young casual woman with paint roller sitting on floor and looking at half yellow painted wall

How to Redecorate on a Dime

Changing your environment can greatly improve your outlook. And that doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

The key to great decor isn’t how much money you have to spend. More importantly, it’s about seeing possibilities in what you have already. You’ll be surprised at what you can do yourself for little or no cost.

young casual woman with paint roller sitting on floor and looking at half yellow painted wall

Use what you have

I have a friend who calls herself a Professional Arranger because people hire her to come to their homes and “redecorate” with the things they have already. 

She goes through every room, the attic, and basement taking inventory of everything available for her final designs. Then, she completely clears the room and starts from scratch to furnish and decorate with only the things that she found in the home. The results are absolutely amazing! I’m convinced that good design and decorating well requires creative talent and she’s got it!

If that triggered something in you that whispered, “I wish someone would pay me to do that,” think about it seriously! Offer to do this for a few friends, take before and after photos, and order business cards. You do not need a license or any particular certification to become a professional arranger.

Check out the International Association of Home Staging Professionals.

Paint is Cheap

Changing the color of one wall can change the entire mood and look of that room. One quart of paint is all you need. You can fool the eye with the way you use paint, therefore making a room appear larger or smaller just by the choice of color. 

Pick a spot

It doesn’t have to be an entire wall. Paint the inside of drawers, cupboards or closets a bright coordinating color, to give yourself a fresh reason to keep that space organized.

Cool off

Cool colors and lighter tints make walls look farther apart; rich, dark colors bring walls dramatically closer, creating an intimate look in a large room. Consider these tips to make the job much easier.

Goof Aisle

Every paint store, be it Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot, or Lowe’s and others, has a shelf or table where they sell absolutely excellent paint in colors that were mis-mixed or never picked up by the customers who ordered them. Or someone changed her mind—for whatever reason, the paint is now available at a super discounted price. One reader painted her entire house for just $45 using three super discounted five-gallon buckets of brand new but leftover high-quality construction paint she found in the “We Goofed!” aisle.

Cheap dropcloths

Use an old vinyl tablecloth as a drop cloth or spend a buck for one at a dollar thrift store. They are heavier than the plastic drop cloths at home centers like Lowe’s and Home Depot and will last for many rooms of painting. When you’re done, just hose it off and hang it over a clothesline or fence to dry before folding and storing.

Keep together

When you take off the outlet and switch covers, put the screws back into the holes so they don’t get lost. Or put the covers and screws in a sandwich bag.

Pan liner

Line your roller pan with a plastic grocery bag (inside out if it has printing on it) on the paint tray. Then you can just invert the bag when you’re done and throw it away.

Useful dryer sheet

Clean your brushes with a dryer sheet. A glass jar works great for this. Stuff the dryer sheet into it then fill with warm water. Place brushes bristles down into the water and allow them to stand for 3-4 hours. Rinse brushes well and dry.

Strategic placement

The furniture you use most should be farthest from the entrance. If possible, avoid positioning couches, chairs, dining tables, or desks against walls. Give yourself at least three feet between the furniture and walls. Check out these no-fail tricks for arranging furniture.

Pictures and art

Most people hang pictures and art too high. The focal point for a single picture or the center of a group of pictures should be at eye-level for a person who is five feet and seven inches tall. If that’s not you, I’ll bet you know someone who is that height.

Groups of pictures, wall art

How you group and hang pictures on your walls makes all the difference between a room that is boring and one that is inviting. 

A bunch of furniture in it

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Gather all the pictures and items you want in a particular grouping.

Big piece of paper

Next, get a large piece of paper the size of the area where you will hang these pictures, and lay it on the floor. 


Place the frames and items on the paper the way you want them hung on the wall. Once you have it just right, Use a marker to draw around each item. Remove the pictures and tape the paper to the wall. Make sure it is straight!

Attach hangers

Now, you can easily see where to place each nail or hanger. 

Step back, enjoy

Once the nails are in place, carefully pull the paper away, and hang the pictures in their proper places.


Houseplants should be right for the light available in the area where you want to display them. Some easy growers that don’t require a lot of extra care include Philodendron and Boston fern.

A vase of flowers sitting on top of a green plant

Check out this how to for Philodendron houseplants—especially the part on breeding and you’ll understand how I’ve turned one fairly sick-looking little Philodendron that I rescued from Home Depot into four big, healthy specimens for my home. Easy peasy!

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Do it yourself

Whether it’s making slipcovers, painting a wall or ceiling, or laying tile, you’ll save a ton of money when you can do these things yourself. 

Find inspiration in a blog or website that reflects your taste. I have several, but my current favorite is This girl can turn trash into treasures and she’s telling all her secrets. While I haven’t jumped into all-white-with-touches-of-pale-pink in our home (she does that so beautifully) I just can’t get enough of Cami’s amazing photography. Her blog posts, projects, and photos inspire me to no end!

Learn from the pros

Search online or take a class at your local home improvement center. Typically these are free or you pay only for the cost of materials. Do a search of what you need to know. Watch YouTube videos—these days you can find one to show you how to do just about anything around the house! 

The parks and recreation departments of many cities also offer low-cost classes, as do community colleges and universities. 

Need an emotional pick-me-up? Change up your environment and see how good it feels. Then send me pictures!



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