My Debt-Free Decorating Philosophy

 Posted by on January 8, 2009  Add comments  Tagged with:
Jan 082009

I recently received an e-mail from a reader, requesting that I write about decorating on a budget.

Being the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants decorator that I am, I wasn’t sure what to write. I was sitting here, staring at my computer, and I started thinking about a time, shortly after we achieved debt freedom, when we had another couple over for dinner. The woman and I were chatting, and I mentioned that we had finally paid off our mortgage – the last of our debt – after 7 years of hard work and sacrifice. The woman looked around my living room with disdain, taking note of my 10-year-old sofa and 15-year-old TV, and said, “Well that’s good. Now you can finally get some new furniture.”

I was hurt. I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with the furniture I have?”

The answer is nothing. It’s perfectly fine. See, this woman and I have very different perspectives and goals in life. She is a person who always wants the latest and greatest thing, no matter what the cost. I, on the other hand, have learned that happiness lies in making the most of what God has given me, and being content, right where I am.

I call myself a “debt-free decorator,” because my philosophy is “make it pretty, but keep it cheap.” I believe that with a little creativity, and a change in attitude, anyone, on any budget, can have a beautiful home that makes them happy.

If you too would like to be a debt-free decorator, here are my Top 10 tips:

1) Quit caring about what other people think. I know this is easier said than done. I’ve been there. Where you live, and more importantly, how you feel about where you live, has a profound impact on your happiness. If you compare yourself to others, and let people’s comments or criticisms affect you, you will quickly become discontented. Remember, your home is YOURS, not theirs. It doesn’t matter what they think.

2) Throw out the rule book. I like to read decorating books, but I take them with a grain of salt. Who cares what some designer says? Decorating is personal. If you like it, that’s all that matters.

3) Ignore the trends. When buying furniture, I buy the best quality I can afford, in colors I like, regardless of whether it’s “hip” or not. My couch is a deep blue floral print, in a traditional style. It’s now eleven years old, and it’s not trendy at all, but I don’t really care. I bought it because blue is my favorite color, and I knew that I could live with it until it fell apart…and I probably will.

4) Cleaning and decluttering make a big difference. Often, when I’m feeling dissatisfied with my home, it’s because it’s cluttered and messy. A clean, spacious, fresh-smelling home is a happy, peaceful place to be.

5) Don’t replace – rearrange. My husband likes to tease me because I’m always moving stuff, but I find that changes, even small ones, are satisfying and uplifting. It’s understandable that stay-at-home moms, who spend most of their time staring at the same four walls, occasionally need a change of pace. Instead of buying something new, try rearranging what you already have. It works for me.

6) Don’t fear discount stores. Decorating snobbery makes me mad. Some of my best home decor bargains came from garage sales and discount stores. For example, people often admire my living room curtains, and ask me where I got them. The answer is Wal-Mart, and I’m not ashamed of it. And you know what else? I rigged up the scarves with coat hanger wire, because I’m too cheap to buy drapery hardware. I’m sure that’s a big decorating no-no, but as you can probably tell, I’m not terribly concerned.

7) Let go of perfectionism. Our arm chair has a rip in the fabric, where it rubbed against our stone fireplace. Our wood floor has scratches and dents. Our coffee table is in dire need of refinishing, and one of our couch cushions is fraying where Cakes bit it while she was teething (I know–it’s like having a puppy). And you know what I say? So what! A house that is loved and lived in will never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be nice! Look at the extremely popular “Shabby Chic” style of decorating (which I love by the way). Furniture is distressed, fabrics are worn, and the overall affect is beautiful.

8) Color is your friend. I used to keep everything neutral, because it felt safe. You know how else it felt? BORING! Now, I have splashes of bold color in almost every room. Slate blue in my kitchen. Deep purple in my bedroom. Sea green in my bathroom. Color makes me happy, and paint is cheap. If I get tired of it, I can always change it.

9) Don’t throw it out – paint it! I can’t tell you how many ugly things I’ve rejuvenated with a fresh coat of paint – my mail sorter, my napkin holder (fished out of a garage sale free box), a $5 end table, a 25-cent shelf. Shiny, fresh paint makes all things new.

10) If you don’t like it, get rid of it. So your Great Aunt Ethel gave you that hideous vase. So what? If you hate looking at it, and it’s cluttering up your life, kick it to the curb. Take some advice from William Morris:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”