic window taking up most of the wall.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Peter B. Parker appears to have moved into an apartment like this, complete with bare mattress and pizza boxes everywhere, after divorcing his version of Mary Jane Watson.
- Treasure Planet: The compartment where the robot B.E.N. resides blends emptiness with salvage and litter strewn about haphazardly. As he explains to the arriving Jim Hawkins, Doctor Doppler, and Captain Amelia: "Sorry about the mess. When you've been baching it for 700 years, you kinda let things go."
- In The Accidental Tourist Macon's boss describes his apartment, a bachelor pad in a swinging building reserved for adults, to Rose, Macon's sister. She interprets it as an establishment for lonely people who have no-one to look after them.
- Boiler Room: After work, a couple of the guys from J.T. Marlin all get together at the house of one of their senior brokers, which is a huge, almost completely empty domicile aside from a tanning bed and a big flatscreen TV. Seth even asks one of his colleagues if the owner just moved in, but is informed that he's actually been living there for months.
- Crazy, Stupid, Love. The apartment Cal moves into after separating from his wife: bare walls, cheap furniture...
- La La Land: Sebastian's apartment has a piano and a bunch of boxes lying around considering that he had been struggling to pay a lot of his overdue bills. When he got into a relationship with Mia, the apartment is already clean-up and furnished.
- Last Action Hero. In the movie-within-a-movie, Jack Slater's apartment is unfurnished, and very unremarkable, besides the ninja hiding in the closet and the closet full of identical outfits.
- Matilda: Miss Honey's house is furnished with only a couple of wooden crates (to show that she's extremely poor, rather than that she's lonely.)
- Mrs. Doubtfire. Daniel's apartment soon after his divorce is dirty and barely furnished to the disgust of Miranda. Later in the film, as he becomes more familiar with domestic tasks, the place gets cleaned up and turned into a proper home, to Miranda's surprise.
- Mystery Road. Despite having an ex-wife and daughter in the town where he's staying, Jay Swann lives alone in a house on the outskirts of town. This shows not only his isolation from his family but from the community in general, given that he is an Aboriginal police officer and therefore mistrusted on both sides of the racial divide.
- Spectre: Despite the place that he lives has a swanky exterior and his status as The Casanova, James Bond lives in a character-less and barely furnished apartment with a bunch of unopened boxes. Moneypenny's sarcastic "It's called life, 007. You should try it sometime" jab reveals how much of a life he has beyond MI6 and the broken man that he is.
- The Squid and the Whale: Newly divorced dad Bernard's house is run-down, has little furniture and food, and each room is decorated by a single poster. This is highlighted when the family first moves in, and Bernard's son Frank's room is adorned with a poster of a tennis player he hates, and a very small lefty desk (Frank isn't left-handed), much to Frank's displeasure.
- Up in the Air. in the movie, the apartment that Ryan keeps in Omaha is sparsely furnished with an almost empty refrigerator.
- In Eleanor & Park, Eleanors father used to live in one right after he and her mother split up. According to Eleanor, he once served her clam chowder in a highball glass due to not having enough bowls and only had two towels.
- In Les Misérables, Marius stayed in a run-down apartment after his grandfather kicked him out of the house. It turns out that he lived in the same apartment as the Thenardiers. After the scuffle between Valjean and Thenardier, Marius left and stayed with Courfeyrac's place instead.
- In Men at Arms, Carrot and Angua discover that Captain Vimes lives in a one-room undecorated apartment with no furnishings but a bed. He puts all his disposable income into the Watch Widows and Orphans fund.
- In The Millennium Trilogy, Salander initially lives in a tiny, minimally-furnished apartment. After taking a huge "windfall" at the end of the first book, she decides to buy a much nicer apartment in the second book, offering her old one to her girlfriend Mimmy, who comments that it's actually not a bad apartment; Salander was just too lazy to actually clean it.
- In Venus Prime, whenever Sparta is on her own for extended periods of time, her dwellings become quite... Spartan. It's especially pronounced in the fourth book when she develops a particularly bad drug addiction that causes her to spend a lot of time in a stupor.
- In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Jemma Simmons' apartment during her infiltration of HYDRA is so bare that Coulson decides to risk her cover to buy her groceries.
- The Big Bang Theory. In a flashback to when Leonard became Sheldon's roommate, it's shown that the living room is furnished with just a couple of lawn chairs and a TV. Due to Sheldon's aversion to change, it's a battle just to get him to accept replacing the chairs with the iconic couch.
- Cold Case episode "Flashover" reveals that Det. Vera lives in such a state, and not just environmentally. A medical report found by his partner Det. Jefferies showed that his heart was also a ticking time bomb. It wasn't always like that; he was originally married, but after cheating on his wife numerous times and being unable to get her pregnant, she left him four seasons earlier.
- Community: Overlapping with Feng Schwing, Jeff's apartment is a classic rich man's tasteful bachelor pad, to the point that it looks like it came straight out of a magazine. That means it's rather dull and boring, with almost everything colored some shade of gray. When he hosts a party, Annie comes over early to "help decorate," and within five minutes has filled the place with colorful pillows, curtains, and overall made it look like the well-loved home of a married couple.
- Dharma & Greg: Greg's best friend, Pete Cavanaugh, is a single lawyer, living on his own when the series starts. His living room consists of a La-Z-Boy recliner (which he also sleeps in) and a television.
- Due South: Lampshaded repeatedly. Constable Fraser's apartment is not only in a run-down apartment building in a bad neighborhood (Detective Vecchio claims that drug dealers are afraid to go there), but it is also very sparsely furnished. In one episode, where Fraser is suffering from Easy Amnesia, he sees his apartment and wonders if he was living like that as punishment for something he had done.
- Enlisted: Pete's trailer at the "depressing single guy trailer near the dump".
- On Frasier, Niles has to temporarily move into the "Shangri-La", a singles apartment complex. The cramped apartment has little in the way of comfort but is filled with reminders of the previous tenant's sad and lonely life. Niles tries to put on a brave face and claims to be enjoying the new apartment until his father says he wouldn't mind living there either. Cue Niles freaking out about not living in luxury anymore.
- Graceland: Subverted with Jakes - the modest apartment he buys in the second season has a very nicely furnished room for his son because he's hoping his son will visit him. After he finds out that his ex has taken away his custody, he smashes the room's contents to bits.
- Home Improvement: One episode has Tim design the ultimate male bathroom. The toilet unfolds into a recliner, there is a fridge and a large TV for sporting events... All good for a single person to live in, of course, but there's no way two people could live in it.
- Life: An ongoing subplot, where Crews has bought a big house with the settlement money he got from his lawsuit against the state of California for wrongful conviction, but he has practically nothing in it. Subverted in that he keeps it mostly empty because having that much empty space for himself is a luxury he didn't get in prison.
- Mayans M.C.: EZ lives in a dilapidated trailer on the Mayan's lot. He owns one plate, bowl, mug and set of cutlery. It's undecorated and because he constantly cleans up after himself you would have no idea anyone lived there if you just walked in. It appears that he still hasn't adjusted to life outside prison.
- The Mentalist: Patrick Jane has a large house he almost never goes to; when he does we see it nicely furnished - except his bedroom (the only part he really uses), which is just a mattress under the "Red John" symbol a Serial Killer left after murdering Jane's wife and daughter.
- The Wire.
- For a while, McNulty's apartment has nothing but a mattress on the floor, which makes it very uncomfortable when he wants his kids to visit.
- When Daniels gets his bachelor's pad in season 3, it's pretty barren because all of his belongings are still in boxes. It's not until midway through the season that he's unpacked everything.
- In The X-Files, the Cigarette-Smoking Man has a minimally furnished, dimly lit apartment that emphasizes how empty his life is outside the Syndicate. When Mulder ambushes him there in "One Breath", he points out that he has "no wife, no family, some power..."
- True Detective: In Season 1, Rust Cohle's apartment contains almost no furniture except a mattress and a lawn chair. As you might expect, he's a miserable misanthrope.
- Enforced in Patriot: John Tavener's apartment for his mission is provided by the U.S. government. There's nothing in it but a bed. His handler spends an entire season trying to requisition a chair for him. John is himself too miserable to do anything about it.
- The Pink Floyd song "Nobody Home" (from The Wall) depicts an apartment loaded with old, worthless crap, made all the more worthless by the fact that the narrator has nobody with whom to share it.
- Jeff Foxworthy used to have a bit where he described crappy starter apartments and how his had no proper furniture but did feature a torn beanbag chair held together with duct tape, an industrial spool he used as a table, and a top-of-the-line stereo system because you needed tunes while eating cold meals straight out of the can.
- In Dragon Age II, Merrill's apartment in Kirkwall is a rat-infested hovel in the Alienage. Curiously, even if you romance her and offer to let her live with you, she'll still keep returning to the hovel in the daytime - presumably because she can't move the Eluvian into your house.
- Lucas Kane's apartment in Fahrenheit is pretty swanky, but it still gives off a definite bachelor pad vibe, right down to the unopened boxes lying around and there being just a mattress on the floor rather than a bed. He's just gone through a breakup, so this is to be expected; his ex even comes over in one chapter to pick up some of the things she's left behind, although at this point he has the option of seducing her into getting back together with him.
- The Last Sovereign: Simon's home in Feroholm at the start of the game is basically a wooden shack containing only a bed, a bucket, a portrait of his beloved wife (dead these past twenty years), a letter from his adopted daughter, a map of the continent, and a table on which rest the previous two. It still manages to be one of the nicer hovels in the desolate shanty town given that it's the only other building besides the bar with a door.
- In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, it's mentioned that Raiden's home looks like this, despite having a girlfriend. A sparse bed, bare walls, nothing else. When Rose broke in there because she started getting paranoid that he had a second girlfriend (he wouldn't let her visit his room), she commented that "There was nobody there. Not even you."
- Goro Majima's apartment in Yakuza 0 is just a few steps away from being entirely vacant, housing just his futon (typically seen piled up in a corner of the room) and a small table with a radio. Given that his assignment in Sotenbori is something of a punishment, it's unclear if the state of his apartment is due to his superiors giving him the bare minimum, or him refusing to furnish it out of disdain for the whole situation.
- From what little we see of it, Jamie's room in Leftover Soup likely remains this way throughout the series—he doesn't even have a mattress. His roommate Ellen had mistakenly advertised it as a "furnished" apartment, not knowing that the previous tenant had taken the bed with her when she moved out. And all of his furniture was lost when his previous apartment burned up. According to the commentary, he also owns only one pair of pants. Ellen, for her part, kept a comically barren fridge before he moved in.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: When Antimony's cold, emotionally distant father comes to the Court, the furnishings in his townhouse are high-quality but minimal, with nothing beyond his fuctional needs. Later zig-zagged when they reconcile enough for Antimony to move in.
Donald: Nice place...
Anthony Carver: Took me a week to feng shui the chair alone.
- Big Mouth: Guy Town, from the episode of the same name, is an entire apartment complex specifically designed around this trope, which is owned by sleazy Amoral Attorney Guy Bilzerian and caters exclusively to divorced, single men. With the exception of the lavish penthouse owned by Guy, every apartment are run-down single rooms that don't even have any outlets, just extension cords leeching electricity from a Chevron station next door. Guy Town also features an outdoor pool infested by genital worms, a topiary garden where all the sculptures are shapes like girl-on-girl sex, and an in-house store selling alcohol, porn, lube, and drugs.
Marty: Ugh, it's like a daycare for lonely men!
- Family Guy: Averted with Glenn Quagmire's house, which is decorated in a very stylish, vintage Playboy style, but also has photos of friends and family. It does however fit the Empty Fridge, Empty Life trope.
- Played straight in one cutaway about "depressing single guys apartment" where a realtor shows a prospective buyer around a small, cramped kitchen. He mentions that the oven is just decorative.
- Also played straight when Brian is forced to leave the Griffin house after becoming a town pariah and moves into a dilapidated apartment fitting this trope to a T. The light fixtures don't even work, leaving Brian sitting alone in the dark eating instant Mac N Cheese.
- In Hey Arnold!, Sid's home is dilapidated and messy which made him worried when Lorenzo suggested that he could come over to his place to make their school project. To remedy this, he asked Arnold if he could borrow his room for a while. Arnold, being a Nice Guy, lets him borrow it until he suspected that Sid is lying to Lorenzo and told him to tell him the truth.
- The Simpsons: the Bachelor Arms apartment complex, which is mostly inhabited by suicidally depressed divorced men, including Kirk Van Houten. Every apartment shown inside fits this trope.
- In another episode, Homer's colleague and chronic bachelor Carl welcomes the weekend as follows:
Carl: Empty apartment, here I come!
- In another episode, Homer's colleague and chronic bachelor Carl welcomes the weekend as follows:
- In Futurama Fry is a pig and keeps things and trash strewn around his living space.
- Moral Orel: This trope is gender flipped and invoked with the name of the Aloneford, the building that advertises itself as 'Apartments for Spinsters'. The apartments seen play this a few ways:
- The apartment Dottie and Florence shared after they both divorce their husbands is described by Dottie as 'dark and cold' and said she feels humiliated just coming here. The shared living space is sparsely decorated. Florence had tried to brighten the apartment up with her zebra collection but the next time they're seen is in Florence's bedroom, suggesting Dottie forced her to move it.
- Miss Censordoll's apartment is an aversion, as hers is decorated and the most cozy of the apartments seen. And to be fair, her issues don't have so much to do with loneliness as much as it does with a massive god complex (to the point that the centerpiece is a replica of Moralton).
- Ms. Sculptham's apartment is rather utilitarian, with the only additions being a family tree that shows she used to be blonde, and a radio...and then she goes to her bathroom, which she turned into a Room Full of Crazy, covered with newspaper articles about serial rapist Cecil Creepler, and between that and the radio broadcast, it's revealed she was so lonely and desperate enough to have sex that she lured Cecil into targeting her by dyeing her hair and leaving the door unlocked.
- Nurse Bendy's apartment double subverts this: it's lavishly decorated, but the decorations themselves show just how lonely she is. It's decorated more like a child's room and the centerpieces are a table with two teddies sitting in chairs that Nurse Bendy pretends are her husband and son, showing just how much her mental growth is stunted (likely because she was only a child when she was impregnated by Joe's father) and how much she wants a family that she's unlikely to get since the town sees her as the town slut. For emphasis, all the pictures on the wall feature the teddies. She throws away her 'Sonny' teddy when she's reunited with the son she was forced to give up, Joe.
- Compare all this to the Bachelor Arms next door, where the bachelors seen are cheerful and the one apartment we see (Coach Stopframe's) is nicely furnished. A rather apt commentary on how Moralton sees single men and women: single men are nothing to be ashamed of, single women are freaks.