Pallets and scrap lumber can have a variety of uses from candle holders to shelving the possibilities are unlimited!
Despite how often I write about buying home furnishings on the cheap or creating a great look for pennies on the dollar. I am often compelled to think in terms of people who are unable to do even that. I learned a long time ago that no matter how bad your situation might be, how tight your budget, there is always someone out there who has it worse than you. As hard as it may be for some of us to believe, there are good, honest hard working people out there who pay their bills, buy groceries, take their kids to the doctor, in essence cover the essentials and simply have nothing left after doing so. That circumstance doesn't suggest no spending on frills such as decorating rather it screams it at the top of it's lungs. No money is simply that, no money and when there is none, zero, Nada for discretionary spending the decision becomes a simple one. After all the choice between gas in the car and art work on the wall is really a no brainer.
Sadly, inability often does little to eliminate desire and even though there are those of us who can't afford to decorate, we still want to and would be very happy to make our homes and apartments warmer, more inviting, more comfortable places. This article is written for those people. There are ways to decorate and decorate well on a budget of literally zero dollars and although it does require forethought and planning on the part of the decorator, it is yet and still altogether doable!
You may ask why I feel as if I can speak with some authority on the subject and the answer to that question is quite simple. I was once very solidly ensconced, trapped, caught, captive, call it what you will "smack dab" in that position. I had scrapped together enough money to rent an apartment, pay my utility deposits and move in (and I use that term in the most liberal of senses) and that was it. I had my clothes and a 13 inch TV, one small table and a hand me down chair in which it ate, relaxed and slept and that my friends was the extent of my home furnishings.
I have written earlier about how I went about furnishing the place through the use of thrift stores and yard sales, etc. (see the $165 Dining Room) but as I carefully went about buying this or that in any given week with what little money I had left after paying the required bills, I quickly realized that there simply was nothing left over, for the smaller decorator items. You know lamps, books, art work, statuary, little knick knacks, the things that sort of leave you mark and make you house a home. It didn't take me long to see that while my plan to furnish my apartment on the cheap was working and well, I would have to come up with another solution for acquiring those other things.
After giving it some serious thought I arrived at a simple (almost too simple) plan. I would simply have to acquire those things at little or no cost, preferably none as that is what my budget dictated. It sounded good right, free stuff, quite the plan. The only question at that point was where would I find it. Read on.
Decorating with pallets and scrap wood tends to go to the more rustic side but it doesn't have to if you can get your hands on some paint and sandpaper
One man's trash is another mans treasure.
I am not now nor have I ever been a big advocate of dumpster diving. I think that it can be unsanitary and even dangerous in certain situations but I will say this. It is ridiculous what people throw away in my part of the world and I can only assume elsewhere as well. I would be lying to say that I haven't taken my share of items from the trash bin, a great solid oak chair that is still used in my home today and a solid wood Deacons Bench that I redid and sold for a profit of $300 a year or so ago, top the list.
Certainly it is your choice to look or not look at dumpster sites, that is solely up to you. Should you decide to do so however, here are a couple of pointers that will aid you in your search. Always look in well lit locations and at higher end apartment complexes, office buildings or residential neighborhoods, The last thing you want to do is to compete with a drug crazed crack head looking looking for something to sell in order to get their next fix, that altercation could prove to be at the very best unpleasant and at the very worst deadly. There is no find free or not that is worth placing your safety in jeopardy.
Secondly avoid fabric items and stick with solid wood, plastic or metal items that can be washed thoroughly. Let's face it a dumpster is a dumpster is a dumpster and by it's very nature a nasty place. You don't want to endanger yourself or your family by carrying some contaminant into your home that you will later live to regret.
Finally, if possible go searching with a friend. It just makes sense, two sets of eyes are better than one. God forbid it someone gets hurt there is someone to call or go for help and we all know there is strength in numbers, a would be assailant is less likely to attempt to attack two than only one.
If you do decide that dumpster searches are part of your plan, it is likely you will find items of value that aren't necessarily something you want or need as part of your decorating plan. In those cases it is always a good idea to take those items anyway as they can be used to either barter with someone to acquire items you do want or sell them and use the money to acquire the items you are less likely to find in the trash such as candles, paint, nails, screws, etc. all of which can be used in putting together decorator pieces of which you can be proud.
In addition to dumpsters, the are several other sources of free goods which might be more to you liking but require a much quicker reaction on your part or they will be gone. Craigslist, local newspapers, discount papers (our local version is called The Penny Pincher), and even social media yard sale pages all offer free sections that include items which the owners simply want to give away. These items range from furniture, to appliances large and small, to building materials, I have even seen a car but again you must move quickly or those items will be gone.
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Materials in hand it is time to create!
Once you have located the materials necessary to begin creating decorator items to make your home more inviting you are then ready to get started. It helps tremendously to know what, in general at least, you would like to create. After all a hodgepodge of stuff slapped together in the name of "modern art" can often do more harm than good.
If modern art is your style and you do wish to try to create pieces along those lines a quick internet search of sites like Pinterest and others similar are a ready source of ideas. Having made a cursory look beforehand will likely make your search more productive as you can at least go armed with a list of items or suitable alternatives you will need in order to complete the project.
In my experience I have found that my most successful endeavors have been completed by using a a composite of both re-purposed items, new creations and even one or two things that I like to refer to as coming "out of left field." As a matter of explanation those items would be things which you would normally consider otherwise unrelated to the grouping but when found there give it a somewhat whimsical dimension causing the viewer to think "Now why is that there?" Often it may be something of significance to you that causes you to smile. For example a ball glove similar to that which you used as a child, or a large spoon or pot lid if cooking has been a big part of you life.
Old windows with or with out glass offer an excellent backdrop for such groupings and are often readily discarded making them easy to find. As a ready source of items that would pair well with them, pay close attention to construction and in particular remodeling sites. You will be continually surprised at what contractors deem as garbage and discard. Old shutters, doors and awnings can be used to decorate effectively. Remember, if you find them, take them all as they won't likely be there upon your return, you are not the only one out looking and even if you don't need them all they can be traded for items that you do.
Group discarded items together to produce the look you want
If you find it you can group it.
The possibilities are limited only by your ability to visualize!
My favorite thing about what I do is essentially this, the world is my oyster when it comes to sources for ideas. Everywhere my girlfriend and I go we see things that inspire us. Your ability to decorate is not limited nearly as much buy a lack of funds as a lack of foresight. Let your mind go, as you watch TV, shop for groceries, even walk around the block watch closely what others do, often trained professionals then use their ideas and experience to put your own take on it.
Before you know it you will see an idea in a sales display at Home Depot or on a billboard and it will spur you on to your best creation yet. My daughter in law is a true artist, very talented. Not long ago, she took several pair of earrings and mounted them on a board inside an old picture frame with no glass as a way to both display them and store them. She hung it on the wall in their bedroom and it looks great. That could be done with hats, belts, gloves, even ties. A quick look around and you might just be surprised how much you have with which to begin decorating without ever leaving home. Old records framed, old magazine covers framed, a menu from your favorite restaurant hung in a grouping with old cooking utensils, all make great places to start.
In closing let me say this, the important thing is to do something. Don't just sit there wringing your hands and fretting over the fact that you are broke. If you do, you will still be broke in a month and your walls will still be bare.
The good thing about decorating for free is this, one idea spawns another and what you did last month you might redo this month based on a bigger and better find. As an added bonus you might just find that in your looking, you find a way to make a little extra money and there is no way that can be a bad thing.
If you want to see more ideas on decorating on the cheap or for free. Please check out our Facebook page at Middle Georgia Furniture Brokers, Macon, GA. Please feel free to follow the page and leave questions, comments, photos or ideas! We will do our best to get back to you.
Good luck in your endeavors at free decorating!