It’s a slightly odd feeling, moving out of somewhere after only a year’s contract. A year really isn’t that long, and I constantly find myself thinking ‘But I just did this!’ Even more confusingly, I’m moving back to the place that I moved out of a year ago. Oh – and I’m hoping to move again in six months. Anyone would think I loved moving (I don’t – it’s the bloody worst).
We’re embarking on the adventure of squeezing the contents of a two bedroom flat into my parents’ spare room, and it’s going to be a challenge. A lot of things are going into storage, including all my books and DVDs – only ebooks and Netflix are allowed for the next six months. But by doing this, it’s forcing me to have a sort out, and there’s something quite cleansing about being ruthless with your belongings. I don’t subscribe to the principle that if you haven’t worn something for six months, throw it out (because, let’s face it, was there a single day this summer that you put a sundress on?) but I do ask myself if I can ever see myself wearing something again, and if not – it’s gone.
In the midst of all the moving and clearing out though, I’m daydreaming about our new home. Not my parents’ spare room – oh, I’m very familiar with that – but the house that we’re hoping to buy towards the end of this year. I haven’t had the luxury of really settling somewhere for pretty much all of my adult life – too many one-year rentals or changed plans means I've moved pretty much annually for as long as I can remember – and it’s exciting to think about somewhere that will be MINE (sorry, Matt – ours) that I can decorate, and put shelves on the walls, and start filling with furniture that I love, rather than what I have/can afford/was given. Big deal! Plus, you know, enormous debt, but hey – I went to uni, I’m well accustomed to that.
That’s all to come, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot along the way, but for now I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned about decorating from a lifetime of not being able to make a permanent mark on a place:
1. Paint furniture
Sure, you can only afford furniture your Gran's discarded or from the dregs of your local charity shop, but you don't have to put up with a room of mismatched wood and shabby corners. It's really easy and cheap to paint furniture, so spend a weekend giving it all a makeover and you'll feel so much happier about your space. Plus, that effort will last for a few more years, too. A lot of second hand furniture is actually good quality wood, so don't dismiss that bright green chest of drawers - that's pine under there.
2. Put shelves up
Most landlords will let you put shelves up, and it's really easy to fill holes when you leave, anyway (again, most landlords will repaint after you move out, too). I had a tiny bedroom a couple of years ago, and adding shelves to the walls gave me tons more storage and meant that I could make the space feel more personal.
3. Use wall decals
These are an amazing way to make a big statement in a non-permanent way. When I was house-sharing a couple of years back, I had a few up - an afternoon of work means you'll have an excellent statement walls. They're easy to put up, and even better, when you take them down they leave no trace - no greasy marks, nothing. I turned the wasted wall in our narrow hallway into a colourful burst of cherry blossom, and in my next property I'd love to scatter bird silhouettes over the top of the staircase - wouldn't that be pretty? I love TenStickers for inspiration and great quality decals. You can even put them up temporarily for Christmas or parties - I am NOT a fan of this terrifying clown, but I have to admit it would be good for a Halloween do!
4. Buy colourful curtains and bedspread
This is especially good if you really only have a bedroom to make your own. A funky bedspread makes SO much difference to your space. Curtains are really easy to replace too and often quite cheap, so mix it up - you can just pop the landlord's curtains back when you move out, and hang onto your new ones for the next place!
5. Replace the showerhead
I know, this one is a bit random, and it doesn't really come under decorating. But it can make a HUGE difference to your life in a property. Our shower in our current flat is a bit rubbish, and the head was tiny and half blocked and it took hours to wash my very thick hair. I got the most expensive showerhead I could in Homebase - a whopping £25 - and... WOW. It's like a whole new shower, for hardly any investment. Most showerheads are one size fits all, and it's just a case of unscrewing one and screwing the next one in - ridiculously easy, and a tip I wish I'd been given years ago!
What are your best tips for renting?