Make my home feel like not that home
May 13, 2021 7:06 AM   Subscribe

I’m planning a move back to a home I used to live in, after leaving town for years and renting it out. What should I do or keep in mind to make moving back in feel like a fresh start rather than a retreat back. Looking for ideas on space use, furniture layout, emotional well-being and anything else I’m not thinking of, both for the home and the city I’m returning to. Assume nearly zero dollars are available.
posted by OrangeVelour to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you give us a description of the space, anything about it that bothered you the last time you lived there, and anything you especially liked so people can give you better answers? In general, mirrors, plants, and fresh paint are a kind of all-purpose approach to making small spaces feel larger, cleaner, and more appealing. But maybe you hate plants and the place is huge.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:23 AM on May 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would concentrate on smell. Houses have such distinctive smells and they work so powerfully on our emotions.

Since your budget is low I would recommend deep-cleaning the hell out of everything yourself, trading out furniture wherever you can, and burning some sage; then maybe grabbing some glade plug ins until the whole place smells different than it used to.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:25 AM on May 13, 2021 [13 favorites]

Remember that you get to create your space in your own image *now* rather than how you were or who you were when you last lived there. If that means taking all the existing furniture and decor and rearranging it, great. If it means slowly (via garage sales and thrift shops, etc.) replacing every stick of furniture, go ahead and do that. Painting can also give you a lot of bang for low bucks.

For me personally, a bouquet of flowers that I get for $9 and then break up into individual blooms and put all around my space (my faves are bathroom, bedside table, coffee table) is something that cheers up my space a whole bunch.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:47 AM on May 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

2nd the deep cleaning. You don't say if the furniture etc will have been there all along, but either way, even if you don't keep it that way, you could change around the function or orientation of the rooms. Bring all the cosy-making things you've done in other houses - soft furnishings make a real difference. Give yourself permission to replace things (over time if needs be) or paint them or use them differently. And breathe - I'm sure there will be a lot of memories for better or worse.
posted by london explorer girl at 7:47 AM on May 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Some ideas for the house:
--Switch room functions--Make the dining room a bed room or a tv room, for example. Change your old bed room to another room if you can.
--Add lighting.
--Paint an accent wall with a color you really like.
--Furniture--If possible, don't replicate the historical locations of stuff, for example, put the kitchen table in another spot.
--Study the entire house--a small back porch might have overlooked potential, there might be a nice view that you could capitalize on. Also, think of where the light is certain times of day to inform some decisions of layout.

--I'd invest in some kind of hanging plant/potted flowers at the entry to make it pretty.
---Painting the front door can change the whole look of the house.

For adjusting to the old town--there are probably places you never checked out when you lived there. Parks, old graveyards, local historic locations. Also, things might have changed a bit, so explore any new grocery stores or shops.

Not having money makes this harder, but with some effort, you could probably track down free furniture, second hand lamps, curtains, etc.. It is one of the few things I think Facebook is good at....also spray paint can transform an item...

It sounds like you are viewing this as a loss/step backwards. But, whatever life was like for you when you lived there, it doesn't mean you are the same person. Housing is extremely expensive in most places, I'd be really freaking grateful to have a house to live in. Which you might already be, but wanted to point that out.
posted by rhonzo at 8:08 AM on May 13, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: 3rd deep cleaning and "freshening" the place up.

Change the layout of the furniture, radically if it fits your needs. Homes seem to have a flow to them, and if you can change that it may feel entirely different. Also, paint is relatively cheap (oops shelf at Lowe's/Home Depot has some treasures) and can make a huge difference.

Another thing to consider (if it applies) is doing some modification to the landscaping. Plants can often be gotten for free (plant share groups on facebook, etc) and it really just requires a lot of elbow grease. A new layout to the front yard or entry way with all new plants and decor (rocks are plentiful and free in most cases) can make it feel like a different home.
posted by _DB_ at 8:09 AM on May 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Won't work with all floor plans but can you change which room is which? Swap the bedroom and the living room. Swap the living room and the dining room, or decide you don't need a dining room at all and make it a yoga studio instead. Kind of the bigger version of move the furniture. The change in aesthetics is good, but what really matters is changing the patterns of use, the path you walk around the space, the places you sit and linger vs the places you only go through.

Paint in general, but specifically how about painting the front door?

+1 for yard sales if you've got a vehicle and slightly more than zero dollars.
posted by february at 8:12 AM on May 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

I was in the exact situation, $0 and all. Mom died, left me the house, and I left it to the care of a family friend who lived there for years caring for the pets mom left, handling general upkeep, etc. He eventually had to move on so I moved in kind of reluctantly, not being stoked on the idea of being in "mom's house"/the place I'd lived throughout high school and the attendant memories/emotions/etc.

I'll be honest - it took a good 4-5 years for it to start to properly feel like our home. ~8 years in now, and we're finally getting there. Having a little more $ later down the line and being able to afford things like replacing all of the blinds with curtains helped immensely. But! Here are the things that helped us make the transition initially -

- Throwing out/giving away a LOT OF STUFF. Or, at least, packing up stuff and sticking it in the basement/attic, if that's available. Anything you already have "your own" of, use that and ditch the one in your "new" house.

-Clear the walls and floors. Take down decorative wall stuff, little wall shelves, etc. and get those as blank as possible. Start putting up your own stuff, even if it's just sticking up some art/photos you like with tape. You can develop this out later, just start marking the space as yours. We did keep some mirrors, but moved them to completely different areas of the house where they could be used to totally different effect/help change up the feel of a different room. Weirdly, we found that getting rid of the area rugs also helped. We had bare floors for years but it def. helped the overall feel once we rolled those up/gave them away.

- Completely repurpose rooms where you can. The living room had always been the front room of the house, right inside the front door - we scrapped that and made a new living room in the space-formerly-known-as-dining room. Dispensed with the idea of the dining room altogether and put the dining room table in the front room where it can be used for... whatever. Board games. Cooling baking. Throwing mail onto on the way into the house. We still don't know what to call this room ("front room", now, mostly) but it VERY much changed the feel of the whole floor.

- Furniture is another thing. We gave away a ton, just to start fresh. Stuff that we def. wanted to keep we camouflaged as mush as possible. We used some plain-ish cotton blankets to cover the couch. Not furniture precisely, but we also did some stuff like taking the doors off of the kitchen cabinets - initially to help with my partner's ADD, but it really changed the feel of the whole space.

- fingersandtoes is right on re: smell. We burned a lot of incense. Did a lot of airing-out with open windows and strategically placed fans. I had not previously been a scented candle person, but I am now. Once it starting smelling like things I'd deliberately chosen, it was a lot easier to feel like it was my space.

- Lights! If there are lamps, and you're keeping them, move 'em around. The placement of a light source in a room can make it feel totally different. Try different types of lightbulbs.

- Plants! I was never a plant person, either, and one of the things that's been the most impactful for me is having plants around that are In My Care. This is maybe specific to my situation - the only plants inside the house previously were artificial, and chucking all of those in favor of, at first, a few easy Pothos plants was a game changer. It's given me ideas for using spaces all over the house for MY plants, and that 100% boosts the feeling that it's my space.

There's plenty to be said about the emotional well-being aspect, as well. For me, getting in the right headspace only started once I got really ok with the idea of this being where I live, and letting go of the idea that I was inserting myself into someone else's space. And that got easier to achieve the more I was able to just throw myself into making physical changes to the space without thinking about it too much. It def. becomes more "natural" once you get over the initial push.

Whew! This is a lot. Hopefully at least a bit of it might help!
posted by cocotine at 8:17 AM on May 13, 2021 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: All of this is helpful so far. For those who’ve asked and for clarification, this is my previous home, rather than a family home. It should be returned to me empty - we’ll see, tenants are tenants, but it won’t be loaded with my stuff. My stuff is with me, in a different place now, and some or all of it will come along.
posted by OrangeVelour at 8:28 AM on May 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Paint is pretty cheap, you can also get paint at ReStore, Craigslist/free. It's much easier to paint right away. Changing the colors makes a space feel different.
After the deep clean, use a new fragrance, maybe lavender or eucalyptus, strong scent that you haven't used in that house before.
Do some creative decorating. Look for beautiful fabrics that are different than what you had before. Try slightly tinted light bulbs. Try a theme you've never tried before.
Fairy lights change the feel of a space.

Try to think of what you liked about that house before, good times you had, and reinforce that.
posted by theora55 at 8:48 AM on May 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding the idea of making your space smell different. One subtle way to do that is with different cleaning products, like dish soap or spray cleaner in a fragrance that you like. (Assuming you can deal with smells!)
posted by corey flood at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2021

Best answer: Looking beyond the house itself - unless the city is really small with little turnover, it's not the same town you lived in before: businesses, organizations, and people will have changed in the meantime. So getting to know the things that have changed, as well as parts of the city you weren't much acquainted with before and communities you may not have been a part of, can help make for a fresh experience and a sense of growth. Likewise, doing activities in the house that you never did the first time around - hobbies, dinner parties, etc. - can help underline the change between your first reign and your second.
posted by trig at 9:12 AM on May 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Look and see if the neighbourhood has an online swap/reuse group that's grown up or evolved since you were there last. Back in the day I guess this was freecycle and used to be mostly for big stuff, but my neighbourhood now has a facebook group for it and people put all sorts of things on there including small stuff, if you keep a close eye you can pick up frames, artwork, throws, a lot of plants (some people seem to have a hobby of growing baby spider plants and mother-of-thousands and passing them on this way) as well as sometimes reasonable furniture, DIY stuff like paint and so on.
posted by penguin pie at 9:41 AM on May 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I moved out of my house for 2 years, had to move for work, I didn’t really want to but needed a job. It was rented out and managed by an agency so I didn’t see it at all. I moved back in fairly reluctantly, but made much more practical and financial sense to just go back.

It needed some repairs before I could move in, and I had the contractor paint the whole house plain white. It kind of helped blank out whatever the tenants had done as well as my old colour scheme. It all felt fresh and clean and new. A big tin of cheap white paint could do a lot of good.

As I’d been away only for 2 years I mostly had the same furniture etc. I tried really hard not to put everything back as it was, I might have the same bed in the same room but it is against a different wall facing a different direction. That felt really weird and wrong for a whole. To be honest it all felt pretty terrible at first.

However, after a few months though I began to forget I’d lived somewhere else, it’s hard to remember that someone else lived here really. It’s worked out fine, and since the pandemic and lockdowns it has felt like a haven.

Best of luck with your move to your new/old house.
posted by ElasticParrot at 2:27 PM on May 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

The one suggestion that caught my eye here and created an immediate and emphatic: YES! THAT! was PLANTS! They are alive, and they are 'new' every day as they have grown a bit during the night.

Unrelated but also good to consider: before you move throw away, donate, get rid of as much 'stuff' as you can bear to part with. It's amazing what divesting ourselves from 'stuff' does for our psychology. This will give your new-old space a new lease as well.
posted by zenpop at 9:10 AM on May 14, 2021

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