5 Cheap Ways to Decorate Your First Apartment

“If you’re in a place where spending money is something you can do, even in small amounts, you will be surprised at the large changes small things can make.”

Before I start, it’s important that you know a little bit about me. I am a certified human trash fire. Yesterday I ate my dinner off a Tupperware lid because I didn’t want to do dishes. Today I googled how much coffee I could drink without dying. My point is, I’m not about to lecture you about what curtains go with which throw pillows. If you’re standing there thinking “Listen friend, here’s the extent of how much I care about how my apartment looks…I push my couch in front of my television and call it a day.” Then I totally get you, because as someone who’s spent some time couching in front of a television while paying rent and utilities, I picked up a few tricks.

Let there be light!

Something important you might not know you need right now, is lots and lots of light. Even if you’re like me, and most mornings you’re swearing at the giant annoying orb in the sky, sunlight is super essential to both your focus and mental health. If your apartment doesn’t get a lot of natural Sun, something you should invest in is a tonne of artificial light. There are some ways to do this inexpensively and effectively. A personal favourite of mine are LED night lights. They usually sell these at hardware stores, they’re affordable, small, and battery operated so that’s just another thing that your electricity bill isn’t paying for. Pixie lights can be cheap for the amount you get; you can buy them at Walmart or any old hardware store for under fifteen dollars usually. However, they don’t give off a lot of light and tend to be more atmospheric than anything else. Invest in a good lamp! A desk lamp can cost under twenty dollars, and you would be surprised at how much light they spread in a small space. Avoid dark curtains. Put up some sheer ones, or even white. Sheer is less expensive than heavy curtains and more effective at letting light in. Dark curtains trick your body into sleeping past their natural rhythm. It sounds like a good idea when you’ve been drinking and you’re pretty sure you might die, but it actually makes it harder to wake up in the morning, which is not good when you have an 8am and you have to set three different alarms just to get out of bed.  

Magic Tricks

You barely fit your chain-smoking Grandma’s old couch through your front door, let alone in your living room. You rented the place because it was cheap and you didn’t have to walk up the hill to get to your kitchen. You weren’t focusing on whether it was big, but now if you’re realizing exactly how little space you have, a good tip I’ve got for you is mirrors. When you hang up mirrors adjacent to direct light (sunlight or lamp) it can reflect and make the room seem bigger. This one’s complex. I would avoid anything with frame since hanging things on the wall that look large and clunky may make the room look smaller. If your landlord is strict about not hammering nails into your wall, I recommend the time-honored peel and stick mirror. They usually come in small 5×5 portions, they can be fun to place on the wall, and they are easy to take on and off. Michaels has them. Michaels can be expensive, but if you’re willing to wait until October, they do 40% off sales near Halloween.  

Get A Plant

I can barely take care of myself. Sometimes I forget to give myself water, don’t even get me started on plants. Here’s the thing though, plants are super great for brightening up a living space. They have a ton of mental health benefits too; some even say they help fight off seasonal affective disorder. Aloe is a ridiculously easy plant to take care of as they don’t need a lot of sunlight and tend to only need to be watered once a week. The best part is they are super cheap and easily accessible. They’re also relatively small so a few pots will fit on a window sill or counter nicely and stay out the way. However, if that sounds too daunting for you or plants aren’t really your jam, consider a few other options. While not so much a ‘house-plant’, a trick I learned from my parents is putting cute little mason jars full of chestnuts on windowsills. Chestnuts are known to ward off spiders, which we all know are the devil’s minions. I’ve never seen a spider in my home so I can certainly swear by their authenticity. Mason Jars are practically free they’re so cheap, and you can always clean out and wash a jam jar for free if you’re thrifty. I recommend poking holes in the chestnuts. Also, just step outside and by October they’ll be falling out of trees all over Wolfville, which means they’re totally free!

Buy In Bulk

This one is a fun one. Something you might know if you took grade ten math is buying things like dish soap and shampoo in bulk (like with a handy dandy Costco membership) is always cheaper overall than buying individual bottles that fit in your shower or on your sink. This means you must have fancy smancy bottles to keep all your bath stuff in, then refill them when they start to run out. It’s something you might not be thinking about if you went from living with your parents to living in dorms. Go to the dollar store if you’re feeling like not spending a butt load of money, or a home sense store if you’re feeling luxurious, find soap dispensers and bottles for shampoo and conditioner. Find something you like, or make it yourself. It’s common to get a set for under thirty dollars. However, if that feels too expensive for you a cute DIY for kitchen soap dispensers is turning an old glass olive oil jar into a soap dispenser, or even an old glass alcohol bottle. It’s a cheap way to bring a room together, and you’re saving a crazy amount of money. It’s a great way to feel like an adult when you aren’t actually an adult. Sure, I eat cereal for dinner, but my soap dispensers match my shampoo bottles. Another bonus is that if you’re someone who lives far away, having travel sized shampoo and conditioner bottles on hand is very convenient.

Invest in Hooks  

Hooks are the best thing that has ever happened to me. In terms of organization and usefulness, hooks are where it’s at. If you’ve been through dorm life, you might have an idea what I’m talking about when I mention peel and stick hooks on the side of walls. These can still work in an apartment, but if you’re feeling fun you can pick up actual nail in the wall hooks, the ones that actually hold things up. The best part is you can get super cheap ones and paint them any colour you want. Adult crat bonus point: you can buy cheap handles with a metal finish and then chip off the finish for a distressed rustic look. Hooks are basically the best things to have in any room. Looking to hang up a bathroom or a towel? Use a hook. Want to hang a dishtowel, or a picture frame…hook. Always losing your house keys…hook. Need an organizer for your scarves or your jewelry…hook. Sometimes, the best most ingenious things are the simplest things.  

 Decorating might not be in your wheelhouse just yet. Sometimes big change can be had in small steps. Mirrors, plants, lights, and jars sound like insignificant and wasteful bouts of spending, but if you’re in a place where spending money is something you can do, even in small amounts, you will be surprised at the large changes small things can make.