14 Ways to Redecorate Your Home for Free

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By Donna Freedman

Sometimes our homes make us feel tired. As in weary of:
  • Rooms that have looked the same since 2007.
  • Kid- or pet-raddled furniture.
  • Wending our way through -- and cleaning -- crowded spaces
  • Dark paint, insufficient lighting, cluttered shelves or anything else that keeps us from loving where we live.
Maybe you fret over finding the money to redecorate. But you don't have to spend a dime to get a fresh, new look.

Just a few simple tactics can provide the change-up you need. And summer -- when it is cooler inside than out -- is the perfect time to do it.

Here are some tips from the pros to get you started.

1. Use what you already have. That small table that no one notices in the living room would look great in the entryway, especially if it held a framed family picture or a vase of flowers from your garden.

Jennifer Mangum of Redecorate Today suggests moving a comfy chair from the family room to a bedroom corner to create a "private reading nook."

"With the freed-up space in your family room, you could add a small table and chairs for a game/card area," Mangum says. "Look around your home and see how you can switch things."

2. Embrace change. Maybe you once loved elaborate curtains, textured paint treatments, tons of pillows and shelves full of knickknacks. But it's OK to want something different.

Don't be afraid to tear up the wall-to-wall carpeting or tear down a wallpaper border.

"Often we get so used to our spaces being a particular way it's hard to see the many possibilities that actually exist," says interior designer Baiyina Hughley.

3. Declutter, declutter, declutter. How many tables does one room need? Maybe you're sick of dusting all those vases and figurines. Perhaps one sofa is enough, since no one ever uses the matching love seat.

Removing a few items (or a lot of them) makes a room feel larger. Paring down the visual bombardment also can make a space seem more peaceful.

On the fence about an item? Store it in the garage for a week. If you still feel you can live without it, donate it and take a tax write-off.

4. Trade your decor. Personal finance author Ellie Kay suggests organizing a neighborhood "swap meet" with the proviso that no money changes hands.

"It will be up to the individuals to decide if they want to swap that couch for a big-screen TV or not," she says.

Donate unswapped items to a local charity.

5. Change the way you display. Group and display interesting items such as old toys, or large shells you found while beachcombing.

Frame unusual items, suggests Jessica Anderson of the BrightNest blog: maps, scarves or whatever you have handy.

Make a basket or clear glass bowl interesting by changing out its contents regularly: for example, a branch of cherry blossoms, fresh fruits or vegetables from your garden; pine cones; or holiday ornaments.

6. Amp up the lighting. Either bring in lamps from other rooms or move the fixtures around in their current rooms. Different lighting can create a much warmer effect.

Professional organizer Tanya Allason suggests switching lampshades from fixture to fixture.

7. Clean your windows. You also can improve the light in a room by removing dust and grime from windowpanes. Clean, clear glass really does make a difference.

8. Slipcover your furniture. Got some pins and a fabric remnant or pretty sheet? That's all you need, according to this eHow article, "How to Make DIY No-Sew Sofa Slipcovers."

9. Change colors. Whether it's a single wall or all four of them, there's no simpler way to change the look of a room than to paint it.

You might not have to pay for paint: Look for leftover paint on the Freecycle Network, or see the Earth 911 website.

10. Use your best. Grandma's china or silver should be seen, not locked away. Antique lace is a beautiful accent on furniture or tables. A colorful vintage quilt can be hung on a wall like the folk art that it is.

"It's incredibly liberating to use fewer but better-quality items," Hughley says.

11. Shop for free. The Freecycle Network is an obvious choice, especially since givers tend to post photos of their items. Craigslist has a "free" section.

Laura Harders, who blogs at Beltway Bargain Mom, suggests asking for extra items for free when shopping garage sales. Or, just wait until the end of the day and offer to take unsold items.

12. Shop at 'curb mart.' People often put things out with "free" signs in the hope that they won't have to take those items to the dump. I'd be wary of bedbugs and/or fleas in upholstered furniture, but I've happily rescued things like plain wooden chairs and a floor lamp.

Last weekend, my partner and I saw two women hauling a bookcase to the end of their driveway; they hadn't even set it down before we were out of the car and offering to take it.

13. Help someone out. Ask family and friends if they're looking to divest of any furniture or décor. You're doing that person a favor, and you get something for free.

Just make sure to ask this of people whose tastes you share, lest you end up with something so ugly that you wind up leaving it at your own curbside.

14. Protect the result. Once you've got your place the way you want it, work to keep it that way. Train yourself not to leave shoes on the family room floor, or to turn the kitchen table into a storage area. Resist the impulse to fill up newly cleared areas with new things.

Try the one-in, two-out rule: Anytime you want to bring home a new item, get rid of two things you already own. This helps you focus on that new whatever-it-is: Do you want it badly enough to get rid of two other things?

Have any low-cost tricks for redecorating your home? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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