My husband and I just purchased our first home. However, in the (almost) 2 years we’ve been married, we have lived in two quite different rentals: a 1600 sq. foot 1950s cape cod brick home, and a tiny 2-bedroom duplex with a shared yard and white walls. Both rentals required us to adapt in various ways. But here’s the thing:
I actually didn’t mind renting at all.
Renting was a perfect solution to a busy season in our lives. Instead of worrying about home repairs or stretching ourselves too thin financially, we were able to simply enjoy our first days together as a married couple. Around here, renting seems to be a means to an end (home ownership), and I suppose that is rightfully so. It was our end goal, after all.
But I wanted to make a point to dwell contentedly where I was. That meant putting effort into making our rental feel like home, be a peaceful space to return to at the end of the day, and generally be a place we enjoyed, not just resented until we could get something better!
So as I reflect on our rental days, I wanted to share some of the ways we made our rentals home. I absolutely believe it is worth investing the energy to do so!
Make Your Rental Feel Like Home:
1. Figure out what you hate most about the rental, and devise a remedy. In our first rental, the wall colors were HIDEOUS. I’m talking brown-yellow walls in some rooms and bubblegum blue in another. We decided to paint the main spaces for the most impact. Obviously not every rental lends this luxury, but the law in my state is that the landlord must either repaint for the new tenant, or allow the tenant to paint. Ours did the latter. I’ll tell you what- the new paint made a HUGE difference in that home and I will never regret the time and money we put into it that project.
2. Embrace white walls if you got em! Everyone seems to complain about rental white walls, but when our second rental had them, they were a welcome relief. Don’t you know – white walls are in now? They allow so much freedom with bright decor + furniture. If they are really just not you, look into some fun renter’s wallpaper or removable wall decals. The other option would be to paint a small space or just one wall for some welcome color, and paint over it before you move – the extra effort might just be worth it.
3. Change window treatments if possible. We actually did this in both of our rentals. The first home already had some curtain rods up, but in the duplex we took down a huge track of slider blinds that were covering up the most beautiful window in the space. Yes, you do have to put the former window treatments back up and yes, you will probably have to fill in some holes – but considering the impact window treatments can make, I felt it was worth it. Curtains can be pricey, but my favorites were a $4 set from Goodwill. Target has simple curtain rods for $3.59 that do minimal damage to the wall and actually hold most curtains quite well in my experience. For ties, a simple picture nail in the wall is perfect – you can tie a ribbon around your curtain and drape it around the nail to let in some light.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of throw pillows, cute coffee mugs, and little knicknacks. We used a real plate set, good silverware, and serving dishes – no saving those things for a house you own! We collected coffee mugs with character from thrift stores and various knicknacks like brass animals. Not everything we purchased for our rentals will be coming with us to the new house, but that’d be true for any move (PLUS so much of it was thrifted for under $5 anyways). Eventually, as you collect items for your home, they start to feel more and more familiar. I also have a major candle love affair and would frequently light candles to create a cozy and familiar mood- scent is powerful.
5. Hang pictures / art on walls if you can. You’d be surprised at what a tiny picture hanging nail can hold – I got a large framed mirror hung with them! The holes they create are so small you might not even have to fill them in, but of course you can easily with some putty before you move. If you simply don’t want to put holes in the walls, you can rest a painting on top of a piece of furniture. Our fridge was in an awkward location at our first rental- the side was visible to the family room- so I covered it with photos, quotes, and postcards (use tape or silly putty) to make a large collage. That was one of my favorite home projects to date.
6. Buy some plants. This one might seem strange, but there’s just something about what a plant lends a room. I read a quote somewhere about putting something living in every room of the home(?) Regardless, the tending plants demand help create a feeling of ownership that might spill over to the rest of your home.
7. Organize and clean up clutter. Once I started caring for my home and the possessions in it, I started to value it more. You don’t have to be a neat freak, but clearing some clutter or regularly putting alway dishes will go a long way towards improving the atmosphere of a your rental.
I have nothing but good memories from my rentals, but they perhaps do require a little extra mental investment. Try to stay away from the mindset that the projects you do won’t be “worth it” since you don’t own the space. They are so worth it because they are a part of your home and the atmosphere you are creating. What you learn about creating a home will only serve you well once you do move to your dream space. May we dwell in contentment, no matter our living situation.