Homesteading does not mean that you live in an off-grid house or in a log cabin, though that can be true. For all of the varied families out there partaking in this journey, each house looks a little different from the last. Each family has their own style. Some can afford to decorate their home anyway they want, others don’t want their home “decorated,” and others yet would like to decorate their home but lack the funds. Why do I bring this up? Because I have been working on our own home since the day we moved in. From hanging curtains to painting walls, I have been chipping away at this project one room at a time, and mostly on a pretty tight budget. Since it has now been over a year since we moved in, and we have some family and friends who can’t make it out to visit, we would like to share what our house looks like for those curious minds. I’d also like to chronicle for my own purposes, the changes that have been made since moving. Today though, I just want to explain how you can accomplish a lot on a little budget.
First and foremost, I pushed really hard the first 7 months we lived here to get things set up in the house. Why? Because spring and summer mean the weather is warm and when the weather gets warm, there’s lots of work to get done outside, so I took advantage of the cooler months and worked a lot on the indoors. I also pushed as hard as I did because we have 4 little kids who needed this house to feel like home. And it’s also my personal opinion that if you spend the majority of your time at home, that the environment should be welcoming, comforting, and inviting. My house is my work space and I need it to be comfortable. (That being said, you are the determining factor in how welcoming your house is, not how clean it is or how pretty it is.)
Admittedly, there are days, even weeks and months where some of the spaces around here have just been unbearable to spend time in. I’ve been trying to tackle my sewing room for the past 5 months, but “stuff” just keeps getting thrown in there. The “Laboratory” upstairs is currently packed with things from a friend that we have to go through and are hoping to sell on eBay. The garage (our woodworking area) is a war zone. These aren’t great work environments. They are stressful. I want to get them cleaned, but that can only be done when little hands aren’t following me around making a mess of what I have just cleaned. The little time I have to spend in these spaces is often interrupted which only leads to more chaos and disorder.
After E was born, I suddenly began to struggle just keeping the other rooms of the house clean. I remember this from when the other kids where born. Mommy nurses and the other children tear the house apart. You’re tied to the couch and there’s really not a whole lot you can do about it. But there is something that can be done, and that is what I have been trying to crack away at in between spending time with the kids and preserving food. I purged the toys, and I am honestly on the verge of throwing away the rest because “we” don’t seem to understand how to clean up after ourselves. I purged the kitchen because working in there was just stressful and difficult, especially with it being harvest season. Clearing those two things (getting rid of the toys and getting rid of the excess in the kitchen), have given me a little extra time the past week to finally start to work on some other things. Instead of resigning myself to having a house in a constant state of chaos, by getting rid of the excess, I am giving myself freedom.
But let’s face it. Sometimes we need a change. No matter how clean your house may be, there might be that room with the wallpaper that makes you cringe. There might be some child’s artwork adorning your walls. Maybe you are just sick of looking at the same pillows that you’ve had for years. So what do you do when you need things to change but there’s no budget for it, or the budget is really small? I’ve been there. I’ve redecorated enough rooms on varying budgets to know what my favorite tricks are. We have never had enough money to say we’d do a full remodel of a room, including replacing all of the furniture and fixtures. We came close once at the old house, but even then, I did all of the work myself with a little bit of wiring help from my dad. With all that I have learned, I wanted to share with you how I am able to make so many changes without spending much money.
- You are your biggest asset. You are going to be limited by your imagination, determination, and resourcefulness. If you are too proud to ask for help or to do things yourself, then you are going to need a lot of money.
- Rethink gifts. When somebody wants to give you a gift and they ask what you want, tell them you want a gift card to a home improvement store. Ask for a tool that you need. Ask for the curtains you want. If they say “but that’s no fun!” Start crying and tell them that it is. It is very fun and exciting for you. (Just kidding.) But seriously, I’m all about practical gifts, because otherwise you just end up with things you don’t need, and none of us need more clutter.
- You are not above taking things for free. We probably all know somebody who does something…paints houses, sews, does electrical work…some sort of skilled labor. Even if it’s not their job, the U.S. is filled with DIYer’s from all over the place. I bet you know one. And guess what. They might have an extra gallon of paint from the time they were going to paint the living room one color and went with a different color. They might have an assortment of miscellaneous screws. Really, if you know somebody who sews a lot, chances are pretty high that they have a stash of fabric, and there might be at least something in their stash you can have to use for that project. If you have something you are in need of, shoot out an email and ask. Plus there is Craigslist, and people leave furniture on the side of the street for garbage pick up all of the time.
- You are not above used items. Again, Craigslist, thrift stores, Restore, eBay, rummage sales…there are all of these great resources out there that allow us to redecorate our homes for such an insanely low cost. Don’t buy junk. Be realistic about what you will use and what you won’t. Don’t just take things for the sake of taking them. If you are buying something, know what you plan to use it for, otherwise you just create clutter. Some of my favorite pieces of furniture that we own are second-hand.
- Be patient! The less patient you are, the more money you will spend, which may or may not be okay depending on your own situation. Sewing a pillow case, sewing a quilt, painting a picture, painting a room, building a coffee table…all of these things require some skill, skill that comes with practice and patience. I’m one of those people who thinks that you can learn how to do anything if you want it bad enough. Just because a skill doesn’t come naturally to you doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to do it. If you are painting your own living room, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough. Practice in an area where no one will see it if you goof up before tackling the whole room.
- Use Pinterest and YouTube. I’m serious. There are millions of tutorials out there that will show you how to do just about anything. Watch a bunch of videos, read a bunch of articles. Learn it inside and out. There are lots of things I learned how to do from reading or watching videos online. Take advantage. And really, if you want to redecorate a room, use Pinterest to your advantage. I always sort of knew my decorating style, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint it. By making boards for different rooms of the house, I was able to collect ideas of things I would like to do in each room. I could solidify a design without having to scour magazines and search engines. In doing that I have been able to prevent wasting money on “do-overs,” you know, where you decide you don’t like how something turned out, so you have to do it all over again. One of the things that is really useful on Pinterest is there “related pins” section. Once you pin an image, or read an article, they show you more things related to that pin. It makes finding “blue bedrooms” easier. Just remember that a lot of these people have unlimited budgets, some of these pictures are magazine pictures and EVERYBODY cleans up before they take a picture of their living room. Don’t get Pinterest envy, just look for ideas that will work for you, and search for tutorials on how to do what you need to do.
- Save up. Maybe you buy all of your painting tools one piece at a time. First the tray, then the roller, then the paint brush… Or you save $20 to buy the whole kit in the home improvement paint department, and next month you save up $30 for the paint you need. I know, it can get exciting, and it can be hard to resist the temptation to just buy everything at once, but it’s not worth going into debt over. Have a jar where you keep your change, and when it’s full cash it and go buy the things you can afford with it. And watch for sales. You can ask in the paint department at the hardware store if they know when paint will go on sale. (This goes for other things as well, not just paint.) If there is that one item on your list that you just really have to have, maybe a certain lamp or a special rug, then save up to buy it.
- Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose! Can that end table be used in a different room? Would it look better if you painted it? Sometimes paint is all it takes. Sometimes rearranging things makes the whole house feel better, and the best is when you can “shop” from your own house. We ended up moving some of our furniture around when we moved here, and it turns out we like it a lot better like this. Use your imagination. Maybe you saw a coffee table on the side of the road, but you didn’t pick it up because you need an end table. Could you make some changes to the coffee table to turn it into an end table? But again, only keep what you know you will use. In that same regard, you can look for materials…wood for a sign you want to make can be scraped from an old broken bookshelf, use that curtain you found at a thrift store to recover all of your pillows. Materials don’t have to be new to bring new life into a room.
- Ask. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, to have somebody teach you, to borrow a tool. People can be surprisingly helpful if given the opportunity. Just be cautious of who you ask. Some people will demand favors in return (it’s okay for you to offer, or for them to ask, but when they are quite serious about “only if you…” it’s another story), and others won’t show up. It might seem tricky to find somebody with the tools that you need, but let’s say you want to build a coffee table and need to use a table saw. Maybe you can go to them with the materials to be cut. Don’t know who to ask? Go local…ask at the hardware store or library (librarians seem to know everybody and they might be able to point you in the right direction) or ask at the high school. If they have a shop class, you might be able to come in and use the tools with the supervision of a staff member. And if you borrow somebody’s tools, make sure you know how to use them before taking them, and take good care of their tools. Which brings me to…
- Take good care of what you have. This applies to more than just your living room makeover. There’s such an attitude today of things being replaceable, but we waste so much money that way. Take care of your tools, and if you are borrowing them from somebody else, take even better care of it. (Scott is probably laughing at me for saying this, because I’m not always great at taking proper care of our tools. I’m working on it though.) When it comes to my sewing machine and scissors though…don’t touch my stuff without my permission! I take extra good care of my tools when I have a good understanding of their value, not just in terms of cost, but also in terms of their purpose. You can buy one painting kit, and aside from replacing the roller (not the handle), you can use the same tray, brush and roller handle for the entire house, multiple times. *Money saving tip…I use plastic garbage bags as paint tray liners. I always have them on hand, I can tie the bag shut until I am ready to finish the room the next day (or week), and their really cheap. Then I don’t have to make sure I get the right sized liner for my tray or have to clean the old paint out of the tray before switching colors.*
So there you have it. No home makeover is worth oodles of debt. You can do it for next to nothing if you are patient. I won’t even go as far as to give you prices, because it is going to be entirely based on you and your circumstances, but depending on supplies and skill available to you, you might be able to change up your room for the cost of a gallon of paint. I always find it irritating when somebody says that they made over their ____ room and did it for nothing, when they actually spent $2,000 or they have highly skilled family and friends or access to an unlimited number of tools or resources.
Listen, we have a large collection of tools because we have been purchasing them for the last 9 years when the price was right, and some of them have been given to us. There are times where I have spent over $100 fixing up a room, and times when I did it for the cost of a gallon of paint, but I already owned the other supplies. Right now we are taking down our barn because the foundation is unstable, so I have access to a lot of wood for free. You can build your collection of tools and skills for a very small cost if you look in the right places, and if you know to where to look for materials, you don’t always have to buy them new. Even though we’ve had a lot of tools in the past few years, when we first got married, all of my projects were done with a painting kit, a hammer, screw driver, and a hand saw. I borrowed tools when I needed them or I got creative, so trust me, I talk from experience.
Let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help if I can! Starting tomorrow, I will be sharing one room of my house at a time with before and after pictures, along with an explanation of the changes I made. Don’t forget to leave your comments and questions below!