Owning your own home is a modern-day equivalent of questing for the holy grail. Everybody (well, nearly) aspires to it. Some are lucky enough to manage it (crippling mortgage aside). Those of us who are still dreaming of this possibility face increasing rental prices, dodgy landlords and poorly disguised con-artists more commonly known as estate agents.
Ironically, owning our home would be cheaper per month than renting (in theory) but without a deposit and desire to move outside of the area we are now, buying a property is certainly off the radar.
It doesn't have to be doom and gloom though. Renting a property actually has it's perks, and although you may balk at spending money improving something that isn't your own, if you're planning on living somewhere for a while, it's definitely worth making a house a home. Long-term renting doesn't bother me, my Mum has been in her home for over 10 years, my Grandparents have lived in their council home for over 30 years.
It's all about looking beyond the monetary value of things and making the best of what you have. You don't have to spend a fortune and you certainly shouldn't be making massive structural changes (unless you're going to be putting it back before you move). Renting her home has never stopped my Mum from painting a statement wall or updating the kitchen cupboards and it shouldn't stop you either.
In my experience, landlords tend to be happy for you to make small changes and improvements. No matter what, always get their permission, even for something small. It's also best to get their agreement in writing before you start anything, you may have a lovely landlord now but it's best for everyone to play by the rules to avoid troubles in the future.
If you're very lucky, your landlord will appreciate you caring for their house like they would - a decent tenant who cares about the property is going to leave it in a good condition and cost less money than a tenant who isn't bothered because they'll be moving on. If you're willing to put in the effort yourself then your landlord may even chip in towards the cost.
Loving your rental home is really all about state of mind but if you're looking for tips and ideas then here are some of my favourites.
- Use pots and planters
Even the smallest of space can be made into something magical with some well placed and tended container gardens. They're also great for when you're not able to put in flower beds.
- Keep on top of the maintenance
It's easy to overlook the garden sometimes and hard to find the motivation to do the difficult jobs when 'it's not your garden anyway' but it only takes a short time of neglect for a garden to become overwhelming.
- Beautiful pieces you can take with you if you leave
If you are going to invest in anything, it may as well be something you can take with you! I have a thing for these gorgeous sofas from Made.com. Maybe one day!
- Use picture strips, not nails
We found command strips about a year ago and they're genius! There is quite a range available and we even use them for hanging mirrors. When it comes to moving, you just need to peel them off (following the instructions) and voila!
- Go for lovely lighting
Tall lamps, table lamps, beautiful lampshades. Whenever I'm nosing about people's homes on Instagram or Pinterest I'm always amazed by how people turn something so simple into something stunning.
- Make a feature using wall stickers or hangings
Magnolia is perfectly fine as a blank canvas but if you can't use wallpaper or paint, you can still make a feature using some removable wall stickers or even whip out some more of those picture strips and hang something on the wall.
- Change the curtains
I've lived in a fair few places and on the whole, the curtains provided with the property have been pretty good so I shouldn't complain. But others? Gross. Just gross. There's no need to keep them up. Take them down, replace them and store the old ones away until you decide to move. And shower curtains?! Why would you even contemplate keeping someone else's manky, mildewed rag?! Eugh.
- Free Stuff
Keep an eye out for free stuff. People are always getting rid of stuff and as long as you have a way of picking it up you can find some real treasures. Just this week someone was giving away 12m of fresh turf - perfect timing for us and it only cost us the inconvenience of laying it in the evening. It's halved our turf bill. We've also picked up a free child's slide and even our garden furniture. I find that joining local groups on Facebook works best for me but there's also Freegle and Freecycle to try out.
- Stylish storage
It's almost easy when renting to just up and leave when you feel you've run out of space. Something you don't always have the luxury of when you own a property. At the same time, it's not like you can consider adding an extension to your rental property or knocking a wall down a la Kirstie Allsop. So with all that in mind it makes utilising decent storage your main priority. There is so much to choose from but I'll admit, I'm a big fan of IKEA when it comes to smart storage solutions - have you seen what they do with those fake little apartments? Genius.
- Mix brand new and second hand
This is my Mum's top tip. She recommends buying some bits new and some stuff second-hand from charity shops and bootsales. In time, it just becomes 'yours' and you won't be able to tell the difference between something you love that cost £100 and something you love that cost £10. If you do buy second hand, it's actually relatively easy to make it your own - if I can do it, then so can you!
You don't have to do it all at once. Projects take time. Even if you owned your home, love grows as you make the tweaks and changes to suit you. If you invest in beautiful pieces then they can be taken with you if you do move but they'll make you smile almost every day in the meantime.
In the end, we can waste most of our life dreaming of a better tomorrow - but if we invest in today, how much happier can we become?