A personal touch for your nest

Feathering Your Nest for Pennies

by Carol Gee

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I remember when my husband and I moved into our first apartment after getting married as if it were yesterday. We were 22-year-old sergeants in the army, and we had more love than money. The odds of living "happily ever after" back then were huge. First, the only place we could afford was a so-called furnished one-bedroom place. With its ratty-looking couch, equally ratty club chair, flimsy looking coffee table, and paper thin carpet, it was little above a hovel.

Secondly, we were stationed at a base in Idaho where the closest town was ten miles away. The town's one department store, a cross between Woolworth's (a discount store) and Walmart, meant there weren't a lot of household items from which to pick.

Yet, for me, the little store presented endless decorating opportunities. To start, it had a ton of cleaning supplies, which was the first step to my decorating solution. Loaded down with cleansers, mops and furniture polish, I gave the apartment a thorough cleaning. Pooling our military pay together, I bought throws that covered both the couch and chair, a pretty throw rug, two faux, lace plastic runners, and two sets of drapes also made of floral plastic that were really pretty. Yes, they were plastic, but you couldn't tell unless you got up really close and fingered them.

One runner covered the coffee table. The other was used on the shabby dresser in the bedroom. An oilcloth table cloth and a new bedspread rounded out my decorating budget, which totaled around $75. With a few personal items we each already owned, we made a home together.

Over the years, while our combined salaries quadrupled our early salaries, decorating on a budget has been a mainstay in every home we've lived in a marriage that has spanned over four decades.

Raised by a mother who came of age during the Great Depression, I was taught to re-use, repurpose, and "make do" with what I had. Consequently, I've always seen the potential in things others didn't see. Yard sales, flea markets, and thrift stores carry a bounty of items that can be transformed into something pretty with little to no money. Aside from pinching pennies, discovering new uses for items is a blast. As such, everything is my muse.

In full disclosure, I also have a penchant for "found" things (stuff thrown out by the side of the road). Honestly, the thought of rummaging through other people's castoffs makes me feel a little dirty. Alas, my little hobby mortifies my husband, so I have learned to go on these little jaunts by myself.

Below are just a few of the ways you can decorate with little to no money.

Feathering Your Nest for Pennies


Need artwork for all those naked walls? Flea markets, thrift stores, and yard sales could be the answer. Start with frames. All the above resources offer a plethora of frames with or without matting. Both furniture polish and spray paint can spruce up even the most battered frames. Decoupage (a paper and paste treatment) can add a more decorative element.

For the pictures, why not use that pretty greeting card that you received for the holidays or other occasions? Or use colorful ads from decorating magazines and calendar pages. Graphic wrapping paper also makes wonderful art work. Your artwork can be used in every room in the home. You can group together three or more for small rooms like powder rooms or kitchens.

Imagine how much simpler life could be if you were debt free. Now take the first step to getting there.

Bed Linens

Sheets of all sizes can be purchased for $2 or less at your local thrift store. They are often brand new. Don't be afraid to mix stripes and flowers in coordinated colors. Do the same with pillow cases.

Prefer brand new sheets? Purchase sheet sets when they are on sale. Also, consider buying bed sheets in colors that can be mixed and matched to stretch your budget. By mixing two sets of sheets, you can get four different sets. For example, mix a yellow flat sheet with a blue fitted bottom one and vice versa. Use the matching yellow pillow cases on one occasion and blue ones the next time.

House Plants

Ask friends for cuttings from their plants. Easy plant cuttings include Philodendron. Place plants in water to form roots and then plant. Punch drainage holes in a coffee can as a planter. This can be especially attractive in kitchens. Spray paint coffee cans for use in other rooms of the house. Consider an old plate or pie plate as a saucer to catch water. Cost of plants, pot, and saucer? Free!

Decorating trends may come and go, but saving money while feathering your nest is a trend that is here to stay. For me, there's only one decorating mantra: You don't have to actually live in a palace to create a home that looks like you do.

Carol Gee, is author of Gilded Pearls: Vibrant Thoughts, Tips And Tidbits For A Full Life

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