Inside: How single moms can decorate your home on a shoestring budget
Often, part of getting divorced is moving to a new home. Sometimes, there are two moves: the initial move and then a move to a more permanent home. We first moved into an apartment and eventually I bought a house. I was thrilled that I would be able to finish raising my kids in a house with a yard. It was a huge accomplishment. If you have accomplished buying a house, you need to be proud and celebrate that too.
But buying the house was only the first step in making a home for us. The next project was to try to decorate it in a way that made it look and feel like home. I kept rearranging the pictures and furniture, but it never looked quite right. It seems like some people have a knack for putting decor together in a pleasing way. I, unfortunately, do not.
Finally, I gave up on doing it by myself. I thought about which of my friends might be able to help me out.
Luckily, I had a neighbor who has great design sense. She came over and helped me rearrange my furniture and artwork so that it looked put together instead of random and not quite finished.
Tasha, who created Designer in a Binder, can be the friend who helps you figure out how to put things together. I wish I had known her when I moved into my house. Tasha is a genius at decorating and walks you through it step by step. Check it out here.
Even if you are renting, sometimes the landlord will let you paint rooms. You may need to repaint when you move out, but you may be able to leave it. It is best to clear this ahead of time, but if you plan to be in your new home a few years it is well worth the effort to make it personal.
Choose colors that make you feel good. Most paint stores have lovely options and readymade color palettes. I have also used a favorite print to chose colors for a room. Designer in a Binder is a great tool to figure out how to give your new home a personal and pulled-together look.
Art can be expensive, but it doesn’t need to be. One of my favorite pieces is an original chalk drawing I found at a secondhand store for $25. The frame was much more expensive, but I was able to barter for that.
If you have a knack for photography you can enlarge a few vacation pictures or cute pictures of your kids. Framing special artwork by your children can also be a lovely addition to your wall.
I also bought a couple of lovely art posters for a good price and framed those. A wire hanging photo frame to display favorite snapshots is another thrifty option.
There is a lot of fantastic free printable wall art available, which amazed me when I started searching for it.
Kids Rooms That Feel Like Home
I highly recommend giving your kids as much control over their rooms as you can tolerate. I let my kids paint their rooms any way they wanted, and this made some great memories. (Well, I did put one limit on their choices: no black walls.)
One son chose to have his room look like an ocean. We found pictures of fish, decorative wooden fish, and a fish lantern to put on the walls. We painted the walls a deep blue and my sister helped him paint a wall texture to give the impression of waves.
The other son wanted a jungle room. He picked bright green for the walls and he and his aunt did a faux finish on one wall, which they said looked like jungle vines. (I didn’t quite see it, but they were both pleased as punch.) Another wall had a lollipop tree on it. This worked for him almost until he got to high school. At that point, it looked too little-kiddish for him and he asked if he could use the leftover tan paint we had in the basement. He painted the walls one summer day and then drew musical notes, a treble clef, and a bass clef on the wall with chalk.
Furnishing Your Home on a Shoestring Budget
Using paint and creativity, you can transform sturdy furniture into beautiful and personal pieces. It is amazing what some chalk paint and an hour of work can do. For example, I found a roll-top desk and an old buffet already repainted in coordinating colors. They have a unique look that I love and cost a fraction of a new desk and credenza. The buffet works as a credenza and stand-up desk in my office. It’s a significant upgrade from the desk I bought for $50 at a garage sale, which was falling apart by the time I let it go.
Some cities have curbside pick-up days. This is a good time to catch free, used furniture that has seen better days but could look adorable cleaned up and repainted. If you don’t have a curbside day, keep your eyes open for flea markets, garage sales, and secondhand stores.
You can often get interesting kitchen chairs at garage sales for $3-$5. I know this because I have picked up several. Mismatched chairs make fine end tables, indoor or outdoor plant stands, and nightstands. When my kids were in high school, a chair’s lifespan wasn’t too long at my house, but I had enough extra chairs for my youngest to take several with him to college. (The life of a chair at his college house was even shorter than at my house, so keep an eye out for chairs that are particularly sturdy. They will have a better chance of lasting in a house with lots of rowdy boys or girls.)
To share some ideas for revitalizing old furniture, I put together a painted furniture Pinterest board and here are some ways to transform Ikea furniture with paint, hardware, and creativity. There are plenty of fun ideas online for making found or secondhand furniture into fabulous pieces.
Rugs on a Tight Budget
When I moved into my house, I found a large patio rug that worked for years in the living room. Currently, it is under the dining room table. Simply moving things around is another way to get the most out of your decorating budget and the time you spend searching for things to make your house cozy.
Keep an eye out for clearance sales or even gently used rugs at garage sales. You might be surprised what will work for you at a low price.
Get Creative for Comfort
You don’t have to settle for stark spaces just because you’re starting over. You can give your new home a homey feel without blowing what may seem like a nonexistent decorating budget. Look around and evaluate what you have and can reuse. See what others are parting with and get creative to make everything coordinate and suit your purposes. Use Designer in a Binder to make a plan, and include your kids in your decorating pursuits.
It doesn’t matter if it is an apartment or a house; your new place can feel like home as long as it is filled with love. A few pieces of funky furniture don’t hurt either. When you use your thrifty sense, you can give your new home that put-together look without a ton of stress.
Hi, I’m Tamara the creator of Empowered Single Moms, a single mom, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and the author of Thriving a Single Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Positive Life and Thriving a Single Mom Journal. I have a solo private psychotherapy practice where I treat anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
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