Itching to move, but can’t afford a new apartment? Stretch your housing budget by redecorating and/or rearranging your current home.
After living in my smallish one-bedroom apartment in a reasonably priced part of West L.A. for the past five years, I was getting a really bad case of the “time to moves.”
And although compulsively scouring the Craigslist housing rentals section was starting to turn into a daily ritual, my money sensibilities knew better. With rent in L.A. skyrocketing, I would essentially be paying more for less space. Plus, it was more important to me to sock away that extra cash every month for other endeavors.
Instead of moving, I decided to roll up my sleeves and spruce up my digs. Just so you know, I am not a designer. I’m actually extremely lazy when it comes to home decor, and for the longest time my aesthetic sensibilities equated to stacking together boxes in Tetris-style fashion.
Here are a few simple things I did to make my apartment a more pleasant place to live:
I Decorated Within My Means
You’ll be surprised at how framing artwork makes your place that much more vibrant. My friends who own a photo gallery space were kind enough to let me use some of their equipment, such as a high-end paper cutter and matter. I scored a BOGO deal for some square record-sized frames to hang up illustrations from an old calendar by Charley Harper, one of my favorite wildlife artists.
Here are a few other items I used to decorate my humble abode:
- Postcards and prints from my talented artist friends
- A dangly string of colorful lights
- Wood-patterned contact paper to create a cluster of sea creatures
I Purged Like a Mofo
Purging is great for a number of reasons. I find it most useful—and least overwhelming—when you don’t take on more than what you can handle in, say, 30 minutes. There’s some truth to the whole “keep only what adds value, is useful, or sparks joy in your life.”
This is definitely easier said than done. Purging can be emotional, and there are times when it can be cathartic. Yes, parting with that squirrel votive handle you once cherished can be tough. If I have trouble letting something go, I think about how the item to be discarded could potentially be useful to someone else.
During purging, I’ve also discovered the amount of time I spent buying something (e.g., how many hours I had to put in at a job to afford it). It definitely helps me think twice about making future purchases.
I Learned that Rearranging is Your Friend
Sometimes all it takes is doing a little bit of rearranging to make your place feel brand new. There are tricks to create the illusion of a room being more spacious, such as using mirrors. And similar to purging, reassess what you have, furniture-wise: You don’t have to live like a monk, but maybe you can justify getting rid of that side table that’s used as a holding pen for your junk mail.
I Purchased a Few Signature Pieces
These signature pieces of furniture don’t necessarily have to be expensive, but if you’re just ga-ga over a designer piece, and you’ve saved up for it, I say why not? These pieces of furniture can provide the center focus of a room and give it a bit of sophistry and Grownup-ness, if you will.
If you live in a large city, it’s definitely worth checking out yard sales and thrift shops in the higher-income ‘hoods. There’s a good chance these folks are eager to just unload stuff without charging an arm and a leg. A brief, humble boasting of neat things I’ve scored at sales: a vintage clock, mid-century modern tableware, and a coffee table.
Although my place is still a work in progress, it’s a much more enjoyable place to live. After being so uninspired for so long, I’m glad I put in the effort to give my apartment a facelift. You can try out a few of these tips yourself to give your small dwelling a simple do-over.
Jackie Lam is the creator of Cheapsters, where she helps freelancers get by in the gig economy. She lives in L.A., where she is on the perpetual hunt for the perfect breakfast burrito.
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