Are you dreaming of improving your home, but you don’t have the budget to do big remodeling? If so, there’s still plenty you can do to scratch the home-improvement itch.
Decluttering is deeply satisfying. It can make your home feel new and different — and roomier. But it requires so many tough decisions: What stays? What goes? And what about all the stuff you don’t use but can’t get rid of?
Maryalene LaPonsie of Money Talks News has seven ingenious ways to get going. Here’s one that helps you organize as you declutter: Every day find “12 items to donate, 12 items to throw away and 12 items that need to be returned to their proper location.”
2. Do a Cheap Facelift
There’s no quicker fix than a can of paint. Use it to give new life to dingy wood furniture. Try a new color in your bedroom or bathroom. HGTV has 50 ideas for DIY projects requiring just a single can of paint. Or just paint the ceiling a soft sky blue.
The DIY Network has more ideas plus tips for painting walls and ceilings, advice for painting like a pro, and 11 ideas for using chalkboard paint. If you can’t afford to splurge on a can of paint, try these cheap sources for paint:
- Find a Habitat for Humanity ReStore near you.
- On your local Craigslist, search at the top left of the home page for “paint.”
- Join a local Freecycle group. The organization has more than 5,000 local groups and millions of members who connect online to recycle all kinds of items. Post your request in the “wanted” area.
3. Update a Bathroom Faucet
“This Old House” says replacing an old faucet with a shiny new one is an easy project that takes about two hours. The site has step-by-step instructions. To find a faucet within a $50 budget, do hunting and price comparisons online. Try searching by price at Overstock.com and Walmart.com (WMT). Or shop at a ReStore or thrift store. Go for a new faucet in the same finish, i.e., oil-rubbed bronze, chrome, satin nickel, as your other bathroom fixtures.
4. Make a Mason Jar Lamp
Mason jar lamps are trendy. A YouTube video by TheSorryGirls takes you step by step through the process of making one. Krylon, the maker of aerosol spray paint, gives instructions for painting Mason Jars for lamps.
If a single-jar lamp isn’t enough challenge, and you have plenty of used Mason jars, look for instructions online for making a Mason jar chandelier. Stick to using found materials to keep your costs down.
5. Dress Up an Old Sofa
Give the couch new life by pulling a slipcover over its tired old self. This fall’s upholstered furniture has its shirt tucked in, Associated Press says. Slouchy, sloppy slipcovers are out; the newest pieces tend toward trim and tight, but in comfy, soft fabrics.
Slipcovers run as low as $50 at Walmart. If you can’t find a fitted slipcover that works on your sofa, don’t worry. Done well, a loose fit is timeless. Check Overstock and elsewhere for machine-washable cotton duck covers in many colors for about $50.
With any remaining cash, jazz up your new couch by making or buying an accent pillow or two. “Pop culture from the ’70s and ’80s is showing up in vibrant retro-print pillows, furniture and accents,” says AP.
6. Tackle Carpet Stains
Take a Saturday morning and give your carpets some TLC. Martha Stewart tells how to do it at virtually no cost.
For carpets stained beyond your powers of restoration, consider using a professional carpet cleaning service. Have only the most heavily trafficked room done if you need to keep costs below $50. Did you know that, as Oprah.com says, “Some manufacturers will void the warranty if you can’t prove that you’ve had your carpets professionally cleaned every year?”
Angie’s List explains how professional carpet cleaning services price their work (some charge by square foot, others charge by the room). In 2013, Angie’s List members “reported paying an average of $45.68 per room with a general range of $43.18 to $48.18.”
7. Make a Faux Tile Kitchen Backsplash
This is more than a simple painting job. A painted kitchen backsplash mimics the contemporary look of narrow horizontal stone and glass tiles. The project requires a lot of preparatory taping. But, judging from instructions and photos at the Sawdust Embryos blog, it is worth the effort.
8. Reupholster an Ottoman
Grab a staple gun and a simple piece of furniture, like an ottoman, and give it new life. Brooke Ulrich, DIY blogger at All Things Thrifty, shows how to tackle reupholstery. Removing old fabric is one of the hardest parts of the job, and she offers plenty of additional tips and tricks.
Shop for fabric and a piece of furniture with simple lines at the ReStore, a thrift shop, Craigslist or Freecycle. Or search online for “fabric outlet” and “discount upholstery fabric.” Another source: Jo-ann Fabric’s frequent sales, discounts and coupons allow for big savings. Shoppers who sign up at the site get more discounts. Find a Jo-Ann store near you or shop online.
9. Rearrange Bookshelves
“Style” your bookshelves with artistic flair. Better Home Gardens has inspiration. This is a fun, creative project, so spend some time and enjoy it. Among BHG’s tips:
- Treat each shelf as a display, and then stand back and make sure all shelves work well together.
- Position some items off-center on a shelf.
- Place some books in horizontal stacks and use the stacks as bookends for books shelved vertically.
- For a designer look, cover the inside of a bookcase with fabric or wallpaper.
- Don’t pack treasures and collections on every shelf.
- Pieces of pottery make nice, solid bookends.
- Stack a pyramid of books and put one of your favorite objects atop the stack.
- Use bookshelves as a gallery for framed photos or art.
10. Upgrade Cabinet Hardware
If your kitchen and bathroom look dated, and you can’t replace the cabinets, replacing the cabinet hardware gives rooms a new look. Here are shopping tips:
- Remove one handle or drawer pull to see how many screws it uses and how far apart they should be. Your new hardware will need to have this configuration.
- Before shopping, take stock of your room’s style. To avoid being overwhelmed by all the options, first browse home decorating magazines to identify the look of the hardware you want, for example: pulls or handles? Sleek and modern? Old world? Recycled and eclectic?
- When you have a rough idea what to look for, do some price shopping online. Try Ikea, Overstock and local and chain hardware stores. But also do an online search for “cabinet hardware” to see what’s available online.
11. Rearrange Furniture
Ask someone whose home styling skills you admire to help you see your home and possessions in a new light. Stay open to change and new ideas.
Last year I asked someone I know to spend an hour with me finding how to make better use of a difficult space in my home. She has a true genius for visualizing space. She spent two or three hours coming up with new configurations for my same old furnishings that somehow made the space roomier, more usable and much more attractive.
12. Brighten the Entry
Follow these three steps to revitalize the look of your home’s entry with a little elbow grease and a can of exterior paint:
- Start by taking everything off the front porch or deck and scrubbing it from rafters to floorboards.
- Clean the front door and give it a new paint job. Consider a stylish color that complements your home’s exterior, yet is a little brighter. Your local paint store will have paint chips and ideas. Browse Pinterest or Houzz for color schemes and inspiration.
- Replace or repair damaged screens or storm doors. Polish metal doorknobs and fixtures.
13. Install a Front Door Kick Plate
A kick plate is a broad strip of polished metal used horizontally along the bottom edge of a front door to protect it from scratches, kicks and dog paws. Kick plates are decorative as well as functional. Brass is traditionally used, but popular finishes now include antique brass, pewter, antique bronze and black.
Change your old kick plate for a new one or install a kick plate if you haven’t used one before. After choosing a metal finish you like, use the same finish on all of your exterior hardware.Handles, door knockers, mail slots and outdoor lamps should match, the San Jose Mercury News says. Note, however, that, just to make life frustrating, one manufacturer’s interpretation of brushed nickel or antique bronze often differs from another’s.
14. Paint Exterior Shutters and Trim
A fresh coat of paint (or two) on shutters and trim provides a quick, easy shot in the arm for your home’s exterior. Paint all the trim or just the window trim. And if you are short on time or materials, repaint only the front-facing trim. It’s safest to use a color that’s already part of your home’s exterior color scheme.
15. Install New Doorknobs
Put attractive new knobs or handles on interior doors and closets. For family members who are aging, arthritic or disabled, make life easier by replacing knobs with easier-to-grasp door levers like these at Home Depot (HD).
16. Make a Headboard
Craft a new headboard for your bed or refurbish your old one. If you scrounge for free and cheap materials, you can do it for less than $50. A few ideas:
- Make a new headboard from recycled doors.
- Sunset magazine tells how to attach new upholstery fabric to an old headboard.
- DIY Network has 15 ideas and photos for upgrading headboards.
- Martha Stewart (MSO) tells how to make a padded headboard in nine steps (with video) using a hollow-core door, batting and fabric.
17. Shine a New Light
Lighting plays an important role in home decor. New lights, or even changing the wattage, can change the look and mood of a room.
“After years of work, LED lighting companies have finally achieved their goal of producing a good replacement for the common 60-watt incandescent bulb,” says MIT Technology Review’s article, “How to Choose an LED Light Bulb.” Some bulbs are rated to last 25,000 hours, or up to 25 years, depending on the use.
The article tells how to choose among the various brightness options and select bulbs for shape, function, color and light quality. For the consumer, the main benefits of LED fixtures are clear: They’re energy-efficient, can last for more than 20 years and, in many cases, give off good light. The prices have gone down steadily as well, as the LED components have dropped in price and lighting companies introduce better designs.
When investing in new LED bulbs, consider changing the fixture itself, too. Look for used fixtures online, at thrift shops and ReStores.
18. Add Drama with Light
For a fun project that delivers instant drama for less than $50, install flexible LED ribbon lighting atop or under cabinets. For less than $50, you can get, for example, an 8-foot length of Armacost RibbonFlex Pro RGB LED tape light. Armacost has installation instructions and project photos and ideas. Find how-to installation videos at YouTube.
19. Change Light Switch Covers
Here’s how to give grimy old light switch covers new life: Toss them out and treat yourself to new ones. For a fun project, cover some of them with decoupage.
20. Add Container Plants
New plants dress up your home’s porch and garden and give great curb appeal. You can start plants from seeds in spring or in a greenhouse. In autumn, dig a few of the more vigorous and prolific perennials from your garden or a friend’s and install them in pots. Ivy, a pest in gardens, looks terrific trailing down sides of planters, for example. Your local garden store or nursery may have a half-price area from which it sells castoffs. Often, watering and care is all they need.
The Micro Gardener has loads of ideas and photos for garden containers made from furniture, kitchen equipment, bathroom fixtures, toys, baskets, boxes and even clothes and shoes for use as outdoor planters. Check out her vertical garden made from a hanging cloth shoe rack.
21. Install Kitchen Utility Hooks
For a quick kitchen upgrade that you’ll enjoy daily, install a wall-mounted row of sturdy utility hooks. Use them for everything from dish towels and potholders to utensils and measuring cups. You might even slip a recipe you’re using into a plastic ring-binder sleeve, add a ring clip and hang it for ready access. “This Old House” suggests using polished chrome “double robe” hooks, at $8 to $9 a piece.
22. Install New House Numbers
Change your old house numbers. Find them with an online search, at hardware stores or shop for handmade numbers at Etsy.
23. Give Your Home (and You) a Deep Cleaning
If you’re considering spending money on a shrink, first try using Oprah.com’s checklist, timeline and instructions for deeply, thoroughly cleaning your home in eight hours. Oprah.com calls it “spring cleaning,” but don’t let that stop you from doing it now. The psychological benefits of a really clean home are immense, and you’ll feel wonderfully virtuous for doing it.