Transform Your Home without Buying a Thing

    Photo: longlostcousin/flickrAre you depressed by the blah look of your personal space when you come home at the end of the day? Maybe you have a stack of old clothes, unfiled paperwork and cassette tapes un-listened to since 1989 that you just can’t find the wherewithal to deal with. You’re usually too embarrassed to invite people over to your place and on the rare occasions when you do, you run off at the mouth describing how awesome your place could be someday, if you had the time to take care of it. Instead of avoiding or daydreaming, how about actually tackling the task of making your place awesome … one small step at a time? Here’s a practical guide.

    1. Work with a buddy or two. Enlisting a friend to go through the process of transformation with you is extremely motivating, like having your own personal support group. And at the end of it, every member of your little gang will ends up with an awesome abode. Agree on your goals and your time frame in advance.

    2. Photograph. Get out your phone or your camera and take pictures of your place as it is right now, starting with what you see as soon as you walk in the door. No matter how hard this simple action may feel, it’ll give you the chance to see your house or apartment, with all its virtues and flaws, from a different perspective. Besides, once your home has been transformed, you can post amazing before and after pics on your blog.

    Photo: Jesse Chan-Norris/flickr3. Declutter. Sorry to bring this up so close to the beginning but we might as well get it over with. You know the drill. Go through the clothes in your closet and books in the bookcase (or on the floor) and sort out what you haven’t worn or read in at least a year. Repurpose them by donating to a thrift shop for charity – or if your cast-off clothing is really shabby, maybe a local animal shelter could use it for bedding.

    4. Clean. Not the same as decluttering, cleaning means scrubbing away gloomy yesterdays and grubby tomorrows by washing windows and letting in the light. Clearing the decks physically makes room for spiritual growth and change. You can think of it as home remodeling, San Francisco style.

    5. Sit still. You’ve done a lot. Now take a break from physical activity and meditate on the ambience you’d like to achieve. For example, breathe in “Home” … “Ease” … “Beauty” … “Tranquility” or “Love.”

    6. Think. Spend conscious time in your abode. Reflect on the spot you like best in your home and how you feel when you are there. Track the patterns of traffic flow as you and others move through the space. What would you like to change and what is just fine the way it is now?

    7. Organize. This principle can be stated very simply: Put the things you need in the place where you need them. If other things are in the way, move them.

    Photo: Martha Layton Smith/flickr8. Decorate. Shop the possessions you already own. Be flexible; the exquisite fabric you bought five years ago when you were planning to learn to sew could be the perfect dresser scarf. This will encourage you to utilize things you love but never got around to taking out of the drawer -- a great stretching exercise for your mind and spirit.  (Remember the green slogan “Reduce, reuse, recycle”? Here you’re both reducing and reusing. Don’t you feel virtuous?)

    9. Use your walls. Hanging art and other stuff draws the eye upward and makes your place feel more spacious and airy. Besides, it gets clutter off the floor and other surfaces.

    10. Get comfortable. Sit on every seat in the house, one by one. See if they’re comfortable and well placed. Check out whether you need to crane your neck to converse or to admire the view. Then try a little “let’s rearrange the furniture” workout.

    11. Accept. By now, your place most likely looks and feels a lot better … but not perfect. That imperfection is fine. Love what you have.

    12. Enjoy.

    Photo: Karen/flickr 

    Laura Firszt writes for

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