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We’ve lived in the same rented accommodation for 8 years. Why? It’s perfect budget-wise. I mean, it has no outside space and is teeny weeny, but we don’t care. We stay because it’s cheap and close to my work. Also, I’m lazy. Moving is such a hassle.
But why bother improving your rental?
For years, it was kind of a hovel. We didn’t want to waste money on expensive furniture that wouldn’t fit in a home that we bought, so we have crappy Ikea wardrobes and chests of drawers with the bottoms falling out. Classy. It was, according to my mother, student-y.
Last summer, I decided enough was enough. We rehomed two of our four rabbits (they were foundlings that we’d never quite gotten around to rehoming, but we had to face up to fact that we didn’t have the space to accommodate them), had a good spring clean (and a repaint of the bathroom) and set about sprucing the place up a bit.
My budget was meagre – £100, maybe less. I didn’t do anything major, just the odd tweak here and there to make it seem a little bit more homely. Our problem seemed to be that we weren’t sure how long we were going to be in this house, so why bother making it nice.
WE’VE BEEN HERE EIGHT YEARS
Who was I kidding?
It was time to make some (cheap) changes. Here’s a little list of the things I did. Obviously, they won’t be applicable to everyone, but I hope you can garner a nugget of information from this post!
1 – Spring Clean
Get rid of your clutter. We’re aiming for a clean, mess-free space here. Also, we want to cut down on time spent dusting. All those little decorative trinkets need to go. If you can’t bear to get rid straight away, maybe pop them in a cupboard for a week or two, and give away/sell/chuck anything you don’t really miss.
2 – Throws/cushion covers
I bought cheap white throws from Amazon, cushion covers from H&M and cushion inserts from eBay. Everything was white, which makes everything seem that much cleaner and brighter but also, they pick up grime, so you’ll be forced to wash them more often than say, a brown throw. That’s a good thing, promise.
3 – Fairy lights
I love me a fairy light. I did a whole seashell – Kilner jar – fairy lights thing above my kitchen cupboards and I love it. It also reminds me to dust up there more than once a year. Lights add a lovely ambience to a room without taking up much space or costing much money. There are a billion kinds to choose from too. I love candles too, but they’re messier and make me cough.
4 – Tension rods
I freaking love tension rods. We used one to add a curtain to our front door which makes it HEAPS warmer in our hallway. You can use them as curtain poles if you don’t want to drill holes. Yes, they fall down once in a while (like once a month, NBD), but they take seconds to put up. They can really make a different to a room, are cheap AND you can take them with you when you go.
5 – Plants/flowers
Now, be careful with plants – they can end up getting covered in dust and dirt and look awful. Don’t get anything too fast growing, like spider plants. I can heartily recommend cactuses – we got a lot when we first moved in and now the three survivors (well done, guys) live together in a massive spot and actually look like a feature. They’re big enough that we can wrap them in lights and call them a Christmas tree.
Fresh flowers always look lovely, and they can really influence how tidy you keep your home. I tend to go for less expensive ones like tulips and alstroemeria.
6 – Ikea
We got a side table for £5. Freezable, lidded pyrex dishes for £4. Ikea is AWESOME if you want a gorgeous home but you’re on a budget. We got our bathroom shelving for £35 and I love it. Yeah, the shelves are glass and collect dust like a mofo, but at least it means I get off my bum and clean them. If you like your furniture to be more individual, grab a paint sample pot and go crazy. We live a good couple of hours from our nearest Ikea, so sadly enough, it’s kind of a treat when we go.
7 – Repurpose furniture
Make your bedside tables end table, or vice versa. Use an old fish tank stand as a bathroom cabinet (we’ve done this). I accept this one might be a tad specific to us, but we bought an old glass shop counter for £30 from a junk shop and made it into a rabbit house/TV cabinet. That gave us a snazzy new TV cabinet with no space to store DVDs (so we sold them), and we got rid of the old ugly wire rabbit cage. Just think a little bit outside the box.
8 – Get crafty
Knit yourself a blanket. Spray paint some old tin cans and use as vases. Paint yourself a canvas. Get yourself on Pinterest – there are literally thousands of craft ideas. I love terrariums and little miniature gardens and spend hours browsing them on Etsy, telling myself that it wouldn’t be fair to buy them since I kill all plant life except for cactuses.
I have absolutely no vision when it comes to interior design – I know I like something, but I couldn’t create a look from scratch, so I firstly look online for inspiration, and then I ask a friend (OK, IT’S MY MUM) to have a look around the house and see what she would change. She rearranged the desks in my spare room so simply and in a way I loved so much I didn’t understand why I hadn’t thought of it first. Sometimes you’re just too close to the project and are a bit blinkered.
This is especially true if there’s two of you living there because you get stuck in a rut. Kids especially are averse to change and won’t like it if you rearrange furniture. I don’t have kids so I can’t give any advice on how to help them adjust to changes, except for to tell you what my mum told us, which is words to the effect of ‘no contribution, no opinion’. Gotcha mum.
Good luck on your rental-upgrading adventures!
There is tonnes of information out there about stick-on wallpaper and the like, but I’m kind of averse to spending money on things that I can’t pick up and take with me when we move (which will be hopefully into a home we own in the next few years).
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