9 Cheap and Easy Upgrades that Will Make a Huge Difference in Your House
These cheap and easy tips on sprucing up your house so you can get rid of that feeling your house is starting to get run down without breaking your budget or devoting days to the project.
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Anyone who has lived in a house for more than a year can sympathize with the feeling that your house is starting to get a little bit...ick.
Now “ick” may not sound like a very specific word, but it encompasses a whole lot of problems.
“Ick” could Meme starting to get a little dirty, maybe you feel like you want to renovate something, maybe you're just getting bored with the way things are, or maybe there's just an intangible feeling of crustiness that is starting to invade the living space.
Regardless of your definition of “ick” one thing is consistent: you don't want to spend a lot of money to fix it.
That's what this article is all about.
Here I'm going to give you my top nine cheap and easy tips on sprucing up your house so you can get rid of that icky feeling without breaking your budget or devoting days to the project.
Tip #1: Deep Clean the Kitchen
A kitchen renovation will cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars. Plus, no one wants to put up with the shenanigans of workmen traipsing in and out of your living space for weeks on end.
However, you will be shocked by how much of a change it makes to completely reorganize and deep clean your kitchen.
In most families, the kitchen is where most of the daily activities take place. You eat there, your kids probably do their homework on the kitchen table, and it's just where the family happens to congregate.
By cleaning and reorganizing your kitchen, you can give yourself an extra boost of energy whenever you're in the kitchen, and since so much time is spent there it can make a huge difference for your other family members as well.
Take a look at my Ultimate Guide to a Clean Kitchen for a principal step-by-step guide that will take you from whatever current level of mess your kitchen is currently buried under to a spotless, gleaming, showroom quality masterpiece.
Tip #2: Highlight Period Features
Most houses have something that makes them seem unique.
This could be a unique floor plan, a Victorian era something-or-other, exposed beams in the ceiling, or any number of other interesting architectural features.
I would assume that you decorated according to your Pinterest dream boards, as most of us do, but by decorating your house like it was any other house, you might have neglected some of its unique charm.
Try and go through your house with a New Perspective and figure out if you have any. Features or unique fixtures that you can play up. Designing towards your house has quirks can make a room go from possible to extraordinary really really fast, with very little cost or fuss.
Tip #3: Don’t Neglect the Back Yard
Houses are made up of more than just what's on the inside.
In order to have a truly yummy House, you most likely need to take care of your backyard as well as the Inside of your house. (No, mowing the lawn once a month does not count.)
Instead of going for a Pinteresty Japanese zen garden that you will never use and that your kids will destroy in 15 seconds, try to maximize that utility of your backyard for your actual daily activities of life.
Things like creating an outside dining area where you can have pretend picnics with your kids and not worry about them spilling (because you can hose everything off in 12 seconds afterward) or creating a rock garden where kids can pretend to plant things without coming in looking like an earthworm impersonator can do wonders both for your quality of life and the appeal for your house.
If you think your backyard needs a little bit of attention, check out my post on how to have kids and a beautiful yard at the same time.
Tip #4: The Two Minute Rule
This one is my biggest lifesaver.
I wrote a post on my two minute rule called the secret to keeping your house clean all the time and it seriously does deserve that title.
The 2-minute rule basically boils down to a simple litmus test: if a task takes less than two minutes to do, you take care of it the second you see it needs to be done. If it takes more than two minutes to do you can put it on a to-do list to do later, but anything under two minutes gets done immediately.
That tray of laundry that needs to be run upstairs? Yeah, you have to do that now. Don't leave it on the kitchen table waiting to go up later. That wet towel on the bathroom counter? It only takes 30 seconds to walk it to the laundry chute. Do it now.
The two minute rule helps you eliminate any tendencies you might have towards procrastination, which leaves you with a much cleaner house at any given moment. Try it out, I swear you will love this one.
Tip #5: Clean Up Big Messes Properly
Spilling a box of cereal a few toast crumbs is no big deal.
However, when the dog has a massive accident in the middle of a carpeted area, the toddler takes a toy hammer to a surprisingly fragile area of drywall, or any number of other massive accident that can happen on a daily basis in your busy house, it's time to call in the professionals.
It's always an annoying hit to your budget when something big happens, but living in a house with a large stain or a noticeable amount of damage really take to hit on everyone's morale.
When something major happens, even though it's annoying to have to fix it, bite the bullet (within reason...don’t put yourself into debt), pay for that carpet cleaning service (or drywall repair, or whatever) and his move on from your life as fast as possible. It might be a short-term win for your budget to put off necessary repairs, but it does no one's food any good to live in a house with a major defect.
Tip #6: Clean and Minimize Bathrooms
In most houses I've been in, the one area that always seems to collect junk the fastest and hold on to it the longest is the bathroom.
Especially as a female, we tend to be magnets for hair products, lotions, and other random hygiene paraphernalia that we try once and then relegate to that drawer of things we feel too guilty to throw away but probably will never use again. And that's before you even start talking about the massive quantities of makeup that some people amass.
(I’m a makeup idiot and wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between foundation and concealer with a gun to my head, but I’ve seen “normal” girls’ bathrooms and the “normal” status seems to be that they’re literally drowning in the stuff.)
However, makeup ineptitude aside, you can never underestimate the impact that it will have to do a massive deep cleaning and decluttering binge in your bathroom. My general rule is that if you haven't used something within the last six months, you probably do not need it.
I recently went through my bathroom with this rule in mind and threw away a good 80% of the junk that lived under my cabinet. I've never felt better. now every time I go in there to get something I actually need, it's easy to find, clean, and uncluttered. I literally get an endorphin boost from grabbing my under-the-counter lotion bottle each morning. It’s a beautiful thing.
Tip #7: De-Clutter
As I mentioned in the above bathroom if you haven't used something in the last six months you should probably throw it away.
This goes against every frugal, prepared-for-everything, slightly hoarder-like bone in our bodies, but I swear you will not miss any of it after it goes in the Goodwill bag. If you want to try me out on this, back everything up that you haven't used in six months and leave it in your garage for a week. If you actually need anything in any of the bags, you can take it out regret free, but most likely you will notice that none of it actually matter to your life anyway.
I'd over this in more detail in my post on how to organize your home like a model home, as well as some other basic tips on my version of “minimalism lite”, but I really do swear by decluttering.
The fewer things you have cluttering up your counters, junking up your shelves, and getting in your way as you try to walk places, the happier you will be and the better your house will feel.
Tip #8: Dress (aka Decorate) to Impress
Just as the clothes you wear change the impression you put forth, the decorative pieces you choose to put in your home make a serious statement, even if it's only on a subconscious level.
Each of your rooms should only have a handful of objects that are purely for decoration, rather than serving some kind of function. (If you disagree with me on this point, I will use the clothing metaphor of someone who is wearing eight rings, four necklaces, giant earrings, and a tiara. Not a good look. It's not a good look in your living room either.)
Given the fact that you only get a handful of decorative objects in each room, you really want to make them count.
Don't hold onto things just because you used to think they were cute, you got them on sale, or you don't really have a good enough reason to throw them away because they're too new or too expensive. The only good reason to have something prominently displayed in your home is because you vehemently love it and have actually formed an emotional connection to it.
If you're unsure, try taking something down and putting in a closet for a week. If you miss it, you can always put it back up, but chances are if you're on the fence you won't miss it once it's gone.
Use your decorative pieces to make an intentional statement about the mood you want to be present in your home.
Tip #9: Curb Appeal
Last but not least, we do have to mention the front of your house.
We've talked about your backyard, which is most likely going to be a place you will spend much more time than your front yard, but the front is still important for one clear reason.
Front yard is the first thing you see when you drive up to your house each day.
When you come back from getting groceries and you're exhausted, you drive around the corner to see your house and your first thought shouldn't be “darn, I really hate that hedge”, “man, our house needs paint”, or “geez, I need to weed more often”.
Think about your front yard like you would have room. If something isn't functionally necessary and it doesn't bring you joy, throw it away (or pick, mow, or weed it).
Life is way too short for a cluttered front yard. Take out everything but the basics and it will be easier to keep clean, which will make you happy every time you drive up to your house.
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz is a wife, mom, blogger, coder (and unabashed digital nerd), PhD student (and huge psychology geek), workout masochist, and occasional human being. She founded The Stay Sane Mom after marrying into the role of stepmom to a preteen girl (and Instagram addict) and shortly thereafter having her first bio kid (now a toddlernado supreme). Her goal is to provide tools and support to help other capable, sleep-deprived, soul-hungry moms master their domains so they have the time and energy to be more than just 'mom'.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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